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

Posted:
in General Discussion edited October 2014
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.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    Oh man I'd love to have something like this. Hopefully it's not years away.
  • Reply 2 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.

  • Reply 3 of 26
    arlorarlor Posts: 528member

    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!

  • Reply 4 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.

  • Reply 5 of 26
    g-newsg-news Posts: 1,107member

    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.

  • Reply 6 of 26
    If in New York, Siri will only respond to "Find me the nearest cawfee."
  • Reply 7 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

  • Reply 8 of 26
    oflife wrote: »
    If in New York, Siri will only respond to "Find me the nearest cawfee."

    Lemme guess tea gives you a headache. :lol:

    [VIDEO]
  • Reply 9 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.

  • Reply 10 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

  • Reply 11 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.

  • Reply 12 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.
  • Reply 13 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.

  • Reply 14 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.
  • Reply 15 of 26
    g-newsg-news Posts: 1,107member
    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?

  • Reply 16 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?
  • Reply 17 of 26
    g-news wrote: »
    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.
  • Reply 18 of 26

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

  • Reply 19 of 26
    morrolan wrote: »
    Sea level.  Wouldn't work if you lived in Denver.

    Ahh gotcha, though I believe much of the country is close to sea level.
  • Reply 20 of 26
    hoobitron wrote: »
    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.
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