NEC Electronics system verifies batteries

NEC Electronics has developed a system for use in cellular telephones and digital still cameras that can verify the legitimacy of the battery in use.

Its announcement follows a number of recent cases in which counterfeit batteries have been sold as genuine items and subsequently exploded, causing injury to users. In late June Verizon Wireless launched a recall of around 50,000 batteries that it said could be counterfeit after receiving 18 reports of incidents involving counterfeit batteries, including injuries to users and property damage.

NEC Electronics' new system is a software solution for use with the company's own microcontrollers, which are typically installed in the device and battery, said Sophie Yamamoto, a spokeswoman for NEC Electronics in Kawasaki, Japan. It uses NEC's "CipherUnicorn-S" encryption technology to verify the battery's authenticity.

If a fake battery is inserted, the device can either deny the user the ability to use the battery or warn him/her that the battery may not be suitable for use.

The company says it has already found at least one customer for the system. NEC Electronics won't name the customer but said it is a major Japanese digital camera maker and expects to start using the system later this year.

NEC Electronics anticipates around 50 million units will incorporate the technology by 2007 and said it is looking beyond batteries to other applications such as printers and ink cartridges.

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