A recently approved Apple patent for their iTravel system may go further to signal their intentions to include a near field communication chip (NFC) into the iPhone 5.
Checking in and passing through airport security could soon become easier with the Apple iTravel app.
The patent is for the provision of a transport ticketing and identification system using NFC in a mobile device which could ultimately streamline airport check-ins while also providing additional layers of security.
Within the patent application there are a number of clear distinctions regarding how the technology would work, including:
“retrieving ticketing and traveler identification information from the NFC interface of the handheld electronic device via the NFC reader; and verifying the traveler’s identity using the retrieved traveler identification, wherein verifying the traveler’s identity comprises comparing a photograph retrieved from the handheld electronic device to the traveler.”
“verifying the traveler’s identity comprises: downloading a fingerprint from a database using an identification code retrieved from the handheld electronic device; and comparing the downloaded fingerprint to a scanned fingerprint provided by the traveler at check-in.”
“verifying the traveler’s identity comprises: downloading a first retinal scan from a database using an identification code retrieved from the handheld electronic device; and comparing the downloaded first retinal scan to a second retinal scan provided by the traveler at check-in.”
Anyone who has boarded a plane may have struggled with juggling multiple handheld items while trying to present a paper ticket or boarding pass so the potential for a system such as this to be adopted by both the major carriers and regulatory authorities would benefit an app developed and released by Apple as opposed to individual developers working for a specific company.
The integration and offering of this service by default on Apple phones would certainly increase the adoption and provide the regulators with a higher level of confidence with regard to the critical security elements required and Apple would certainly need the necessary authorisation to access the secured data stores in order to fully develop the app.
While this patent was originally submitted four years ago, it has taken until 2012 to receive approval while also coincidentally well timed with speculation that Apple will include the NFC chip in the new iPhone 5, despite concerns about the need to add an additional antenna which may compromise battery life.
Last month, Apple announced the launch of its Passbook app, a virtual wallet that users can use to store everything from boarding passes to shopping coupons and you would think that if they are planning on future development of the iTravel app that some of the included functionality may already exist within the passbook app.
It will certainly be interesting to see, firstly, if Apple includes the NFC chip in the iPhone 5 and subsequent to that, where their innovative minds can take this technology.