Apple and longtime partner Disney this week are bolstering their stores with upgraded versions of iBeacon sensors and NFC readers, according to sources. Apple Stores have had iBeacons stationed throughout showroom floors for several months as a way to pinpoint exactly where a customer is within the store. This allows Apple to better serve customers by providing relevant sales information to their iPhones and iPads while in the store. The upgrades happening this week within Apple Stores place several new Gimbal Series 20 Proximity Beacons across stores to make location tracking within the store even more accurate.

In addition to providing relevant information for the Apple Store app, iBeacons can be useful for NFC mobile payment technologies as a form of authentication. If Apple knows where a customer is in the store to a precise degree, it can ensure that is it wirelessly connecting to the correct iPhone for mobile payments. As has been widely reported, the new iPhone 6 and upcoming Apple wearable device will include new wireless sensors (including a near field communication chipset) to conduct mobile payments with credit cards stored in an upgraded Passbook application.

We’ve also received an unconfirmed tip that Apple is preparing to roll out an in-house designed and developed iBeacon sensor for future installation in its own stores. It is also possible that Apple could sell or provide these beacons to retailers in an effort to get them to sign up with Apple for the upcoming iPhone-based mobile payments service. Earlier this year, we reported that an FCC filing from Apple shed light on the upcoming debut of a Cupertino, California-designed iBeacon transmitter. The aforementioned unconfirmed tip indicates that the device looks like a white puck, sports a rechargeable internal battery, has a micro-USB port, and is 3/4-inch thick and 4-inches across in size.

Earlier this year, Apple deployed new EasyPay devices to its retail store staff that support NFC. Combined with new NFC-capable payment processors and upgraded iBeacon systems within stores, it appears that Apple is making preparations to launch its iPhone-based mobile payments service in the near future.

DIsney

Speaking of NFC, sources at Disney tell us that the entire chain of stores is being equipped this week with new credit card machines that support NFC. It’s unconfirmed if the Disney NFC installations are related to the upcoming iPhone 6 launch, but given that Disney is a close partner with Apple (CEO Bob Iger sits on Apple’s board, for example), it’s possible that this is more than just a coincidence. Similarly, as we reported last week, major fast food chain McDonalds has begun installing NFC-based credit card machines in many franchises, so it’s possible that McDonalds will also be an Apple mobile payments launch partner.

We first reported in May that Apple is preparing to launch an iPhone and iTunes-based mobile payments service, and that Apple executives were discussing plans with high profile retailers. Other reports have indicated that major sales chain Nordstrom and pharmacies CVS and Walgreens are on-board with Apple as launch partners. To develop its mobile payments service, Apple assembled a team of former payments industry executives from JP Morgan Chase, eBay, and Visa, according to sources. Apple will announce the new iPhones, mobile payments service, and its new wearable device on Tuesday, September 9th, and we’ll have full coverage of all of the Apple announcements, so stay tuned.