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!]