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Apple Extends iDevice Emergency Mode Options using Touch ID for 'Panic' and 'Private' Mode Operations

10.4 - Patent Application


In 2009 Apple's first emergency-mode processor invention came to light. Then in March 2014 Apple invented emergency iPhone modes to detect personal attacks, accidents and emergency call assistance. Today the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office published another emergency related invention from Apple that reveals a future Touch ID feature that will cover a 'Panic Mode.' If the user is under duress to open their iPhone, the user can designate a particular finger imprint on their iPhone dedicated to this new Panic Mode which would lock the iPhone down in key areas where personal data is concerned from anyone trying to access such content. In other implementations, the user may register particular fingerprints to be associated with different modes of operation and activate the different modes based on the particular fingerprints.


Panic Mode: Emergencies


Apple notes in patent filing that a specific finger may be used to unlock the mobile device into a panic mode. The panic mode is a unique mode of operation that is registered to be associated with one or more specific fingers of the user (referred to as panic fingers). During times of distress, the user may use a panic finger to unlock the phone into the panic mode. In certain embodiments, the panic mode provides a mode of operation that limits access to a portion of information stored on the mobile device as a method of protecting data on the device during emergencies or situations during which personal information is more susceptible to mishandling.



In certain implementations, after activation of the panic mode, the mobile device unlocks the screen and displays a user interface that appears to be in a normal operating state, detecting and responding to user input corresponding to interaction with the mobile device. However, Apple notes that some embodiments do not use any indicators or feedback to show that the panic mode has been activated.


When the mobile device is unlocked into the panic mode, personal information items are not accessible. Personal information items include a phonebook, contacts, emails, documents, messages, communication logs, photos, videos, schedules, supplementary services, etc.


For example, the mobile device appears to have been restored to factory default settings, wherein any information in erasable memory is deleted or the same as factory settings. The mobile device would appear empty and applications would appear not to have any personal information (e.g., no access to user-level data). From the perspective of the user, the mobile device appears and operates like a brand new phone.


In some embodiments, the processor, in the panic mode, activates the camera(s) of the mobile device which allows the camera to discreetly capture photographs and/or record video. By means of the mobile device's camera, a photo, a series of photos or a video may be captured of the situation or person(s) acting in a threatening manner that led the user to activate the panic mode. Moreover, the mobile device may be set to automatically take and transmit photos or videos via the Internet to be stored a remote server. For example, the photos or videos may be emailed or otherwise transmitted to the remote server. For transmission, any type of transmission designed to move captured information from the mobile device to another location is acceptable. Wireless Internet, Ethernet, or other network connections can be used to transfer the captured information to a different device or site (e.g., remote server).


Alternatively, the photos or videos may be stored on the memory of the mobile device if network connectivity is not available using the wireless network connectivity module. This allows emergency response providers that monitor the remote server to view the stored photos and determine an appropriate response. A photograph of the user can also be transmitted, taken with the phone or loaded from an existing photo in the mobile device's memory to the remote server for assistance in identifying the user of the mobile device. Further, any stored photos or videos on the remote server can be supplied to a responding police force for assistance in responding to or following up on the panic mode.


In some embodiments, the panic mode includes audio recording and relay. When the panic mode is activated (e.g., by fingerprint authorization as described above) the device can begin audio recording and immediate transmission of the audio, as desired. The user of the mobile device can start verbally describing the wrongdoer. In many instances, the wrongdoer will be known to the user. In such a case, the user can merely state the known wrongdoer's name. In other cases, the user can start providing a verbal description of the wrongdoer. The audio recording and transmission proceeds in an uninterruptible manner similar to that described above for photo capture and transmission. In some example, a service provider can forward the audio and/or image data to law enforcement to assist in intervening in suspicious or criminal behavior or in apprehending the wrongdoer.


Panic Mode 2: Non-Emergency, Private Mode


Apple tells us that not all situations require all of the panic mode functionalities as described above. In another example, a specific finger may be used to unlock the mobile device into a private mode.


The private mode is a unique mode of operation that is registered to be associated with one or more specific fingers of the user. During times of distress that do not necessarily rise to the severity of an emergency, the user may use a private finger to unlock the phone into the private mode. In certain embodiments, the private mode provides a mode of operation that limits access to personal information stored on the mobile device as a method of protecting data on the device during situations during which personal information is more susceptible to mishandling.


For example, during situations where the mobile device is more likely to be stolen but when the user does not feel physically threatened to require active panic beacons (e.g., during foreign travel), the private mode may be activated for peace of mind. For example, upon entering a bar or night spot where the mobile device may be more likely to be stolen, the user can activate private mode by scanning the designated finger.


Deactivating the Panic Mode


Apple notes that in certain implementations, once the device has been activated into the panic mode, it may be desirable to provide mechanisms for deactivating the panic mode.



With reference to FIG. 5, there is shown a flow diagram illustrating an embodiment of a method 500 for deactivation of the panic mode. The method starts at operation #502 in which a user input is provided to request deactivation of the panic mode.


Creating Motion Movements Signals Instead of using Biometrics


For example, the specific finger used to unlock the mobile device into the panic mode may be used for deactivation. In addition to the biometric reader, mechanisms (other than fingerprints) may capture movement of a user's finger to deactivate the panic mode, according to an implementation of the present disclosure. The particular finger motions may include, for example, a circular motion, a rectangular motion, a swipe motion (up, down, left, right motion), a combination of different swipe motions, or any motion that would be appreciated by a person of ordinary skill in the art.


Such motions may be pre-stored in the device and configured by the user. For example, the user may use a circular motion indicates that the user desires to exit out of panic mode. Any combination of the user defined gestures or fingerprinting may be used to deactivate the panic mode.


Apple patent application 20150319294 was originally filed in Q2 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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