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Apple Secures NFC iWallet Patent

Steve McCaskill is editor of TechWeekEurope and ChannelBiz. He joined
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Patent defines primary-secondary account relationship and suggest iTunes will be used as billing system

Apple has been granted a patent for a future “iWallet” service which uses Near Field Communication (NFC) for contactless payments.

The new patent, number 8,127,982,  issued  by the United States Trademark & Patent Office (also at Free Patents Online) defines the relationship between primary and secondary accounts and shows that credit card companies will send statements directly to iTunes accounts.

Restrictive process

The invention is apparently supported by 23 patent claims and has been in development since the first quarter of 2009, according to Patently Apple.

Through the use of the technology, primary account holders such as parents or employers will be able to exert a level of control over secondary account holders such as children or employees. The need for such control arises as although secondary account holders are able to make payments, primary account holders are ultimately responsible for the transaction.

A bank or card association is associated with the processor, which can also be configured to manage transaction rules defined by the primary account holder for the secondary account. Such rules may restrict purchases if a spending limit is exceeded, if the transaction occurs outside a defined geographic region or if the merchant falls outside of the permitted categories.

The primary account holder can also select from a number of control actions if one of these rules is breached, such as being notified of the violation or having to approve the transaction. Different authorisation times can be set depending on whether the payment attempt was in a physical shop or online.

No NFC iPhone

Different actions can be assigned to different levels of violation. For example, the primary account holder may be notified when the secondary account exceeds a first spending limit and will have to approve transactions after a second limit is breached.

The patent also includes a number of illustrations that show a number of screens which could be shown on a future iPhone with NFC support. The figures also appear to indicate that iTunes will use be used for credit card statements and financial records, putting Apple into competition with PayPal, which has been a critic of NFC technology.

Currently no iOS devices support NFC, despite claims last year that the iPad 2 and the iPhone 5 (which turned out to be the iPhone 4S) would feature such functionality. The next version of the iPhone due later this year remains a possibility, with research suggesting that Apple is well placed for success with mobile payment services.

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