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ARM formalizes security venture

Seeks to dominate de facto standards in mobile commerce but EU and China insist on openness to rivals


Published: 18 December, 2012

READ MORE: Europe | Security | Semiconductor | Standards

ARM has formalized the security joint venture it announced in April, joining Gemalto and Giesecke & Devrient (G&D) to unveil Trustonic. The venture will cooperate to develop a trusted execution environment which aims to make mobile payments simpler and safer, and to establish standards for the whole sector - increasing the influence of ARM and its partners in the mobile world.

Trustronic's technology is based on ARM's existing TrustZone technology, which creates a separate, secure area on a chip to handle sensitive data and transactions. This also complies with GlobalPlatform specifications. It also incorporates security and management software from Gemalto and G&D.

One of the tasks facing the partners since they unveiled their plans in April has been to drum up partnerships and industry support, in their quest to set de facto standards and create real world examples of their platform in action. The first public allies include Mastercard, 20th Century Fox, Good Technology, Discretix, Irdeto, Wave and Cisco, plus security firms Symantec and InsideSecure, and ARM licensees Nvidia and Samsung. The only cellco to sign up so far is Sprint.

Under the terms of the deal, ARM owns 40% of the JV, with the other two holding 30% apiece and the alliance has an eight-year term initially.

The management team is dominated by ARM personnel. The company will be led by CEO Ben Cade, previously general manager of ARM's secure services division, and CTO Jon Geater comes from the same unit, while COO Chris Jones was formerly VP of licensing for ARM's processor division. G&D contributes Stephan Spitz, who was director of strategic planning for the German firm and will now be EVP of engineering. Oliver Leger will be EVP for sales and marketing. He is currently the general manager of personal and consumer devices at Trusted Logic, a subsidiary of Gemalto.

The formation of the joint venture has been approved by the European Commission and Chinese authorities with certain conditions. These are primarily that ARM provides the JV's competitors with full disclosure on current and future versions of TrustZone, as well as any equivalent architectures that ARM may release in the future; and that ARM does not design its IP in a way that would harm the performance of third party trusted execution environments.

Concern that the JV could limit competition - particularly given ARM's rising dominance as the electronic devices world shifts to mobile products - was especially voiced in China, which is keen for its own firms to amass market influence and IPR in critical sectors like security, mobile commerce and smartphone chips. However, it imposed similar conditions to those listed by the EC when it gave conditional clearance to the venture in November.

Trustonic said benefits of its platform would include simpler, faster and safer payments mechanisms on any screen for consumers; support for value added services for operators, such as enterprise security and convergent service charging; and an integrated platform for device makers, which isolates and protects sensitive assets such as passcodes, fingerprints and certificates, independently of any particular app or service.

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