Apple's 'indoor traffic' concept would estimate wait times at the airport, grocery store, DMV, more

Posted:
in General Discussion edited February 2015
Apple's interest in indoor positioning technology could go well beyond just identifying a user's location, by offering estimated wait times at a variety of businesses, allowing iPhone users to adjust their schedules and save time by avoiding high-traffic periods of the day.


Apple's concept would help users to avoid heavy foot traffic. Photo via Flickr user David Morris.


Apple's concept was disclosed in a newly published patent application discovered by AppleInsider on Thursday entitled "Enhancing User Services with Indoor Traffic Information." Apple's proposed invention would use a mobile device like an iPhone to collect not only location information, but also the time and speed associated with people moving in a building.

Using this data, Apple could estimate the foot traffic and wait times at a variety of locations, ranging from the airport to the grocery store to a restaurant.

Apple's smart system would even be able to adjust reminders and calendar events to improve the efficiency of a user's day. The indoor mapping system could also suggest the best times to visit a business, or suggest which of several businesses to visit.




For example, if a user needed to visit the Department of Motor Vehicles, Apple's technology could determine which office has the shortest lines at any given time, and advise the user to visit that location.

In the event that the location cannot be changed, such as when the user has a flight scheduled, Apple's system could alert the user with reminders and give them a suggested time to arrive at the airport. Doing so would allow users accommodate for heavy traffic and help ensure that they arrive at their gate on time.

Apple's system would measure traffic by tracking data from a user's iPhone, measuring their movement over time. Those movements would be used to determine how long it takes for people to move through a specific location, estimating how long the lines might be at that particular spot.

"The server can determine how long mobile devices (and their users) loiter around locations of interest or remain in a queue," the filing reads. "For example, the server can analyze the indoor traffic information to determine how long (e.g., on average) mobile devices have to wait near a cash register location."




Apple's filing is particularly interesting because the company has already made it clear it's interested in indoor positioning technology, thanks to a number of key acquisitions. In particular, Apple purchased "indoor GPS" company WifiSLAM in 2013 for $20 million, and hired the CEO of indoor navigation company Wifarer last year.

The iPhone maker has also filed other patents describing how it could use Wi-Fi access points to triangulate a user's location indoors, allowing for 3D positioning within buildings. The technology is necessary because traditional GPS is unreliable, and frequently completely unusable, when inside a structure.

Apple's new indoor traffic patent application, published this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in August of 2013. The proposed invention is credited to Ioan Vlad Uilecan and Sarin Shreyas Mehta.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 26

    I'm really getting sick of patents for obvious shit. I've got prior art from four years ago on this.

  • Reply 2 of 26
    I'm really getting sick of patents for obvious shit. I've got prior art from four years ago on this.

    Were you the first to file? Because that's how the patent process works now.
  • Reply 3 of 26
    rogifanrogifan Posts: 10,669member
    I'm really getting sick of patents for obvious shit. I've got prior art from four years ago on this.

    Well this is a patent application so if there's prior art for the specific claims in this application then it won't be approved.
  • Reply 4 of 26

    I've contacted our legal team, fwiw. I've been hesitant to submit many inventions in the past because I felt the solutions were obvious, but that's the way business works these days. I've had my employers patent my stuff just for the purpose of collecting licensing fees in a business area that my employer wasn't even interested. I really dislike that part of business.

     

    I totally support patenting true innovation, but everyone just racing to patent the next obvious step is very annoying.

  • Reply 5 of 26
    I've contacted our legal team, fwiw. I've been hesitant to submit many inventions in the past because I felt the solutions were obvious, but that's the way business works these days. I've had my employers patent my stuff just for the purpose of collecting licensing fees in a business area that my employer wasn't even interested. I really dislike that part of business.

    I totally support patenting true innovation, but everyone just racing to patent the next obvious step is very annoying.

    If you failed to file before Apple did, you're out of luck:

    "When is a U.S. patent or a published U.S. or PCT application available as prior art? (Question: FITF1145)
    A U.S. patent, a published U.S. application, or a published PCT application designating the United States is available as prior art on the date that the U.S. patent or published application is “effectively filed.” The date that a U.S. patent or U.S. or PCT published application is “effectively filed” is the earlier of: (i) the actual filing date of the U.S. patent or U.S. or PCT published application; or (ii) the filing date of the earliest application to which the U.S. patent or U.S. or PCT published application is entitled to claim a right of foreign priority or domestic benefit, and which describes the subject matter."

    http://www.uspto.gov/patent/laws-and-regulations/america-invents-act-aia/america-invents-act-aia-frequently-asked
  • Reply 6 of 26
    ecsecs Posts: 307member
    Will this apply to WC lines? If your watch knows your needs, and a server knows the lines status, you could follow your watch and behave as automatic as a sim! I just can't wait to see this, Tim! And then they say streetview is freaky. Ha!
  • Reply 7 of 26

    Yeah, I know. I'm indifferent, as we're not in competition with Apple for anything, and we'll still be able to do our thing. The state of intellectual property law annoys the hell out of me though.

  • Reply 8 of 26
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by ecs View Post



    Will this apply to WC lines? If your watch knows your needs, and a server knows the lines status, you could follow your watch and behave as automatic as a sim! I just can't wait to see this, Tim! And then they say streetview is freaky. Ha!

     

    I think the big challenge is the AI that will be needed to predict and respond to changes in line/traffic status, then propagating that out to people who are en route. Current TSA wait time is irrelevant when I'm 35 minutes from the airport. As it is now, I usually click the "routes" button in Waze before major navigation decisions, just to make sure the situation hasn't changed.

     

    Google Now has a nice "time to leave for your flight" feature that seems to always pop up when I'm zipping up my bag to leave for the airport. The problem is that it's entirely possible for recurring traffic changes to impact the commute time.

  • Reply 9 of 26
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,249member
    It is a brave New World. I can see Siri saying, 'Now wold be the optimal time to join the line'. As an aside, I wonder if one day Apple products will schedule an appointment themselves at the Apple repair center when they feel sick? :D

    Google's version of this is they'd offer to get everyone using their free service to their desired ending point with in X minutes. If you pay an extra fee you get routed ahead of all those using the free service.
  • Reply 10 of 26
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,249member
    I think the big challenge is the AI that will be needed to predict and respond to changes in line/traffic status, then propagating that out to people who are en route. Current TSA wait time is irrelevant when I'm 35 minutes from the airport. As it is now, I usually click the "routes" button in Waze before major navigation decisions, just to make sure the situation hasn't changed.

    Google Now has a nice "time to leave for your flight" feature that seems to always pop up when I'm zipping up my bag to leave for the airport. The problem is that it's entirely possible for recurring traffic changes to impact the commute time.

    Here's the thing ... If a lot of people are using predictive AI algorithms to avoid the blockages, they themselves become part of the data pattern and the AI has to feed back into the system its own users thus creating a feed back loop!
  • Reply 11 of 26
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post



    It is a brave New World. I can see Siri saying, 'Now wold be the optimal time to join the line'. As an aside, I wonder if one day Apple products will schedule an appointment themselves at the Apple repair center when they feel sick? image



    Google's version of this is they'd offer to get everyone using their free service to their desired ending point with in X minutes. If you pay an extra fee you get routed ahead of all those using the free service.



    The problem is that you'd see a wave of Apple users all showing up at the same time.

  • Reply 12 of 26
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by digitalclips View Post





    Here's the thing ... If a lot of people are using predictive AI algorithms to avoid the blockages, they themselves become part of the data pattern and the AI has to feed back into the system its own users thus creating a feed back loop!

     

    Yep, unless there's queue capacity to handle all traffic, then someone using the system has to be the first one to be delayed by traffic. Waze only works if someone using Waze gets stuck in traffic.

  • Reply 13 of 26
    They can't even do outdoor traffic yet. or find places using Siri on the map that Google Maps easily finds. or provide good directions.... they should get that right before they tackle indoor mapping....
  • Reply 14 of 26
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by justanotherfan View Post



    They can't even do outdoor traffic yet. or find places using Siri on the map that Google Maps easily finds. or provide good directions.... they should get that right before they tackle indoor mapping....



    Is it 2012 for you still?

  • Reply 15 of 26
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,354member

    Fix traffic lights. Many cars stopped at a red, while the green light glares at empty streets. How much fuel is getting wasted; how many hours lost?

  • Reply 16 of 26
    eightzero wrote: »
    Fix traffic lights. Many cars stopped at a red, while the green light glares at empty streets. How much fuel is getting wasted; how many hours lost?

    Traffic circles are supposedly much more efficient at keeping traffic moving.
  • Reply 17 of 26
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,354member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post





    Traffic circles are supposedly much more efficient at keeping traffic moving.

    I agree. But this is hardly a scaleable solution. 10s of thousands of intersections (in the US alone) and in an urban environment simply not an option at most.

     

    Some sensors some wiring some electronics some software. Done. Sent a man to the moon 45 years ago on <32kb. Yeesh.

  • Reply 18 of 26
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by eightzero View Post

     

    Some sensors some wiring some electronics some software. Done. Sent a man to the moon 45 years ago on <32kb. Yeesh.


     

    I can't stand that we don't have such a system in place. The software is not simple though, and the path through municipal acquisition is risky for a business.

  • Reply 19 of 26
    eightzeroeightzero Posts: 2,354member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by waterrockets View Post

     

     

    ...The software is not simple though, and the path through municipal acquisition is risky for a business.


    I think they said the same thing about Apollo... hehe

  • Reply 20 of 26
    MacProMacPro Posts: 18,249member
    Traffic circles are supposedly much more efficient at keeping traffic moving.

    I think they are unless they are like the ones I came across in Florida 25 years ago that some bozo designed so the traffic entering had right of way not the traffic already on the roundabout. Talk about a bugger's muddle!

    They seem to have all been fixed now.
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