Now boarding: iTravel.
The latest Apple RFID-based patent has surfaced, but this time it's not just clever, it's bizarre and rather breathtaking in its scope. Apple wants to blend iPhone hardware and apps to manage your in-airport experiences. In fact, they've app-ified the entire travel package.
In the incredibly detailed patent data, we can see that the app goes far beyond simply managing your airport ID and documentation process, but the entire travel booking affair--meaning Apple's chasing after companies like Expedia, and possibly even Google here. Using iTravel, you could search for, review and even book flights, rental cars, hotels, cruises, train and bus journeys--and share the info on a social network, which could be fun and useful way of coordinating business trips. And what better way to get last minute info updates via SMS or push messages, or even alert phone calls from the airline in the event of big travel plan changes, than on the very smartphone you're using to both book the affair and ID yourself to the airline?
The idea is similar to other Apple concepts combining RFID tech with iPhones, essentially offering a way to ID yourself at the airport check-in desk the same way you would at the gate of a music concert (that Apple patent surfaced last week). The security issues would obviously be more significant at the airport. Hence Apple's patented app/hardware combination would carry all the data about you that you typically need in an airport--like your flight info, your ID, any pre-printed boarding passes (possibly including the quick-scannable 2D QR codes) and so on. At the check-in desk you'd wave your iPhone before a detector, and the clerk would automatically get all your data beamed to their PC.
But Apple also envisages the tech working at security checkpoints, where carrying fewer items, when you're juggling luggage, documents, shoes and jackets is a welcome notion, and even at fully automated check-in and baggage drop-off points. The entire system could be swifter, cheaper (fewer staff needed) and more pleasant from a traveler's point of view.
Given the Eyjafjallajokull-ing travel chaos lately, it's a timely patent--anything that eases the issues of getting through an airport's various systems, like this one Apple's proposing, would be very welcome.
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