As the rumored iPhone 5 release date of Fall 2012 draws nearer and nearer, speculations about what kind of features and upgrades we can expect are running rampant. Today, we’re sharing a patent that was filed by Apple back in 2008 that may confirm the existence of an NFC chip and a new app that could benefit travelers.

The patent filed by Apple is for a “system and method for transportation check-in” and talks about using NFC  to access a traveler’s information. Here is the patent’s abstract:

“There is provided a method and system for transportation check-in (e.g., ticketing and identification) via near field communication (NFC) using a handheld electronic device, such as a cellular phone or a personal media player. The handheld device may store and transmit travel reservations and traveler identifications using a travel management application. Various methods may be employed to acquire the reservation and identification information on the handheld device. For example, travel reservations may be made via the management application or may be retrieved from an email, a website, another NFC-enabled device, or a carrier-provided confirmation number. User identification may be acquired by scanning a radio frequency identification tag embedded in a government-issued I.D. In another embodiment, an I.D. number may be entered via the travel management application, and the user’s identification information may be downloaded from the issuing authority.”

Simply put, what Apple is proposing here is a way for people to check in at airports by simply swiping their phones over a sensor. Here are some specifics from the patent:

“An electronic device may be configured for obtaining, storing, or using electronic tickets and/or identification for transportation.”

“The electronic device may be, among other things, a handheld device, a computer, or a media player adapted to obtain, store, or use electronic travel reservations and/or identification, collectively referred to as travel documents; a manned or unmanned kiosk to sell or distribute electronic transportation tickets to another electronic device and/or to enable transportation check-in using another electronic device; or an electronic ticket reader to present identification and/or transportation ticketing information upon receipt of travel documents from another electronic device.”

“As such, the electronic device may be, for example, an iPhone, iPod, iMac, or MacBook, available from Apple Inc., or similar devices by any manufacturer.”

While it isn’t confirmed yet as to whether the iPhone 5 will have NFC technology, this and other rumors related to mobile payments technology clearly shows that Apple is experimenting with it. And with the technology already available and in use by other mobile device manufacturers, it’s not unlikely that we’ll see a near-future iOS release, if not the iPhone 5, taking advantage of this feature.

Do you think the iPhone 5 will have an NFC chip? Are apps like this something that you’re looking forward to? Discuss in the comments below.