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Apple Inc. (AAPL) Gets ‘iTravel’ Smartphone App Patent

Apple Inc.Apple Inc. (AAPL) has been forward-thinking for several years, it turns out. The technology is moving toward replacing credit and debit cards with scanning a smartphone for purchases. There are some airlines who are using smartphone apps to book flights and pay for the fares, as well as produce boarding passes. But what about taking things to the next level – where passengers can not only use their phones as boarding passes, but can also check in their baggage, and even go through security without a physical ID?

The “empty pockets” concept is becoming more possible, not just the “empty wallet.” Especially now that Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has recently achieved a patent for its “iTravel” smartphone app, which apparently would do some of the things mentioned above – a user could flash an image of a driver’s license or passport photo as well as a digital boarding pass through security, eliminating the need for extra cards or papers in passengers’ pockets. The phone, with the app, could also be used to check in and claim baggage, and have flight information, boarding passes and itineraries contained in the msartphone for easy access. This patent application was submitted in 2008, and approval from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office was secured in July of this year.

Could it be possible that an Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) smartphone could enable a user to rent a car, rent a hotel room, or even be used as a hotel room key? What about an electronic house key when you get home?

While the idea of this kind of freedom is encouraging, there are risks, say some security experts. Having so much information contained on a smartphone would be such a treasure trove for an experience hacker to want to access – so would there be just one password for the phone and separate ones for each of the pieces of information. And how hard or easy would it be to produce counterfeit digital documents for people to use to go through security or customs? Those may clearly be issues to be resolved before the “iTravel” app is in full use on Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) iPhones.

Still, the idea is interesting, and one that investors in Apple stock – like hedge-fund manager David Einhorn of Greenlight Capital – will likely keep tabs on as future iPhone models come to realization.