Freescale, INSIDE Secure announce secure utility meter reference design with NFC connectivity

by K C Krishnadas, TechOnline India - January 25, 2012

The reference design, based on the Freescale Kinetis MK30 microcontroller (MCU), provides the first NFC-based, prepaid meter with the ability to securely reload energy credit balances.

Freescale Semiconductor and INSIDE Secure have announced a secure prepaid utility meter reference design with near field communication (NFC) connectivity that OEMs can use to quickly and cost-effectively bring to market electricity meter products. The reference design is based on the Freescale Kinetis MK30 microcontroller (MCU) and provides the first NFC-based, prepaid meter with the ability to securely reload energy credit balances.  

Utilities in many countries need a sophisticated payment infrastructure to facilitate the utility payment process while preventing fraud. Secure prepaid meters, such as this reference design, address this need by adding sophisticated smart card security mechanisms. Products based on this reference design are protected from fraud as they use a VaultICTM security module and NFC technology to safely load energy credits from a smart card or an NFC-enabled phone.

“The global need for prepaid metering solutions and robust security is rapidly increasing, especially in emerging markets. By partnering with INSIDE Secure we are not only bringing advanced security features but also innovative contactless technology, enabling the design of simple, tough mechanical meters that are virtually tamper-proof.” Bruno Baylac, director of Freescale's Metering, Medical and Connectivity Solutions business.

“Through our collaboration with Freescale, we have been able to combine our security and connectivity solutions to protect prepaid meters while providing a more convenient way to load energy credits and deliver valuable usage information to utilities,” said Christian Fleutelot, general manager of the Vault-IC SAS business unit and executive vice president for digital security at INSIDE Secure.

The reference design features Inside Secure’s VaultIC 460 and NFC (MicroRead 3.4) chipset. The VaultIC 460 security module provides comprehensive security functions such as mutual authentication, verification and generation of certificates, encryption/decryption and managing secure storage of cryptographic keys. It is FIPS140-2 Level 3 ready. NFC connectivity is implemented using the MicroRead® controller and Open NFC protocol stack.

The system is powered by the Freescale MK30X256 32-bit MCU (built on the ARM CortexTM-M4 core), which operates up to 100 MHz with 1.25 DMIPS/MHz. The firmware is based on Freescale’s MQX real-time operating system. The built-in segment LCD controller displays all standard metering values at the push of a button.  

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