NXP Semiconductors announced that it would expand two factories in the United States to produce security chips used in government identification badges and electronic passports, aiming to head off persistent concerns about importing these parts from overseas.
The company has committed $22 million to revamp its manufacturing plants in Austin, Texas, and Chandler, Ariz., which will be certified to fabricate microcontrollers that confirm the identity of people using identification cards, social security cards, and passports.
Ruediger Stroh, NXP’s vice president of security and connectivity, said in a statement that the factory upgrades represent a “long-term commitment to developing secure ID solutions for federal, state, and local government programs in the United States.”
The reshoring project may be a response to the U.S. government’s growing wariness of outsourcing semiconductor production and security backdoors built into chips manufactured in China. For years, officials have been trying to shake doubts about the microchips used inside electronic passports and other sensitive applications.
The main concern is that blank chips could be stolen, allowing forgers to upload fake information. These worries have lingered as governments worldwide have increasingly gone digital: Around 145 countries issue passports and other government documents with embedded security chips that contain identification data.
NXP claims that it has sold secure microcontrollers for government applications to 120 of those countries. The company’s parts, sold under the SmartMX brand and certified to international security standards, are also used in credit cards and smartphones to enable contactless payments in stores.