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Swedish Watchmaker Brings NFC Payments to Its Smart Watches

Kronaby's Hybrid Smartwatch incorporates technologies from Fidesmo and STMicroelectronics that enable contactless payments, with access control and other functions slated for further use cases.
By Claire Swedberg

Fidesmo offers a software platform and ecosystem that make it possible to distribute services to a device wirelessly. The firm offers both semi-active and passive solutions. It builds passive NFC chips into ID cards or badges, or can install a chip into a battery-powered device for a semi-active solution. The use case for Kronaby would require a system in which an NFC chip could be embedded in a watch's metal frame and still transmit and receive signals. That means the SoC would use the watch's battery, while also leveraging STMicroelectronics' boost functionality.

The booster employs active load modulation (ALM), an analog process that reshapes the NFC signal when it is being received, while amplifying its response. The boost feature ensures that the tag can respond to an NFC signal, even in a metal environment. In this case, however, the antenna is built underneath the non-metallic watch face, according to Lionel Ravel, STMicroelectronics' product marketing engineer.

Kronaby's Jonas Morän
Wearable device chips need to be very small to accommodate form factors, such as wristwatch frames and jewelry, Ravel explains, and the boost function ensures that the chip does not require a very large antenna. "That's where the booster allows a very elegant solution," he states. Additionally, the STPay-Boost IC combines a secure element with an NFC chip (traditionally, the secure element is separate from the NFC chip), based on a Java operating system. The chip has a large memory capacity, Ravel adds—up to 135 kilobytes of nonvolatile memory for user applets and personalization data, in addition to pre-loaded payment applets.

When Fidesmo and Kronaby first began discussing a payment solution for the Hybrid Smartwatch, the two companies opted to use NFC in integration with a financial services firm. To that end, Fidesmo began working with MasterCard. The system requires that a user first download the Kronaby app. He or she then opens the app, which utilizes Fidesmo's software-based data. "For us," Morän says, "it's key to integrate the entire user experience. That's why we've chosen to do all product and software development in-house."

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