Reference design blends ams & ST technologies for secure NFC transactions

February 27, 2015 // By Graham Prophet
This reference design combines ams’ boostedNFC technology with STMicroelectronics’s NFC controller and Secure Element to provide fastest, safest, and most reliable secure contactless transactions in phones and wearables with tiny antennae

ams AG and STMicroelectronics have collaborated on an NFC system reference design that, they say, assures easy, reliable and secure contactless transactions while suiting the form factors of mobile and wearable devices.

The reference design’s analogue circuitry delivers NFC performance even in devices with room for only a tiny antenna, one that is typically adjacent to metal surfaces or shielded by the user’s hand, and that may be mounted in a location hostile to RF transmissions. By combining the AS39230 analogue front end (AFE) with ams’ boostedNFC technology, along with the ST21NFCC controller and ST33G1M2 Secure MCU from ST, the two companies aim to make the consumer’s experience of contactless transactions easy, quick, and completely reliable, whether for payments in shops, ticketing in metro/urban mass transit infrastructure, or access control. OEMs gain worldwide certification, including for Common Criteria, EMVCo, GlobalPlatform, and Visa, Mastercard, Amex, and PBOC (People’s Bank of China).

ams’ AS39230 boosts the signal on the antenna, increasing the signal strength up to 10 times when compared with conventional passive load modulation (PLM) methods of transmitting a signal from an NFC tag, card, or card emulator to an NFC reader. In space-constrained designs, the size of the antenna can thus be reduced by as much as 20 times, down to 100 mm ² or less, while maintaining the same signal strength. The AS39230 even allows for the device’s metal casing to be used as an antenna, reducing the board space required for the NFC antenna and its related costs to near-zero.

Paired with ams’ boostedNFC chip, ST’s ST54E System-in-Package (SIP) contains the ST21NFCC controller and the ST33G1M2 32-bit secure microcontroller for Universal Integrated Circuit Card (UICC), embedded Secure Element, and microSD-card applications.

The ST33G1M2 Secure Element, which supports the latest Global Platform GP2.2 OS and the complete MIFARE portfolio including MIFARE Classic and MIFARE DESFire, offers performance for banking and digital-access applications along with full compatibility with major worldwide