Support is growing on the part of electronic-commerce vendors to use a hardware security solution in desktop systems. Such a system would create so-called "trusted clients," taking the place of server-side security, and would facilitate secure online sales of content and intellectual property.
Wave Systems (www.wave.com) is in production with its embedded Embassy chip, which will include client-side metering capability as well as an option to include Hewlett-Packard's VerSecure strong cryptography management.
As e-commerce moves toward services such as software rentals, hardware solutions to authenticate a buyer's identity and ability to pay will become ubiquitous.
"There is an increasing movement by companies that own content to say [content] is not free just because it can be accessed via the Internet," said Jim Balderston, an analyst at Zona Research. "They want to prevent people from playing or accessing data or bits that they haven't properly acquired. Technology like the Embassy chip will be deployed to manage and observe the relationship and the bits being accessed."
Wave uses non-volatile RAM so users can deposit money inside the desktop using a credit card, much like the schemes used in smart card technology.
"Once a vendor knows that their product can't be compromised because there is an account balance that a user can't counterfeit, it will expand the market," Lark Allen, vice president of business development for Wave Systems said.
Wave Systems will see the first adoption of its Embassy embedded chip in a product slated for introduction in March.
In order to deploy the Embassy chip on as many desktops as possible, Wave has licensed Embassy to two of the largest suppliers of I/O chips, Integrated Technology Express and Standard MicroSystems.
These two companies, which have deployed approximately 60 percent of all the I/O chips in desktop PCs, will include the Embassy in their I/O devices, Allen said.