Intel touts wireless security

Intel Corp. officials have introduced microprocessors that boost security capabilities for wireless devices by hard-wiring security in a separate subsystem on the chip.

Until now, security tasks for wireless phones and handheld computers have run in software on the same area of the chip where other applications operate.

But in the company's new PXA27x line of processors, security services such as trusted boot, storage for private information and cryptographic keys, and support for common security protocols such as virtual private networks are handled in a separate subsystem that is isolated from the main processor.

Dedicated security, Intel officials said, should make it much easier for administrators to pinpoint where wireless devices are on the network and determine if designated users are operating them.

Company officials said they're working with major handheld operating system vendors such as PalmSource Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Symbian Software Ltd. to make sure their software will work with Intel's new security technology.

The new processors borrow from their PC-based cousins by incorporating a set of programming interfaces, called Multimedia Extensions, for handling 3-D and multimedia applications. Using a companion multimedia accelerator, Intel officials claim handhelds will even be able to play DVD-quality video.

Also, the PXA27x chips use Intel's Wireless SpeedStep power management technology, similar to that used in chips in laptops, to improve battery life by intelligently managing voltage and frequency changes.

Volume production of the chips is expected to begin by the end of June, so wireless phones and handheld devices that use them could be available by the end of the year or early 2005.

Robinson is a freelance journalist based in Portland, Ore. He can be reached at hullite@mindspring.com.

About the Author

Brian Robinson is a freelance writer based in Portland, Ore.

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