Electronic Design

Low Power, Contactless Security Devices Grab Power From The Air

Radio waves power a new crop of low-power, contactless security products from Atmel Corp., San Jose, Calif. With an operational range exceeding 10 cm, these chips convert basestation-transmitted radio waves into electrical power that embedded chips can use. They also can power communication between a radio transceiver and a basestation. This technology is designed for smart-card environments.

The first chip in the series is the Atmel AT88RF256-13, which has 256 bits of read/write EEPROM. It supports the ISO 14443 A and B/Part 2 wireless RFID standard, which uses a carrier frequency of 13.56 or 125 MHz, for contactless smart cards and tags. Its peak transmission rate is 100 kbits/s. Triple DES encryption accelerators speed secure transmissions.

Each chip contains a unique serial number. Access is password-protected. Data-locking and anticollision features are standard. Also, the chips support a variable-length ID. They can operate at slower communications speeds. Miller data encoding is used. ISO 7816 contact smart-card interfaces for contact and contactless operation are supported as well.

This RFID technology has been used on two different security chips developed in conjunction with IBM's AssetID technology. Products based on these technologies have been used for tracking physical assets such as laptop computers.

Secure memory isn't the only use for contactless operation. Atmel supports three different 8-bit microprocessors, including industry-standard 8051 and 6805 cores, and its own synthesizable high-performance, RISC-based AVR core. A combination of memory sizes and cryptographic accelerators are supported in standard products, along with asymmetric 1024-bit RSA public-key encryption.

For details about the contactless security products, visit www.atmel.com.

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