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SoC Works With Near Field Communications to Create Keyless Lock

Image courtesy of Infineon infineonlock.jpg
Infineon has unveiled a system-on-chip comprising a microcontroller and front-end to allow mobile phones to lock and unlock doors.
Infineon unveils an SoC that relies on NFC to open and close locks via a mobile phone.

The key to the future of building security may be no key at all if Infineon has any say. The semiconductor company has developed a battery-free security solution that allows locks to open and close without a mobile phone. The solution uses an IC developed by Infineon and uses energy harvesting to contactlessly draw power from the mobile phone.

The lock is activated by holding the mobile phone directly on it. Near-field communication (NFC) checks whether the device is authorized to open the lock. Energy is transferred contactlessly to a capacitor that opens or closes the lock.

Infineon’s solution relies on its NAC1080 SoC (system-on-chip), a programmable 2-bit ARM® Cortex®-M0 microcontroller with a built-in NFC frontend. The NAC1080 is the first SoC designed for the passive NFC lock application, according to Qi Zhu, Director of Marketing and Business Development, Power Sensor Systems Business Unit, Infineon Technologies.

“Our single-chip solution enables miniaturized design and cost-effective implementation. In the past, the approach to building NFC lock system was using discrete components, an approach whose drawbacks include low performance, large PCB size, and high BOM cost.”

The NFC front end uses plain text-based communication. The IC provides hardware AES128 accelerator and true random number generator, which used to support software-based data encryption and de-encryption.  In addition, Infineon has implemented a proprietary protocol to enable customers to block un-want NFC access.   

According to the company, the  technology is suitable for locks that require little mechanical effort, such as in office furniture, hospitals and fitness studios. Other possible applications are bicycle locks, mailboxes and parcel boxes. Infineon noted that the technology can also be used in complex locking systems such as front doors, such as a backup solution to standard locking systems as a backup or emergency solution. 

Although contactless locking has become more commonplace in applications such as vehicles, the concept has not quite caught in buildings yet, where traditional keys or smart cards are used. However, the market for smart locks is expected to grow, with Grandview Research projecting to market to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 21.4% from 2021 through 2028, from $1.64 to $5.28 billion. Growing security concerns and the increased reliance on the IoT and the adoption of technologies such as AI and machine learning all play factors.

Spencer Chin is a Senior Editor for Design News covering the electronics beat. He has many years of experience covering developments in components, semiconductors, subsystems, power, and other facets of electronics from both a business/supply-chain and technology perspective. He can be reached at [email protected]

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