NFC, or Near Field Communication, is a new type of contactless technology used in tags, stickers and smartphones. NFC tags contain microchips which store information which can then be transferred wirelessly to another NFC-enabled device. The technology allows users to complete transactions quickly and effortlessly, as well as having a number of other useful applications.

Numerous apps have increased the usefulness of our devices in the digital realm ever since smartphones became commonplace in our lives. Changes have been seen through web connectivity, games, and tools for conducting business or assisting in productivity all enhancing our smartphone experience. The advent of NFC is likely to do the same for the next generation of Apple devices, but in the real world. The technology has the potential to allow our smartphones to replace credit and debit cards, security clearance passes and even transport tickets - all with the simple swipe of a handheld device.

Rumours abound that Apple are due to implement the technology into some of their forthcoming devices, most likely the iPhone 5S. NFC technology is already present in many other smartphones, which is likely to prompt a move by Apple to include the technology in order to catch up with their competitors. While the inclusion of near-field communications technology seems an absolute certainty for the next iPhone device, there is also some interesting speculation that it will feature a fingerprint scanner, which will be used in order to authenticate payments made by NFC. This is a sure-fire way of making transactions via the iPhone 5S an entirely secure method of payment.

Apple is likely to integrate a digital wallet into its existing Passbook app. At the moment, Passbook currently only supports tickets, discount vouchers and store cards, although integrating a digital wallet in the app will be a relatively easy task for the company. Of course, this new move will tie in with iTunes accounts and marketing brands to enable swift payments and to raise awareness of any offers at nearby retailers, e.g through the use of NFC tags placed at store entrances.

At the moment, it is speculated that the fingerprint sensor on the new iPhone device will be located directly below the home button on the phone, serving to make it ergonomically easier for users to reach, and a lot quicker than having to authenticate a transaction by means of the on-screen touch keypad. This would arguably make the iPhone the most convenient means of making NFC transactions on the market.

Taiwanese reports have recently suggested that the technology firm Chipbond has secured a lucrative contract to supply hardware for the iPhone 5S, and will provide the fingerprint reader for the device. It is likely that any NFC technology will be sourced from elsewhere. Apple have also recently purchased Authentec, a technology firm which has recently created a new NFC security system, further fuelling any rumours and discussion about the capabilities of the new device. At this stage, the likelihood of NFC technology being implemented in the iPhone 5S is a near-certainty.