A “whole new world” will open up to iOS 11-capable iPhone and iPad owners this fall, when Apple is poised to release its next-generation mobile operating system. Among a myriad of other neat features and UI redesigns, iOS 11 will effectively unlock the NFC capabilities built into certain newer iDevices, allowing developers to create apps that can detect NFC tags and read messages that contain NDEF data.
While near field communication (NFC) technology is nothing new (having been implemented in Apple devices since as recent as the iPhone 6), up until this point in time, Apple has locked down the technology so that it will only facilitate Apple Pay transactions. According to an official webpage published to Apple’s developer website, however, which was outed by Twitter user @stevecheney, iOS 11 will feature a new “Core NFC” standard, a brand-new API that could pave the way to a limitless amount of possibilities in the real-world.
Apple explains, “Your app can read tags to give users more information about their physical environment and the real-world objects in it. For example, your app might give users information about products they find in a store or exhibits they visit in a museum.”
Apple’s website goes on to share some technical information about NFC technology as it applies to the company’s new “Core NFC” standard: “Using Core NFC, you can read Near Field Communication (NFC) tags of types 1 through 5 that contain data in the NFC Data Exchange Format (NDEF),” Apple said. “To read a tag, your app creates an NFC NDEF reader session and provides a delegate. A running reader session polls for NFC tags and calls the delegate when it finds tags that contain NDEF messages, passing the messages to the delegate. The delegate can read the messages and handle conditions that can cause a session to become invalid.”
What Could NFC Technology Do?
In one embodiment, this technology appears to resemble what was detailed in Apple’s recent Calorie Counting patent, which outlines a theoretical system by which food vendors could attach device-readable NFC tags to their products, and thereby enabling users to simply scan those products with their NFC-capable iPhone to reveal tons of additional information about it.
While the limitations and possibilities of Core NFC are still in the process of being discovered, and though the future for NFC on iPhone has never been brighter, unfortunately there is just one caveat to all of this: Core NFC will only work with Apple’s iPhone 7, iPhone 7 Plus, and newer devices — and will not work on iPhone 6, 6 Plus or 6s and 6s Plus, even despite those handsets boasting standard NFC functionality.