ams, a leading provider of high-performance analog ICs and sensors, and STMicroelectronics, a semiconductor leader serving customers across the spectrum of electronics applications, introduced an NFC system reference design that assures easy, reliable and secure contactless transactions while suiting the sleek form factor of mobile and wearable devices. On display at Mobile World Congress in early March, the ams/ST design promises to transform and greatly enhance the usability of NFC technology.
The reference design’s advanced analog circuitry delivers outstanding NFC performance even in devices with room for only a tiny antenna, that is typically adjacent to metal surfaces or shielded by the user’s hand, and mounted in a location hostile to RF transmissions. By combining the new AS39230 analog front end (AFE) with boostedNFC technology from ams, along with the ST21NFCC controller and ST33G1M2 Secure MCU from ST, the two partners promise to make the consumer’s experience of contactless transactions easy, quick, and completely reliable, whether for payments in shops, ticketing in metro/urban mass transit infrastructure, or access control. OEMs will also benefit from market-proven worldwide certification, including for Common Criteria, EMVCo, GlobalPlatform, and Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and PBOC (People’s Bank of China).
“Through this partnership with ams, the undisputed leader in NFC booster technology, ST customers can enjoy complete NFC turnkey solutions with enhanced RF performance and reduced cost of integration and ownership,” said Laurent Degauque, Embedded Security Marketing Director at STMicroelectronics’ Secure MCU Division. “Our common reference design can be easily integrated into various devices including mobile phones, smart watches, wearables, and secure connected devices, and will significantly improve consumer experiences with contactless transactions.”
ams’ new AS39230 boosts the signal on the antenna, increasing the signal strength up to 10 times when compared with conventional passive load modulation (PLM) methods of transmitting a signal from an NFC tag, card, or card emulator to an NFC reader. In space-constrained designs, the size of the antenna can thus be reduced by as much as 20 times, down to 100mm2 or less, while maintaining the same signal strength. The AS39230 even allows for the device’s metal casing to be used as an antenna, reducing the board space required for the NFC antenna and its related costs to nothing.
Paired with ams’ boostedNFC chip, ST’s ST54E System-in-Package (SIP) contains the ST21NFCC controller and the ST33G1M2 32-bit secure microcontroller for Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC), embedded Secure Element, and microSD-card applications.
The ST33G1M2 Secure Element, which supports the latest Global Platform GP2.2 OS and the complete MIFARE® portfolio including MIFARE Classic and MIFARE DESFire®, offers market-proven best-in-class performance for banking and digital-access applications along with full compatibility with major worldwide transportation schemes. Based on the ARM SecurCore SC300 32-bit RISC core, the ST33G1M2 delivers Common Criteria-certified security features, together with a large and flexible embedded eFLASH, which allows OEMs and service providers to plan for future implementations with proven TSM (Trusted Service Management) infrastructure compatibility.
The AS39230 and ST54E support all important NFC standards governing card emulation, including ISO14443 type A/B, FeliCa at data rates up to 424kb/s, active peer-to-peer bit rates of 212kb/s and ISO18092 communication at up to 424kb/s.
“Consumers will continue to use their phones or smart watches for mobile payments and contactless ticketing only if the technology works faultlessly every time, no matter how they present their device to the reader. By combining the world’s best-performing active boost technology in the AS39230 with ST’s advanced NFC System-in-Package, OEMs ensure that they are not leaving their device’s card emulation capability to chance,” said Mark Dickson, Director of Marketing in the Wireless Connectivity and Power Division of ams.
The AS39230 NFC analog front end is available in production volumes now from ams, and the ST54E is available for sampling from ST. Pricing, reference designs, datasheets and an evaluation board are available on request from the appropriate supplier.