NXP hopes Apple's adoption of NFC will encourage automakers to use its chips to replace car keys

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Chipmaker NXP, which is believed to supply the near-field communications chips found in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, hopes automakers will adopt its technology, potentially enabling future car owners to unlock and even start their car with their smartphone.

NXP's push to have automakers utilize its NFC wireless technology was spotlighted on Thursday by Reuters, which said the company is hoping that the excitement over NFC radios in Apple's latest iPhones will help drive sales to new markets, including the automotive space.

The moves also come as Apple is said to be talking to potential partners for new uses for the NFC technology found in the iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus, and coming next year to the Apple Watch. In particular, Apple is said to be exploring uses for NFC that would go well beyond mobile payments, allowing iPhone users to pay for public transit or enter a secure building by just tapping their handset at an appropriate terminal.

NXP sees that same functionality coming to cars, and hopes that automakers will get on board. With NFC, users could unlock and start their vehicle, and even pair their smartphone with their car's infotainment system with a simple tap.

For now, the NFC chips in the iPhone 6 series are restricted to Apple Pay, the company's new mobile wallet service. But it's expected that Apple might open up NFC capabilities to third-party developers for new uses down the road, much like the company has done with the Touch ID fingerprint sensor found in recent iPhone models, which can be used to securely access compatible applications in iOS 8.

NXP's interest also comes as automakers are slowly embracing Apple's new CarPlay platform, which allows iPhone users to view content and control their handset from their vehicle's infotainment system. Companies such as BMW, Ford and General Motors have all committed to offering CarPlay in future vehicles, and one estimate has suggested that CarPlay could be available in more than 24 million vehicles by 2019.

While Apple typically doesn't disclose its supplier partners and NXP hasn't confirmed its presence in the new iPhone, third-party teardowns of the new iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus have confirmed that the devices feature NXP-built NFC chips. The same company also supplies the M7 and M8 motion coprocessors in Apple's iOS devices.

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