NXP Semiconductors Could Help Car Owners Start Vehicles With an iPhone

Oct 30, 2014 05:00 PM EDT | Matt Mercuro

NXP Semiconductors is looking to take advantage of the recent buzz around Apple's new mobile payment system with tap-to-pay technology built into the latest iPhones by pitching it to automakers.

Apple's inclusion of near-field-communications, or NFC, in its iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus devices and its Apple Pay system unveiled last month has given a "long-awaited" seal of approval to the technology, according to Reuters.

NFC allows smartphone to communicate wirelessly with other devices like point-of-sale terminals by holding them close together.

NXP controls the market for NFC and supplies the chips used in the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, according to iFixit, which has opened up the devices.

NXP declined to say if it supplies Apple's NFC chips.

"Once they saw these announcements in September they kind of realized there was no going back on this technology so they better get moving and be quick on it," Drue Freeman, Senior Vice President for global automotive sales & marketing at NXP, said of the car executives he has talked to recently, according to Reuters.

The chips are used in Android phones, commuter cards, video game consoles, credit cards and medical tools as well.

Apple's digital wallet has attracted the attention of automotive executives since debuting last week to a handful of retailers, and made them more interested in the possible uses of NFC in cars.

The chipmaker launched a new line of NFC components on Thursday designed for automobiles. Freeman declined to say which automakers NXP was speaking with, but he did say he expects those chips to appear in European luxury vehicles sometime in 2016.

"With the introduction of this complete automotive NFC portfolio, we're taking our market leadership position and deep experience in NFC to the automotive industry, thus enabling seamless and secure connectivity between consumer electronics devices and the car," said Kurt Sievers, executive vice president, general manager automotive business, NXP Semiconductors, according to a company release.

"ABI research recently predicted that there will be 418 million NFC smartphones shipped into the market this year, which is expected to increase to 1.5 billion by 2019. As a result, auto OEMs are strongly pushing to integrate the car into connected ecosystems," he added. "Our suite of market leading NFC products is an enabler of that vision and confirms NXP's technology leadership for the securely connected car."

NFC won't revolutionize vehicle electronics, but it could make a number of existing features better, Freeman said. He added that engineers are experimenting with potential applications.

Automobile rental companies could also send codes to their customer's NFC-enabled smartphones that would allow them to open the door and turn on the ignition, instead of having to rely on keys.

NFC should also make pairing smartphones with car entertainment systems over Bluetooth easier by tapping a phone on the dashboard instead of having to mess around with controls.

"There are other ways to solve these problems. But if you now know one of largest phone makers on the planet has bought into this, as well as the whole Android ecosystem, then it's like, okay, let's take advantage because we know it's going to be ubiquitous and put it in our cars," Freeman said.

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