Apple Patent Details Secure iWallet Payment Methods

We have seen several iWallet patents so far, but most of them have detailed use case scenarios rather than a digital system ready to be launched using the existing mobile hardware. Apple’s patent for a “Method to send payment data through various air interfaces without compromising user data” sheds light on how the company could deploy its iWallet, even with the next-generation iPhone.

The US patent application no. 20140019367 was spotted by Patently Apple today, comes shortly after the company began to roll out iBeacon for Apple Stores, and we’ve seen a couple creative ways of using the technology introduced with iOS 7. Fact is, iBeacon may be able to combine the benefits of NFC’s limited-proximity operation and increase the range if it is needed.

Apple iWallet

So, what will Apple’s future iWallet system look like? According to the patent, the purchasing handset (iPhone) would connect to a point of sale (POS) using NFC to initiate the transaction process. Beyond that, the device will establish a second secure link using a different protocol, such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth. The second secure link establishes connectivity with the backend services and will use an alias to identify a purchasing account such as a credit card.

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.

Although iBeacon is not directly mentioned in the patent, Patently Apple highlights that Wikipedia notes that iBeacon is a tool that “could enable payments at the point of sale where you don’t need to remove your wallet or card to make a payment”. This makes it a perfect NFC competitor.

The patent was originally filed in Q3 2012 and credits Ahmer Khan, Brian Tucker, David Haggerty and Scott Herz as the inventors.