A newly public patent application from Apple describes a detailed backend architecture for a mobile wallet designed to hold digital credit, debit cards and coupons issued by a range of merchants and financial institutions.
The filing describes the system as capable of powering mobile transactions conducted via QR codes, the cloud, and contactless NFC (near field communication). It’s also explicitly engineered to handle large bursts of traffic, “such as can occur on a so-called ‘launch day’ of a client device.”
According to a detailed review by BI Intelligence and independent experts, the patent application describes an “omni-wallet,” which allows other parties to securely send data to Apple device owners, using sophisticated encryption and secure hardware to prevent fraudsters from intercepting or duplicating sensitive information such as digital credit cards.
The system would also allow coupon and store-card issuers to track redemption and transactions without launching their own payment apps. This would be of benefit to retailers hungry for better consumer data.
The latest application, which follows another Apple patent document depicting a Passbook-like digital wallet, comes just weeks ahead of the rumored Sept. 9 launch of the iPhone 6. Apple did not respond to requests for comment on either patent application.
Apple has a significant natural advantage in payments: its huge number of customer accounts, many of them with a credit card on file. (See chart, below.)
The patent also mentions “virtualized currencies,” a possible reference to digital currency such as Bitcoin.
“Traditional cryptocoins like Bitcoin don’t need the method described above to remain secure,” Reed Jessen, a professional patent analyst and co-founder of a non-profit Bitcoin patent pool, tells us in an email.
But, Jessen adds, “one could imagine this method being used by Apple to send their own non-blockchain, non-decentralized digital currency, ‘AppleCoin’ to the omni-wallets of fanboys everywhere.”
At BI Intelligence, Business Insider’s subscription research service, we have published detailed research on where Apple is with mobile payments, and where we think it’s headed. The full coverage is only available to BI Intelligence members.