Apple to enable iPhone NFC tag reading in new models, still restricts card emulation
Step in right direction but it appears handset-as-a-credential remains elusive
09 June, 2017
category: Contactless, Digital ID, NFC
With the release of iOS 11, third-party developers will be able to work with the iPhone NFC chip for the first time. That is good news and a step in the right direction for the identity and security industry, but unfortunately it doesn’t appear to deliver on the ultimate goal … use of the handset as a security credential.
Until this announcement was made, the iPhone NFC capability had been completely locked down, only accessible to Apple’s own Apple Pay function. Going forward the iPhone 7 and future models will be able to use the NFC’s tag reading mode, but the card emulation mode – the one that would enable the iPhone to serve as an identity or security credential – apparently will remain off limits.
At a recent developers conference, it was reported that new iPhones will be able to read any NFC tags encoded in using the industry standard NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF).
Apple is calling it “Core NFC”, and a developer support document describes a sample scenario:
“Your app can read tags to give users more information about their physical environment and the real-world objects in it. For example … products in a store or exhibits in a museum.”
One use case demonstrated at the conference shows an Apple Watch communicating with fitness equipment sharing data about heart rate and calories.
There have been some conflicting reports where articles suggested that use of the iPhone NFC to replace ID cards and transit tokens could be possible, but this appears to be wishful thinking as no mention of the use of card emulation mode in the Core NFC documentation released to date.