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Moversa Debuts Universal NFC Chip

The Sony-NXP joint venture reports that its chip, which supports the Mifare and FeliCa protocols, is ready for prime time. In France, Carrefour embraces RFID payments by card and phone.
By Mary Catherine O'Connor
Feb 17, 2009During frequent business trips in Tokyo, Guus Frericks, president of RFID chipmaker Moversa, uses an RFID-enabled cell phone to purchase coffee, access public transit and open the secured doors of the office building at which he meets his Asian colleagues. But when he's back in Europe, Frericks must employ a different RFID-enabled handset to make transactions or access public transit. He looks forward to the day when he'll be able to travel the globe with a single RFID-enabled handset—and he says that day is coming.

Both of Frericks' phones support Near Field Communications (NFC) technology, an RFID platform designed for short-range secure transmissions that comply with the ISO 14443 13.56 MHz air-interface standard and enable mobile devices, such as cell phones, to be used for making payments, collecting data or establishing peer-to-peer communications between multiple mobile devices. The problem, he says, is that they each utilize a different proprietary protocol to protect the transmitted data. In Asia, Sony's FeliCa platform is used, while in Europe, it's chipmaker NXP Semiconductors' Mifare.

But Moversa was formed in late 2007 as a joint venture between Sony and NXP with the goal of creating an RFID chipset that would support both Mifare and FeliCa. At this week's Mobile World Congress 2009 event in Barcelona, Moversa is demonstrating the new chipset—dubbed the Universal Secure Access Module (USAM)—in a prototypical handset made by Japanese manufacturer Docomo.

In addition to supporting both the Mifare and FeliCa protocols, USAM also supports the data-security protocols used for RFID-enabled credit and debit cards issued through banks working with MasterCard, Visa and other payment card brands. This means a phone carrying the USAM chip could be configured to function just like a consumer's RFID-enabled payment card, thereby adding another level of convenience for consumers.

But Moversa's real motivation behind the USAM chip, the company reports, is to offer handset manufacturers a single chip combining Mifare and FeliCa functionality that they can combine with an NFC module and build into their phones, thereby producing a product with global appeal. Cellular carriers in each major NFC market could then use the technology to roll out NFC services to consumers.

Moversa is making the USAM chip in both a form factor that can be built into a Subscriber Identity Module (SIM) card (such as Toshiba's recently announced USIM) as well as a chip designed to be permanently embedded into a handset, so that handset makers can work with their phone carrier customers to determine the best form factor for their particular needs.

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