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Renesas and Panthronics look to secure mobile PoS terminals

Panthronics, a fabless semiconductor company specialising in high performance wireless technology, and Renesas have come up with a new design for more secure mobile point-of-sale (mPoS) contactless payment terminals.

The design is based on Panthronics’ PTX100R NFC Reader IC for contactless communication, and the Renesas RA6M4 general-purpose secure microcontroller (MCU).

The RA6M4 MCU, which has an Arm Cortex-M33 CPU with TrustZone technology and integrated security IP, performs all the cryptographic, key management and other security functions required for compliance with the Payment Card Industry (PCI) security standards and the EMVCo Level 2 standard for contactless payments. EMVCo Level 1-compliant software runs in the PTX100R.

This design is said to offer substantial cost and size advantages over conventional mPoS terminal designs. At present, mPoS terminals feature either a combination of a general-purpose MCU with a discrete Secure Element, or a dedicated PoS-specific system-on-chip (SoC) with built-in security functions.

By contrast this solution:

  • Eliminates the need for a discrete Secure Element by implementing secure payment functions inside the RA6M4. This reduces bill-of-materials cost and saves space on the board. It also strengthens security, because the vulnerable communications path between a discrete Secure Element and host MCU is eliminated.
  • The RA6M4 is a lower-cost component than a dedicated SoC, and is widely available with no security of supply concerns.

Commenting Markus Vomfelde, European Senior Manager for MCU Business Development at Renesas, said: “Security, cost and size are the key concerns for manufacturers of the next generation of mPoS terminals, as they battle for market share in a highly competitive market.

"By proving that an mPoS terminal based on a standard MCU can be fully compliant with all the relevant security and payment industry standards, Renesas and Panthronics have demonstrated a new way for terminal manufacturers to gain a competitive edge while meeting customer demand for security, functionality and performance.”

The mPoS solution implements a comprehensive set of payment terminal functions, including EMVCo Level 1 and Level 2 ready software and provides an effective platform for manufacturers to verify the concept’s compliance with the EMVCo standard, and to complete rapid design integration based on the hardware and software components supplied by Renesas and Panthronics.

The design includes a space-saving antenna which surrounds the display screen, a configuration which is only possibly because of the connectivity performance of the PTX100R card reader. The PXT100R’s sine wave architecture results in improved sensitivity and transmission strength, boosting the terminal’s signal-to-noise ratio and allowing for reliable coupling with payment cards or mobile phones in all usage conditions, and via an antenna placed close to an electrically noisy display.

The solution consists of two boards:

  • EK-RA6M4 evaluation kit for the RA6M4 MCU
  • PTX100R reader/display shield board

The design is expected to be available to buy from Renesas as a complete evaluation kit in early 2022.

Author
Neil Tyler

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