Apple is reportedly gearing up to allow third-party developers to get full access to the Near-Field Communications (NFC) chip in the iPhone with iOS 12.
Citing The Information, 9to5Mac reported that Apple is aiming for the iPhone to be used for more digital payments and other interactions, such as opening hotel room doors or as a virtual transit card for easier access to transportation. The report noted that with iOS 11, Apple began paving the way by adding the Core NFC framework, which allows apps to use the NFC chip as a scanner for RFID tags, although that feature was very limited.
Some hotels already support contactless activation of doors with an iPhone, but only via Bluetooth technology, which is less secure than NFC. By letting third-party app developers access its NFC chip, Apple could enable the secure storing of sensitive information.
The Information said Apple wants to replace current transit cards with iPhone's NFC chip technology. Some of these developments could be unveiled at Apple's Worldwide Developer's Conference (WWDC) in July, where it will roll out iOS 12 and other software announcements.
In June of 2017, Apple took steps to open up its NFC chip. According to a report at the time, Apple Pay had previously been the only service allowed to access the chip to enable contactless payments.
During the WWDC 2017, Apple hinted that the chip was being extended beyond payments when it showed how the Apple Watch could sync data with gym equipment. The report also stated that a new developer document showed that third-party apps would be able to use the chip.
According to the developer document, the chip in the latest version of the iPhone had the ability read any tag, not just an Apple Pay tag, and could take actions on tags based on the location of the phone. The NFC chip could enable different ways for iOS apps to communicate between internet-connected devices and iPhones, and could replace NFC-enabled keycards and transit passes, the report said.