Memory card makers propose new security standard

Several major memory card makers, as part of a five member consortium called 5C, have developed a new Mobile Commerce (MC) Extension standard for flash memory cards, they announced Thursday.

The five companies are Hitachi Ltd., Ingentix GmbH & Co. KG, Matsushita Electric Industrial Co. Ltd., SanDisk Corp. and Toshiba Corp. The MC Extension Standard outlines how the security functions -- content protection and authentication -- can be implemented in flash memory cards, a joint statement said.

These functions will be added to rewritable data storage features of flash memory cards, allowing the cards to be used in new applications such as secure data transfer, content purchase and electronic payment, the statement said.

These security functions can be applied to any kind of hardware, including notebook PCs, but 5C expects the main demand to be for use in mobile devices such as PDAs (personal digital assistants) and mobile phones, according to Kazuko Amamoto, a Hitachi spokeswoman. The 5C hopes flash memory cards with the MC Extension Standard will also be used in applications such as stock trading, storage of personal medical records, and the purchase of content such as music and video.

This is one of the first attempts for a group of flash memory vendors to decide on a standard over different media cards, Amamoto said. The new standard can be used with any flash memory card such as Compact Flash, SD (Secure Digital) and MMC (MultiMedia Card), and is independent of operating system.

The 5C plans to license the new standard openly to the market, and three months from now, hopes to see the first commercial products, Amamoto said.

After the standard is licensed, each vendor will have an independent roadmap for the card and compatible hardware. As for Hitachi, a MMC vendor, it hopes to commercialize MMC with MC Extension within 2003, and expects it to be used in mobile devices like PDAs for expressway toll cards, electronic tickets and music content purchase, Amamoto said.

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