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Apple hire hints at iPhones with near-field wireless payment

updated 06:25 pm EDT, Sun August 15, 2010

Apple may use NFC in future iPhones

Apple has quietly hired an expert in Near Field Communications (NFC) that hints it might use short range wireless on future iPhones. Benjamin Vigier was brought on by the company in July as the product manager for a previously unknown Mobile Commerce division. His most recent experience was at mFoundry, where he created an NFC-based payment system for a US bank but also handled mobile payment apps for Paypal, Sprint, Starbucks and a handful of US carriers.

Previously Vigier worked on integrating Java ME with NFC, RFID and other short-range wireless technologies through Devoteam and other Java work at Bull CP8.

It's unknown what exact role the new recruit will take at Apple, but the company's recent patent history points to the likely use of NFC in a future iPhone and possibly other iOS devices. The firm recently patented both a traditional payment app that could use the system to pay just by getting near the reader, but it has also explored very specific payment methods, such as paying at a concert or paying for travel solely through the handset. A Mobile Commerce division could promote or formally establish a standard of paying that would reduce the need for traditional networking or specialized apps, although it wouldn't necessarily compete directly with systems that take credit cards on the spot, such as Square's add-on.

An addition would head off similar efforts by Nokia, which wants all its 2011 phones to support NFC as a matter of course. It may also get Apple a much stronger presence in Japan. The country's local NFC standard, FeliCa, is used much more frequently and can pay for public transit, vending machines and many items at stores. Apple has so far declined to produce region-specific phones except where absolutely necessary, but the spread of NFC outside Japan could let it accommodate that traditionally foreigner-resistant market without having to change its production lines. [via NFC World]

An excerpt from Apple's "iConcert" patent: guests would bring their NFC-equipped iPhones next to a reader at a turnstile to get access to a show.

By Electronista Staff
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