Right now, access to the near-field communication (NFC) functionality in the iPhone lineup is pretty restrictive, but it sounds like Apple wants to open up a bit.
According to a report on Friday from The Information, Apple is planning to introduce new NFC-based features into iOS and the iPhone lineup, all in an effort to to expand the iPhone’s functionality as a contactless piece of technology beyond what it’s basically used for now: Apple Pay.
The report indicates that Apple wants the iPhone to be used at more contactless points, including as a means to securely unlock a hotel room door, or serve as a virtual transit card. In these instances, it would mean a more secure contactless instance. Technically speaking, some hotels already use the iPhone as a door key, but in those cases it’s based on Bluetooth Low Energy protocols. That isn’t as secure as an NFC contact point, so it would make sense to expand the functionality.
The report states that Apple is already testing this feature, and that the company has teamed up with HID Global (which developed Apple’s security system) to roll out the feature at Apple Campus. As a result, employees are already using their iPhones to access the campus.
In terms as a transit card, Apple is reportedly working with Cubic. This idea is already out there in the wild in some instances. In Japan, Apple installed a FeliCa chip in the iPhone to support the public transit system in that country. And in the United Kingdom, tapping your iPhone to access the Underground is already supported as well.
Apple expanding NFC functionality would certainly be a boost. We don’t have long to wait to find out, either, with WWDC right around the corner.
With word on the street that Apple is going to take it easy this year at WWDC, trimming back features within iOS and focusing on refinements, stability, and performance, hearing that the iPhone lineup might get new NFC features is pretty exciting. It’s a small thing, all things considered, but it’s certainly better than nothing.
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