During Apple’s Word Wide Developer Conference (WWDC) this week the company shared the latest information concerning support of Near Field Communication (NFC) protocol in iOS 11. Developers coding for iOS 11 will be able to create apps that can read NFC tags. This opens the door for wireless exchange of information between an iPhone and various connected devices in a user’s environment.
Currently the NFC chip in the iPhone is only used to handle contactless Apple Pay transactions. But in the new framework called Core NFC the company provide the foundation for multiple use cases by third-party apps. Using Core NFC, you can read tags of types 1 through 5 that contain data in the NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF). At present the API supports only read access for the tags. Hopefully in the future there will be also the possibility integrated to write to the tags. With the new framework Apple could let third-party developers make use of NFC in new ways, or it could simply expand NFC functions beyond Apple Pay for use in its own apps and services. The specification says, “For example, your app might give users information about products they find in a store or exhibits they visit in a museum”.
There are also first code samples available, e.g. iOS11-NFC-Example implemented by Hans Knöchel. In his GitHub repository Hans describes a quick example showing how to use the API in iOS 11 and Swift 4. The new framework requires at least XCode 9, iOS 11 and an iPhone 7 or iPhone 7 Plus.
However, the possibilities for NFC outside of banking area look set to expand with Apple’s next-generation mobile operating systems. So I’m looking forward to blogging of an additional version of iOS, which also allows complex contactless protocols we know in the context of eID like Chip Authentication Mapping (PACE-CAM). This would enable the iPhone to read ID cards of ePassports using ISO 14443 for contactless communication. Nevertheless this first step in iOS opens a world of possibilities for new apps on iPhones.