Removing friction: converged solutions for device makers
The digital revolution has transformed the way we lead our lives
It’s been just over ten years since the first iPhone went on sale, an event which started a global digital revolution. Since then, device makers have created one of the most innovative, competitive and universal new markets, pushing mobile technology into new roles in every part of people’s lives. But while people see handsets in terms of display quality, camera resolution and games capabilities, device makers know that beneath the gloss lies a complex and highly functional melange of connectivity, security, and system management.
One of the greatest challenges in device design is specifying and producing the deep infrastructure of secure connectivity on which so much of the mobile experience depends. As well as the basic task of choosing components and integrating them into the hardware and software platforms, any solution must also work within the global ecosystem of security, identity and connectivity standards, regulations and application level support.
To round off the task, to be competitive new designs must be produced quickly and have the smallest footprint possible, both in physical area and in the bill of materials. That means engineering the supply chain as skillfully as the PCB layout. And, of course, the design must be better than the competition.
“It all comes down to differentiation,” says Carlos Maldonado, head of product management, Connectivity & Device Solutions at G+D Mobile Security, “not only on features the end user can see, like the screen size, but also non‐tangible aspects like connectivity and security”. The increase in mobile digital services in market segments like finance, government or transportation, as well as recent innovations such as eSIMs, requires solutions to securely manage identities from several service providers stored in the device.
A converged solution, such as that offered by G+D Mobile Security, minimizes the friction in the integration of all elements within the device design, and ensures interoperability with infrastructure from service providers, adding differentiation to a product.
One of the greatest innovations in mobile technology is also one of the hardest to appreciate – the global regulatory and legal framework. Anyone can buy and use a consumer handset anywhere in the world without interfering with local services or needing official permission. Moreover, off‐the‐shelf hardware and applications can interface with banking, credit, official data, transportation and access systems, conducting highly confidential identity‐based transactions. All this needs a very high degree of compliance with many layers of the stack, from physical wireless and NFC standards and protocols through to strong public key encryption and personal identity assurance systems. These vary from territory to territory, application to application and service to service, and all evolve over time.
Product design has to be about supporting new features that really matter to the end user, while minimizing friction and risk…
- Carlos Maldonado, head of product management, connectivity & device solutions at G+D Mobile Security
Using pre‐certified software and hardware components with full global support, makes the task tractable for handset manufacturers, where the resources necessary to either handle them all inhouse or integrate multiple sources of appropriate technology, are impracticable.
Alongside the regulatory networks, supply chain engineering is another innovative technology, almost invisible to the end user but entirely vital to the success of the OEM. Profitability lies in the balance between resilience and efficiency, both improved by reducing the number of suppliers and the component count. Visualizing the number and size of the physical supply chain between component maker and end user is hard, even for those who have to create and manage those connections. Yet, as those chains multiply in number and length, so too do the challenges. Reducing the former reduces the latter. One way of doing that is moving from the discrete one‐function‐per‐device approach to multifunction devices that bring together appropriate system components into one package.
G+D considers the three primary features of its converged platform – eSIM, PKI and NFC – are established enough to be considered the core security and identity management features for devices into the future.
Take eSIMs, which remove the need for a physical SIM when configuring a device or changing operators or ownership. Deployed for years in M2M applications in, for example, the automotive market, then in niche consumer wearable products, they’re now being adopted by handset makers. “The first flagship phones with eSIM support are out, and the network infrastructure is being prepared for mass consumer take‐up”, says Maldonado. “2019 will see an upswing in adoption, and G+D Mobile Security is prepared to provide the management tools to both, operators and device makers.”
The final benefit to the converged solution is found at the sharp end of the design process – the device itself. Those benefits are simple engineering facts: by combining multiple features into a single package, interconnecting buses can be brought on‐chip reducing pin count and layout pressure. And the smaller package is, well, smaller – leaving more options for a thinner form factor, or extra battery capacity, or whatever else the market finds desirable.
Again, this is familiar ground to the experienced designer, for whom the basic question isn’t if, but when to adopt a more highly integrated solution.
“Device manufacturers have many hard choices”, says Maldonado. “It’s a highly competitive market, and the change from profitable innovation to low‐margin commodity can be very rapid. Product design and engineering has to be about supporting the new features and classes of application that really matter to the end user while minimizing the friction and risk of making that happen. If you want to combine that with full end‐to‐end support and life‐cycle management, there aren’t that many options. G+D do all that.”
Converged solutions explained
Converged solutions enable the deployment of multiple technologies in a single security chip rather than being deployed on dedicated chips, i.e. eSIM for GSMA Subscription Management and embedded Secure Elements (eSE) for Near Field Communication (NFC) and Public Key Infrastructure (PKI) for payment, transit or authentication applications. Compressing technology onto a single chip allows for a smoother, more efficient and more cost‐effective production process, relying on fewer components and fewer steps in your supply chain.