Apple adds NFC support for University campus cards

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An Apple Watch earlier. Photo : Apple

Seriously, it’s hardly worth writing about this. But as this is NFC news and it’s Apple we’ll make an effort.

So, Apple’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC) 2018 has started and Apple CEO Tim Cook has made the keynote speech. There were a range of new announcements ranging from enhanced screentime controls, performance increases and some interesting augmented reality features.

However, when it came to NFC there wasn’t much and certainly not on the level of the pre-conference hype regarding door locks. Having said that, the rumours were not entirely false.

Apple are going to launch a program where students within six US universities will be able  to use the iPhone and Watch to gain access to places around campus. The capability, announced by Kevin Lynch, VP of technology, will initially launch after the summer with Duke, the University of Alabama and the University of Oklahoma. Then, later this year, Johns Hopkins University, Santa Clara University and Temple University will follow.

The idea is that Apple Watch and the iPhone will replace student ID cards. Access to libraries, dorm rooms, events and so on will be available with a simple scan. Additionally, the software will also allow payments for food and laundry around campus.

This is clearly interesting but it’s not exactly groundbreaking. The same functionality could have been used on Android for many, many years and probably work on a 10 year old BlackBerry. However, the rumours were therefore true that the new Apple software will allow the iPhone/Watch to unlock doors. Just doors on six US university campuses.

We’ll put the sarcasm aside for a moment however to draw attention to a more interesting use case for NFC on the iPhone. It turns out that Apple used NFC, along with Face ID and Touch ID to control visitor access to the WWDC conference. This is change from previous years where barcodes have typically been used. The NFC enabled pass is stored into the user’s Wallet. When used to gain access, authentication is required with either Face ID or Touch ID in a similar way to Apple Pay. While it’s not exactly the all singing, all dancing release NFC industry watchers were perhaps looking for, it’s an interesting step.

WWDC 2018 isn’t over and more information might surface yet about Apple’s NFC plans. If anything does come out – we’ll let you know. In the meantime, it’s pretty much as you were which means you can read NFC tags on an iPhone. But you need an App and you can’t write. If you have an iPhone and you are interested in learning how to read NFC tags, then have a look at our how to read tags with an iPhone article.