ARM Energy-efficient Processor Reshapes Smartcard Market

ARM Energy-efficient Processor Reshapes Smartcard Market

ARM launched the compact and energy-efficient ARM SecurCore SC000 processor (pronounced SC triple zero), designed specifically for the highest volume smartcard and embedded security applications. The SC000 processor is the latest addition to the successful ARM SecurCore family of processors, expanding the range of target applications into tamper-resistant contact and contactless smartcards such as SIM, government, banking, transport, ID and conditional access. Delivering feature-rich 32-bit performance in competitive 8/16-bit cost, area and power footprints, the SC000 processor is suited for the next-generation devices in the highest volume smartcard markets.


The SC000 processor leverages ARM's experience and leadership in secure processing, joining the solidly established and broadly supported SC100 and SC300 SecurCore processors. These two processors have already been licensed to more than 15 vendors including Atmel, NXP, Samsung, STMicroelectronics and Toshiba, and have accounted for more than 50 percent of the global 32-bit smart card shipments in 2009.


The smartcard market shipped more than four billion units in 2009, and is estimated to grow at 10 percent CAGR over the next five years. Furthermore, independent research indicates the 32-bit secure processor subsegment is poised for growth over existing 8/16-bit legacy solutions, as the latter struggle to provide the features, performance and energy-efficiency demanded by next-generation smartcards.


Four of the top five silicon vendors in the smartcard industry will have access to the SC000 processor, or the underlying ARMv6M architecture, upon release, enabling them to design the next generation of secure devices that can cater the global smartcard market. A number of other silicon vendors are also in advanced SC000 processor licensing discussions with ARM. SC000 processor-based devices are expected to start shipping in volume as early as 2011.


"ST believes that the ARM SecurCore SC000 processor will enable a new generation of Secure Smartcard ICs, offering high 32-bit performance and low power consumption, particularly adapted to secure contactless applications such as government and ID, banking and multi-application," said Marie-France Florentin, GM of STMicroelectronics Secure Microcontroller Division. "The ARM SecurCore SC000 combined with ST's 90nm e-Flash advanced smartcard technology and strong expertise in security have the potential to become fundamental assets in the preparation of the next generation of secure smartcard ICs."


Device and cost consolidation are key drivers of the global smartcard market. The demand for low-power, fully featured smartcards is also fueled by increasingly security and cost-conscious government and transport agencies. Industry-standard secure 32-bit platforms such as the ARM SecurCore SC000 processor are essential to meet these needs and enable OEMs and vendors to focus on adding real value.


"Smartcards are being used for an increasingly broad range of applications with diverse system requirements and price points, while the industry demands standardization to minimize costs and time-to-market," said Eric Schorn, VP of Marketing, Processor Division, ARM. "The highly configurable SC000 processor meets these needs perfectly inside of an unprecedented area, cost and power footprint."


The SC000 combines the proven security features of ARM SecurCore processors, currently the most widely licensed 32-bit CPU for smartcards worldwide, with leadership technology from the Cortex-M0. The result provides comparable performance at three times the energy efficiency and one third of the size. The SC000 processor's low power footprint makes it an ideal choice for a range of contactless and NFC applications.


The highly configurable security features of the SC000 processor enable vendors to easily design a diverse range of differentiated secure devices for specific smartcard applications while retaining forward architectural compatibility with the high-end SC300 processor, enabling easy migration to high-performance, high-security applications.


Software development on the SC000 is supported by the Keil Microcontroller Development Kit (MDK) from ARM. The MDK is the most widely used tool chain in the smartcard world, and will enable easy migration of designs to the SC000 processor through high-quality development and debug features and an interface familiar to smartcard software developers worldwide.

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