Just been alerted to an article that discusses “Apple testing RFID-equipped iPhone, expert claims”, pointing to a number of patents that Apple has filed to do with RFID. Einar Rosenberg, who runs the Near Field Communications (NFC) Group on Linkedin.com, claims as follows:

“A highly reliable source has informed me that Apple has built some prototypes of the next generation iPhone with an RFID reader built in and they have seen it in action. So its not full NFC but its a start for real service discovery and I’m told that the reaction was very positive that we can expect this in the next gen iPhone.”

Near Field Communication (NFC) is a technology that enables connections between mobile phones and physical things, and is often referred to as Ubiquitous computing. It certainly heralds the start of true web 3.0 – the semantic web.

This is not so new a concept for iPhone users, as already their is a popular application ‘RedLaser’ already allows users to scan barcodes from their iPhone and allows you to search for online prices using Google product search.

An iPhone that reads RFID tags would indeed be an incredible hot commodity and could make an adoption of mobile payments a realistic possibility in the west. This would follow in the foot steps of Japan where a large majority of mobile phones (73%) are already RFID-enabled, according to Christopher Billich, SVP, Research & Strategy at Infinita Inc based in Tokyo whom I met with this week as he presented his future insights into mobile at IAB Warsaw.

He explained that in Japan NFC usage is becoming commonplace and already 18% are using mCommerce via RFID. It is well-documented of the experimentation McDonald’s using Kazasu Kuupon (”no contact coupon”) program, using electronic payment and coupon system based on RFID for people to buy discounted burgers, etc. whist affording McDonalds a huge inventory of data of consumption habits and real-time locations tracked to an individual.

Apparently 61% of 16-24yr olds in Japan already use Internet on mobile for 1 hour a day, yet 30% use it for more than 3 hours continuously. Most phones already have permanent connection to digital terrestrial broadcast television direct to the handset, as well as continuous Internet connectivity as data bundles are included within price plans.

mCommerce is only one of the uses of NFC, in Japan even certain motorcycles are started remotely via RFID, showing just one of the potential uses of an RFID-enabled iPhone. ePassports and driving licenses or security entry systems are all within possibility.

Touch is a research project that investigates and develops applications and services that enable people to interact with everyday objects and situations through their mobile devices. They have the following video, amongst others posted on their article ‘iPhone RFID: object-based media’.