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Should have used an Apple Watch!

Published on  10 September by Jim Peters , Chief Technology Officer, SITA
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Ok hands up - my timing was a bit off.

Two years ago I predicted that Apple was going to incorporate NFC into its phones to provide user-friendly mobile payments. I think it's fair to say that my prediction was accurate (see the details here ). It just took a bit longer than I expected to see a solution designed from the user's point of view and with the phone owner's interests at heart. But kudos to Apple they've done it again.

The new iPhones and the Apple Watch will give NFC the push in the market that it needs. This is a clear endorsement that NFC is the way of the future - it is the technology that provides the combination of security and convenience for consumers. In some ways, Apple has revived the belief in NFC that many have held for some time.

Apple announced that Apple Watch will also let iPhone 5, 5C, and 5S users use Apple Pay which will encourage even more people to use NFC. Over the years, Apple has won the hearts of the consumer and it is expected that its customers will now make the leap to use NFC with the security of mind that Apple is behind it.

So, what does this news mean for airlines and airports? Well, at SITA we are really pleased to see this development. We have already done a lot of work in the area of NFC -running live trials at airports and proposing technical specifications for the air transport industry which will allow global adoption.  Most importantly, these specs enable phased adoption - our API allows boarding passes to be read on existing bar code readers along with new NFC readers as they become available at airports around the world.

 Our latest edition of our boarding pass API already uses Host Card Emulation (HCE) to enable NFC boarding passes on Android phones and now we get to tinker with the new iPhones!  The natural progression of course is for NFC boarding passes to be incorporated into Passbook on iOS, the SITA Lab team is already investigating this and as soon as we have news we'll let you know.   

The good news is the work we have done to this point with NFC in SITA Lab has laid a firm foundation to move forward and take advantage of  the momentum Apple's adoption of NFC will bring to the market.  We look forward to working with all the players in the ecosystem from airlines and airports to equipment vendors to bring the convenience and security of NFC into the passenger experience when traveling.

 Meanwhile, I'm looking forward to getting my hands on an Apple Watch next year.  It may improve my timing!

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