With the increasing number of connected devices in the fast-growing digital world, connected networks, and assets are quite exposed to frequent threats of being controlled by malware or counterfeit software introduced by criminals. to control the connected network. Deepak Agarwal, Senior Marketing & Application Manager, Secure Microcontrollers, ASEAN, ANZ & India, STMicroelectronics in conversation with Sudeshna Das, consulting editor, EFY Group, at Smart Cards Expo 2022 and explains how secure microcontroller-based products and solutions can protect data privacy and assets by ensuring confidentiality, integrity, and availability to authorized requesters where and when needed.
Q. What are the interesting technology trends that shape up the secure microcontroller market?
A. The evolution of the security market towards IoT, secure automotive, M2M, industrial, and 5G applications fosters the development of advanced technology to design solutions in line with the latest requirements. These applications need cost-efficient products with a scalable eNVM cell and a high cycling capability, good retention, and low power consumption on a wide temperature range.
Q. Please explain STMicroelectronics’ journey with secure microcontrollers.
A. At STMicroelectronics, we are into this domain for the last 30 years. We design, manufacture products and offer pre-personalization services to ensure device compliance with quality, environmental, safety, and security standards and certifications. The secure microcontroller concept is thought of very long back and ST has been a pioneer in it.
Secure microcontroller solutions are driven by dynamics based on smartcard technologies, mobile transactions and the connected world. This is why, today, ST is securing from traditional applications, such as SIM, banking and ID, to the latest ones including contactless transactions and IoT connectivity.
With the STSECURE portfolio, ST makes industries, cities, homes, cars and everyday things smarter and more connected in a safer way.
Q. What are the innovative solutions offered by STMicroelectronics?
A. We offer a wide range of innovative solutions for applications which can include smart card form factors for identification, payment, and transport application. Here, in the expo, we have demonstrated 2 of our solutions, STPay-Topaz-Bio & dCVV related to payment. The STPay-Topaz-Bio platform facilitates the development of biometric systems-on-cards, It allows handling fingerprint enrollment, template creation, power management, and the authentication process. The solution allows biometrics to replace pins. Another solution demonstrated is dCVV based on ST31N platform, here the card security code changes 3 (or 4 ) digit changes with each POS transaction bringing additional level of security. Both the solutions do not require a battery which also reduces the complexity during the card manufacturing.
Q. How do you see the applications of secure microcontrollers in India compared to other countries in the global market?
A. In India, we see a lot of demand for secure microcontroller-based solutions for payment & ID cards. If you see, 25 year ago we had to stand in a queue to take out money from banks, no ATMs were there. We now see increasing adoption of credit & debit cards for payment and money withdrawal which bring convenience to users . Recent times, we also see a lot of adoption for digital payments through mobile. Various payment technologies such as cash, cheque, cards, internet payment co-exist & constantly upgraded for security as well as user convenience . Now coming to the payment cards, initially cards used magnetic strips then it went to contact EMV cards and now to the dual interface cards. In the last few years, people are getting familiar with this contactless payment card & they prefer to use it as it is faster & easier.
Q. Which kind of technological challenges were solved by the STMicroelectronics team while developing secure microcontroller-based applications?
A. Most security applications need the fast and reliable performance of the hardware with enhanced security. We offer tamper proof hardware & SoC solutions which are proven against different types of attacks i.e., remote software, board level and silicon level attacks. The products are regularly reviewed to follow latest security standards as well as certified for EMVCo & Common Criteria. We have the ST31 platform based on 40 nm technology which is designed for payment applications. Key advantage of our ST31 platform is that it is suitable for different form factors such as wearable to payment cards, thanks to its best-in-class RF performance & low power design which allows it to work with different antenna sizes. We also provide hardware & SoC solutions to address other applications such as eSIM, mobile payment transactions, secure connectivity in automotive, IOT as well as brand protection.
Q. What are the competitive advantages of STMicroelectronics products in the secure microcontroller market?
A. As you notice that we offer wide range of solutions which are adoptable to multiple applications. Let me take an example of our payment solution, STPay variant widely deployed in India, where we support International scheme such as Mastercard, Visa, Discover, JCB etc. & also local schemes such as Rupay . . It allows card manufacturers to quickly address local needs while
saving software development effort and time. The solution is based using ST31 based on 40 nm eSTM technology. Key advantage of our ST31 platform is that it is suitable for different form factors such as wearable to payment cards, thanks to its best-in-class RF performance & low power design which allows it to work with different antenna sizes.
Q. How do you ensure the best possible service to your customers?
A. We deliver hardware- and software-certified solutions based on our unique technologies, offer seamless integration of security features, and provide all the required technical support to customers based on our expertise in cryptography and device architectures. Also, thanks to our collaboration with partners who can provide inlays and/ or dual-interface modules to our customers.