Apple has filed another NFC related patent on May 22nd giving a clue that we can expect exclusive circuitry for NFC in the next iPhone. The patent states that different antenna structures may be formed at opposing ends of an electronic device. The combining of circuitry may allow NFC and non-NFC circuitry to be coupled to common antenna structures.
Rumours of Apple incorporating NFC have caused quite a commotion in tech circles with
more than 3,000 articles and blog posts. Recently Morgan Stanley made an uproar by confirming the rumours based on chip shipments. One of the company’s analysts believes that Apple might be poised to adopt the technology soon enough to bring more to the payments industry.
In a recent note to investors, the analyst pointed out that a possible licensing deal took place between Apple and NXP, a semiconductor company. The analyst claims that NXP signed a licensing agreement with a customer, in fourth quarter of 2013, related to its emerging ID business. That customer might very well be Apple with NXP being considered as NFC hardware provider. The analyst also claims that NXP is accelerating its R&D operations on ID development by supporting a new program which is lining up well with the launch of iPhone 6.
In the growing competition towards conducting a wireless commercial transaction that is both user friendly and secure, Apple doesn’t want to leave any stones unturned. The proximity payments at the merchants, at the restaurants, at the retail outlets are the most interesting part of the Commerce value chain that the technologists are trying to disrupt, Apple being among them. Apple is not going to stay away from NFC completely.
Recently Apple began rolling major upgrade to POS devices that will support NFC. Seems like Apple is interested in breaking open the mobile payment market. Even Tim Cook had cited in a Wall Street Journal interview that mobile payment is a “really interesting area”.
With Android users already using NFC to make payments at numerous terminals, Apple would not fall back on considering NFC as part of ecosystem of Apple devices. Over the years, Apple has filed many patents that hint towards it’s R&D initiatives in adopting NFC. The security concept described in the patents is believed to employ the same logic used in NFC secure elements and Chip and PIN cards.
Here is a list of some previous Apple patents that clearly hint at possibility of NFC integration in upcoming iDevices:
The ‘iTravel’ patent
The patent was published in April 2010. It relates to travel assist and more particularly, it clearly hints at how NFC can be employed for identification and ticketing by transportation providers. The prospect is that the ‘iTravel’ app can handle a broad array of functions to assist with travel logistics. The app will provide remote check-ins. It will load your ID info from modern passports embedded with RFID tags. It will collect your ticketing information from reservation counters and provide necessary boarding info at check-in counters. It will also enable the use of the stores ID information to pass through security gates. Here, if NFC is deployed at the respective counters as well as in the iOS device, then the picture becomes clearer as to how the travel app would actually be functioning. Users would be tapping their NFC device to collect their tickets, clear check-ins swiftly and pass through security with ease.
The ‘iWallet’ patent
The patent was published in August 2012. The patent reveals Apple’s virtual equivalent of a credit card swipe on an iDevice graphic user interface. The patent relates to an app with configured GUI to enable gestures to confirm mobile payment. The prospect is to transfer financial account information using contactless means using the app’s GUI. Credit card information can be stored on the application and the GUI will display an image of the credit card which may be moved to a credit card terminal to confirm the payment transaction. The scope of the app in making transactions extends to peer-to-peer as well as physical stores. Bringing NFC into the picture, iDevices coupled with the technology can perform P2P money transfer when in close proximity and authenticate it using the gesture feature of the app. Also, payments could be done at physical stores coupled with NFC terminals, using NFC enabled iDevices.
The ‘Shopping’ app patent
The patent was published in May 2013. The patent relates to an e-commerce app by Apple for use in the retail space. The app would enable locating retailers using turn-by-turn direction, a rating system and others. These features have come as part of certain claims under the patent. But there are certain claims which hint the use of NFC. One of the claims talks about getting information of a product in close proximity by acquiring its product identifier. Now this is something which is possible in practical sense when NFC tags are put on product stands. There is another claim which clearly says the use of NFC device for input. This clearly indicated that the shopping app loaded on an NFC iDevice can be used for payment at retail POS.
The patent for ‘Establishing NFC Session’
The patent was published in May 2013. The patent clearly reveals Apple’s intent to create a firm foundation for future NFC applications like shopping, banking and interconnectivity with other devices. There were two major claims under this patent application. The first claims involves a method in which a NFC session is created, via a processor, with an electronic device that may also include a product or a service. The method further mentions the receipt of benefits of the product or service by receiving device profile from the electronic device via the established session. This method is nothing how a usual NFC session is established either two mobile devices or between a device and a NFC terminal. This clearly shows Apple is indeed aiming at adding NFC capability to its iDevices and enable it through other patented applications.
The patent on ‘Send Payment Data through various Air Interfaces’
The patent was published in January this year. The patent is believed to employ the same logic used in NFC secure elements and chip and pin cards. One of the claims under the patent talks about establishing a secure link between the purchasing device and the point of sale device using Near Field Communication. The patent clearly claims that a portable device can make purchases by using near field communications (NFC) to establish a secure link with a point of sale (POS) device connected to a backend system that is configured to execute commercial transactions. This secure link can be established by positioning the portable device to be within close proximity of the point of sale device.