Apple wants to enable iPhone 6’s NFC for building security, public transit tickets and more

apple pay passbook scan

Most of the talk about NFC inside the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus has centered around Apple Pay, the iPhone maker’s mobile payments service, but NFC has other uses, too. Android handsets typically use NFC for proximity-based wireless sharing and now The Information is reporting that Apple is considering adding more NFC-based features to the new iPhones, stuff like enabling secure access to buildings and transit fare systems.

According to the article, Apple engineers met with representatives for technology providers like HID Global and Cubic to discuss expanding NFC in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus to new uses such as replacing a public transit card or a secure building access keycard.

Reporter Amir Efrati has learned that the new iPhones could effectively replace the NFC-based Clipper card used for California’s Bay Are Transit System.

Clipper cards could be easily uploaded into an iPhone 6 or iPhone 6 Plus and the handset’s Secure Element could be used to store related information. As a result, users could be allowed to tap their phones at the BART turnstiles in order to “transmit the information to the card reader using the iPhone’s NFC chip”.

The NFC chip in the handset taps the Secure Element to store device identification number and tokens used for mobile payments. This data is stored in an encrypted form, walled off from apps and the rest of the system and never gets synced to Apple’s servers.

It’s unclear whether Apple might realize the aforementioned partnerships by opening up NFC to third-parties. Though the company currently prohibits iOS developers from using NFC, the move wouldn’t be unheard-of: the Touch ID debuted as an Apple-exclusive before the firm opened up the fingerprint scanner for third-party development with the arrival of iOS 8 this Fall.

Apple Pay in action

In other NFC news, leading NFC-terminal maker VeriFone is prompting its clients to upgrade their payment terminals with NFC to get ready for Apple Pay, which has been found to work out of the box with any NFC-outfitted payment terminal.

And as merchants like CVS and Rite Aid shut down NFC access on their terminals in order to render Apple Pay and Google Wallet unusable during checkout, iOS and Android users have banded together on Reddit to boycott this unethical NFC payment blocking.

Merchants like Gap, Old Navy, 7-Eleven, Sears, Kmart and others are pursuing their own system called CurrentC. Developed by Merchant Customer Exchange, CurrentC bypasses credit card companies and instead prompts users to install a free mobile app.

Using the mobile app, would-be CurrentC users can provide their banking information and social security number in order to directly charge their bank account at the point of sale. All CurrentC transactions automatically keep track of a user’s merchant-issued loyalty programs and reward points.

CurrentC also allows merchants to collect a trove of personal information about shoppers during the checkout. Compared to the simplicity of Apple Pay, CurrentC is a multi-step procedure requiring scanning a barcode shown at the payment terminal with a smartphone.

[The Information]