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Apple's iPhone Emergency-Mode Processor & Features Patent


On June 11, 2009, the US Patent & Trademark Office published an Apple patent generally relating to a method and system for prolonging emergency calls on the iPhone. The patent also details how an emergency phone call is made more difficult to disconnect by accident, how it preserves battery life by disabling non-essential hardware components – and how emergency mode enables emergency-phrase buttons on the iPhone that could easily communicate with an emergency operator your location (supported by GPS), a specific condition and/or the fact that you're unable to speak due to your emergency condition.


The iPhone's Emergency-Mode Processor




In Apple's patent FIG.1 we see a schematic of the iPhone's communication subsystem architecture (104) which includes an emergency-mode processor to process emergency calls. Once an emergency call is initiated, the iPhone's emergency mode mechanisms kick in to prolong the length of the emergency call and avert premature termination.


Preserves Battery Life by Disabling Components


The iPhone's emergency-mode processor may also preserve battery power by disabling non-essential hardware components, reducing power to the touch screen, disabling software applications, and/or reducing processor speeds. A non-essential hardware component may correspond to any hardware component that is not necessary for the emergency call to be conducted. For example, non-essential hardware components may include Bluetooth and Wi-Fi transceivers, secondary I/O devices, and/or camera sensors. However, hardware components that may be helpful in emergency situations, such as a GPS transceiver, may continue to be active in emergency mode.


Preventing Emergency Call Disconnect


To prevent an inadvertent end to the emergency call, the emergency-mode processor may make the emergency call harder to disconnect. For example, if the user presses a button to disconnect an emergency call, the emergency-mode processor may query the user for confirmation before disconnecting the call. The confirmation may be in the form of a button, a code or password, a verbal acknowledgement, and/or other input by the user. The emergency-mode processor may even disable the user's ability to disconnect the call. As a result, the call may only be disconnected by someone (e.g., an emergency operator) on the other end of the emergency call. Further, the user may select settings to specify the level of difficulty and the methods of disconnecting emergency calls. The user may also select settings for each individual emergency number. For example, the user may disable the ability to disconnect a 911 call while activating a disconnect confirmation in other emergency calls.


Enabling Emergency Phrase Buttons


The iPhone's emergency-mode processor may also enable emergency phrase buttons to shown on the display.  In one example, the emergency phrase buttons are used by the user to communicate that they're unable to speak. In one or more embodiments of the invention, the emergency phrase buttons allow preset and/or pre-recorded audio clips of phrases to be played in the emergency call. Certain phrases may be included with the iPhone and/or specified by the user. In addition, the phrases may be stored as audio files on the iPhone or generated in real-time using the iPhone's speech synthesizer. For example, if the user is choking, the user may press an emergency phrase button that states his/her physical condition to a 911 operator. For example, a preset or prerecorded message could clearly communicate that the user has asthma and contain additional information about effective treatments specific to the user. See FIG. 2C below.


The user may also press buttons to communicate other information, such as his/her location (via GPS), and/or request the 911 operator to contact a friend and/or family member.




The numbers stored in the emergency number list may include, for example, police stations, fire stations, medical emergency lines, crisis hotlines, emergency family numbers, and/or work-related numbers.


Alternatively, the user may manually designate a call as an emergency by pressing a button, using a voice command, and/or providing other input upon connecting the call. If the call is an emergency, an emergency mode is activated (operation 308). If the call is a normal call, the emergency mode is not activated and the call is conducted normally.




Apple's patent FIG. 4 is a flow diagram of the process of activating the emergency mode.


Apple lists Michael M Lee (San Jose, CA) as the sole inventor of patent application 20090149153 


Apple's Emergency Call Warning: Apple's iPhone Emergency Call webpage makes the following statement:


IMPORTANT: You should not rely on wireless devices for essential communications, such as medical emergencies. Use of any cellular phone to call emergency services may not work in all locations. Emergency numbers and services vary by region, and sometimes an emergency call cannot be placed due to network availability or environmental interference. Some cellular networks may not accept an emergency call from iPhone if it doesn’t have a SIM, if you locked your SIM, or if you haven’t activated your iPhone.


Other Patent Applications Published Today: Five additional patent applications from Apple were published today by the USPTO which include several on the subject of a Liquid-Metal Thermal Interface (20090145802, 20090149021, 20090146294), one on systems and methods for operating multi-level flash cells - multiple NAND flash memory cells specifically  (20090147570) – and lastly, a continuation patent on Activity monitoring systems and methods (20090150114) which was covered in Apple's granted patent as reported by us in March. The patent reveals sensors relating to extreme sports.


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