NZ encryption firm readies chip for smartcard charge

New Zealand encryption technology company RPK is awaiting delivery of its joint-venture crypto software-loaded chip which will be targeted for use in smartcards and embedded systems. RPK founder Bill Raike says the new chip, developed with a Swiss organisation, should make RPK 'a real competitor' in those markets.

New Zealand encryption technology company RPK is awaiting delivery of its joint-venture crypto software-loaded chip which will be targeted for use in smartcards and embedded systems.

Due last month, the chip has been developed in association with a Swiss organisation, AATI. The delayed deadline is par for the course, says RPK founder Bill Raike.

"Our Swiss people are — any day now — about to deliver our FPGA [a chip circuit design standard] implementation. That should be extremely fast. I think it should make us a real competitor in the smart-card and embedded systems market.

RPK says its En-crypt-onite IC (integrated circuit) design has a "low gate count" — the fraction of an FPGA chip required to implement the encryption technology. This makes it ideal for smartcard and embedded applications as well as a co-processor for use in high-volume transactions where standard cryptography can produce a bottleneck.

"What we will have is a chip that does RPK encryption. It will be directly usable in a variety of applications, from mobile telephones to set-top boxes to all sorts of communication hardware [such as] routers, as well as on an appropriate card in any PC."

Raike says the Lausanne-based AATI (Advanced Technology Institute) has finalised the chip design. "It's a matter of getting the final debugging done."

RPK is at present concentrating on bundling its products, which include an encryption software toolkit and an email security product, with OEM (original equipment manufacturer) developments. Raike says the company is currently negotiating a number of deals, including one with a large electronics firm and another with an Internet media company.

He says RPK has also worked with a number of local developers.

The fact that the technology is not subject to US export laws, which are tough on encryption, has helped sales.

"The New Zealand factor is definitely helping us — clean, green and free."

Raike believes the government's recently announced National Cryptography Policy Committee, which will examine its possible policy moves on the importation and use of crypto technology, is "generally a positive thing". He has contacted Frank March, who advises the Commerce Ministry on IT issues, about the committee, and says he will definitely offer his expertise, either directly or through white papers and the like.

RPK believes that the government's current hands-off stance on encryption issues should continue. "Certainly there is no reason for additional legislation."

RPK's cryptographic research and product development is based in New Zealand and the UK, with worldwide sales and marketing operations in San Francisco.

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