Apple first introduced us to an exciting future iPhone application dubbed iTravel back in April 2010 which certainly shook things up in the travel industry. In today's patent, Apple introduces us to a more detailed view of a "travel itinerary application" which will be available to walk a traveler through everything step of a flight from preflight activities at the virtual service counter to activities at the airport as well as in-flight and post-flight activities. You'll be able to reserve restaurants at your destination, order a video game for in-flight entertainment, order special in-flight meals, order a specific type of movie while on flight or set-up sightseeing tours – just for starters. Apple has been working with partners like Telus and Air Canada on test marketing various aspects of iTravel – and today's patent application reveals that Apple is still expanding the nature and capabilities of iTravel as was first revealed - with more is on the way! Stay tuned for part two.
As travelers use airplanes, trains, buses, and various other travel or transportation services, many interactions between the travelers and the travel service providers can take place. For example, a traveler can interact with an airline to make a reservation, check-in for a reserved flight, obtain pre-flight amenities at the airport, obtain in-flight amenities, and obtain post-flight amenities. All of these interactions can require distinct actions from the user from different devices or elements. For example, a user can call to make a reservation, check-in in person upon reaching the airport, identify airport attractions from a telephone or during an in-person conversation with an airline attendant at the airport, order entertainment or food using a menu available from a television screen or printed menu on the airplane, and gain frequent-flier miles by receiving a receipt after the flight or by entering the necessary information on-line.
Although this combination of approaches for interacting with the airline, or any other travel service provider, and with the available travel services can be serviceable, it remains cumbersome and requires the travel service provider to accommodate all of the possible forms of interaction. From a user's perspective, the lack of centralization of interactions with the travel service provider and with the available travel services can require more effort from the user wishing to take advantage of travel services, and perhaps even dissuade the user from using available travel provider services (thus at a cost to the travel service provider).
Apple's patent is directed to systems and methods for providing an integrated application for accessing travel services using portable electronic devices.
The electronic device may include an integrated application operative to interface with a travel system to provide access to different services provided by a travel service provider (e.g., an airline, railroad company, bus company, etc.). For example, the integrated application can connect to an airline registration system to allow a user to check-in remotely (e.g., from a taxi on the way to the airport). As another example, the integrated application can provide an arrival notification of a user's arrival to a third party upon the user's arrival at a destination (e.g., when the user's airplane lands). As another example, the integrated application can allow the user to access services available to airline customers, such as airport gate services (e.g., preferred guest lounge and available restaurant options), in-flight services (e.g., in-flight dining and entertainment options), or other services for enhancing a user's airline experience.
The electronic device can interface with the travel system using any suitable approach. In some embodiments, the electronic device can securely connect to one or more servers associated with the travel service provider. For example, the electronic device can connect with distinct servers associated with ordering services or goods from the travel service provider (e.g., train tickets, in-flight entertainment, and the like). As another example, the electronic device can connect with distinct servers associated with attractions or shops proximate the travel service (e.g., restaurants and shops in the airport terminal) for which the user can make reservations, purchases, or access information (e.g., buy a pass for an airline's airport lounge).
In some embodiments, the integrated application can allow a user to access resources to plan a travel itinerary. For example, a user can research potential itineraries, research potential destinations, book a travel reservation, access and modify a booked travel reservation, enter frequent flier information, and receive special offers and promotions.
In some embodiments, the integrated application can allow a user to request upgrades, to check-in remotely, and to enter user preferences. Based on the user preferences, promotions, offers, and upgrades can be presented to the user (e.g., by matching the user preferences to available promotions, offers, and upgrades). Moreover, when a user is at a travel service provider (e.g., at an airport), the integrated application can provide a user with maps of the facilities (e.g., through an integrated or associated mapping application), alert a user of nearby restaurants, shops, and other services, and provide a user with coupons or offers associated with the nearby services. In some embodiments, the electronic device could function as a key to access certain goods or services provided by the travel service provider (e.g., a key to access to an airline's airport lounge, a ticket to board a train, etc.). In some embodiments, the integrated application could help a user find nearby acquaintances or otherwise provide social networking functions. It should also be noted that using your iPhone as a "key" would require that the iPhone be updated with an NFC chip.
In some embodiments, the integrated application can control connectivity to in-flight entertainment offered by the travel service provider (e.g., control power, audio, and video available at the traveler's seat, such as from a video console located in the headrest in front of the traveler's seat). In some embodiments, the integrated application can allow a user to access entertainment (e.g., games, movies, music, or other entertainment) directly on their electronic device. Moreover, a user can control aspects of their seating area such as seat adjustments, lighting, air temperature, audio volume, radio channel, television channel, or other aspects through the integrated interface.
In some embodiments, the integrated application can provide arrival notifications. For example, the integrated application can determine the user's airplane has landed, and may then send a notification of the user's arrival to a third party (e.g., to friends or family awaiting the arrival of the user). To determine the user's airplane has landed, the integrated application may determine the electronic device was powered off and then powered back on (e.g., as the electronic device may have been turned off while the airplane was in flight).
In some embodiments, the integrated application can provide post-flight functions for the user such as providing destination information, providing transportation information, providing bounceback and affiliate offers, and storing receipts of associated travel expenses for the user.
Integrated Travel Itinerary Application
Apple's patent FIG. 2 is a schematic view of several situations during which a user could make use of a single, integrated application in the context of a travel itinerary. Through the integrated application, a travel service provider could maintain a constant connection between the travel service provider and the user.
To interface with the travel system, the integrated application could use any suitable approach. In some embodiments, the iPhone could securely connect to one or more servers associated with the travel service provider. For example, the electronic device could connect with distinct servers associated with ordering services or goods from the travel service provider (e.g., train tickets, in-flight entertainment, etc.).
As another example, the iPhone could connect with distinct servers associated with attractions or shops proximate the travel service provider (e.g., restaurants and shops in the airport terminal). When the integrated application has connected to a server, a user may make reservations, purchases, or access information (e.g., buy a pass for an airline's airport lounge) through the integrated application.
Accordingly, through an integrated application of an electronic device, a user could perform different operations to enhance the user's travel experience. Apple's patent FIG. 2 shows diagram 200 of several situations during which a user could make use of a single, integrated application in the context of an airline travel experience – though it could relate to other forms of travel.
The Virtual Service Counter
As shown in patent figure 2 above, the integrated application could be used in planning scenario 202 while the user is planning a travel itinerary (e.g., while booking one or more airline flights). For example, through the integrated application, a user could access a virtual "counter" to book a reservation and access virtual "800 number" and ".com" information related to various travel service providers (e.g., flights offered, prices, available itineraries, airport layouts, or any other suitable information).
As another example, the integrated application could be used in pre-flight scenario 204 before the user's arrival at the initial location of the travel service (e.g., while on the way to the airport) to, for example, allow a user to remotely check-in to their flight or receive e-mails with itinerary updates. The integrated application could be used in airport scenario 206 when the user arrives at the initial location of the travel service provider (e.g., while waiting to board the airplane at an airport). For example, the integrated application could allow the user to access guest lounges, provide gate agent information, or provide any other suitable services. As another example, the integrated application could be used in-flight scenario 208 when the user is traveling. For example, the integrated application could be used to provide entertainment (e.g., a magazine or games) or request flight attendant services. As yet another example, the integrated application could be used in post flight scenario 210 after the user's trip (e.g., after a flight). For example, a user could view, edit, and redeem Frequent Flier miles or other rewards through the integrated application.
Advantages of a Single Integrated Application
Advantages of such a single, integrated application could include, as indicated by diagram 300 of FIG. 3 above, creating a unique experience 302. For example, the integrated application could control the experience a user associates with a brand (e.g., by creating continuity with a certain travel service provider). Advantages of a single, integrated application may also include monetization 304. For example, upgrades and special services that may be purchased by a user could be conveniently offered through the integrated application. Another advantage could include customer retention 306. For example, the integrated application could build customer relations and promote customer retention (e.g., by addressing a traveler's needs 24 hours a day and 7 days a week to provide the utmost satisfaction). Yet another advantage could include affiliate opportunities 308. For example, since a portable electronic device's simplicity, affordability, and portability may appeal to a broad scope of travelers, a broad scope of travelers may be using the integrated application. Affiliate companies may then be given the opportunity to reach this wide range of travelers through the integrated application. For example, affiliate opportunities such as hiring a tour guide, purchasing tours, hiring a translator, renting cars from a nearby rental agency, and the like could be presented to a user. In this manner, a single, integrated application could control and enhance the user's experience with that travel service provider.
Planning a Travel Itinerary
Travel Itinerary: Pre-Flight
Apple's patent FIG. 5 is a schematic view of functions available to a user before arriving at the initial location of a travel service provider.
As indicated in diagram 500, a user could make last-minute changes to a certain travel itinerary. For example, a user may realize while they are in-transit to the travel service provider (e.g., while in a taxi going to the airport) that a change should be made to their itinerary. Through the iPhone's integrated application, the user may immediately make the changes to their itinerary, rather than needing to wait until a later point in time (e.g., when the taxi arrives at the airport and the user could speak with a flight agent at the airline counter). Moreover, through the integrated application, a user could view and confirm the details of their itinerary (e.g., confirm the correct gate number). For example, interface 502 shows an exemplary interface for allowing a user to view and confirm a travel itinerary through their iPhone. For example, through an interface such as interface 502, a user could view aspects of their trip such as flight information, car rental information, hotel information, scheduled meetings, scheduled dinners or other meals, and any other information suitable to a travel itinerary. See the patent for more functionality available.
Travel Itinerary: At the Airport
Travel Itinerary: In-Flight
Travel Itinerary: Post-Flight
Apple's patent FIG. 10 shows the iPhone's itinerary app functions available to a user after arriving at a travel destination. For example, the user could access information about the destination airport (e.g., maps to where luggage, taxis, or rental cars may be found), maps and information regarding nearby shops, hotels, attractions, and other amenities, or other suitable destination information. For example, interface 1002 shows an exemplary interfacing allowing a user to access destination information regarding destination location 1004. Through the integrated application, a user may also access transportation information such as information associated with nearby car rental agencies (e.g., addresses, hours of operation, car rental prices, and the like), public transportation (e.g., train information, bus information, taxi information, and the like), and other suitable transportation information.
As is also indicated in diagram 1000, a user could receive and view bounceback offers and offers from affiliate programs.
Apple credits Jeff Maranhas, Stanley Ng and Courtnee Westendorf as the inventors of patent application 20100190510, originally filed in Q4 2009.
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Extra: Check out Apple's Other NFC Related Patents: Tech: NFC
Note: August 2010 - Apple Hires NFC Expert