Apple location sharing patent could bring path tracking to Find My Friends

Posted:
in General Discussion edited April 2015
Apple's current Find My Friends app lets iPhone and iPad users spot acquaintances on a map, but an invention detailed on Tuesday takes things to a whole new level with path tracking and route following.


Source: USPTO


Awarded to Apple by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, U.S. Patent No. 8,989,773 for "Sharing location information among devices" describes a method by which an iPhone or cellular-connected iPad can, after authorization, be provided location and path information from another Apple device. This data is visualized as a route on a mapping app, such as Apple Maps, allowing the first user to follow the second user in real time.

With Apple's current Find My Friends app, users can share their location with others based on a set of rules. For example, a first user can share their specific location for a set amount of time, while more advanced features let parents keep track of children using geofence-based alerts.

Tuesday's invention goes one step further and adds path data into the mix. Path tracking, or recording multiple points along a given route, has been a tentpole GPS feature since the early days of portable systems. Certain apps support such functionality, but most mainstream solutions eschew the data, due in part to privacy concerns.

Path data is, however, a powerful navigation aid.




Described in Apple's patent, a first user can grant a second user or group access to streaming path data over any number of communications platforms. Cellular wireless is mentioned, as is routing data through cloud services like iCloud. Other embodiments call for direct peer-to-peer communications like Bluetooth.

Along with a current location marker, the first device can broadcast previous positions that show up as a route on the second device. In addition to the first device's location and path, a suitable user interface would also reveal the position of the second device in relation to the generated route.

Another embodiment called "mirroring" mode lets the second user see exactly what the first user is looking at on their screen, including map features, points of interest and other data all the way down to zoom level.




A third mode configures the second device's UI to receive directions that lead to a location provided by the first device. Spoken or on-display directions do not need to specifically follow a path taken by the first user, however, as a more efficient route may be available based on the second user's location. Thus, directions are generated dynamically on the second device.

Other embodiments include sending voice or text messages back and forth between devices, useful for warning followers of upcoming hazards.

Interestingly, Apple's invention notes either one or both devices can be carried by animals or even robots. Beacon tracking has become a small cottage industry and path tracking would be an ideal solution for moving objects, but issues with battery life and data connectivity leave most solutions wanting.

Apple's friend tracking patent was first filed for in January 2013 and credits Eran Sandel, Elad Harush, and Roman Guy as its inventors.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 12
    singularitysingularity Posts: 1,328member
    "It's good to stalk"
  • Reply 2 of 12
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by singularity View Post



    "It's good to stalk"

    One would hope they take an "opt-in" approach, rather than requring a user to opt out.  Additionally, I would hope that, as appears to be the case with the current functionality, one could restrict it to certain people or groups, and times.

  • Reply 3 of 12
    It is also good for finding someone who has been kidnapped, is lost and more positive motives. What really caught my attention was the reference to animals and robots. Using this technology could help with rescue services enormously! Nuclear power plant cleanups could use guided robots to reach contaminated areas humans cannot go. This is definitely an opportunity-filled patent.
  • Reply 4 of 12
    SpamSandwichSpamSandwich Posts: 33,408member
    Should help make stolen device and kidnap victim recovery a breeze.
  • Reply 5 of 12
    pscooter63pscooter63 Posts: 1,058member

    As the parent of a college kid who recently undertook a solo road trip across half the continental US, this might have been useful, e.g., confirming the intended route for safety's sake... as opposed to having to spot-check in real time.  (Creepy stalkiness aside...)

  • Reply 6 of 12
    Display mirroring sounds interesting. Sure people can shoot a video clip, but seeing a point of interest in real-time... FaceTime? Didn't Apple recently win a video conferencing patent? Research time! ????
  • Reply 7 of 12
    dasanman69dasanman69 Posts: 13,001member
    pscooter63 wrote: »
    As the parent of a college kid who recently undertook a solo road trip across half the continental US, this might have been useful, e.g., confirming the intended route for safety's sake... as opposed to having to spot-check in real time.  (Creepy stalkiness aside...)

    Waze has similar functionality. I monitored my sister's 2 hour trip home this past Sunday. Btw a parent stalking their child is never creepy. ;)
  • Reply 8 of 12
    pmzpmz Posts: 3,433member

    They need to improve the location tracking / reporting in general. I use Find My Friends all the time, and while it works OK when the person/device is stationary, it updates far too infrequently when they are on the move. And it won't let you manually request a location update more often than once per minute.

  • Reply 9 of 12
    pmz wrote: »
    They need to improve the location tracking / reporting in general. I use Find My Friends all the time, and while it works OK when the person/device is stationary, it updates far too infrequently when they are on the move. And it won't let you manually request a location update more often than once per minute.

    I think the key to all this is the battery power/requirement of the iDevice being tracked -- with these two extremes:
    1. a hiker carrying an iPhone with no spare battery
    2. a vehicle carrying an iPhone plugged into a power source

    In the first case, the app running on the tracked iPhone would periodically fire up the [power hungry] GPS and AWiFi radios to get a reasonably-accurate GPS location fix. Then, in the interim, use the sensors in the [low-power] M chip to calculate the delta locations. The locations would be broadcast to the tracking device using the most power-efficient radio available (WiFi, Cell) -- at a frequency designed to balance accurate tracking and sustained tracking.

    In the second case, the app would use whatever supplies the most-accurate and most-frequent tracking while connected to the vehicle's power. When the device is removed from the vehicle's power, it would degrade to perform as in the first case.


    An interesting possibility is that a delivery service, such as UPS, could provide more-granular tracking of package delivery than "Out For Delivery".
  • Reply 10 of 12
    Actually this would be awesome for motorcycle trips where you can see where everyone is and not get lost or worse find them if they have a fall.

    I love the applications for this.
  • Reply 11 of 12
    singularitysingularity Posts: 1,328member
    Actually this would be awesome for motorcycle trips where you can see where everyone is and not get lost or worse find them if they have a fall.

    I love the applications for this.
    A local taxi firm does something like this all ready. On its app you book and then you track it's progress live via maps.
  • Reply 12 of 12
    Alohar's PlaceUs created this many years ago.
    Check out https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/placeus-simplify-communication./id660074361?mt=8

    It's featuered on the frontpage of San Francisco Chronicle's business section: http://www.sfgate.com/technology/article/PlaceUs-app-tracks-and-records-daily-activities-5640361.php
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