Our chip design and industrialization expertise

A unique ability to supply our clients with highly secure chips for their mission-critical activities.

At IDEMIA, our chip design expertise dates back more than 10 years and our experts have, on average, more than 15 years of microelectronics experience. We not only design chips, but we also industrialize them—working closely with contract foundries to ensure sourcing and monitor integrated circuit quality from the prototype to the chip production.

What is chip design?

Within every chip are millions of transistors, or tiny devices that regulate current flow and act as switches for electronic signals. Chip design consists in making millions of these transistors work together to create an integrated circuit that serves as the smartcard’s brain and memory.

A chip, or integrated circuit, is built by different blocks:

  • A MicroController Unit (MCU) that manages the execution of the secure element software, assisted by a co-processor dedicated to cryptography acceleration
  • The Non-Volatile Memory (NVM) that stores secrets, the OS and applets
  • Analog/Radio Frequency blocks that power the integrated circuit, manage communication interfaces and secure other functions

A unique approach to secure element development

Combining our in-house chip design and industrialization know-how with our unique software expertise is IDEMIA’s true differentiator. This synergy allows us to create secure elements that are truly adapted to our clients’ mission-critical applications—providing the highest security platform as well as optimized performance in terms of memory, power usage and communication interfaces for operating systems, applications and the management of secure credentials.

These secure elements perfectly merge our latest advancements in hardware and software security for all our markets, from SIM technology used in the consumer space and in various IoT markets, to contact and contactless payment products, ID cards or passports equipped with a chip.

Direct relationships with foundries to ensure the best level of supply and production

Thanks to our in-house chip design unit we have established a secure supply chain with contract foundries and are able to adapt chip sourcing depending on supply conditions around the world. Since the beginning of the chip shortage at the end of 2019, this has been instrumental to our supply chain resilience, ensuring business continuity with our clients in every part of the globe.

Value-added for our clients, and beyond

Our flexible set of chip design references allows us to meet the specific requirements of the different industries we serve. We define the best design for each product type by optimizing the entire solution to offer maximum integration—defining hardware specifications while factoring in software requirements. Depending on the end-product specificities and application needs, we adapt the chip computing power, the memory capacity, the type of communication interface, or even the size of the contactless antenna.

This end-to-end approach to secure element development—from chip design and industrialization to software specifications and integration—means we have full control over the end-product security and performance; which is a significant asset for mission-critical use cases.

As many industries increasingly turn to secure chips to enhance the security of their own products, we can help them by licensing our IP and sharing our cybersecurity expertise. We are ready to support them in developing their own chip design expertise, and ultimately having greater control over their supply chain and the functionalities they need to implement.

An innovation-enabler to prepare for the future

Our in-house chip design and industrialization capabilities represent a total shift in mindset. Instead of simply buying chips from other vendors to integrate our software, we define a vision.

As the pace of technological evolution keeps accelerating year after year, driving innovation is instrumental for us to be ready to address all the upcoming scientific and industrial breakthroughs. Our chip design expertise gives us the agility to anticipate these key technology evolutions and market needs. It also means we have a unique capability to develop and qualify products quicker—aligning our hardware and software roadmaps for a rapid time-to-market—and thus giving our clients a head start.

As new application requirements emerge, we look into how to adapt hardware – in terms of chip memory size, power consumption, analog features, and interfaces – in order to optimize software function execution. We are also leveraging our latest R&D software research (e.g. in biometrics, cryptography) to ensure that we integrate the highest level of security at the core of our products.

Our areas of expertise: from chip specifications to mass production

The collective know-how and innovation capabilities of our chip design and industrialization teams set us apart from our competitors and represent one of the Group’s core competences—a competence that can even extend beyond our own business by developing IP for other markets and technological use cases.

As a fundamental element of smartcards, the chips designed by our engineers are already trusted by hundreds of customers in the world for their mission-critical activities.

Within our dedicated unit and working hand-in-hand with our R&D software experts, our chip design and industrialization engineers have the opportunity to be a part of an end-to-end product design process. They optimize and secure every step in the chip engineering processes, including design, manufacturing, and quality controls of the different chip components.


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