This short-range, high frequency wireless technology allows for data exchanges between two devices in close proximity to each other. It will soon form the basis of Google (and others') upcoming mobile payments initiatives.
But Apple, too, appears to have plans in this area. Patents point towards ideas for things like iPay, iBuy and iCoupons, all of which suggest Apple is building some sort of mobile wallet.
iPhone 5 Becomes Intelligent, Thanks to Siri?
Among Apple's other high-profile acquisitions was April 2010's buyout of Siri, a personal mobile assistant that was spun out of SRI International, and whose core technology came from a DARPA-funded artificial intelligence project called CALO. Siri was transformed into an iPhone application that could listen to questions either spoken aloud or typed in and then provide answers. At first, the focus was on the sort of out-and-about questions you may have, e.g. When does that movie show? What Chinese restaurants are nearby? Can I get a table at my favorite Italian place? What's the phone number for a taxi company?
Only a few months post-acquisition, the app was updated to integrate results provided by the computational knowledge engine, Wolfram Alpha. For those unaware, Wolfram Alpha is a new sort of search technology which can provide factual answers to questions, as opposed to a list of search results. It currently consists of 10 trillion-plus pieces of curated, objective data from primary sources, and it can perform calculations on the fly - over 50,000 types of algorithms and equations are now possible.
With this sort of technology built into Apple's next iPhone, assuming that's the case, the device could easily go head-to-head with Google Android's voice search and voice actions, the former which directs you to results from related Google Search properties and the latter which helps you perform actions on your phone, including sending text messages, routing a trip on a map, pulling up a map of nearby attractions or businesses, launching the phone's music player to play a certain song or artist and more.
Will iPhone 5 up the feature set of its competitor? It's likely. One of the interesting things about Siri is that it integrates with third-party data sources like OpenTable for restaurant reservations and Yelp for local business listings. Those services, incidentally, also exist as iPhone apps. What if Apple tied together this new voice interface to the device not only with the services themselves, but could also direct you to the appropriate app to learn more? You would then have a whole new interface for locating and launching apps - a search engine of sorts, even, where the focus isn't on what app name you need to find (as iPhone's native search does today), but on what action you need to take.
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