Former NXP Exec Duverne Joins FCI

Christophe Duverne, former head of NXP Semiconductor’s contactless chip unit, has been named head of the Microconnections division of France-based FCI. The division makes smart card contacts and RFID tags.

Duverne, who served as the first chairman of the NFC Forum representing forum co-founder Philips Semiconductors, now NXP, took over the division effective Jan. 1.

The unit, which also makes antennas for contactless and RFID applications, brought in 159 million euros (US$230.7 million) in 2008. FCI acquired Singapore-based RFID tag manufacturer Smartag in 2007. FCI generated 1.1 billion euros in sales in 2008, mostly from supplying connectors for automotive components and other electronics.

Duverne told NFC Times the company would keep an eye on the contactless and NFC market for opportunities. Among FCI Microconnection’s contracts was the supply of at least 400,000 contactless loyalty stickers via France-based semiconductor supplier Inside Contactless for French children’s clothing retailer Tape a’ l’Oeil.

Duverne had served three and a half years as head of NXP’s identification unit, the largest supplier of contactless chips worldwide, when he was replaced last May by NXP’s recently installed CEO at the time, Richard Clemmer. Clemmer appointed Ruediger Stroh, an executive in the data chip storage industry, to the post. Stroh had worked for Clemmer at U.S.-based chip supplier Agere Systems Inc. The new CEO has been restructuring loss-making NXP, which supplies silicon for a range of markets.

During Duverne’s tenure, NXP became the largest supplier of chips for e-passports and continued to dominate the market for contactless chips for transit fare-collection. NXP also supplies contactless chips for bank cards.

But the high-profile hack of NXP’s widely used Mifare Classic technology also occurred on Duverne’s watch, in 2008.

He joined Philips Semiconductors in 1999. The chip maker co-created NFC in 2002, but the high growth Duverne had forecasted for NFC has yet to pan out.
“Quite frankly, it’s not been a home run, but I think we’ve been making good progress,” he was quoted as saying. “We underestimated the complexity of the ecosystem and our ability to shape it.”

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