Apple’s Passbook Gives Us A Glimpse Of The Future Of Air Travel

A few weeks back, to much fanfare, Apple released a new version of their popular iPhone and an updated version of iOS, the operating system that powers the device. Dubbed iOS 6, the latest edition of the software as been a bit of a mixed bag for most iPhone users, who now enjoy improved social networking integration, better messaging and a smarter Siri, but have been cursed with Apple’s new sub-par maps app.

Lost in the hype of the shiny new device and the kerfuffle that has been the maps fiasco, was the inclusion of a new app called Passbook. The app promises to be an electronic wallet for all of your digital coupons, membership and gift cards, movie tickets and boarding passes. Passbook collects those items from other apps, emails or direct download through the Safari browser and conveniently keeps them all well organized in a single place. When it comes time to use one of your coupons or tickets, you simply have the cashier scan a bar code on the screen of your phone and you’re on your way.

That’s not all Passbook can do, however, as it is also time and location aware. That means that it will automatically display relevant passes on your phone’s lock screen based on where you are. So if you walk into a Starbucks it will automatically display any active gift cards and as you arrive at the airport, the app is already placing the relevant boarding pass on your screen. It will even alert you of any changes to your flight time or departure gate, helping to ensure you don’t miss it.Digital boarding passes are not really all that new or innovative, as a number of airlines have been using them for a few years now. But Passbook makes it a breeze to collect and keep track of those passes and its inclusion as a pre-installed app on all iPhones means that more people will start using it on a regular basis. We all know that once a technology gains more mass market appeal, more companies will support it, which means Apple’s Passbook will probably be a gateway to better paperless options when traveling in the future.

The app is already supported by United and American Airlines, and we’re told that Delta will jump on the bandwagon soon too. But airlines aren’t the only ones that are quickly adding support for the new system. Major League Baseball now offers Passbook-based tickets for games and online movie ticketing service Fandango sends its passes to the app as well. The best part is, most businesses are already equipped to scan Passbook entries, which isn’t the case with similar services on other phones that employ Near-Field Communications technology for their approach to the digital wallet.

As technology evolves, there may soon come a day when you won’t need to leave home with anything other than your smartphone. That day probably isn’t as far off as we think either.

Apple Granted Patent For Airport Check-In System

The U.S. Patent Office granted Apple a nifty new patent yesterday that could potentially have an impact on the way that many of us travel. The rather vague filing describes a number of unique ways that an Apple designed device could potentially interact with a check-in system used by airlines or other modes of transportation.

The patent, which was originally filed in 2008, outlines the use of Near Field Communication (NFC) protocols to interact with check-in systems using an app that was originally called “iTravel.” That app would be able to transmit data from an iPhone, iPad or iPod Touch that could potentially confirm the identity of the person using it, finalize flight reservations and possibly even allow access through security checkpoints.

NFC technology has been around for some time but is just now starting to gain some acceptance in consumer products. The technology uses radio signals to allow two devices to share data with one another simply by touching or being within close proximity. Some experts believe that NFC could potentially replace the credit cards we carry in our wallets by allowing us to use our smartphones to pay for the things we want to buy. Others see it expanding further and being used for everything from subway passes and toll booths to sharing contacts and photos with friends and coworkers.

There has been heavy speculation that the next iPhone, due out in the fall, will include NFC capabilities. That speculation was fueled even further when Apple recently introduced a new app called Passbook that enables users to electronically organize and store everything from airline boarding passes and consumer loyalty cards to movie tickets and gift certificates. The iTravel app mentioned in the patent filing resembles an early version of Passbook, which is also scheduled to be released in the fall.

There is no doubt that smartphones have made our lives simpler in a lot of ways. But the inclusion of NFC technology and the kind of functionality that it can bring has the potential to be just as revolutionary. It remains to be seen if this patent will actually become a reality, but if Apple doesn’t do something similar, I’m sure someone else will.