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Future iPhones could use 'life events' to manage hardware, software settings

post #1 of 26
Thread Starter 
Apple is looking into technology that would allow an iPhone to detect events in a user's everyday life, like going to church or changes in weather, and automatically reconfigure hardware and software settings to fit the situation.

Event-based Mode
Source: USPTO


Apple's U.S. Patent 8,538.376 for "Event-based modes for electronic devices," granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark office on Tuesday, describes a phone management system that seamlessly controls high level device functions without user interaction.

As noted in the document's language, the portability of handheld electronics has allowed users to take them almost anywhere. Indeed, devices like the iPhone are regularly carried into locations or situations at which certain functions may not be deemed appropriate. For example, a movie theater is not the place to be receiving calls or answering messages.

In other scenarios, a user may want certain data prioritized for easy access. Apple offers a situation in which a device automatically reconfigures a user's contacts list when that person is in another country, assigning a higher priority to information for friends living in that region.

The method uses a host of hardware and software assets to facilitate this automation. Pulling on location data, calendar events, usage patterns, raw data from on-board sensors, and even live information from the Web, the system detects "life events" and responds by switching to a set of predefined modes.

Event-based Mode


These modes of operation are broken down into two main categories: mandatory and permissible. Each category has control over functions like ringer level, powering up components, software management, and more.

A mandatory mode basically limits access to certain device functions based on certain events, such as a parent restricting the use of an iPhone while at home. The restrictions will continue unless a qualification is met, such as a password, crossing over a geolocation threshold, or reaching a determined time.

Permissible modes can be selected by the user after the system has successfully detected a life event. For example, when a user enters a new location, the system can offer available modes to choose from.

Event-based Mode


As for event detection, the process can occur on the fly, with sensors picking up sound, light or location data about a user's immediate environment. In another embodiment, the detection module can monitor usage patterns to predict when a certain mode should be activated. For example, if a user consistently visits a church every Sunday, the mode associated with that event is selected every week at the same time.

When a detected event is associated with an event-based mode of operation, it is referred to as a "zone." An obvious example of a zone is a physical boundary that triggers a certain mode of operation. A "hands-free" zone may be defined by location data for states that don't allow drivers to use cell phones while in a vehicle. Operational modes associated with this zone could include the disabling of phone functions while in the zone, or the mandatory use of a hands-free headset.

Event-based Mode
Illustration of location-based zones.


Other zones may be based on a user's environment. Weather conditions pulled from the Web can be used to initiate a certain operating mode that could select the best route for travel in poor conditions.

News-based zones can also be established such that a user's contacts are rearranged, pushing their accountant's phone number to the top of the list when a stock market crash is detected, for example. Similarly, a contacts list can also be reconfigured in a calendar-based zone, bringing up information for a friend or family member who is celebrating a birthday.

Zones can overlap, such as location-based and calendar-based zones. This can cause conflicts if a location-based zone informs a device to remain silent, perhaps at a movie, while a news-based zone calls for an alert. To avoid confusion, zones carry priorities that can dynamically override another zone's mode of operation.

Event-based Mode


Finally, users can manually configure zones, their associated modes, priority ratings and other functions. Alternatively, zones can be uploaded to, and subsequently downloaded from, a central server that can disseminate this data to multiple handsets. This repository can automatically compile and define zones using data from multiple devices, then determine a suitable or popular mode in which another connected device can operate.

Further refinements and backend systems details are included in the filing.

While the forthcoming iOS 7 does not implement technology from today's event-based modes patent, smartphone automation is a field of interest to Apple, as evidenced by previously filings. Most recently, a 2012 application for a "situationally aware" iPhone went past the USPTO's desk.

Apple's event-based modes patent was first filed for in 2007 and credits Michael M. Lee, Justin Gregg and Casey Maureen Dougherty as its inventors.
post #2 of 26
Oh man I'd love to have something like this. Hopefully it's not years away.
post #3 of 26

Most of the times, when I see patents... I feel like they write algorithms on COMMON SENSE and take rights on it. 

 >> When I go to temple/church I will mute my phone. But this is a patent. :) Cool.

 

But, it is good. Common sense is not so common:  I see people's phone ringing while prayers going on.

post #4 of 26

My employer (and others, I assume) uses "life events" to refer to events that permit me to change my benefits, e.g. death in the family, new child, etc. 

 

In other words, I wildly misread this headline!

post #5 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rogifan View Post

Oh man I'd love to have something like this. Hopefully it's not years away.

 

This is already available thru some apps, albeit limited to specific contexts.

post #6 of 26

With the recent scare and uncovering of all the surveillance going on, it seems a bad point in time to talk about introducing features that automatically combine location, calendar and other data to determine certain functions of the device.

I am not sure this will be particularly popular with the majority of users.

Matyoroy!
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post #7 of 26
If in New York, Siri will only respond to "Find me the nearest cawfee."
post #8 of 26

At first glance when I read the headline and caption, I said Gimmick!  Why do I want my phone to tell me I am at church when I am looking right at it. LOL

post #9 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oflife View Post

If in New York, Siri will only respond to "Find me the nearest cawfee."

Lemme guess tea gives you a headache. lol.gif
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post #10 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by macminiwii View Post
 

At first glance when I read the headline and caption, I said Gimmick!  Why do I want my phone to tell me I am at church when I am looking right at it. LOL

 

Because most people never look up from their phones. This *technology* may be the only way to make them aware of their immediate environment.

post #11 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by StruckPaper View Post
 

 

Because most people never look up from their phones. This *technology* may be the only way to make them aware of their immediate environment.

 

Then they need a "Here comes a BUS" app. Look Up. lol

post #12 of 26

I'd be pretty happy if Apple would just create customizable notification profiles that I could manually select, much less 'life event' based profiles. I still use a BlackBerry for my work mobile because the iPhone has nowhere near the granularity for notifications.

post #13 of 26
In a movie theater? Ringer off.
In a moving car? No outbound texting.
In a conference room at the office? Ringer off.
Between 100-10,000 off the ground? Airplane mode.
post #14 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Oflife View Post

If in New York, Siri will only respond to "Find me the nearest cawfee."

 

LOL.  I have an English accent.  I find myself switching between American & British Siri.  When I can't get the British voice to understand me - yes, it happens - I resort to the American one.  You should hear me trying to say certain words with an American accent.  I actually crack up laughing and end up not getting very far.

post #15 of 26
If indeed Apple chooses to implement this technology, they're going to have to be really careful with it. There is a tremendous amount of potential for user frustration here. Nobody wants their phone automatically changing settings in a way that they didn't permit, or forcing users to interact with their phone in a certain way in a certain place regardless of their preference - even if it might be better for them or others (movie theaters, hands-free). I'm sure if Apple chooses to use this technology, they will be very smart about it. In a way that respects the user, and not restricts the user. There is always danger in smart phones being too smart. Fortunately, I have faith that Apple is smart enough to avoid this.
post #16 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by leesmith View Post

In a movie theater? Ringer off.
In a moving car? No outbound texting.
In a conference room at the office? Ringer off.
Between 100-10,000 off the ground? Airplane mode.

You live next to the sea, in the US, where you're always alone in the car, do you?

Matyoroy!
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post #17 of 26
Great idea. Someone needs to teach etiquette. But Contacts can't even pick up and fill in location or city from previously entered data. Duh! Fix and improve what's there now?
post #18 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by G-News View Post

You live next to the sea, in the US, where you're always alone in the car, do you?

What does the sea have anything to do with it? Maybe he has short commute.
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"Just because something is deemed the law doesn't make it just" - SolipsismX
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post #19 of 26

Sea level.  Wouldn't work if you lived in Denver.

post #20 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by morrolan View Post

Sea level.  Wouldn't work if you lived in Denver.

Ahh gotcha, though I believe much of the country is close to sea level.
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post #21 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by Hoobitron View Post

If indeed Apple chooses to implement this technology, they're going to have to be really careful with it. There is a tremendous amount of potential for user frustration here. Nobody wants their phone automatically changing settings in a way that they didn't permit, or forcing users to interact with their phone in a certain way in a certain place regardless of their preference - even if it might be better for them or others (movie theaters, hands-free). I'm sure if Apple chooses to use this technology, they will be very smart about it. In a way that respects the user, and not restricts the user. There is always danger in smart phones being too smart. Fortunately, I have faith that Apple is smart enough to avoid this.

Agreed. The technology sounds amazing and useful, but I bet there would also be a real temptation to turn use of these controls over to external partners. I could imagine, for instance, Broadway theaters in NYC (where cell phone use is actually illegal) paying good money to leverage this sort of technology to disable certain public nuisances such as illegal video or photography, ringers, etc. Or in churches. Or hospital waiting rooms. Or in new cars. It would seem like a natural step to some at first, enforcing rules and protecting copyright by standardizing signals to allow or disallow certain smartphone functions in public spaces. But in certain situations the authorities leveraging those restrictions could also abuse them to silence protestors etc. And there are already such things as cell scramblers.

Not trying to overreact, just thinking ahead. If I thought of it then certainly others would (or have) too. A great idea and a powerful tool but one that should be cautiously provided to consumers only.

As described in the actual patent application, it looks amazing, building upon some of the awesomeness of the GPS features in the Reminders app.
post #22 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by G-News View Post
 

With the recent scare and uncovering of all the surveillance going on, it seems a bad point in time to talk about introducing features that automatically combine location, calendar and other data to determine certain functions of the device.

I am not sure this will be particularly popular with the majority of users.

 

I'm reminded of Benjamin Franklin's comments about trading freedom for temporary security, but while he may have represented many in his day it seems that 21st century Americans are far more interested in convenience and staying "connected". Most don't seem to care who is reading all their texts, email, Google searches and Facebook posts, and some even welcome 24/7/365 surveillance.

 

Today we're tracked by ISPs, advertisers, push notification companies, Google, the NSA, the intelligence agency in your country if you're not American, etc. You probably have credit cards, store loyalty cards and other things tracking everything you buy too. In the urban areas of the UK you're on camera every time you step outside. Even if you unplug and move to the wilderness away from all regular flight paths a satellite is sure to spot you from time to time.

 

But does surveillance really provide safety or just the illusion thereof? I think we'd all be much safer in Amish-style villages than our electronically monitored cities and towns.

post #23 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by G-News View Post
 

With the recent scare and uncovering of all the surveillance going on, it seems a bad point in time to talk about introducing features that automatically combine location, calendar and other data to determine certain functions of the device.

I am not sure this will be particularly popular with the majority of users.

 

It might seem that way to intelligent people, but frankly, most people just don't think through the consequences of their actions enough to care. In today's world, convenience trumps common sense.  Like Bregalad says, most people don't seem to care (or don't understand) that almost all of their electronic communications and transactions are being recorded, monitored, analyzed and stored for future uses that are yet to be determined.

 
Features like this are certainly technological whiz-bang marvels, but they are scary for us as a society, and as human beings.
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post #24 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by djames4242 View Post

I'd be pretty happy if Apple would just create customizable notification profiles that I could manually select, much less 'life event' based profiles. I still use a BlackBerry for my work mobile because the iPhone has nowhere near the granularity for notifications.

What BlackBerry device are you using? I have a BlackBerry Curve which was issued by my current employer. The BlackBerry Curve feels like going back a decade in time compared to even an iPhone 4S.
post #25 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by MacBook Pro View Post


What BlackBerry device are you using? I have a BlackBerry Curve which was issued by my current employer. The BlackBerry Curve feels like going back a decade in time compared to even an iPhone 4S.

 

I've also got a Curve. And for the most part, it does seem somewhat archaic, but unlike the iPhone I can set up message filters based on subject, sender, content, etc and flag those messages and base my notifications on those filters. When I was in operations I set up notification filters so I would be woken up when I received emails that a system was down, but not for the other hundred messages I would get in an evening.

 
I love my iPhone, but there's no easy way to set that up in iOS. The only (kludge) I've found is to set up a third-party email filter that uses notification center for alerts, but that won't work with my corporate email.
post #26 of 26
Quote:
Originally Posted by djames4242 View Post

I've also got a Curve. And for the most part, it does seem somewhat archaic, but unlike the iPhone I can set up message filters based on subject, sender, content, etc and flag those messages and base my notifications on those filters. When I was in operations I set up notification filters so I would be woken up when I received emails that a system was down, but not for the other hundred messages I would get in an evening.
 
I love my iPhone, but there's no easy way to set that up in iOS. The only (kludge) I've found is to set up a third-party email filter that uses notification center for alerts, but that won't work with my corporate email.

I can barely figure out how to answer telephone calls on the BlackBerry Curve. I still haven't figured out how to read text messages or listen to my voicemail and forget trying to browse websites. I shouldn't need to read a manual for a few simple functions.

I use IFTTT and Growl for filters on the iPhone. If you are using Microsoft Exchange there are considerable rules options in Microsoft Outlook including the web client.
Edited by MacBook Pro - 9/21/13 at 2:57pm
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