New NFC abilities in iPhone update could unlock cars and doors

28 May 2018

NFC will soon move beyond just payments. Image: 88Studio/Shutterstock

Apple will be taking a massive leap forward with NFC in iOS 12.

The Apple Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2018 is due to kick off on 4 June. Among a series of announcements, the company is set to unveil a change in near-field communication (NFC) policies when it releases its next operating system, iOS 12.

June will see a new iPhone update announcement

According to The Information, the change to the NFC chip is expected to be announced at WWDC and could herald the beginning of an era where people can use their iPhones for transactions other than payments, from paying transport fares and identification, to opening car and hotel room doors.

Future Human

Apple first launched NFC-capable devices with the debut of the iPhone 6 and 6s in 2014, but had restricted its implementation to Apple Pay transactions only. This looks set to drastically change, as employees at Apple Park in Cupertino, California, are reportedly already using their iPhones to unlock doors with the help of a custom badge reader.

In the works since 2014

As noted by 9to5Mac, Apple had begun plans for increasing NFC functionality with iOS 11 and the addition of the Core NFC framework. This permits apps to use the NFC chip as an arbitrary scanner of RFID tags, but is currently limited in functionality.

The main issue with the current deployment of NFC APIs is that the app needs to be in the foreground and present a specific system modal sheet in order for a scan to commence.

At the moment, some hotels already use low-energy Bluetooth protocols to allow guests to unlock doors with their iPhones, but this is not the most secure method. Apple wants to change this and is also pushing to replace transit cards entirely with NFC technology on the iPhone. The company has already discussed it with public transport giant Cubic.

This move by Apple will likely see an acceleration of NFC adoption rates as it moves out of tightly controlled environments, such as public transit, towards the mainstream. All top 10 mobile device manufacturers sell NFC-enabled devices.

Back in 2015, NFC began to gain momentum as manufacturers adopted the technology into more and more handsets. Numerous speakers at a conference that year, including representatives from Cubic and GlobeSherpa, pegged the method as a way to improve transport ticketing as well as identity verification.

It looks like Apple’s latest update may make these concepts a daily reality for many.

Ellen Tannam was a journalist with Silicon Republic, covering all manner of business and tech subjects