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Infineon on India’s e-passport and semicon industry


If you have ever been a resident of Hong Kong, you’d know what an e-passport looks like! You would have even used it! For example, if you were crossing over into Shenzhen, China, from Lo Wu, which is on the borders of Luohu district within Hong Kong and the city of Shenzhen in Guangdong province, China, [having reached there via the KCR (Kowloon-Canton Railway)] — you can easily use your Hong Kong e-passport to get past the immigration point and enter China!

It is really easy! Simply drop your e-passport into the e-passport reader slot and place your finger on the fingerprint reader for it to scan and read. Once your e-passport comes out, move over to the other side to another e-passport reader, repeat the same exercise, and you’re done! All it takes is less than a minute!

All Indians could soon have e-passports!
Well, such an e-passport can become a reality in India soon! If you haven’t heard it, Infineon Technologies recently supplied contactless security microcontrollers (MCUs) for India’s electronic passport (e-passport) program! The Indian e-passport rollout started with Indian diplomats and officials being issued e-passports — around 30,000 to be issued in phase one. It is likely that by September 2009, the e-passports will be extended to the general public.

The rollout has started with the issuance of electronic passports to Indian diplomats and officials. It is expected that in this first phase, up to 30,000 electronic passports shall be issued. By September 2009, the program is likely to be expanded to include passports used by the general public. Today, around 6 million passports are being annually issued in India. I believe, the government of India has invited a new tender for interested stakeholders to bid for 20 million e-passports.

So, being a Hong Kong e-passport holder, I was interested in knowing whether the Indian version is as smart as that particular one? By the way, Hong Kong’s e-passport also doubles up as your Hong Kong ID (HKID) card. If you don’t have one, you simply cannot do business in Hong Kong! Your HKID number is unique and remains unchanged!

Dr. Rajiv Jain, Vice President and Managing Director, Infineon Technologies India Pvt Ltd, said that both Hong Kong and India are using the same product family from Infineon. “The security levels of both e-passports are based on the Common Criteria EAL 5+, the highest possible security certification for MCUs. In addition, both comply to ICAO requirements, the international standard for e-passports.”

Infineon’s SLE 66CLX800PE security MCU provides advanced performance and high execution speeds, and was specifically designed for use in electronic passports, identity cards, e-government cards and payment cards. Sounds very interesting!

Highlights of Infineon’s security MCU
The security MCU features a crypto-coprocessor and can operate at very high transaction speeds of up to 848kbits/s even if the elevated encryption and decryption operations have to be calculated.

The SLE 66CLX800PE offers all contactless proximity interfaces on a single chip: the ISO/IEC 14443 type B interface and type A interface, and both used for communication between electronics passports and the respective readers; and the ISO/IEC 18092 passive mode interface, which is used in transport and banking applications. The SLE 66CLX800PE features 80 kilobytes (kb) of EEPROM, 240kb of ROM, and 6kb of RAM.

The SLE 66PE contactless controller family, which includes the SLE 66CLX800PE, is certified according to Common Criteria EAL 5+ high (BSI-PP-0002 protection profile) security certification. Infineon’s security in MCUs used in e-passports builds on the underlying hardware-based integral security, with data encryption, memory firewall system and other security mechanisms to safeguard the privacy of data.

The SLE 66PE product family comprises a whole product portfolio designed for use in basic-security to high-security smart card systems, with the EEPROM sizes ranging from 4kb to144kb, and covering different applications including government ID, transportation and payment.

Infineon’s perception of Indian semiconductor industry
So much about the e-passport! I can’t wait to get my hands on one! Since I was in a discussion with Infineon, it naturally turned toward the Indian semiconductor industry and what needs to be done!

Dr. Jain said: “The Indian semiconductor industry has seen its share of successes and misses. The in-depth technical talent required for design and development is omni-present (TI, Intel, Infineon, Wipro, etc., to name a few). For example, we are doing critical R&D in the areas of automotive electronics, broadband, mobile communications and secured ID solutions at Infineon India, and the fact that it is one of the largest centres in Infineon’s global R&D network, is a testimony to India’s importance as the destination for cutting edge research. This has also led to creation of home-grown design houses offering services to the larger companies.

“We are also seeing in some small, but growing numbers, products and ideas for local markets. As the local markets evolve, so will the ability of these companies to deliver innovation for these local markets, which can then be taken globally.”

He added that an area of debate has been the need for semiconductor manufacturing in India. For example, having fabs, test and packaging plants, and EMS. “There have been government initiatives with a few successes. However, financial, tax-related and custom-related investment in these areas needs to come together and be centrally driven from a long-term perspective, as these institutions, which can provide a stable manufacturing base, need larger efforts to be successful.”

Hopefully, we will finally get to see some action on all of these areas post the Indian general elections due shortly.

PS: Just to let all of my friends know, I am no longer associated with either CIOL or its semiconductors web site.

MCUs are now shaping the embedded world!

March 20, 2009 Comments off

As promised, here’s a discussion I had with STMicroelectronics (ST) on its new 8-bit microcontroller, the STM8S — the STM8S105 and STM8S207 MCUs for industrial and consumer applications. The discussion focused on how MCUs are now beginning to shape the embedded world.

Addressing this specific query, Patrice Hamard,8-bit Product Line Marketing Manager, STMicroelectronics, said that ST is reshaping the microcontroller with a solid offer on 8bit that has a strong overlap with STM32 in terms of feature and price. “Therefore, we are going to cover the need for embedded functions with only two architectures. Compared to the previous segmentations (8-, 16- and 32-bit), we are changing it to become 8- and 32-bit only,” he clarified.

On the STM8S, Hamard said that the key application areas addressed by the MCU are industrial and appliances in consistent with the robustness and the reliability. He said: “The STM8S family is supporting 5V as well as 3V, thereby making it ideal for the platform evolution as well as a good offer for the consumer and mass market. The cost advantage given with the fine lithography also allows us to propose this family to key customers in PC peripherals and consumer applications.”

Rich feature set an imperative in MCUs
Rich feature set is an imperative in the MCU market. How is the STM8S meeting this requirement?

According to him, the feature set is driven by the need to reduce the bill of materials (BoM). The robustness allows simple design and board layout with less filtering. The clock controller gives low noise emission figure, thereby reducing the need for shielding. The precise clock allows the suppression of the external resonator. The embedded true E²Data suppresses the need for additional E²PROM. Safe reset (no grey area) makes the reset system safer suppressing the need for external reset circuit.

The clock system, as well as the two independent watchdogs will contribute to pass safety regulations together with ST’s class B libraries. All communications peripherals are available as well — (U(S)ART, I²C, SPI, CAN, LIN), advanced 16-bit timers and timebase, fast and precise 10-bit ADC.

Finally, the 8-bit core is one of the most efficient with 20MIPS at 24MHz. Built around the 8-bit data path, the micro has 16bit registers and 32bit memory memory width.

So, how does the STM8 deliver high performance with excellent code compactness?

Hamard said that thanks to the new CISC instruction set designed in collaboration with ST’s C compiler partners, the compactness has been significantly improved. The Harvard architecture with its three-stage pipeline allows to reach up to 20MIPs @ 24MHz.

ST is offering family demonstration boards and instrument cluster reference designs as well. In fact, there are currently solutions available in ST with the STM8S/128-EVAL, as well as with third parties like raisonance with the REVA KIT. Many reference designs are complete or in progress demonstrating motor control (sensorless brushless DC motors), power management, smart card protocol, capacitive sensing, etc.

Demand for low-power MCUs
According to Hamard, the trend of low power is coming from the increase of the application base on battery in consumer and personal care, combined with a strong demand for power meters (electricity, water and gas). Energy saving is important and electronics can contribute a great deal to reduce the overall energy consumption.

“The STM8S is not specifically aiming low power applications even though the features of the family are good for many low power devices. It is in our plan to introduce later this year a dedicated family to address low voltage/low power arena,” he added.

Why 8-bit?
Considering that there are 8- vs. 16- vs. 32- bit MCUs, and also that affordable prices are perhaps the reason that the Asian region is witnessing a migration to 16-bit architectures. In this scenario, why 8-bit?

Hamard said: “Everything depends on what we consider to be “affordable” and who we are talking to. For large quantity and simple functions, affordability is between $0.20 cents to $0.50 cents. By construction, a 16-bit device cannot be as effective as an 8-bit product. We even believe that the microcontroller prices will decrease and address applications served with few discrete devices. The main reason is the consistency of architecture.

“The construction of the 32- and 16- are very similar, especially with the new generation of ARM-based products. The only reason to go from 8- to 16-bit is for performance improvement. We say that our 32-bit portfolio is already overlapping the 8-bit segment in performance and in price, leaving no room for the third core structure.

“Taking a closer look at our portfolio, you will realize that our 32-bit is also providing 16-bit instruction set, and our 8-bit is built with 16-bit register, 24-bit memory address bus, etc.”

ST’s 8-bit MCUs make efficient use of technology

March 17, 2009 Comments off

STMicroelectronics (ST) recently introduced the new 8-bit microcontroller, the STM8S. This new MCU is said to be robust and reliable, and price competitive with system cost integration. Some other features include
• Performance up to 20MIPs @ 24Mhz;
• Excellent code density;
• Leading edge embedded Flash technology with true embedded E²Data; and
• Embedded debug function with low-cost development tools.

In fact, the company announced the general availability of the STM8S105 and STM8S207 MCUs for industrial and consumer applications. Key features of the new devices include high-performance 8-bit architecture, modular peripherals and pin-compatible packages to raise performance, scalability and value for current 8-bit and 16-bit applications.

The STM8S platform enables new generations of 8-bit MCUs, offering up to 20 MIPS CPU capability and 2.95-5.5V operation to help legacy 8-bit systems transition to lower supply voltages. Its 130nm embedded non-volatile memory is among the most advanced technologies currently in use with 8-bit MCUs, and provides true EEPROM data-write with 300,000-cycle durability.

So, what would be typical applications addressed by ST’s STM8S? These would be — home appliances, HVAC, user interfaces, factory automation, motor control, sensors, lighting, e-bikes, circuit breakers, personal care, rechargeable battery operated devices, toys and game accessories, power supplies and power management, and power tools.

The microcontroller boasts advanced architecture for performance. These include:
• High performance core:
– Advanced Harvard and CISC architecture.
– New arithmetic instructions (yXx,y/x).
– 20MIPs peak @ 24Mhz Fcpu.

• Innovative architecture:
– 128 kB linear address space, no paging.
– 16-bit index registers.
– Internal 32-bit memory interface and three-stage pipeline.
– Advanced clock controller for better power consumption and noise control.

The STM8 is said to deliver high performance with excellent code compactness. ST has efficiently made use of technology to break price barriers. According to the company, technology is driving 8-bit evolution, and breakthrough has been achieved with 130nm lithography. The MCU also makes use of E² non-volatile memory, analog and digital peripherals.

STM8S – software requirements for safety
• Immune against EMS, strong against Latchup or ESD.
• Low noise emission.
• Embedded system supporting IEC 60335 class B compliance
– Self test
– Build-in checks (check-sum, ECC..)
– Illegal op. codes
– Interrupt handling
– Clock failure detection, recovery
– Watchdogs (Time monitoring, program flow)

In summary, the STM8 MCU is a high performance 20 MIPs core. Features include lower system cost, and friendly IDE with free software suite.

As for the touch sensing software suite, ST is offering complete NRE/royalty-free source code solution to enable 8-bit STM8 MCU platforms for capacitive touch sensing capability. You can detect the capacitive human touch by controlling the charge/discharge timing cycle of an RC network formed by a single resistor and the electrode capacitance Cx.

The suite has multi-function capability to combine capacitive sensing function to the traditional MCU features (communication, LED control, beeper, LCD control). It delivers with hardware development platform and diagnostic tools to ease the design process.

I will be speaking with ST even further on how MCUs are shaping the embedded world. Stay tuned!

Top trends for global/Indian semiconductor industry in 2009

December 2, 2008 Comments off

Right then, folks! Here are the much awaited top trends for global semiconductor industry for 2009!

First, let’s start with microprocessors and microcontrollers. One of the most apt persons to answer this query was Jordan Plofsky, senior vice president, Market, Altera Corp., during his recent visit to India for the Altera SOPC Conference.

Top trend in microprocessors/microcontrollers
Undoubtedly, the major trend will be the shift to multicore and its challenges. These challenges include:

* Parallel programming tools.
* Memory bandwidth allocation.
* O/S support.
* Verification tools.
* Power reduction and performance improvements.

In one of my previous blogs, I had discussed with Intel how parallel programming is getting to be regular! Also, AMD is well on an identical path! Hence, this key global trend is very much in line with the focus on parallelism!

Top global semiconductor trends for 2009
According to Plofsky, the major trends would be:

* Consolidation
* Power management
* Supply chain dynamics changing – inventory reduction
* Focus on operational costs in a slower growth environment

Indian semicon trends
And what about the top trends for the Indian semiconductor industry? Here are some thoughts from S. Janakiraman, former chairman, India Semiconductor Association (ISA) and President and CEO-R&D Services, MindTree.

Top 5 trends for Indian semicon industry in 2009
According to Jani Sir, the key trends in India during 2009 are:

* Global customers will have higher cost pressure and increase level of offshoring and outsourcing in 2009.
* India will become an even more important market for selling semiconductors as India will show higher percentage growth than other markets.
* Decided in India and originated in India products will licensed and manufactured for the global market.
* Business models for design services will start shifting from T&M and linear with people strength to risk-reward, non linear and more skin in the game.
* India will start inventing products that matter to rural and bottom of the pyramid segments.

All of these are in line with what’s happening in the Indian semiconductor industry — focus on embedded and design services, coupled with product development, which is beginning to see several starts. Also, several MNCs are now designing products out of India. Two recent top-of-the-mind instances are those of Intel and AMD. Others will follow suit, definitely.

Well, these trends could be tough to beat! What do you think folks?

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