Apple nabs patent for NFCbased travel checkin, doesn't quell iPhone rumors one iota

Apple has been chasing NFC patents for years, but it's just now been granted a US patent for its own approach to a transportation check-in -- one of the most common uses of the technology in the real world. The filing describes a theoretical iTravel app that would store reservation and ticket information for just about any vehicle and stop along the way: planes, trains and (rented) automobiles would just have the traveler tap an NFC-equipped device to hop onboard, and the hotel at the end of the line would also take credentials through a gentle bump. Besides the obvious paper-saving measures, iTravel could help skip key parts of the airport security line by providing passport information, a fingerprint or anything else screeners might want to see while we'd otherwise be juggling our suitcases.

It all sounds ideal, but before you start booking that trip to the South Pacific with ambitions of testing an NFC-equipped 2012 iPhone, remember this: the patent was originally filed in 2008. We clearly haven't seen iTravel manifest itself as-is, and recent murmurs from the Wall Street Journal have suggested that Apple isn't enthusiastic about the whole NFC-in-commerce idea even today. Still, with Passbook waiting in the wings, the patent can't help but fuel speculation that Apple is getting more serious about an iPhone with near-field wireless in the future.