Contactless Passes and NFC Certificates for iOS 12 and watchOS 5

iOS 12 Apple Pay Wallet and PassKit NFC Certificates

Apple revealed details of NFC improvements coming to iOS 12 and watchOS 5. Contactless Passes for Wallet were announced at the WWDC18 Keynote on June 4. Apple clearly wants to promote Contactless Passes in Wallet over clunky QR Codes and showed a demo of Contactless Passes in action on Apple Watch at the Wembley Stadium contactless ticket gate. In the same session Apple software engineers explained how to strip out QR Code references in Wallet Passes and replace them NFC.

It’s also clear that Apple wants to promote contactless passes on Apple Watch over iPhone: contactless passes were unveiled during the watchOS segment and are gorgeously displayed exclusively on the watchOS 5 page. Student IDs use the new Contactless Passes feature with Assa Abloy and Blackboard working with Apple to make those happen. You might remember Assa Abloy from The Information rumor piece about door locks and ID Passes coming to Wallet.

The most interesting aspect of implementing Contactless Passes in Wallet is the “NFC Certificate” requirement that are issued by Apple to the developer and strictly controlled for security purposes. PassKit NFC Certificates were previously covered by NDA and extremely limited. If door locks and ID passes are involved the NDA will still be part of the application process, but if Apple is opening up access to more developers NFC Certificates should be the ticket for developers to gain NFC access that was not possible up to now. At least for mere mortals.

It will be fascinating to see what developers do with wider NFC Certificate distribution and what contactless passes/reward cards, and hopefully much more, that come out of it with iOS 12 and watchOS 5.

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