NFC, or near field communication technology, allows devices to interact based on proximity rather than requiring a wireless connection.
Rumours have already indicated that the next iPhone will feature NFC technology to enable 'contactless' payments using the new Passport app.
The new patent shows an iPhone using NFC to connect to various devices including Apple TV, a Mac computer, DVR, DVD player, Xbox 360, home entertainment speaker system and more.
Once connected, the iPhone syncs with the device to be used as a universal remote.
Not all of the devices shown in the patent include NFC technology, so the patent also covers the use of QR codes to download and install the correct remote features for the desired device.
In addition to using the iPhone as a universal remote, the patent provides an example of using it as a game controller, as well an image of a physical game controller being used on an Apple TV or iOS device.
It is possible that the controller interface could be paired with Apple TV's ability to mirror iOS and Mac games through AirPlay, turning Apple TV essentially into a game console.
How Apple plans to implement this application of NFC technology is unknown, however, at the very least the patent provides strong evidence that NFC will play a large role in the next iPhone.
Apple is expected to announce the next model of the iPhone in October this year, potentially including a larger screen, tapered casing, 4G connectivity and a smaller charging connector.