Apple Granted Patent for NFC-Powered ‘iTravel’ App

Apple has been granted a patent for a near field communication-powered (NFC) e-ticketing app. The company’s patent illustrations include an iPhone app labeled “iTravel,” and demonstrate how a device can manage e-tickets and use NFC capabilities to manage the check-in process.

Titled “System and method for transportation check-in,” the patent, first noticed by AppleInsider., describes, “a method and system for transportation check-in (e.g., ticketing and identification) via near field communication (NFC) using a handheld electronic device, such as a cellular phone or a personal media player.”

The patent was applied for on September 30th, 2008, and it was published on Tuesday. It’s already fueling increased speculation that Apple will add NFC capabilities to the next generation iPhone (speculatively called iPhone 5).

Google’s and its Android OEMs have helped pioneer NFC capabilities in mobile devices, but the technology hasn’t exactly swept the planet. Yet. Apple has heretofore kept out of the market., and any have speculated that the company wants to wait until it can make a splash in the market by offering something that works better than other solutions.

The reality, however, is that this patent shows that Apple is, at least, working on the technology. Whether or not it comes to market is another issue.

At Apple’s annual World Wide Developer Conference in June, Apple showed off Passbook, an app designed to manage digital loyalty cards and digital tickets, but it doesn’t go as far as the iTravel patent shows in managing e-ticketing. That’s mostly because current iOS devices don’t have NFC capabilities, meaning that Passbook can’t yet offer the kind of services described in the patent.

In the image below, we see the “iTravel” app being used to make or retrieve a reservation.

Apple Patent Illustration

The next illustration shows the device being used to manage the check-in process based on NFC capabilities.

Apple Patent Illustration

We included the next image because it’s fun. We’re not sure if Apple is also trying to patent the idea of a happy airline customer, but it would definitely be a novel invention.

The Happy Airline Customer?