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Apple Investigating iBeacon-Assisted Mobile Payment Methods

Apple's iBeacon technology based on the Bluetooth LE standard is being installed in Apple Stores and other retail outlets to assist customers and send them promotions while shopping, but as noted by Patently Apple, a newly published patent application suggests this technology could also be used to send secure mobile payments while making purchases.

patent_ibeacon_payment_wireless
Patent application number 20140019367, filed in September 2012 and published today, describes a method that would send payment data through various wireless interfaces without compromising the user's data. The method uses two links -- one connection to a point-of-sale device to establish the initial connection and a second, secure connection that sends the payment information. This payment information is then processed by a backend server, which uses a shared secret to verify that the connection was secure before it authorizes the payment.
In one or more embodiments, a method of performing a commercial transaction is provided. The method includes establishing a first secure link over a first air interface by a purchasing device, the first secure link between the purchasing device and a point of sale device, identifying a second air interface different from the first air interface, establishing a second secure link over a second air interface, the second secure link between the purchasing device and a backend server, and conducting, using the second air interface, a secure commercial transaction between the purchasing device and the backend server using payment data secured by a shared secret known to a secure element in the purchasing device and to the backend server.
The payment method described in the patent may use NFC as well as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi to connect the mobile device to the point-of-sale terminal. Though iBeacon is not directly named in the patent, it is easy to see how the technology could be used as the conduit for the secure Bluetooth connection. Apple even notes in the patent that NFC "is less desirable for longer transactions," while Wi-Fi or Bluetooth has "more desirable characteristics for maintaining the link over time than NFC."

The use of Apple's iBeacon technology, rolled out alongside iOS 7, is expected to increase over the coming year as other retailers such as Macy's have begun piloting the Bluetooth LE technology. Most recently, the Consumer Electronics Association used iBeacons for a scavenger hunt at CES 2014, while Major League Baseball will be bringing the technology to stadiums.

Top Rated Comments

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9 months ago
Hear that sound? Thats the death cry of NFC
Rating: 4 Votes
9 months ago

Better yes.

In either case, I'm not sure I trust retailers to implement securely. :/

Starbucks, Neiman, Target, huge numbers of banks all flubbing up.


Considering Starbucks just admitted to storing unencrypted customer data, and Target's Black Friday fiasco, your concern is extremely valid.
Rating: 3 Votes
9 months ago

Hear that sound? Thats the death cry of NFC


On the phone maybe; here in UK you are no longer able to get a bank card from any major bank without NFC built in.
Rating: 2 Votes
9 months ago

This seems better than NFC implementation. Is that just me?


Better yes.

In either case, I'm not sure I trust retailers to implement securely. :/

Starbucks, Neiman, Target, huge numbers of banks all flubbing up.
Rating: 2 Votes
9 months ago
I like that Apple is improving their POS technology. :p
Rating: 2 Votes
9 months ago
Maybe this in combo with Passbook and Touch ID will be Apple's mobile payments answer. It sounds like a more secure implementation than NFC. Maybe a future iOS 8 or 9 feature...
Rating: 1 Votes
9 months ago

Hear that sound? Thats the death cry of NFC


Nonsense. NFC is built into more than smartphones. And as mentioned in the article, 'iBeacon' may well use NFC. I guess we'll have to wait and see.
Rating: 1 Votes
9 months ago
They better make this thing really secure.
Rating: 1 Votes
9 months ago

On the phone maybe; here in UK you are no longer able to get a bank card from any major bank without NFC built in.


Yeah, you can get it on bank cards (although I've never had it on my Natwest ones), but how many shops use it?

Regarding iBeacon or Apple's theoretical proprietary payment system - unless it's made into a standard that anyone can use it's never going to be ubiquitous. Like with iMessage and Facetime - if Apple had made them open standards that anyone could use I would be able to get by with just them, but as it is I have to have Skype as well, and people nag me to get WhatsApp and Viver and other stuff with irritating names.
Rating: 1 Votes

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