Apple is making preparations to expand the near-field communication (NFC) capabilities of the iPhone beyond Apple Pay transactions, a report suggests.
The update could be announced as early as this month during the iOS 12 keynote at the WWDC — Apple’s annual developer gathering that kicks off on June 4.
NFC chips are built into many of today’s mobile devices, allowing for secure wireless communication between a device and a receiver when one is held close to the other.
The new functionality would allow owners of Apple’s NFC-enabled handsets — including the iPhone SE, iPhone 6 and later — to unlock house, car, office, and hotel room doors while also bringing transit fare payment capability to many more people, The Information reported over the weekend.
The news outlet points out that although Bluetooth technology is already used for operating a number of smart locks using the iPhone, NFC technology offers a more secure system.
Apple has reportedly been working with HID Global — an American secure identity solutions firm — to bring broader NFC functionality to the iPhone. While you can already use NFC-equipped iPhones to whiz through transit turnstiles in some cities in the U.S., U.K., Japan, China, and Russia, the expectation is that the greater functionality will allow the iPhone to operate as a transit card on a far grander scale, in many more locations around the world.
The Information’s unnamed source said the tech company has been testing the functionality with employees at its new headquarters in Cupertino, California, allowing them to use their iPhones to unlock doors (when they notice them) for access to buildings and offices around its huge new campus.
The update seems like a long time coming. Back in 2014, soon after the launch of the iPhone 6 — the first Apple phone to incorporate NFC technology — there were reports that the company was exploring ways to use NFC for secure access to buildings and as public transit tickets. In other words, pretty much the same as we’re hearing today, although that original report didn’t put a time frame on any possible launch.
This time around, we should soon know any plans Apple has for NFC functionality on its range of handsets. We’ll keep you posted.