The patent, first applied for in January 2009, allows parents who provide their children with a payments account for which the parent is responsible to use their mobile phone to track spending on the subsidiary account in real time. Businesses could also use the technology in the same way to track employees' spending.
The technology described in the patent allows for sophisticated spending controls to be put in place via the parent account holder's user preference database. The main account holder could, for example, require that they individually approve each transaction made by a subsidiary account holder or set up a series of rules for different types of transaction. Options suggested in the patent include a maximum individual transaction size and restrictions based on the merchant type, allowing the subsidiary account to be used only in certain types of stores.
The patent makes extensive references to the use of NFC technology as well as to both payments and loyalty cards and is already leading to renewed speculation regarding Apple's plans for NFC. Several diagrams, for instance, show an NFC mobile wallet application running on the parent account holders' iPhone.
The claims made in the patent, however, are specifically related to the process of managing primary and subsidiary accounts so that subsidiary accounts can be managed more easily by the person ultimately responsible for settling the bill. The patent also pre-dates a series of NFC patent applications filed by Apple and does not, therefore, necessarily suggest any recent increase in interest by Apple in NFC.