Friday, June 22, 2012

How Apple Passbook Works

Vidit Bhargava
Apple released their latest iteration of iOS, last week at the WWDC 2012. Amongst many enhancements (which included a completely new vector based maps tool too) the announcement of a new inbuilt app called Passbook was slightly side lined. What exactly is Passbook? Or How is it going to change our Wallets?

Passbook is a pre-installed iOS 6 Application which will let you view your digital gift cards, coupons, boarding passes, shopping cards, etc. You can then use them instead of their offline counterparts.

Say you book a travel ticket, and receive an online boarding pass via email. Now at the airport you’ll have to search through your emails for that boarding pass and then get it scanned. Apple simplifies this task with the Passbook tool. The Airlines can create a Passbook based boarding pass and share it to you via email, which you can then open in your passbook application. Once in the passbook app, your new digital boarding pass will be updated real time. Also when you are near to the airport a push notification will come up at your lock screen, through which you can instantly access the pass!

Passbook can also store your movie, sports tickets, gift cards, store cards or whatever that qualifies as a coupon, pass or ticket.

Here’s how it works: The developer creates a passbook pass using Apple’s Pass-Kit API and then shares it to the user via Email, URLs or an iPhone App. The User then opens up the pass (ticket, coupon or card) on his phone, which takes him to the Passbook app and the pass is stored. Now the user can get push notifications for his pass. (For Example, if a certain store whose store card is in your passbook is near by, a notification will come up on your phone telling you that a certain store is in the vicinity, you can then open it to use it, as you enter the store)

Passbook is sure to provide a very productive future to the iOS Users. Almost certainly the weight of wallet is going to drop a bit, as you get rid of all those membership cards and gift coupons and instead store them on your phone.

But Passbook is a little far from perfect. There is a certain lack of availability of advanced 2D Bar Code Readers at many places. Currently Passbook Passes are restricted to embedding 2D or QR Bar Codes only, this is going to demand inputs from the companies to install the new and more expensive 2D Code Scanners at their shops. Here Developers might have to step in, by providing necessary hardware for many of their clients. The same is going to be a problem with many other countries all over the world. So if major outlets are willing to provide these services, they’ll need to actually have proper hardware first.

The success of the Passbook depends on how companies take steps to utilize it and how fast they install the necessary hardware. With Passbook Apple is not trying to digitalize your wallet but its creating a tool for online Passes. Much like what Adobe Reader is to PDF files, Passbook is to Digital Passes (only those created via Apple’s Pass-kit!)

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