Unlocking the Untapped Potential of NFC with iOS 13 and NXP Tag Solutions

Unlocking the Untapped Potential of NFC with iOS 13 and NXP Tag Solutions

A whole new look on a whole new level is what Apple introduces with the release of iOS 13. Announced at the WWDC Conference in June, and unveiled with the new iPhone 11 series on the 10th of September, it’s finally released on the 19th of September. So NFC, the technology that powers Apple Pay and other smart features for iOS apps, is getting a big upgrade. iPhone apps will now be able to do more than just read NFC tags, they’ll also be able to write directly to tags and use multiple native protocols to interact with tags.

This goes hand in hand with Apple’s announced plans to create great new user experiences using NFC in their own product solutions. For example, NFC stickers used by retailers and service providers to trigger Apple Pay payments or to make it easier for their customers to sign up for loyalty programs—all without having an app installed, as shown at the Transact Conference in April. Or consumers can easily activate the new Apple Pay card by tapping their iPhone on the NFC tag embedded in the payment card’s outer box.

The hundreds of millions of iPhone users worldwide can benefit from the convenient ‘tap to interact’ functionality, and this will in turn impact many new NFC applications in the retail, medical, government, transit and security industries.

NFC Scale-Up to Drive Connected Things Markets

With this upgrade to Apple’s Core NFC framework, the iPhone’s NFC capabilities are getting much more powerful. Models that run on iOS 13, from the iPhone 7 up to the brand new iPhone 11 can now support tag reading and writing across multiple protocols, including not only NDEF-formatted tags (for end-user focused content), but also MIFARE®, ISO/IEC 7816 combined with ISO/IEC 14443 , ISO/IEC 15693 and FeliCa. For all practical purposes, this is the full range of NFC protocols deployed for NFC tags and smart cards today. That means NFC capabilities on iOS 13 will work in more places with more types of tags and cards than before, thereby opening up a range of contactless applications for iPhone users.

Overall, this is great news for the NFC and Connected Things markets. According to ABI Research, the number of connected objects is expected to reach a record 40 billion by 2022, and physical things are becoming digital engagement points to act as a bridge between the digital and physical worlds.

Adding iOS 13 users to the total smartphone universe means that almost all of the two billion people worldwide who own a smartphone now also have an NFC reader in their hands that can interact with the NFC tags and smart cards around them, enjoying many of the smart home, smart business and smart city applications that are becoming a reality today.

What’s New on iOS 13?

Here is what Apple is adding to iOS 13 for NFC in its phones:

  • Writing on an NFC tag using NDEF format (a standardized format used to store and exchange on-tag information like URLs, plain text, etc.)
  • The ability to lock a tag encoded with an NDEF format
  • Access to low-level information of the NFC chip, such as UID and historical bytes
  • Support for the protocols ISO/IEC 7816* combined with ISO/IEC 14443**, ISO/IEC 15693, MIFARE® and FeliCa, handled by direct access and issuing NFC protocol-based commands to the chip

*ISO/IEC 7816 is an international standard for smart cards, used e.g. in passports and ID documents.
** 7816 Tag APIs are defined on top of ISO/IEC 14443. ISO/IEC 14443 is an international standard for proximity tags and cards, used for identification and communication transmission protocols. ISO/IEC 15693 is an international standard for vicinity tags, used e.g. for products traced in the supply chain and in ski passes. MIFARE® is an NXP IC product family based on the open ISO 14443 standard, used in contactless smart cards for public transport, access control, loyalty and micropayment services. FeliCa™ is a contactless smart card system from Sony in Japan.


How iOS 13 Can Take Advantage of NXP’s Advances in NFC Technology

  • iOS 13 supports more advanced NFC chip security mechanisms, such as verification of tag originality, tamper status detection or cryptographic authentication with a secret key, so brand owners can use our secure NXP DNA authentication chip technology (NTAG DNA, ICODE DNA) to protect against counterfeiting and diversion.
  • iOS 13 supports writing of NDEF data on the tag with a lock command, so brands can enable user-generated on-tag content, like adding a personal detail, a medical profile or an emergency notification number on driving or sports gear or adding a preference on a smart home device, tagged with NTAG and ICODE tags.
  • iOS 13 now fully supports use cases supported by NTAG Connected Tags from the NTAG I2C and NTAG 5 families, such as parameterization, configuration, diagnosis, and firmware updates of smart home and industrial devices, so any iPhone user in the field can easily perform these tasks.
  • iOS 13 empowers citizens to manage services on a contactless card, with an embedded MIFARE DESFire, MIFARE Plus or MIFARE Ultralight IC—connecting the card to the online portal of a service provider through a simple tap of their iPhone to the card. Transport operators can thus enable stored value and ticket choices on-the-go, and retailers can have shoppers easily manage their loyalty scheme balance, allowing points to be spent both online and offline.
  • iOS 13 supports NDEF writing, so iPhone users can now configure and start/stop NTAG SmartSensor tags. By using bi-directional communication, it is possible to exchange security credentials: One can control the access to logged data, or mutually authenticate tags with cloud servers. NTAG SmartSensor tags enable state-of-the-art condition monitoring and data logging for sensitive applications such as cold chain monitoring with temperature sensors, therapy compliance with smart blisters or fill level detection with smart packages.

NXP—Becoming Part of Your Solution

As the identification industry’s number-one supplier of semiconductor technology, we’ve assembled a best-in-class portfolio of NFC tag and card ICs. Our products deliver standout performance for passive, connected and semi-passive sensing solutions, at every level of security, so it’s easy to find the right fit for any application. Every day, in every part of the world, billions of people rely on NXP technologies to enable smart, secure interactions and transactions. To make application development fast and easy, and facilitate system integration, we also offer a range of purpose-built software tools.

Interested in finding out more about new iOS 13 NFC capabilities and how these can be best leveraged by NXP’s advanced NFC product solutions? Please stay tuned—the next blog in our iOS 13 & NFC series will be coming out soon.

Apple, Apple Pay and iPhone are trademarks of Apple Inc., registered in the US and other countries.

Sylvia Kaiser-Kershaw
Sylvia Kaiser-Kershaw
A marketing professional with over 20 years of experience working across markets, including technology, FMCG, prestige, and financial services, Sylvia Kaiser-Kershaw is an expert in the definition and implementation of brand strategies and cross-channel marketing solutions. At NXP, she's driving IoT applications that increase engagement between brands and consumers by adding digital RFID-NFC connectivity, security and intelligence to physical media and products.

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