On April 25, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that generally relates to future iPhones being able to locate your vehicle in a multi-tiered parking lot. In fact, Apple states that a "parking location" can be any place where a vehicle can be parked, stored, or docked. For example, in the case of a boat, a parking location can refer to a berth in a marina; in the case of an aircraft, a parking location can refer to a location at a municipal airport (e.g., outdoors or in a hangar). The vehicle can go beyond a car and it could be useful in trying to find a bike that you've parked. This new parking system application is likely a sub-system of a broader application. Part one of Apple's future automotive-application was covered in our first patent report of the day titled "Apple Reveals Advanced Automotive Access & Control System." It's pretty clear that Apple's acquisition of WifiSLAM will definitely play a role in the development of this application.
Patent Background on Bluetooth LE
Today, many computing devices currently incorporate interfaces that support various wireless communication standards. For example, many interfaces currently support communications based on the Bluetooth protocol. The Bluetooth protocol, in general, enables point-to-point wireless communications between multiple devices over short distances (e.g., 30 meters). Bluetooth has gained widespread popularity since its introduction and is currently used in a range of different devices.
In order to allow Bluetooth to be used in a greater variety of applications, a low energy variant of the technology was introduced in the Bluetooth Core Specification, Version 4.0. Bluetooth Low Energy (LE), in general, enables devices to wirelessly communicate while drawing low amounts of power. For example, devices using Bluetooth LE can often operate for more than a year without requiring their batteries to be recharged.
Locating a Vehicle in a Parking Structure
Apple's invention generally relates to a portable computing device that can be used to locate a vehicle in a parking structure. In particular, the portable computing device can communicate with a parking system that manages the parking structure and/or with a vehicle in order to locate the vehicle. In certain embodiments, communications between the portable computing device, parking system and vehicle can be based on one or more wireless connections, such as Bluetooth and/or Bluetooth LE connections. Apple's patent FIG. 1 shown below illustrates a system including an iPhone, a parking system, and a vehicle
The Guidance System
Apple's patent FIG. 2 shown below illustrates system 200 which includes a portable computing device 102, a parking system 104, and a vehicle 116. Apple notes that in some embodiments, the iPhone can include additional modules, such as global positioning system (GPS) modules, battery modules, motion detection modules, device orientation modules, magnetometer modules, three-dimensional gyroscope modules, connector modules, audio modules, three-dimensional video processing modules, acceleration detection modules, camera modules, and/or the like. This is where Apple's investment in WifiSLAM could come into play by allow the user to visualize their proximity to their car in the parking lot and guide them to it visually on their iPhone in real-time.
More specifically, the iPhone can store a map and/or other guidance information for the parking structure. In some embodiments, the map can be used to generate guidance instructions. In some embodiments, the guidance information can include information suitable for generating a visual representation of the parking structure on a display (e.g., a touch screen). Illustratively, the guidance information can include information that enables generation of a three-dimensional representation of the parking structure that shows the structure's general layout.
The guidance instructions can indicate that a user "walk to the third floor," "walk left for 60 feet," etc. The guidance instructions can be generated in any suitable manner. For example, portable computing device 102 can compute the guidance instructions based on the shortest path from the start point to the end point, taking into account locations of stairs, elevators and walkways. The iPhone can additionally compute the guidance instructions based on user preferences, e.g., whether a user prefers to use stairs rather than an elevator, requires disability access and so forth.
Apple states that a future iPhone with these capabilities will display a "My Car is Parked" or a "Find my Car" button on the iPhone's display to start the app which includes a 3D map and so forth.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 is a diagram showing an exemplary parking system (e.g., parking system 104 shown in FIGS. 1 and 2) according to an embodiment. As shown in FIG. 4, the parking system can include a server 402, wireless sensor 404, wireless sensor 406, and elevator subsystem 408. In some embodiments, the parking system can include other subsystems, such as a payment subsystem (think iWallet), an entertainment subsystem, and/or the like.
Noted below is Apple's patent FIG. 9 illustrates an exemplary configuration of a parking system.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 shown above is a flow diagram of a process 700 for locating a vehicle according to one embodiment. Apple's patent FIG. 12 shown below is a flow diagram of a process usable by a parking system to locate a vehicle
While Apple's patent focuses their application applying to a car, the fact is that Apple clarifies that a "vehicle" can be any suitable transportation machinery, such as an automobile, a truck, a bus, a tractor, a golf cart, a go-kart, a motorcycle, a scooter, a bicycle, a motorized bicycle, a boat, a watercraft (e.g., a jet-ski), an aircraft, a lawn mower, a snowmobile, and/or the like. A "parking location" can be any place where a vehicle can be parked, stored, or docked. For example, in the case of a boat, a parking location can refer to a berth in a marina; in the case of an aircraft, a parking location can refer to a location at a municipal airport (e.g., outdoors or in a hangar).
Apple credits Brian Tucker, Emily Schubert, Jesse Dorogusker, Joakim Linde and Stephen Chick as the inventors of this patent application which was originally filed under serial number 278035 in Q4 2011.
It should be noted that our patent report is based on Apple's "Detailed Description" segment of their patent application. To review Apple's patent claims, see Apple's patent filing. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing to market of such an Apple product is unknown at this time.
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