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Motorola chips into fast crypto

Motorola unveils two new "fast crypto" chips that it claims are the fastest encryption chips now available.

Motorola (MOT) has unveiled two new "fast crypto" chips that it claims are the fastest encryption chips now available.

The fast crypto chips can perform complex encryption functions up to 200 times faster than conventional smart cards, and both incorporate Motorola's 1,024-bit flexible modular encryption unit.

Smart cards are credit-card-sized hardware with an embedded chip that can store cash values or be used in other functions. Smart cards are considered more secure than software-only encryption schemes.

Motorola is touting its fast crypto chips as a "natural choice" for e-commerce and electronic purse or wallet systems because they can encrypt rapidly and remain highly secure. The chips use RSA Data Security public key cryptography. The two new fast crypto chips are named the M68HC05SC49A (SC49A) and the M68HC05SC50 (SC50).

Motorola's new chips also enable multifunction smart cards so a single card could be used as a credit and debit card, electronic purse, and loyalty card. Motorola is the world's leading supplier of microcontrollers for smart cards.

Schlumberger (SLB), a major manufacturer of smart cards, has selected the Motorola chip for its electronic payment system. Mondex, a European group using smart cards, is evaluating the Motorola chips.

Schlumberger will use Motorola's fast crypto chips in its new high-performance Cryptoflex smart cards for electronic commerce, banking, email, and corporate security applications.

In a related announcement at the Cartes 96 trade show in Paris, Motorola also said it has become the first major chip manufacturer to develop a "contactless" smart card microcontroller with security levels that match those of contact-based smart cards.

VeriFone, which recently announced consumer smart card readers for the home, tomorrow will outline plans to boost the global infrastructure for smart cards. VeriFone makes countertop devices used in most retail stores to read credit cards.

A "contactless" smart card can be read from a distance, rather than requiring it to be inserted or swiped into a reader. This touchless type of usage is considered key for public transportation applications, for example. Contactless cards so far have been used in applications with limited security requirements.

"The combination of contactless technology with the security features required by financial institutions is very powerful," Mike Inglis, Motorola's worldwide smart cards operations manager, said in a statement. Transit agencies in Adelaide, Australia; Barcelona, Spain; and San Francisco are studying contactless ticketing systems.

Research service Datamonitor forecasts that the contactless smart card market will grow from less than 1 million units in 1995 to 250 million units in 2001.

In addition, the market for smart cards is expected to explode. Research analyst Dataquest expects the smart card market for financial applications to boom from about 22 million cards now to more than 1.2 billion over the next five years.