On December 1, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals an all new way of sharing data quickly and securely between two or more devices in consumer, retail and/or enterprise applications. Apple's new system will be used on hardware sporting next generation cameras capable of reading invisible inks and optical coatings – which will hold a special key code. On the iPad, the secret security code for sharing data could be hidden in its face side bezel where no one could even see it. The next generation digital handshake is envisioned to work in future retail stores and pharmacies and work with social networking sites like Twitter, Loopt, or 4square. And to top it all off, the new system will allow users to quickly log in to other devices using their iPhone – which sounds very cool indeed.
Apple's Patent Background
Electronic devices could be used to store any suitable information, including for example, media, application data (e.g., contacts or calendar events), text and number documents, or combinations of these. In some cases, the devices could operate one or more applications that could provide particular functionality to the user of the device. For example, applications could relate to one or more of games, e-books, business, education, finance, healthcare, lifestyle, navigation, news, productivity, reference, social networking, sports, utilities, travel, and weather. Using the electronic devices, users could generate or access information that a user may wish to share with others.
Users could share information using several different approaches. A user could send an email, text or media message, or other message over a communications link, where the information to share is incorporated in the message. The receiving user could then view the information from communication, and copy and paste the information as desired.
In some cases, two electronic devices could instead or in addition form a direct communications path. For example, two electronic devices can share a key over a communications network (e.g., a passkey in a Bluetooth network), and establish a secure communications path. But that approach could require a user to generate or enter a key. Yet once established, users are able to share information such as photos, contacts and/or calendar events.
The issues not covered are ease of sharing information and security.
Simplifying a Digital Handshake between Two Devices
Apple's invention is about systems, methods and computer-readable media for establishing a communications path between two devices using a digital handshake.
Utilizing iOS Cameras to Establish a Digital Handshake
To establish a secure communications path, two devices could share seeds or keys to generate a single digital handshake key. The devices could share the keys using any suitable approach, including for example providing the keys in a manner that an image captured by each device could include the other device's key. For example, devices could be placed opposite each other (e.g., face-to-face, face-to-back, or back-to-back) such that a camera of the device includes the other device in its field of view.
A first device could determine which region of the first device is visible to a second device using any suitable approach. In particular, the first device could use any approach to determine the field of view of a second device camera. In one implementation, one or more cameras of the first device could capture images of the device environment. The first device could process the captured images to detect a second device in the field of view, and to identify one or more cameras of the second device.
Based on the orientation of the second device, and the position of the camera in the second device as shown in the captured images, the first device could extrapolate a field of view for the second device cameras, and determine which portion of the first device is in the field of view. The first device could then determine whether a dynamic key or seed, provided on the display, is in the field of view of a second device camera.
In Apple's patent FIG. 4 shown above, the electronic device could instead or in addition provide a key, seed, or other information used to generate a secure communications path, on the display. For example, the electronic device could display a code (e.g., bar code 422), image, text, number, or other information on the device display. When the other device captures an image of the device display, the device could process the captured image to retrieve the code or key.
Hiding the Key in the Bezel of an iPad
An interesting twist is found in the patent whereby the handshaking security code could be hidden the iPad's Bezel (or any future iOS devices with a dark glass bezel). The patent states that "the bezel, housing, or a mask on the display (e.g., a dark region of a glass window not used to provide information) could include a key or a seed from which a key could be generated (e.g., by applying a time dependent algorithm to the seed). The key or seed could be encoded using any suitable approach, including for example as a number, image, code, or combinations of these. For example, electronic device 402 could include code 420 incorporated in the bezel.
Hiding the Key in the Apple Logo or using Specialty Invisible Coatings
In Apple's Patent FIG. 5, the key or seed could be embedded on a portion of the enclosure that is not visible from an image of the front face of the device. Instead, the key or seed could be embedded on a back surface of the enclosure (e.g., the housing), or on a side surface of the enclosure (e.g., as part of a bezel or band). To view the key or seed, a first electronic device may need to face a back surface of a second electronic device.
Each electronic device could include any suitable information embedded or incorporated in a back surface of the enclosure for generating a key. For example, electronic device 504 could include a code 520 embedded along a side or back surface of the device enclosure. As another example, a code or key could be incorporated in a logo or text applied to the back surface (e.g., logo 522).
The code or key could include, for example, a portion of a serial number, device ID, or other identifying information. In some embodiments, an optical coating could be applied to a back surface to incorporate a key in existing text (e.g., text required by federal regulations), such that the key is only visible to a camera having an appropriate filter or light source.
The key or seed could be embedded in the device enclosure using any suitable approach. In some embodiments, a key could be printed, etched, adhered (e.g., an adhesive-backed film), engraved, or incorporated in the enclosure using any other approach.
To ensure that the enclosure remains aesthetically pleasing, the key could be incorporated in a manner that is invisible or near invisible to a user looking at the enclosure. For example, the key could be very small. The camera could include appropriate circuitry for analyzing the image of a region of the housing that includes a key (e.g., a known region where keys are typically or always embedded). Alternatively, the camera could include a zoom for specifically concentrating on the key region of the enclosure.
As another example, the key could be provided using a material, coating, (e.g., applying a particular ink) or process that is not or is minimally visible under normal or standard lighting conditions. The camera used by the device, however, could include one or more filters, a flash or other secondary light source (e.g., an infrared or UV beam) that could reveal a hidden key. For example, a camera could include an IR light source for revealing a key printed using an IR ink. As another example, the camera could include a filter for detecting light emitted at a specific frequency corresponding to the color of the key, where the key color is slightly different from the other portions of the enclosure.
Social Networking and Gaming Applications
Apple's patent FIG. 12 shown below is a schematic view of an illustrative display of a digital handshake application. Display 1200 could title 1202 with information 1212 indicating properties of a communications path used by the device. For example, information 1212 could include attributes of the communications path (e.g., bandwidth, security level, or network speed), the other devices on the communications path (e.g., with which the device can communicate), or combinations of these.
Using display 1200, a user could transmit or share any suitable type of information to another device including a video, photo, a contact, calendar event, share a text or email message.
Apple covers social networking which is a premium target application. As another example, a user could share gaming information while playing a game on the device. Apple's patent FIGS. 13A and 13B are schematic views of illustrative displays corresponding to applications that could be used to share information over a communications path established by a digital handshake.
The electronic device could use any suitable application to share information, including for example a social network application (as shown in FIG. 13A) or a game (as show in FIG. 13B). Display 1300 could include title 1302 indicating that the display corresponds to a social network. Title 1302 could identify a particular social network service (e.g., Twitter, Loopt, or 4square), or a particular type of social network service (e.g., micro-blogging). The display could include information 1312 indicating the one or more devices or users with which a communications path is available.
Display 1350 could include title 1352 indicating that it is a game display. In some embodiments, display 1300 could include a background or options corresponding to a game played by the user. Using a communications network, the electronic device could identify one or more other users or devices connected to the electronic device and available for playing a multiplayer game with the user.
VPN and Sharing at Work
In some embodiments, an electronic device could share copies of documents or other information stored by the device in a work environment. For example, an electronic device could share media (e.g., photos, audio, or video), e-books, text content, web-browsing history, contact information, calendar events, other application data, or combinations of these. The shared information could be provided as links to the user's device (e.g., streaming information) or as copies of the information. In some embodiments, access to some shared information may be restricted unless all users have purchased access (e.g., acquired a license) for the information.
The secure communications path could be created over any suitable network. In some embodiments, the communications path could include a secure communications network. For example, an electronic device could create a secure communications network, where the digital handshake key is required to join the network (e.g., a WiFi network). In particular, a primary electronic device could broadcast a network ID and allow other devices having the secure key to join the network. In some embodiments, the communications path could instead or in addition include a specific path on an existing communications network. For example, the communications path could include a VPN, secure channel, or other limited access communications path (e.g., communications secured by SSH) provided over a public communications network that any device having appropriate circuitry could access (e.g., a cellular communications network). The communications path could use any suitable component of the communications network, including for example one or more cellular towers, routers, repeaters, or combinations of these.
Passwords and Biometric Security
In some embodiments, options 610 and 612 could instead or in addition relate to access to information stored by the electronic device. For example, options 610 and 612 could define one or more folders or applications to which another electronic device will have access. As another example, the options could define specific file types or metadata tags corresponding to authorized or unauthorized data. In some embodiments, options 610 and 612 could define one or more passwords or secondary security systems (e.g., a biometric output) for providing access to secured information.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 is a schematic view of an illustrative display for confirming access to a communications path.
Retail Applications and Quick Log In
According to Apple, the digital handshake could be used to identify a user wishing to acquire goods or services. For example, a digital handshake could be used to purchase or retrieve prescription medicine for a particular user, or to enable the release of funds or of previously purchased or stored goods.
In relation to Apple's patent FIG. 14 shown below, device 1420 could be associated with a third party or a service that the user of device 1410 wishes to use. For example, device 1420 could be associated with a store from which the user could make purchases (e.g., purchase goods or access to a location or good), a service provider (e.g., a doctor or an accountant) from which a user can purchase services, an agency (e.g., a government agency providing IDs or other user-specific privileges), or combinations of these.
In one implementation, device 1420 could be associated with a pharmacy in communication with a doctor's office. A doctor can transmit a prescription for a user to the pharmacy for pickup, where the prescription information is associated with identifying information for the user. In one implementation, the identifying information could include a key or seed associated with a device (e.g., device 1410) of the user, where the seed or key is used in a digital handshake process. When the user goes to the pharmacy to pick up the prescribed medicine, device 1420 of the pharmacy could authenticate the user's device 1410 by creating a secure communications path between the devices using the digital handshake protocol, and retrieve the medicine associated with the user. In some embodiments, the use of the digital handshake could serve as a signature for the user of device 1410 (e.g., an e-signature).
Apple's Patent FIG. 14 is a schematic view of an illustrative device system for authenticating using a handshake protocol. In one implementation, a handshake protocol could be used to log into a second device (e.g., a desktop or notebook computer) from a first device (e.g., a portable device or cellular telephone). More generally, the first device could be used to release information available from a second device.
System 1400 could include first device 1410 and second device 1420. For example, device 1410 could include an iPhone. Device 1420 could be a MacBook, an iMac, a terminal, a portable device, a media player, Apple TV or any other electronic device.
In some embodiments, device 1420 could be connected to one or more peripheral devices, such as a printer (e.g., for printing tickets). Each of devices 1410 and 1420 could include a camera to perform a digital handshake as described above.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q2 2010 by inventors Caroline Cranfill and Marcel Van Os.
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