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Vendor Announces Embedded Chip for Galaxy S4; Implementations, Other Big Chips to Follow

France-based Oberthur Technologies this week announced that the Samsung Galaxy S4 is using its embedded secure element technology, which had been earlier reported, as Samsung and its partners continue to gear up to introduce the technology to consumers.

The embedded chip, which is made by STMicroelectronics, runs an Oberthur operating system. Oberthur sought and received the certification for the chip from Visa, MasterCard and Google, for what it calls the Pearl 800k Classic.

That figure apparently refers to the rough amount of flash memory on the chip that is available for applications. The chip carries a total of 1.2 megabytes of flash memory. Oberthur’s operating system requires 400 kilobytes to 500K of memory.

As NFC Times reported in March, the chip, the ST33, with the Oberthur OS, along with the NFC controller connected to it, the Broadcom BCM20793, was chosen by Samsung for its new flagship phone. It's part of the device maker's strategy to enable payment and, likely, other secure applications on embedded chips in its NFC phones.

Besides the large flash memory space, the embedded chip with the Oberthur OS supports GlobalPlatform 2.2, which enables the chip to more readily be divided into multiple secure domains for applets and for each applet to be managed separately by trusted service managers.

ST rivals NXP Semiconductors and Inside Secure, and perhaps other chip makers, are developing large, probably flash-based, secure elements, NFC Times has learned. There is also an implementation of the ST33 chip running a Gemalto operating system, and the chip is also used in NFC SIM cards.

Samsung confirmed its plans for the embedded chip in March with the announcement of the Galaxy S4, in which it said the Android phone would be the “world’s first device to preload Visa’s payWave function into the embedded secure element.” It added that “more payment applets from multiple brands are planned to be preloaded into the embedded secure element in coming months.”

NFC Times has learned that Samsung is also working with MasterCard Worldwide to put PayPass on the embedded chip in its NFC devices.

The Samsung NFC smartphones will also support a single-wire protocol connection to the SIM, enabling the phones to be used by SIM-centric mobile operators.

For the embedded chip, Samsung is believed to be targeting only markets where a significant percentage of the phones are sold on the open market, that is, not subsidized by mobile operators with their own SIM-based NFC strategies.

The device maker, along with one or more of the payment schemes, are targeting such regions as Eastern Europe and Southeast Asia and such countries as the UK, Turkey, Czech Republic and probably Spain, Italy and Singapore. There is interest in a number of other countries or districts, such as Australia and Hong Kong.

Besides the significant percentage of unsubsidized phones, the parties are also looking for countries with a substantial or growing footprint of contactless point-of-sale terminals.

But the implementations of payWave and PayPass on the Samsung embedded chips are not expected to be available to consumers until late this year, NFC Times has learned.

Google also adopted Broadcom’s standalone NFC chip for its Nexus 4 smartphone and Nexus 10 tablet–the latter manufactured for it by Samsung. And these also carry the ST chip with the Oberthur OS. Google incorporated a Broadcom NFC stack with Android. Among the features in the stack and the Broadcom chip is support for a standard software connection between the application processor and the NFC chip, called the NFC controller interface, or NCI.

 

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