OTP Memory For Mobile Payment Applications

Securing mobile wallets is vital to the industry’s growth.


The trend toward mobile banking and payments as a way to replace debit or credit cards, or integrate a part of their functions into a mobile device, is moving faster than most industry analysts predicted. In China, for example, mobile payment systems Alipay and WeChat pay are popular and well used, and a great way for easy account monitoring and ditching the wallet. It is a fundamental change to the way millions of consumers conduct their banking business, with millions more expected to make the switch this year. A key challenge, though, for gaining widespread user adoption is the consumer’s lack of confidence in the security of the services.

And they should be concerned. Mobile payment naturally demands the highest security possible to avoid any number of threats, from mobile malware to third-party apps, unsecured Wi-Fi networks and risky consumer behavior. Alipay and WeChat pay use a security engine-built software encryption, but it can be vulnerable to hacking. Apple Pay on the iPhone uses software encryption and takes one further step by requiring Touch ID verification, a bit like a hardware key and more secure against software hacking.

Software encryption is done with algorithms, while a hardware key needs to be stored at a safe place in the chip of the smartphone, which are both acceptable solutions if security isn’t the priority.

To have the most secure system possible, companies providing mobile payment apps must build on top of both the software encryption and the hardware key. That’s why, in the world of mobile payments, antifuse one time programmable (OTP) non-volatile memory (NVM) may prove to be the perfect technology for a secure, almost fraud-proof connection. It’s popular for code storage because it provides a safe place to store security keys for data transfer. Because it’s secure at the physical layer, it is unchangeable by UV erase, magnetic force, radiation, a power or ground spike or other unforeseen security threats. This memory has indefinite data retention, is field programmable and offers high density, yield and reliability, is ultra-low power and low cost.

OTP bit-cell, comprised of standard logic CMOS devices, is antifuse NVM technology after a gate oxide breakdown where a high voltage is applied to the gate of a transistor while keeping a low voltage at the source side of the transistor. Before the breakdown, the area between the gate and the source of the transistor is isolated like a capacitor. After the breakdown, it behaves like a resistor. The advantage of the gate oxide breakdown technology is that the bit cell size is small with only two transistors per bit cell, so the programming can be done in a wafer or packaged parts. Once the gate oxide breakdown is finished, it is put on a standard operating voltage.

Mobile payments have the potential to revolutionize retail and consumer spending behavior. Vulnerabilities in secure financial transactions could derail the mobile payment system market, which is why antifuse OTP memory will emerge as a leading technology, giving consumers the confidence they need to adopt this alternative payment method.