NFC Passes and NFC Certificates for iOS 12 and watchOS 5 (U)

Apple revealed details of NFC improvements coming to iOS 12 and watchOS 5. Contactless Student ID Cards for Wallet were announced at the WWDC18 Keynote on June 4. Apple clearly wants to promote NFC Passes in Wallet over clunky QR Codes and showed a video of NFC Passes in action on Apple Watch at the Wembley Stadium contactless NFC ticket gate. In the same Apple Pay session Apple software engineers explained how to strip out QR Code references in Wallet Passes and replace them NFC. NFC Passes were previously shown at WWDC16 but uptake has been slow and Apple seems eager to push them more aggressively with iOS 12.

The recently updated iOS Security guide for iOS 12 has more details:

Contactless passes

Wallet supports the value added service (VAS) protocol for transmitting data from supported passes to compatible NFC terminals. The VAS protocol can be implemented on contactless terminals and uses NFC to communicate with supported Apple devices. The VAS protocol works over a short distance and can be used to present contactless passes independently or as part of an Apple Pay transaction.

It’s also clear that Apple wants to promote contactless passes on Apple Watch over iPhone: NFC passes were unveiled during the watchOS segment and are gorgeously displayed exclusively on the watchOS 5 page. Assa Abloy and Blackboard are 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 but the actual ID card format and associated backend services are all Blackboard.

Temple University’s OWLCard and John Hopkins J-Card offer some clues how they will work in Wallet:

  1. Contactless Student ID cards are Stored Value (SV)
  2. Because they are SV cards, they can be recharged

Since they will reside in Apple Pay Wallet this means contactless student ID cards can be ‘recharged’ with an Apple Pay credit card instead of running to the nearest ‘refill/recharge’ station. Anytime, Anywhere Recharge.

Sound familiar? It’s just like Apple Pay Suica that you can recharge on the go and use for JR East Suica coin lockers. The only real difference is that Student ID Cards cannot be used for transit. At least not yet. The Apple Pay Developer page says, “discover how to create contactless passes for rewards cards, gift cards, tickets, and more.” Contactless passes for reward cards eh? Sounds like that JRE POINT card in Apple Pay Wallet will be possible after all.

An interesting aspect of implementing NFC 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 available, covered by NDA and extremely limited. Since door locks and ID passes are involved, the NDA is still central to the application process. However, if Apple is opening up NFC access to more developers wider NFC Certificate distribution could 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 NFC passes/reward cards, and hopefully much more, that come out of it with iOS 12 and watchOS 5.

UPDATE 1
Apple is issuing NFC Wallet Passes at their September 12 Event announcing new iPhones, Apple Watch Series 4 and the official release of iOS 12

UPDATE 2
Welcome to the new era of A12 Bionic NFC and iOS 12

UPDATE 3
Contactless Student ID Cards are MIFARE Host Card Emulation via PASSKit NFC Certificate

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