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Beyond Apple Pay: iOS 11 has big plans for NFC

Amongst all the big announcements at WWDC last month, a small but significant tidbit slipped through the net. Apple has introduced a framework called Core NFC to developers, which means we could see a lot of practical new uses for the iPhone after the release of iOS 11 this Fall.

NFC, or “near field communication,” is a wireless technology that can send data between devices at close range. The NFC chip in the iPhone is how Apple Pay works – hold your device near to the scanner and it will detect that you want to authorize a contactless payment. It’s not an especially new technology, but its use in the iPhone has always been closed off and reserved for Apple Pay. Well, not anymore.

With iOS 11, any developer will be able to make apps that utilize the iPhone’s NFC chip. That could mean we see a lot more apps that interact with physical prompts in the environment – for example, MacRumors suggest that products in a retail store could flash up details when you swipe your iPhone across them, or items in a museum could be tagged with information that appears when you tap your device on the glass.

Apple’s documentation shows how an NFC scan would work

Games like Pokémon GO could utilize the tech for special events in which real-life locations have to be scanned to unlock rare goodies. The potential to pair this stuff up with ARKit for augmented reality games or travel guides is pretty exciting. We’re looking forward to see what kinds of things developers come up with, but one thing’s for certain: by the end of the year, NFC will be used for more than just contactless payments.

These new capabilities will be compatible with the current generation iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and presumably the new iPhones Apple has planned for release later this year.