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2020 PUF meets QuantumStartup safari in ‘Korea’s Silicon Valley

Welcome to the future: Pangyo in South Korea. Photo: Asia Times/Andrew Salmon

Even on a rainy Friday, amid a nationwide coronavirus epidemic, there is a buzz in the air in the top startup hub in one of the world’s top techconomies.

It is a 20-minute subway ride south of Seoul’s famed Gangnam Station. 

The architecture is relentlessly millennial – suspended walkways traverse broad streets, conveying pedestrians from one steel-and-glass citadel to the next. But unlike the shoulder-to-shoulder capital, there is space. Most buildings are fronted by generous forecourts, populated with installation artworks.

A handful of nameplates say old-school commerce, with conglomerates like SK and Hanwha, plus steel giant Posco. More predominant are the digital brands that survived the bursting of the dotcom bubble. Leading messenger Kakao, gaming giants Nexon and NCSoft, digital all-rounder NHN, Ahn Labs, Korea’s leading anti-virus software provider, and more.

Building interiors feature that mission-critical creative space for digital creatives – a coffee bar. Lobbies are dotted with informal seating and spaces to sprawl. In the leisure spaces, artworks are scattered. In the work areas, high-tech gadgetry such as VR headsets and blank smartphone test units litter shelves and desks.

Does caffeine equal creativity? Photo: Asia Times/Andrew Salmon

Unlike traditional Korean workspaces, where be-suited bosses in corner offices monitor worker drones laboring behind grey partitions, offices there are open plan. Before walls decorated with pithy quotes from alpha entrepreneurs like Steve Jobs and Elon Musk, nerds cluster around glowing laptops.

The median age looks to be late 20s to early 30s. And unlike every other business district in South Korea, casual is de riguer. Asia Times spotted one suit the whole day.

Welcome to Pangyo Techno Valley – ground zero of South Korea’s startup sector.

Location, location, location

In a country where every province and city furiously promotes a “tech cluster” or “digital valley,” Pangyo is the hub that works. Its only rival is the city of Daejeon, where startups fostered by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology cluster.

But if KAIST is academic, Pangyo is business.

“Pangyo is great. It’s where all the hardware and software is,” said Lee Jung-won, CEO of ICTK Holdings, a venture which grew out of a credit card-security company and now designs secure chipsets, using individual semiconducters’ unique IDs – which, once authenticated, cannot be replicated – and related solutions. The key benefit of “inborn-ID security chips” is that while software can be hacked, hardware is virtually unhackable.

lso, he wanted to use the term ‘inborn-ID security chip’ to describe what they’re doing. It’s a hardware ‘root of trust’ solution, as opposed to a software solution. This is one of their key benefits – securing devices and systems at the hardware level, rather than higher in the tech stack. Their thesis is that software can be hacked, whereas hardware is virtually unhackable. You would literally need to break the device and access the chip, rather than hack remotely. Even if that’s possible it wouldn’t be cost effective for hackers.

The company already supplies chips to LG, has investment from Hyundai Motor and is in discussions to supply intelligent door lock solutions to both Amazon and Samsung. “Everybody moved from Gangnam to Pangyo as the government created very favorable terms for tech companies,” Lee said.

According to government data, the plan to create Pangyo as a dedicated business town dates back to 2005. With approval from both local and national government, construction started in 2008 and ended in 2011. The base site covers 660,000 square meters, or 163 acres, though there are plans for future phases. Some 1,700 companies are based in the area.

Location is everything.

Pangyo, south of Seoul, is sandwiched between hubs of finance and manufacturing. Image: GCCEI

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We do these things.
PUF Technology

What is PUF?

Unique Inborn ID 
(PUF, Physically Unclonable Functions)

•Silicon Inborn ID using the randomness of passive device generation in the semiconductor manufacturing process

• As a Physical ID created with physical characteristics, it is fundamentally impossible to falsify or duplicate the value

• Since each semiconductor chip generates a different unique ID, it is called a semiconductor fingerprint.

PUF Advantages

AS Via PUF provides unique Silicon Inborn ID characteristics,  It provides the Root of Trust (RoT), the source of all trust

•Via PUF guarantees stability that is impervious to 
various types of hacking attacks.

•Via PUF is a method of forming via holes between 
metal layers during semiconductor processing.

•As a passive device method, it is an innovative method
that solves all the problems of existing technologies.

•PUF that satisfies all randomness, homeostasis and 
security •Unlike other technologies, no error correction
circuit (ECC) is required.

What you can do with PUF

VIA PUF can be applied to various IoT devices and solutions  that require strong security.

•ICTK's security chip generates a key pair of a private key and a public key in the security chip using an algorithm called ECC based on the key generated by PUF.

•ICTK's PUF security chip provides encrypted RAM (Random Access Memory) and encrypted eFlash (flash memory) inside.

•ICTK's security chip can be operated in PQC (Post Quantum Cryptography), a quantum security algorithm.

ICTK's security chip is the most powerful existing method to provide the Root of Trust function based on PUF.