Secure chips will lead to biometric passports

Thursday, 27 November 2003, 3:09 PM EST

Last week’s Cartes 2003 smartcard conference in Paris was notable for the emergence of secure chips suitable for storing biometric data in passports and ID cards.

Four manufacturers - Infineon Technologies, Philips Semiconductors, Sharp Microelectronics and STMicroelectronics - unveiled silicon with large amounts of non-volatile memory.

"The ST22FJ1M was designed to allow developers to escape the current smart card software architecture limitations and hence to enable new applications for existing and emerging markets,” said Reza Kazerounian, v-p of ST’s smartcard ICs division.

All four of the new devices integrate a 32-bit microcontroller with the memory. Philips, Sharp and ST incorporate flash memory in their cards, while Infineon is using EEPROM.

Up to 1Mbyte of flash is available in the Sharp and ST cards. Allowing for the operating system, this should leave around 700kbyte for applications and biometric storage.

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