Apple Travel App Patent Hints At Ticketless Airlines

Apple Travel App Patent Hints At Ticketless Airlines

Apple has filed a very interesting patent for a travel app called iTravel that books flights, hotels and car reservations. But the most interesting part is how it uses a radio chip to check you in at the airport, whisk you through security and allows you to wireless board your flight.

The iTravel app uses Near Field Communications, a short-range wireless technology that is starting to become widely used in cell phones for mobile ticketing, payment and electronic keys, especially in countries like Japan.

Apple is rumored to be adding NFC chipset to the next iPhone. If so, it could turn the iPhone into an electronic wallet, allowing you to for everything, from a cup of coffee to a subway ride. Your iPhone could unlock your car, pick up e-coupons at the local mall, and pay for all your supermarket groceries just by laying it on top of the checkout.

Note, however, that neither Gizmodo’s iPhone 4G teardown nor the iPhone OS 4 beta have revealed the existance of NFC chips, so this may be premature.

Nonetheless, the iTravel app is another sign that Apple is interested in adding NFC to the iPhone.
Apple has filed several patents related to RFID, including using RFID to find and connect to WiFi networks, and a touchscreen RFID tag reader.

The iTravel app is likely the first of several NFC iPhone apps from Apple.

The iTravel app is a pretty comprehensive travel app. It focuses on finding and booking flights, making hotel and rental car reservations, and airline check-in and baggage ID.

The most interesting part of the patent describes how airline travelers can use the app with an NFC-equipped iPhone to travel through the airline check-in system without paper tickets or even a passport. The app can be used to wirelessly check in the traveller at the ticket counter. Combined with a fingerprint or retina scan, the app can identify them to airline and security personel.

The system will then whisk them through airport security, logging their progress as they go through X-Ray and metal detectors. It will allow them to check themselves in at the boarding gate and help them find their RFID-tagged luggage at the other end.

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About the author

Leander KahneyLeander Kahney is the editor and publisher of Cult of Mac. He is the NYT bestselling author of Jony Ive: The Genius Behind Apple's Greatest Products; Inside Steve’s Brain; Cult of Mac; and Cult of iPod. Leander has written for Wired, MacWeek, Scientific American, and The Guardian in London. Follow Leander on Twitter @lkahney and Facebook.

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