iPhone patent applications reveal better Find My iPhone, social matching, and a way to stop users from recording concerts(?!) [Patent Roundup]

A few interesting patent applications from Apple have recently surfaced, showing they have some bold ideas surrounding Find My iPhone, social-matching, and a way to lock the camera so we can't make bootleg concert recordings and plaster them on YouTube (?!).

Reminder: Apple, like any big company, routinely patents just about anything and everything they dream up, and there's no way to know when, or if, they'll use any them in actual, shipping products. Still, it's interesting to see what they're working on deep inside the secret Cupertino labs...

Follow on after the break for the roundup!

Find My iPhone

First off, Apple has applied for a patent describing a much more control-oriented Find My iPhone feature with additional security and deeper system integration. Find My iPhone currently lets users remotely lock their iPhone, wipe their data, locate the iPhone on a map or send a personalized message to the device.

This is all nice, but Apple may decide to up the ante and provide much deeper control for the corporate and enterprise environment and better assistance for recovering a lost iPhone.

  • Selective data scrambling and wiping lets users define whether to scramble certain data or to wipe specific data instead of clearing the entire device. Users can avoid wiping all data by scrambling emails, contacts etc making the data unusable, or selectively wiping only sensitive data while keeping other data intact.
  • Unauthorized user detection is a method of detecting when someone other than yourself has tried to access your iPhone after a certain number of incorrect passcodes have been entered. Once the threshold has been met, the iPhone puts itself into a higher security mode with surveillance options for transmitting audio and video from the front-facing camera, thus giving the owner a higher probability of recovering the lost iPhone.
  • Limited functionality allows for locking down an iPhone by turning off certain features, letting an unauthorized user perform tasks with limited capability and functions. The owner can the device to disable cellular data, phone, SMS and other capabilities as to not incur charges on their monthly phone bill. It also offers a function to disable VPN capabilities for better protection of corporate data if the device is lost or stolen.

Making friends just got easier

A second new patent application reveals that Apple has some ambitious ideas to make the process of finding friends with similar interests a lot easier. Tapping into location data, interests, books and other data stored on the iPhone will help match you up with other iPhone users with similar interests.

Social networks are a well known phenomenon, and various electronic systems to support social networking are known. Growing a social network can mean that a person needs to discover like-minded or compatible people who have similar interests or experiences to him or her. Identifying like-minded people, however, often requires a substantial amount of and time and effort because identifying new persons with common interests for friendships is difficult. For example, when two strangers meet, it may take a long and awkward conversation to discover their common interests or experiences.

Common interests and experiences of two or more users located close to each other can be identified from content, including automatically created usage data of the mobile devices. Usage data of a mobile device can be created based on activities performed on the mobile device (e.g., songs downloaded), a trajectory of the mobile device (e.g., places traveled), or other public data available from the mobile device (e.g., pictures shared).

All of this would be opt-in to help avoid privacy concerns, but the location-based services are quite interesting to say the least. As an example, if you tend to visit a specific coffee shop in your town, your iPhone could match you up with another iPhone user who also frequents that location. The idea is to make it easier to discover like-minded people and help spark up friendships that wouldn't otherwise be as easy to start.

Recording at concerts is a no-no

Lastly, Apple plans to build a system that will determine when users are trying to record or stream live video at concerts and events, and subsequently turn off camera functionality on the device. It works by using infrared sensors that can tell when people in the crowd are recording and sends a signal to the device to disable the camera. Users would still be able to send and receive text messages, calls, data etc.

That... seem a little "Big Brother" to anyone else?

[Patently Apple, MacRumors, The Sun, thanks Steven!]

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Andrew Wray

Andrew Wray is a Salt Lake City, Utah based writer who focuses on news, how-tos, and jailbreak. Andrew also enjoys running, spending time with his daughter, and jamming out on his guitar. He works in a management position for Unisys Technical Services, a subsidiary of Unisys Corporation.

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Reader comments

iPhone patent applications reveal better Find My iPhone, social matching, and a way to stop users from recording concerts(?!) [Patent Roundup]


The friend finding stuff sounds very interesting. I personally have thought this would be a great idea. But I really don't like them trying to disable the camera when I am in a crowed. It isn't Apple's job to keep us from breaking laws. What if I am at a concert and want to record a video of my friends dancing? This can't possibly make it to production. If it does then thank god I always jailbreak. :)

How would the phone tell the difference between a concert, and some other crowded event where people record, such as maybe a Tea Party, where it is perfectly legal to record?

It can't. Concerts, political gatherings, police officers, then finally the "bad guys" will get these transmitters.
Stupid idea, and Apple would be stupid to implement.

Who does the camera disabling feature possibly appeal to? Venues/promoters? Why in the world would Apple possibly care about their concerns? Was this some sort of agreement between Apple and the music labels when they signed the iCloud contracts?
That really strikes a negative chord with me. Apple should not be implementing restrictions that go against the interest of their customers, unless they're required to do so by the FCC/government.

Spot on.
Further, no other vendor is likely to follow Apple down that road, so why even bother patenting it? If they ever implemented it it would be a brand destroying move. People would buy ANY other brand.
OR... Was it so that no one else can patent it, thereby preventing it coming to any smartphone?
Yikes! Did I just credit Apple with a shred of altruism?
I must be off my meds!!

Surely you could just put the iPhone into "Airplane Mode" when recording a concert and it would work fine?

The camera disabling is not for concerts, but for government. Many states are making it a crime to record a police officer during the conduct of his/her duties, and/or making up charges when somebody does record. Links are recent cases in LA - teen charged with "attempted lynching" for filming police beat a student) Miami (police held man at gunpoint when he filmed police shoot somebody, then broke his cel phone, but not before man palmed his SD card), and Chicago (man facing 15 years for filming his own arrest).
Now, I doubt Apple is doing this specifically at the behest of the police, but you are damn naive if you do not think these infrared transmitters will not become part and parcel of police gear, or that they will not be placed outside of all manner of public areas, in the name of stopping terrorism.
There is very little that would make me jailbreak post-IOS5, but this would be one of them.

how would the concert thing work? like how do they no if you are recording a concert or just your friends/band singing.
shady deal, i really hope this doesn't go anywhere

I have a nice little dance floor in my living room when my wife and I host parties....so would this mean that I wouldn't be able to record my friends and family having a good time and dancing because of all the dance lighting and loud music? Almost time to ditch the iPhone and go elsewhere if this happens.

Seriously, some of you need to get a grip.
Apple has patented thousands of things that they've never implemented into a single device. Most of their patents are, in all actuality, meant to deter competitors from implementing those features, and, aside from that, they also patent thousands of things so they can license them out to other companies at a nice profit.
Anyone who thinks Apple has any intention of implementing every patent it applies for needs to take a nice big pot of coffee up to the patent office and read through the thousands of patents Apple now holds on things that are so blatantly not intended for their products even a child should be able to decipher the difference.

I have to admit, if they do prevent concert recording, I'd be very disappointed. I am a new iPhone user and have only had one for a couple months. I previously had a Blackberry which recorded decent sound but low-quality video, and I had two Android phones that recorded good-quality video but horrible sound. Now I have the iPhone which records clear sound and great video...this would be very disappointing!

I have never jail broken my iphone, but if this infered signal is sent from the band area into the audiance to disable my camera. Hand me my skull and cross bones flag and hat.

The camera thing will never happen on iDevice. Apple is not stupid enough to implement it. It's just opinion of the writer.

so its great being able to scramble data make limited functionality but theres still one option to anyone who has a computer and itunes restore you have a new phone that has full functionality

I'm really annoyed by the concert thing. Suppose I wanted to take a picture of my self with my friends and not of the stage. I hope they don't put that on there OS , thats just a little too much.