Apple to unlock iPhone's NFC chip capabilities in June, report says

Posted:
in General Discussion edited May 26
Apple at its Worldwide Developer Conference in June is expected to announce a change in NFC policies that will enable a host of new capabilities for devices with embedded chips, for example opening NFC-enabled doors with an iPhone.




Citing sources familiar with the matter, The Information reports Apple will unlock the potential of near-field communication chips installed in millions of modern iPhones when it releases its next-generation "iOS 12" operating system. The change could also be applied to Apple Watch, which also features the secure communications technology.

Since Apple's first NFC-capable devices launched with iPhone 6 and 6s in 2014, the company's implementation of NFC has been largely restricted to Apple Pay transactions. The decision to wall off access to the chip was in part designed to protect iOS, and later watchOS, device users from unwarranted device access. With the new capabilities, however, iPhones will be able to unlock NFC-enabled doors and potentially transmit data to transit systems, personal authentication devices and more.

According to the publication, Apple employees are already using their iPhones to unlock doors at Apple Park, likely via custom badge readers detailed in Federal Communications Commission filings last year. The access system was designed by Assa Abloy subsidiary HID Global, which markets similar NFC-based solutions compatible with devices running Google's Android operating system.

A previous report claimed Apple was in talks with HID to enable building access technology via NFC in iPhone since at least 2014. That same report said the iPhone maker was also discussing methods of emulating transit cards made by Cubic, hinting at potential mass transit integrations that go beyond current Apple Pay based integrations with Japan's Suica and China's Beijing Transportation Smart Card and Shanghai Public Transportation Card.

Apple has been slow to evolve its NFC policies since adopting the technology nearly four years ago, but the company has made moves to expand its limited feature set over the past year.

In 2017, for example, Apple released watchOS 4 with GymKit, a platform that enables a two-way sync of data between an Apple Watch and a stationary workout machine. The authentication and pairing process is conducted via NFC.

The launch of iOS 11 brought Core NFC, a framework that lets developers tap into iPhone's onboard NFC chip to scan NDEF (NFC Data Exchange Format) data tags. So far, only a few companies have taken advantage of Core NFC, one of the first being glucose reader manufacturer Abbott.

Perhaps more in line with what Apple could announce at WWDC, Yubico this week announced its YubiKey NEO authentication key can be used to unlock iOS apps that integrate the YubiKit SDK.

Details about Apple's enhanced NFC capabilities should be announced alongside "iOS 12" at WWDC on June 4. AppleInsider will be on the scene in San Jose with live coverage of the keynote event and subsequent developer sessions.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 31
    LukeCageLukeCage Posts: 162member
    It’s about time Apple opens up NFC, along with giving third parties the ability to use more API’s, it would also be nice if Apple would do more with their own products. Tapping an iPhone on Beats headphones to pair them would be easier I think. Same goes for the watch and the HomePod. Wearables in general would benefit from touch to pair, if the rumored AR/VR products every come out I would like to see this implemented. Lastly I would love my transit card in my Apple Wallet. 
    edited May 25 mattinoztokyojimuwatto_cobra
  • Reply 2 of 31
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 924member
    Would fit the Apple pattern. Apple only use, invited 3rd parties, 3rd party while app active, 3rd party app background.
    mike1watto_cobra
  • Reply 3 of 31
    rob53rob53 Posts: 1,937member
    Are we talking only about NFC or NFC with TouchID? If the latter, does that mean competing payment apps will have access to the Secure Enclave?
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 31
    LukeCageLukeCage Posts: 162member
    rob53 said:
    Are we talking only about NFC or NFC with TouchID? If the latter, does that mean competing payment apps will have access to the Secure Enclave?
    From the rumor it would seem like Apple is opening up NFC capabilities to third parties as well as doing more with the NFC chip. Apple wouldn’t let anyone access the Secure Enclave doing so would  forever weaken its security. 
    Solibshankcornchipairnerdwatto_cobra
  • Reply 5 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,403member
    This is one of the many iOS advances I'd like to see this year. If half the rumours are true then this could be a bang up year for the WWDC keynote.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 31
    JinTechJinTech Posts: 319member
    Soli said:
    This is one of the many iOS advances I'd like to see this year. If half the rumours are true then this could be a bang up year for the WWDC keynote.
    As LukeCage Apple will never give developers access to the secure enclave. As far as I know, even Apple does not have access to the direct data but someone with more technical could correct me.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 7 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,403member
    JinTech said:
    Soli said:
    This is one of the many iOS advances I'd like to see this year. If half the rumours are true then this could be a bang up year for the WWDC keynote.
    As LukeCage Apple will never give developers access to the secure enclave. As far as I know, even Apple does not have access to the direct data but someone with more technical could correct me.
    The article doesn't read like Apple is opening up the SE, but that doesn't mean there can't be APIs that allow developers more use of it through other HW, like NFC. Third party developers have been able to authenticate via Touch ID and Face ID which is stored on the SE. I see more of that, and none of that is about "[giving] developers access to the Secure Enclave." There's a lot that can be done to allow 3rd party devs to utilize NFC-based communications.
    edited May 25 bonobobJFC_PArazorpitairnerd
  • Reply 8 of 31
    Bout .... Friggin'... Time.
    williamlondonwatto_cobra
  • Reply 9 of 31
    slprescottslprescott Posts: 747member
    Hilton hotels allow door entry today via their “Digital Key” feature within the Hilton iOS app.

    Does that use NFC today? How will the new capabilities differ? Just curious.
    Rayz2016razorpitairnerdwatto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 31
    LukeCage said:
    Tapping an iPhone on Beats headphones to pair them would be easier I think. Same goes for the watch and the HomePod. . 
    That would be a step back from current setup. No tapping required as of right now with any Beats with the M1 chip, or AirPods. Detection and setup can start automatically for watch and HomePod when they are turned on and close to the user's iPhone.
    bshankwatto_cobra
  • Reply 11 of 31
    JFC_PAJFC_PA Posts: 227member
    rob53 said:
    Are we talking only about NFC or NFC with TouchID? If the latter, does that mean competing payment apps will have access to the Secure Enclave?
    My financial apps already use FaceID (and previously TouchID) for authentication so having unlocking apps authenticate access via similar access to FaceID has a precedent. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 31
    anantksundaramanantksundaram Posts: 18,747member
    Hilton hotels allow door entry today via their “Digital Key” feature within the Hilton iOS app.

    Does that use NFC today? How will the new capabilities differ? Just curious.
    It’s still kinda clunky in its implementation. At least as of a few months ago (when I switched back to using room keycards). 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 13 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,403member
    Hilton hotels allow door entry today via their “Digital Key” feature within the Hilton iOS app.

    Does that use NFC today? How will the new capabilities differ? Just curious.
    It's Bluetooth.

    Must have iPhone 4s or newer running iOS 8 and higher or an Android phone running version 4.3 or higher with Bluetooth Low Energy enabled phones.
    razorpit
  • Reply 14 of 31
    SendMcjakSendMcjak Posts: 66unconfirmed, member
    Hilton hotels allow door entry today via their “Digital Key” feature within the Hilton iOS app.

    Does that use NFC today? How will the new capabilities differ? Just curious.
    Nah, it uses Bluetooth.

    Depending on how its locks work, Hilton might already be able to use NFC under current iOS offerings ... Hilton would just need to switch from the app-based implementation to issuing Wallet passes (like airlines issue boarding tickets) with the NFC entitlement.

    IMO, the current, app-based system is more of a dumb marketing play (“Look — Digital Key — we’re innovative!”).  In practice, it involves more steps than using a physical key, so it fails a basic, technology 101 “Does it make life easier?” test.

    Until Hilton (and others) have the hardware to support auto-presentation of a pass — like what happens when you hold your phone up to a merchant terminal — their solutions won’t be any better than the physical alternatives.
    edited May 26 muthuk_vanalingamwatto_cobra
  • Reply 15 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,403member
    SendMcjak said:
    IMO, the current, app-based system is more of a dumb marketing play (“Look — Digital Key — we’re innovative!”).  In practice, it in involves more steps than using a physical key, so it fails a basic, technology 101 “Does it make life easier?” test.
    It's not the most convenient option at this point, but it's more than a marketing ploy. It's a great backup option because one is less likely to forget their smartphone in their room over the hotel key they were just issued. It's a great to have a a backup solution.
  • Reply 16 of 31
    SendMcjakSendMcjak Posts: 66unconfirmed, member
    It's not the most convenient option at this point, but it's more than a marketing ploy. It's a great backup option because one is less likely to forget their smartphone in their room over the hotel key they were just issued. It's a great to have a a backup solution.
    Fair point.  

    I doubt that was the pitch made to executive management, though -- "Guys, it'll be a great backup option!" --or-- "Hilton will be the leader in seemless, backup room access."

    ;)
    edited May 26 anantksundaramStrangeDays
  • Reply 17 of 31
    harry wildharry wild Posts: 545member
    Apple finally going to open up NFC capabilities!  LOL!
    williamlondon
  • Reply 18 of 31
    SoliSoli Posts: 8,403member
    SendMcjak said:
    I doubt that was the pitch made to executive management, though -- "Guys, it'll be a great backup option!" --or-- "Hilton will be the leader in seemless, backup room access."
    It's how I'd pitch it. If it can save time with customers coming to the registration desk, potentially waiting in line as other guests want to check into their rooms, and wasting the time of the clerk to issue a new card, how many of these events have to pass before the cost to add it to the app pays for itself? How long does that take with all the hotels that Hilton operates?

    I don't know how often they have to reissue a key, but I assume that data is well known to hotel owners. Then you factor in 2 minutes for the conversation and reissuing the key against the average wage of the clerk, and even the cost of the plastic key card as that may add up when you reach thousands(?) of reissued cards per week, and you probably have a cost savings argument along with a nifty marketing strategy to sell management.
    edited May 26
  • Reply 19 of 31
    nunzynunzy Posts: 662member
    Apple is always way ahead of everybody with these new technologies. I expect to be blown away with the new capabilities of NFC which nobody else has even thought to implement.
  • Reply 20 of 31
    SendMcjakSendMcjak Posts: 66unconfirmed, member
    nunzy said:
    Apple is always way ahead of everybody with these new technologies. I expect to be blown away with the new capabilities of NFC which nobody else has even thought to implement.
    I wouldn't hold your breath.  Apple leaves implementation to others.

    I suspect we'll see something much more akin to how seemlessly QR codes can now be scanned (default camera app vs. third-party app).
    nunzy
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