Your iPhone Could Someday Show ID, Pay, and Collect Receipts with a Single Tap

iPhone NFC Apple Pay Credit: Viktor Hanacek / PicJumbo
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Recent advances in Apple’s NFC technology mean you can now store payment cards, loyalty cards, Digital IDs, and even hotel room keys in your Wallet app. These are handled separately right now, but you may soon be able to use several of these things in a single tap.

That’s thanks to a new NFC standard called Multi-Purpose Tap, which aims to “revolutionise the contactless user experience by supporting several actions with a single tap.”

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NFC Multi-Purpose Tap would not only handle the things we already use NFC for, like paying for purchases and unlocking doors, but also extend to receiving information in the other direction, such as a receipt for a contactless purchase.

The NFC Forum, the standards body for Near Field Communication (NFC) technology, has outlined some of the high-level technical details in a PDF along with some possible use cases.

For example, instead of just paying for something in a retail environment, an Apple Pay-powered multi-tap feature could handle several things at once, all in the time it takes to make a single tap:

  1. Pay for the purchase with a selected credit or debit card.
  2. Present the appropriate loyalty card to collect points or apply relevant discounts.
  3. Present a Digital ID to verify the customer’s age for restricted purchases like alcohol and tobacco products.
  4. Receive a digital receipt from the terminal that could be stored in the iPhone’s Wallet app.

Other ideas include allowing electric vehicle owners to start the charging process and pay for it with a single tap of their smartphone on a charging station, using multi-tap in a transit ticketing system to exchange payment methods and fare tickets.

This would leverage the ability to receive data for more than just receipts. A transit terminal could accept payment and issue a fare ticket or daily pass in a single transaction, which would be stored in the iPhone Wallet. Fare inspectors could read the ticket directly using an iPhone rather than a specialized device.

Purchases could also include details about a product, such as a getting started guide or recycling instructions for the packaging. A stored digital receipt could also be read by a point-of-sale system when processing returns to automatically determine a product’s purchase date and whether it’s eligible for a return while also providing the refund via Apple Pay in the same single-tap transaction.

Of course, technology like this raises more than a few questions about privacy concerns. For example, while Apple’s Digital ID system currently prompts you to confirm the information you’re willing to share, it might be trickier to integrate that into a multi-tap system where payment credentials and other information are being exchanged.

There’s also an example about using multi-tap to “trigger specific, targeted marketing communications,” which sounds like a way to get more spam by automatically signing you up for some things you might otherwise decline at a cash register.

Nevertheless, the technology is still in its nascent stages. The NFC Forum, which includes Apple as one of its key sponsors, is still looking for feedback on ways to implement it, and then there will be several phases of testing before it’s ready for mass market delivery.

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