Apple Hires Expert on Mobile Payments



By NICK BILTON

Damian Dovarganes/Associated Press A Nokia phone used in place of a credit card thanks to near-field communication.

Near Field Communication

Over the last decade Apple has expanded into a number of industries besides computers, including music, mobile phones, movies and books. Now Apple could be going after something else: cash.

As first reported by Near Field Communications World, a trade publication, Apple recently hired Benjamin Vigier, an expert in the mobile payments industry who works with a technology called near field communication.

According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr. Vigier is now Apple’s product manager for mobile commerce. Before joining Apple he worked with a company called mFoundry, developing mobile payment services for PayPal and Starbucks, and also worked on a project called the mobile wallet.

Near field communication, or NFC, acts like the standard R.F.I.D. chips that are used to scan passports or credit cards today. When an NFC chip is placed within a short range of an NFC reader, the two gadgets can send small pieces of information back and forth. This can be used to perform simple credit transactions, or could be used to pass information between two gadgets.

This isn’t the first person hired at Apple with knowledge and experience in NFC. According to people familiar with Apple’s recent hiring, who asked not to be identified because they were not authorized to speak for the company, Apple has recently hired other phone engineers with experience and knowledge of NFC and similar mobile technologies.

Apple did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

There are a number of reasons Apple could decide to integrate NFC into its line of mobile phones and music players.

The company could try to replace cash or credit cards, allowing iPhone owners to swipe their phones at a terminal to pay for products or services.

Another possibility would involve integrating the NFC technology into Apple’s iAds program. In an advertising situation a person could walk up to a display advertisement and retrieve a coupon or additional information from the ad by waving her phone past a sensor. Apple recently filed patents that demonstrate a situation similar to this.

The advent of the mobile Web and smartphones could push the banking industry through some major changes. As my colleague Claire Cain Miller and I wrote earlier this year, people are starting to use digital currency in place of cash to save time and simplify transactions.

[http://bits.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/08/16/apple-hires-mobile-payment-expert]

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