As the most profitable and best capitalized company in the world, it is utterly unsurprising that the subject of what Apple is going to do next never fails to interest — a situation doubtlessly egged on in no small measure by the fact that Apple is almost as famous for being secretive as it is for making devices that people love to buy and use.
However much Apple likes to play its cards close to the vest, even Cupertino’s information ninjas are forced to tip their hand every once and a while — a little bit — since patent applications are a matter of public record.
And this June has brought some interesting breadcrumbs for Apple watchers to follow on the hunt for what the world’s most successful tech firm’s next big idea will be. The information ninjas at AppleInsider surfaced two new Apple patent applications — one focused on geofencing and the other describing a form of indoor request-and-answer location notifications. That follows a patent Apple was granted last week for a new viral advertising management system that can track ads or media content as it is shared via different methods across different devices.
So, what’s all this new IP all about? Well, it could be nothing. Plenty of companies file patents and never use the underlying IP. But we know two things.
First, Apple has an amazingly rich patent portfolio when it comes to payments and commerce. It’s a large part of the reason that they ranked highest in our Pii360 innovation benchmarking study.
And second, Apple’s mobile ambition is being fueled by doing whatever it can to make its devices (present and future) all about enriching the shopping, browsing, sharing, texting, buying or selling experience.
We saw some of that ambition a few weeks back at WWDC, and no doubt we will see more this fall. And while the big picture is still emerging, PYMNTS is your guide to Apple’s latest [patent] moves on mobile.
Fun With Geofencing
Geofencing (adjustable visual boundaries based on real-life location data used in conjunction with a variety of other applications) is not new. Remember Pay with Square? Nor is it a new interest of Apple’s — Find My iPhone leverages it, as does its recent push into the Internet of Things.
The new patent filing indicates that Apple is broadening into tangential technology and could theoretically be used to link two (or more) mobile devices to automatically swap data.
But this new customized location notification denotes a change to the iOS that would allow users to set their iPhone to automatically import custom event-based notifications as they move through preset zones.
If this sounds familiar, it is. The Find My Friends app runs on a similar principle — except that it functions more broadly. Find My Friends currently only allows users to send their current location or request alerts when a friend passes over a geofence boundary. The new feature adds text generation and multipoint tracking to the mix.
This all hinges on consent, of course — User 1 requests that User 2 agree to share their location data and to send and receive text notifications (or possibly emails). User 2’s acceptance triggers a custom event notification to be sent from User 1 to User 2. That custom event includes both a description of the event and the option to send further communications.
The short version of all of that?
Let’s say you need your spouse to get paper towels at the store. If this feature is enabled, when he enters the preset zone where the grocery store is, your phone will send you a message telling you that and give you the option of sending your beloved a text telling him to get said paper towels.
If you send that text — and he accepts it — the phone will even plot a route from his current location to the store he’s supposed to go to.
And while this will likely be a good feature for everyone who has ever “forgotten” to go the store on their way home from work because the game was on, they are going to have to work on a much better excuse than a lack of paper towels slipping their mind.
Or never opt into the feature.
Or get a Dash button, push it and have an Amazon drone deliver it.
The Wonderful World Of Triangulated Nodes
Apple’s second patent application this week will also make errands theoretically easier to do by potentially giving you the power to direct your spouse to the aisle with the paper towels once you have sent them to the store.
Titled “Indoor remote triggered location scanning,” this patent details how indoor location info can be shared via triangulation with indoor antennae, meaning someday soon it might be possible to get that aisle-by-aisle update of where people are heading within the store.
The premise of this patent is built on using static nodes deployed at known locations throughout a building working in combination with secondary mobile nodes for fine accuracy refinements.
The secondary mobile nodes? Smartphones.
The patent basically describes those two node sets being interconnected in some way, so that the nodes can be used to triangulate the phone’s location in a store by analyzing the strength of its WiFi to determine the distance between itself and said nodes. This information is used to pinpoint a device’s location within a building.
That info can either go to the device itself or be sent through a P2P connection — much like the one described above.
What, if anything, Apple plans to do with these innovations is, as always, mysterious. Some have speculated that folks from Cupertino have been roaming the U.S. and Europe as part of their ongoing attempts to improve its map. Location services are a part of Apple’s in-house map project — which the firm is known to have sunk tens of millions into already.
But what is clear — with the patent granted last week and their recent announcement of Proactive — Apple doesn’t just want to make your device; it wants to help you navigate the whole mobile experience so that you remain hooked in for life.