A recently issued Apple patent could point to new mobile features set for the iPhone 5 including the latest member of the iSomething family – iTravel.
Looking at the patent, iTravel will take advantage of Near Field Communication technology (NFC) which allows for data to be transferred between two devices in close proximity to each other.
Couple that with Apple’s recently announced Passbook app – which is set to arrive with iOS 6 and is basically a dangerously virtual wallet that contains everything from a Starbucks coupon to your boarding pass to the last flight home – and users should be able to check-in at airports with a swipe of their phone over a sensor.
Here’s a really complicated chunk of text from the patent description detailing that very process, just in a more important sounding way:
“An electronic device may be configured for obtaining, storing, or using electronic tickets and/or identification for transportation.”
“The electronic device may be, among other things, a handheld device, a computer, or a media player adapted to obtain, store, or use electronic travel reservations and/or identification, collectively referred to as travel documents; a manned or unmanned kiosk to sell or distribute electronic transportation tickets to another electronic device and/or to enable transportation check-in using another electronic device; or an electronic ticket reader to present identification and/or transportation ticketing information upon receipt of travel documents from another electronic device.”
“As such, the electronic device may be, for example, an iPhone, iPod, iMac, or MacBook, available from Apple Inc., or similar devices by any manufacturer.”
Of course, there’s a possibility these features might not be seen in the next iPhone iteration, Apple could just be banking the tech for future use. However with NFC tech already a reality, waiting too long would probably be a bad idea.
Take this kind of technology further and it could change not only the way we travel but the way we interact with services altogether. If Apple’s iTravel app was coupled with Radio Frequency Identification technology (RFID) then it would do away with the inconvenient ‘near field’ aspect of NFC systems.
In theory, a frequent flyer wouldn’t have to approach a terminal to check-in at an airport, he’d simply walk into Departures and his iPhone would tell the airport’s system that he’d arrived. If credit card details were stored in Apple’s Passbook, customers could simply walk out of a shop with a product and, rather than set off an alarm, pay for the item automatically (as long as it had an RFID tag on it).
A report on the future of RFID from RSA Laboratories flags up the issue of signals being confused in metal-heavy environments, but science always seems to find a way eventually.