How iOS 13 Will Unlock NFC’s Potential

An iPhone XR with NFC tags on it.Josh Hendrickson

NFC has long been retained by Apple who did not support it – only Android did. Now that the two major smartphone platforms will support NFC technology, the technology can reach its full potential. From locks without keys to numerical identifiers, the future is there.

Why NFC and why is it important?

Three NFC tags on a strip of paper.Josh Hendrickson

Apple Pay has always used NFC technology for contactless payments. If you have already paid for something with your iPhone or Apple Watch, you have used NFC technology.

NFC means Near Field Communicationsand a set of standards that allow devices to communicate via radio waves when they are nearby. The emphasis is on closing because devices need to be 4 inches apart or less.

With NFC technology, you can accomplish various tasks, be it data sharing, mobile payments or reading and writing tags.

NFC technology is by no means a new technology, but we have never seen complete support. Android phones have long enjoyed full NFC support, with Blackberry and Windows Phone. However, the adoption of NFC technology does not guarantee the success of a mobile platform.

But for all mobile devices with NFC technology, there was one major exception: iPhones. While the Android phone with NFC hardware (the Nexus S) came out in 2010, it took until 2014 to see an iPhone with NFC hardware (the iPhone 6). And initially, it was limited to the processing of payments.

This has changed over time and with iOS 13, an iPhone back to the iPhone 7 will see its NFC potential unlocked. App developers can read and write on NFC tags, read passports and identity cards with chips, unlock NFC-enabled doors, and so on.

RELATED: What is NFC (Near Field Communication) and what is it for?

Use your iPhone to unlock the doors

One of the promises of NFC technology is the increased convenience of your life. With extended support in iOS 13, you can not only leave your wallet at home, but maybe even the keys to your home.

Some hotels, like Starwood, already have a similar function that relies on Bluetooth and your phone or Apple Watch to unlock your room, but the technology could just as easily use NFC technology (and does it in many hotels) . More and more companies are using NFC cards to grant access to offices or even protected areas of a workplace. Instead of thinking of attaching your badge to your belt with a badge reel, take out your phone and pass it on the sensor.

You can also unlock some smart locks with NFC. If you have installed a NFC lock at home, you can forget about one more key you wear everywhere. Some apartment complexes also turn to NFC keychains and, if you have the option, simply carrying a phone will be more convenient.

Digital identity cards for your phone

ReadID application displaying a scanned passport on iPhone.Josh Hendrickson

With iOS 13, iPhones will be able to scan NFC credentials and save their information. With the appropriate applications, you can then save a digital copy of your ID on your iPhone and retrieve it when needed.

If you have already used the Wallet application on iPhone, you'll know why it's powerful and there's something to be excited about. Currently, you can scan credit cards, debit cards and even some rewards cards and store them in the Wallet app. But you still needed to carry your wallet or purse because you needed your identity. At this point, why not bring the physical cards and use them too?

But if you can even store your ID on a smartphone, you can leave the wallet safe at home and have less.

We will have to wait for ID cards to catch up and support NFC chips and scanning, but companies like REALID are already working on iOS 13 support with its passport scanning service.

But UK EUU citizens will benefit even more quickly with the release of iOS 13. The UK government has created a EU Exit app that allows residents to scan their passports and ask to say they're going to be there. they are in the UK after the end of Brexit. But Apple has not supported the use of NFC technology to scan the passport before. The only option was Android, even if it meant borrowing from a friend as suggested by the UK. Apple will now support this feature and an EU Exit iOS app is in the works.

Marked transactions let you drop apps

A man looks at an iPhone while holding a Bird escortBird

At the moment, if you want to rent a scooter or bike from Lime or Bird, you must first download an associated application. This is not always feasible if you have limited data limitations or if the application exceeds the cellular download limit. A company may choose to support Apple Pay instead, but this requires a payment terminal, such as the tap and credit card payment devices you see in the stores.

With iOS 13, companies can place NFC stickers strategically (for example on the scooter) and use them to organize the payment instead of downloading an application. The process should be faster overall because you do not need to create an account or wait for an application installation. The change should also benefit businesses, as the possibility of not downloading an app will likely result in impulse purchases. The more obstacles a company can remove, the more likely you are to try a new service even once.

Your iPhone can already be a transit pass

The transport stations have gradually switched to non-contact methods for payment and registration. In combination with Apple Pay, you can easily pay for your trips in advance and browse all control areas as needed. You can already do it in New York, Portland, Japan, Beijing and Shanghai.

Combined with the digital identification and unlocking capabilities of upcoming doors above, you can leave the house, take the subway and unlock your office without the need for a wallet or keys. If the subway is too busy, take a taxi or rent a scooter with only one app or soon the NFC tags above become easier and easier each day.

Shortcuts speed up automations

Applying shortcuts on iPhone

Siri Shortcuts allow you to automate sequences of actions, such as dimming the screen and setting, do not disturb or send an SMS to three friends when you are at the house after a long trip.

Although practical, you must either talk to your iPhone or trigger it from an application. In iOS 13, you can create shortcuts that trigger when you tap your phone to an NFC tag.

Imagine for a moment that you have two labels in your car. You can set a single tag to open your favorite map application, so you do not have to search for it in your folders. The other tag could also open the Maps application and insert the address of your home. Although these ideas seem minor, they are practical, especially if you are exhausted after a long day of travel.

You can also paste an NFC tag on your laptop so that your iPhone activates the access point when you tap it, avoiding the hassle of setting access point settings.

These scenarios are not only theoretical; we used the NFC tags and the Android phone to achieve the same goals.

The two major smartphone platforms now support NFC technology

An iPhone XR and a Samsung S8 with superimposed NFC tags.Josh Hendrickson

NFC is used in many scenarios that Apple has not yet explicitly promised to support, but that it could. Hotels and businesses have long used NFC chips and keychains to provide access to rooms or offices. Instead of taking out another card or fob, they could add a digital copy to your smartphone, giving one less item to worry about so you do not forget about the release. Instead of pressing your card or keychain on a reader, you take out your phone and scan it.

Other platforms, such as Android and Windows Phone, have long championed NFC technology and its features, and we can turn to them for other potential features. Windows phones use NFC technology to associate and share contact information and other data such as photos. Rather than go through a complicated process of connecting via Bluetooth on two phones, you have selected a photo or photos and then chosen to send via NFC. Once you put the phones together, they paired up and took care of the rest. Android has similar sharing capabilities, called Android Beam, that used NFC technology.

This same ability extends to business cards. Instead of carrying dozens of business cards, you can create a digital card with your contact information and share it via NFC. This is a double benefit: not only do you have less to carry (and buy), but you know that your details are entered in someone's phone and not in the trash. Similarly, you can store tickets for events on your phone and use them via NFC; the place would just need an NFC player.

NFC can also make sharing Wi-Fi less painful. By recording the relevant details in an NFC tag, your guests can connect to your network by simply tapping on it. No need to get lost in several SSID names, or enter your password. Any place offering public Wi-Fi, such as hotels and restaurants, can also share the details of the Wi-Fi connection on an NFC tag in central locations.

Some password managers, like Dashlane, allows you to add credit card information by tapping the NFC chip on the card (if it has one) on your phone. The information is retrieved and stored securely in the password manager to speed up payment processing. The feature is Android only for now, but with iOS 13, this can change.

In a way, the iPhone is doing something that other platforms have been trying to do for ages. But it is probably a case where everyone wins. In the absence of any major platforms, governments and businesses did not have the motivation to fully adopt NFC technology. Just as Apple has finally included QI wireless charging in its phone, the wireless charging market has reached a new level that everyone can appreciate. Adding more support to NFC technology can push everything to a point where everyone adopts it.

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