Apple has this week won what is known as a “granted patent” by the US PTO, part of a suite of approvals issued for a designs and schema relating to a number of products and verticals.
Two of the most important patents relate to near field communication technology and travel reservation and check-in services via a mobile.
In other words: quite a lot of the consumer travel journey could be thrown into either mobile or tablet devices as a native app, alongside other items such as the calendar, email, etc.
The publication of the patents by the PTO comes just weeks after Apple launched (with enormous fanfare) the Passbook system for its devices, allowing users to store tickets for airlines and other services.
The last filing Apple made to the PTO was in December 2010, when it put technology for functionality relating to cruise trips, allowing users to select services on-board a ship and for destination excursions.
The¬†first major submission was just eight months earlier, when in April 2012 Apple outlined the patents required for full search and booking of air ticket and hotel reservations.
Then came location services¬†and more detailed technology for what a traveller might want to do in-resort or at a hotel, essentially trip management tools ranging from managing loyalty points and controlling in-room services to managing receipts and remote boarding passes.
But despite the suite of fancy tools and functionality, there is, of course, no sense whatsoever how Apple might actually DO some of the more intricate work behind the scenes – such as actually book a ticket and connect to existing systems.
Whether Apple will head down the Google route and effectively buy its way in to the industry, or simply partner with those that can provide the mechanics to ensure all the tools work, remains to be seen.
Will it, for example, partner with an OTA to power search and bookings? Or a metasearch provider just for the search element, and then hope users do not mind being sent off to the supplier’s website?
And, perhaps importantly and worryingly for many in the industry, what will be the impact on the hundreds of travel apps who will effectively be relegated to the “back pages” of a device?
But , nevertheless, after languishing for well over 18 months, iTravel could be back on the agenda… And a device near you very soon.
NB: The consistently brilliant and informative¬†PatentlyApple¬†has more details (and drawings, such as above).