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.
SXSW attendees may remember that both Gowalla and Foursquare launched at the aforementioned conference in 2009, and during its 2012 edition, the former is formally saying goodbye. Just three months after we heard that Facebook had picked up (but two months after the shutdown was promised), Gowalla is saying its final words. Specifically:
“Thank you for going out with Gowalla. It was a pleasure to journey with you around the world. Download your check-ins, photos and lists here soon.”
Don’t cry, Gowalla — at least you won’t have to deal with any more SXSW registration lines.
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A couple of months back, Google brought check-ins to Latitude, its location-sharing service, through Google Maps 5.1 for Android. Naturally, iPhone users only recently received the same functionality, but some would argue they should be grateful to be included at all. (Kidding. Sort of.) Now, Latitude’s inching closer to direct competition with Foursquare and Groupon by offering check-in deals at retailers like RadioShack, American Eagle, Quiznos, and Finish Line. Google is currently namechecking over a dozen nationwide partners, and that list will surely grow as the bandwagon approaches Mach 5. Curious as to how this all works? Check in at RadioShack, for example, and you might receive ten percent off an in-store purchase. Offers are tied to check-in frequency, building on Latitude’s three-tiered status system; higher status means better deals. If you’d rather peek nearby offers before you decide to leave the house, head to Google’s official check in page in the source link below.
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There’s not exactly a lot of details on this one, but Business Insider discovered something of a surprise while touring Foursquare’s New York headquarters for launch of Foursquare 3.0. It turns out that the company is already testing out an NFC-based check-in system at its HQ, which lets those with a suitable phone (such as a Nexus S) share their location simply by tapping it against a blue dot on the wall. Unfortunately, there’s no indications on any plans to actually expand it beyond its own HQ, although you can bet that it’s pretty high up on the list of inevitable things or the company.
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Ever since Allerta released an SDK for its well-hyped inPulse smartwatch, it was only a matter of time before we start seeing more practical applications that take this Bluetooth peripheral beyond the BlackBerry ecosystem. For instance, the latest example comes from the inPulse’s very own Lead Designer Eric Migicovsky, who happens to be a fan of Facebook Places and possibly an Android convert. Rather than having to pull out his Nexus One for every check-in, Migicovsky can now use his simple app on his inPulse to grab a list of nearby locations off the phone, and then check in with just a click of a button. Pretty neat, eh? For those interested, you can grab the project code off inPulse’s website and get programming.
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We’re honestly surprised it took this long, but Google is finally employing a social hook that so many of its peers (Foursquare, Facebook, Yelp, and so on) have long embraced: the location-based check-in. Coming to Google Latitude with today’s Maps 5.1 for Android, the company hopes to set itself apart from the competition with features like check-in notifications (disabled by default), automatic check-ins for your most frequent establishments (case-by-case activation), and “check out” that detects when you leave a location.
So what’s the incentive to use the service? Not much at this point — no badges, no sharing through third-party services like Twitter (Latitude-only at the moment), no support for simultaneous check-in with other services, no special vendor discounts (Google told us there’s nothing to announce yet), and no ability to create a venue like your apartment (Places only). What it does right is a tiered system of special statuses based on check-in frequency — you can become a regular, VIP, or Guru (Google says it’s not definite yet on how many check-ins each status bump will require). iOS Latitude users will be able to see where their Android friends check in, but at this point the option to pimp your specific location is for Google’s platform only. If you’re a fan of Latitude already, this is probably a no-brainer, but for everyone else, don’t expect mayoral coffee discounts just yet.
Gallery: Google Latitude joins check-in game with Maps 5.1 for Android
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Startup god Dave McClure weighs in with a reality check on Foursquare and the latest tech craze:
for all u nosebleed-valuation VCs jockeying to finance the dorky geniusues at FourSquare, GoWalla, and every other LBS [location-based services] vendor / app developer out there, it’s time to face the music. while i admit everyone at SXSW (including me) was tweet-whoring themselves all over Sixth & checking-in like a sex worker at a Fuller Brush convention, let’s not delude ourselves — the current method of check-ins are a classic case of early-adopter lust for shiny objects, & they have not a damn thing to do with long-term sustainable mainstream consumer behavior. no way any normal motherfucker is gonna do this check-in shit.
So Dave thinks location-based services are toast?
He thinks there’s going to have to be a financial incentive for people to play ball:
Without financial incentives or discounts, there is absolutely no reason on god’s green earth to “check-in” for your stoner cousin, your luddite penny-pinching aunt, and certainly not your clueless grandmother. they could give a rat’s ass about your stupid little iPhone app with the pretty pictures and clever auto-discovery that barely works while draining the hell out of the battery… that is, until you give them $5 off their next beer or 5-dollar foot long…. at which point guess what?HELLO, MAINSTREAM CONSUMER MARKET!
while there may be ways to simulate financial incentives & discounts with virtual goods, frequent flier miles, or other point-based systems & jedi mind tricks & psychological motivations, nothing works better to increase conversion than a cool $5 bucks in your digital wallet, or 20% off your next offline purchase.
if you don’t believe me, go take a look at the history of PayPal jump-starting initial account signup incentives with $5 discounts for joining, referring friends, and entering profile & bank info.
Now, you’re going to want to go read Dave’s whole post, because there’s a lot more there. Basically, Dave thinks the eventual winner in this space is going to have to spend a BOATLOAD of money to make it happen–on the order of $500 million.
Dave also makes a lot of cool predictions, like Facebook buys Foursquare, Apple buys Gowalla (or whichever one Facebook doesn’t buy), Google buys Twitter and Yelp, Microsoft buys something and flops, and…
Facebook wins.Go read it >
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