The iTravel patent covers the use of an NFC-enabled iPhone for buying an airline ticket, checking in baggage and passing through security.
The USPTO has granted Apple a patent for a service that lets travellers use their mobile phone to both buy an airline ticket and pass more smoothly and speedily through an airport on their day of travel.
US patent number 8,215,546, System and method for transportation check-in — usually referred to as the iTravel patent — describes an unmanned, automated airport ticketing and baggage counter kiosk and introduces the concept of an automated security checking process where users of the app could process themselves through the security clearance system and check themselves in at the boarding gate.
Apple demonstrated part of this potential service during the announcement last month of its Passbook mobile wallet service, due to arrive with iOS 6 later this year.
The iTravel patent was filed in September 2008 and first published in April 2010 and is one of a suite of NFC and mobile wallet-related patents which were published that month:
- The 'iPay, iBuy and iCoupons' patents describe a comprehensive mobile payments, mobile commerce and mobile marketing business based around an NFC-enabled iPhone.
- An NFC-based mobile payments service lets consumers make payments to merchants and other consumers via a credit or debit card, directly from their bank account or using credit stored in their iTunes account.
- An NFC-based concert, entertainment and sports venue ticketing application that includes exclusive bonus features for users of Apple's service.
- An NFC-enabled iPod, games controller, TV and iPhone.
Other NFC-related Apple patent applications, published between 2009 and 2012, include:
- A design patent for an e-wallet icon.
- A patent covering the addition of an NFC antenna to electronic devices such as computer monitors where standard methods of integrating NFC may cause problems generating a sufficiently robust signal strength.
- Products+, an NFC-based product marketing and promotions application.
- A process for gifting digital content to friends using transmission methods including NFC.
- Parental Controls, a wide ranging system for tying together multiple subsidiary accounts within a mobile wallet application.
- Sim Within, which sets out a way for a virtual SIM card to be stored in an embedded secure element that can, in turn, be attached to an NFC controller chip.
- Grab & Go, designed to make it easy for customers to transfer files between devices such as the Mac, iPhone and Apple TV.