Apple iPhone 5 ‘to Feature Near Field Communication Technology’

The next model of iPhone will feature built-in Near Field Communication technology, allowing it to double as a mobile payment system, and a way of replicating your home computing experience on any Mac.

Here's a new CitiBank's PayPass sticker, designed to put on your mobile phone. It replaces the previous generation which is on a keychain. PayPass is Mastercards NFC platform. Photo: Pelleb/Flickr

It’s expected that Apple’s next iPhone could feature built-in Near Field Communication technology that will turn the iPhone into an electronic wallet or security passkey, and allow Mac users to have exactly the same computing experience on any machine, according to the latest rumours.

That’s what a source tells Apple blog Cult of Mac. The unnamed source asserts that Apple is researching ways to use near-field communication (NFC) for enabling remote computing.

The technology blog reports that the chip will turn the iPhone in to an ‘e-wallet,’ allowing owners to wave their iPhone over a contact pad in order to pay for items such as coffee, books or CDs in participating retailers.

NFC technology is already in use in Asia and it’s expected to explode in the U.S. in the next three to five years, especially if Apple adopts the technology.

The Cult of Mac’s  source also claims that Apple has other plans for the NFC chip, and is exploring ways of using the technology to enable users to store their personal Mac computer settings on their iPhone, and then transfer those settings to another Mac with a flick of the wrist.

“For example, an NFC iPhone will allow users to carry a lot of their desktop data and settings with them, and load that data on to a compatible Mac,” reports Leander Kahney at the Cult of Mac.

“If users wave an NFC-equipped iPhone and an NFC-equipped Mac, the Mac will load all their applications, settings and data. It will be as though they are sitting at their own machine at home or work. When the user leaves, and the NFC-equipped iPhone is out of range, the host machine returns to its previous state.”

The source, who asked to remain anonymous, told Cult of Mac: “The system would essentially turn any Apple computer in to your own, like you’re actually working on your own computer; same settings, look, bookmarks, preferences. It would all be invisible. Your iPhone would be all you needed to unlock your Mac.”

The source continued: “Address book would show their contacts, and the user would have full access to their information in the same manner they would if they were working from home.”

“This same behavior extends to even showing the same desktop picture, mouse and keyboard settings, and would eventually extend to software licenses and passwords for websites such as Facebook.”

“When a person walks away with their iPhone and away from the communication link with the Mac, the original settings of the Mac would be restored. All communications and storage of passwords stays on the user’s iPhone, leaving nothing stored on the computer. ”

“This functionality is extended to access a user’s home folder, which will be stored and accessed either through storage on MobileMe or by using the Back to My Mac feature to connect to the user’s home folder.”

Apple has refused to be drawn on the claims, and said it did not comment on rumours and speculation.

Analyst Sarah Clark of SJB Research, who is also the editor of Near Field Communications World, said the key advantage of NFC is that it’s a quick and easy authentication system.

“It makes it very easy to connect two devices together so that information can be transferred between them – much easier than Bluetooth, for instance,” she said.

However, she said the data transfer rate isn’t very fast. “The usual idea is that you would use NFC to set up the link between the two devices and then do an automatic hand over to a different protocol for doing the actual transfer of data – Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, TransferJet and etc – and that’s what I imagine would be happening here,” she said.

However, Apple has recently recruited a number of NFC experts to its engineering ranks, and is said to be considering the acquisition of Vivotech, a company that specialises in contactless payment and Near Field Communications technology.

Apple has also built a huge data centre on the east coast of the United States, fuelling speculation that it is to expand its cloud computing offerings. [via CNET and Cult of Mac]

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