Last Thursday a number of very interesting patents surfaced at the US Patent and Trademark Office that Patently Apple amply covered. Yet a couple of minor yet interesting patent applications came to light that we thought shouldn't go unreported. The first one covers a new schematic mapping system for iOS devices, especially those with smaller displays such as the iPhone and iPod touch. The new schematic mapping technology will present maps that are very much like those that you'd see in a typical subway station. While the subway track itself may actually twist and turn from station to station, a typical subway map only represents the subway route as being in a straight line. Apple wants to simplify the mapping-out of routes for users by providing schematic routes to destinations. The second patent is an interesting one for business travels who would like their iPhone to carry a secondary mobile profile so that they could operate it in a foreign country without roaming charges.
Future iPhones Might Store Multiple Carrier Service Configuration Profiles
In the first invention covered in this report we see that Apple's technical background states that a user of a smartphone could prefer to use their device at different times with different wireless communication service providers. For example, the user could subscribe to a primary wireless communication service provider at home and to a secondary wireless communication service provider when traveling abroad. At present, automatic customization of a wireless communication device's configuration could depend on a limited set of parameters stored in the smartphone, thereby limiting the specificity of customization possible. Current methods can't conveniently offer the flexibility without manual user intervention. Thus there exists a need for a method to configure a smartphone based on a combination of identifiers stored in the wireless communication device to provide a customized configuration of the smartphone.
One of the solutions that Apple's invention covers states that a smartphone could have at least a first authentication code for authenticating a user of a smartphone device to a primary wireless communication service and a second authentication code for authenticating the user of the smartphone to a secondary wireless communication service. In this scenario the primary and the secondary wireless communication services are different from each other and the primary wireless communication service is the user's home wireless communication service, accessing a set of identifier values stored in the smartphone associated with the secondary wireless service when the user is in an area serviced only by the secondary wireless service, selecting a set of carrier service configuration profiles based on combinations of the accessed set of identifier values, configuring the smartphone using one of the selected carrier service configuration profiles, and operating the smartphone in the area serviced only by the secondary wireless communication service without roaming.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 illustrates a representative mobile wireless communication device/smartphone that includes a processor that could access information, such as a set of identifiers, stored in the SIM (a subscriber identity module). The processor could retrieve carrier service configuration profiles 205, also known as carrier bundles, stored in a directory of system files 203 and/or in a directory of user files 204 located in memory 202 of the mobile wireless communication device/smartphone.
Each carrier service configuration profile could include settings customized for configuring the smartphone to operate on a particular wireless communication service provider's network. Carrier service configuration profiles could be general, such as for any user of a wireless communication service provider's infrastructure network, or specific, such as for a select group of subscribers that could access a subset of services offered by an MVNO through a particular wireless communication service provider's infrastructure network.
The smartphone could store many different carrier service configuration profiles at the same time. When the smartphone recognizes a "new" SIM, such as when powering on the device or when inserting a SIM, a set of identifiers in the SIM could be accessed to determine one or more carrier service configuration profiles stored in the system files or user files that could be used to configure the smartphone.
For more details of this invention, see Apple's patent application 20110195700. Apple credits Robert Kukuchka, Shuvo Chatterjee, Arun Mathias and Matthew Klahn. Robert Kukuchka who is currently a platform specialist at Apple used to be a Macintosh Software Developer at Sierra Wireless. Arun Mathias was the Senior Director, System Software and Telephony Software at Palm Inc.
Apple is Considering Schematic Maps for Smaller iOS Device Displays
In the second invention covered in our report we take a brief look at Apple's concept behind a a new schematic mapping service for the iPhone that covers driving directions and other map-related features. A schematic map on a computing device is similar to a subway map one would see on a subway train. While the subway track itself might wind and turn, a typical subway map represents the subway route as a mostly straight line. Further, the subway map often does not have any particular scale and frequently shows every destination approximately evenly dispersed along the route. Thus, a schematic map as discussed in the patent is one that does not adhere to geographic "reality," but rather represents map features in a schematic fashion by illustrating directions as a route made of one or more roads, trails, or ways that can be represented as substantially straight lines instead of by their actual shapes (which would be represented in a non-schematic map by adhering to geographic reality). The schematic map can also be devoid of a particular scale. Thus, in some parts of the map, such as an area of the map representing a destination, such area can be "distorted" somewhat to clearly illustrate important details, while map areas that represent portions of a route where there are no turns or other significant features can be very condensed. In short, the map can be a schematic of the real world that can provide a simple and clear representation that is sufficient to aid a user in guidance or orientation without displaying unnecessary map features or detail that could otherwise clutter a small display space as illustrated in FIG. 1.
Apple's Mapping Usefulness Index
According to Apple's engineers, all of the map features within the region of geographic focus could be ranked by a processor in a usefulness index according to a value system that provides higher values or greater weight to map features that are likely to be the most important features to a user viewing the schematic map. Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted above is a flow chart illustrating an exemplary method of preparing a schematic map.
The usefulness index could be a list or a table or other data structure that organizes the map features according to how useful or important the feature is to the likely purpose of the map. For example, in a schematic map displaying directions, the most important features are those making up the route, i.e., the various route segments. Next would be landmarks that are useful in locating a turn or progress along the route. Other landmarks that a user will see along the route that are useful in general orientation, or that are prominent landmarks, might be ranked next. Small stores or parks that are far off the route might be the least important and ranked lowest in the usefulness index. Map features given a rank greater than a threshold for display can be displayed on the schematic map.
The map features selected for display are used to draw a map (214). Using the example of driving directions, the route could be drawn first. The device could look up vector data for each route or route segment (302). Using the vector data, each route segment could be fitted to a route segment representation (304). As roads in the real world are often not in a straight line, the vector data representing the road will contain information describing the shape of the road. The device processor could interpret this data and ignore the less significant twists and turns of the route and determine an overall direction of travel – as is presented in patent FIG. 1. The processor could then draw the route segment as a straight line that approximates the overall direction of travel along that route segment.
For more information on Apple's schematic mapping invention, see patent application 20110196610. Jaron Waldman and Moran Ben-David are credited as the inventors of this mapping technology. Interestingly, Jaron Waldman was the CEO and founder of PlaceBase before joining Apple's Geo Team. There's an interesting 2008 article on Waldman's PlaceBase over at GigaOM that touches on PushPin which was a new mapping application that he was working on that could overlay demographic and crime data onto maps.
Notice: Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. Apple's patent applications have provided the Mac community with a clear heads-up on some of Apple's greatest product trends including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more.
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Interesting News Tid Bit: MacRumors posted a report on Sunday about a Telephonic MacBook Pro prototype. MacRumors updated their report today (Aug 16, 2011) with more photos of the unit supposedly using MagSafe-like magnets. Whether this ever comes to market is unknown at this time, but Apple has been working on this for some time now (see one, two and three) and has even been granted a patent for such a beast. Apple's latest design hides the MacBook antenna internally which sounds like something Apple would do. Time will tell.