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Apple Developing 'Grab & Go' Application for Life in the Fast Lane

On November 5, 2009, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals various concepts behind a newly advanced application in development code named Grab & Go. Apple's patent introduces us to simplified data transfer technologies such as Near Field Communication Interface and Sony's new TransferJet. The new application will allow users who live in the fast lane to transfer data quickly between devices like their desktop and iPod by simply tapping their iPod against an iMac, for example. The new application will also allow users to transfer data quickly from Apple TV to an iPod, from a gaming console to an iPod and so on and so forth. The patent also discusses sending complicated or simple files to MobileMe with yet another app dubbed Revisit. The new app will allow users to review their downloaded information using Cover Flow which is a very cool idea. This is the most in-depth patent of 2009 and the extent of detail would suggest that this is going to be a major new iPhone app hopefully for 2010. The extent of the detail also shows the passion that Apple has for this project. This hot new iApp from Apple has tremendous potential for the iPhone – and for giving their competition a headache!




Apple thinks that many people use more than one electronic device from day to day, but transferring data from one device to another may be onerous. For example, a person may want to take an online map found on a home computer with them on their iPhone when they leave the house. Doing so may be complicated or daunting. The techniques described in this patent may allow a person to easily transfer data between two or more devices. Using the techniques disclosed in the patent, a person may transfer an online map from their home computer to their phone by simply tapping the phone to the computer.


Simplified Data Transfer Technologies


In Apple's Patent FIG. 1 below we see an electronic device (10) that may be configured for simplified data transfer. The electronic device may represent, among other things, an iPhone, an iMac, iPod, Apple TV, Apple remote or future gaming controller as shown below in FIGS. 3-6 – and be adapted to perform the simplified data transfer techniques described in this patent. 


Apple's patent FIG. 1 illustrates that the electronic device may include a wired input/output (I/O) interface (24) for a wired interconnection between one electronic device and another electronic device. More importantly, certain embodiments of the electronic device may also include a near field communication (NFC) interface (34). The NFC interface may allow for extremely close range communication at relatively low data rates (464 kb/s), and may comply with such standards as ISO 18092 or ISO 21481, or it may allow for close range communication at relatively high data rates (e.g., 560 Mbps), and may comply with the TransferJet protocol developed by Sony.




Grab & Go Application


As should be appreciated, one or more applications may be open and accessible to a user via iPhone's UI (20). Rather than require a user to undertake a number of complicated steps to transfer the user data from one electronic device to another electronic device, the user data may be automatically transferred with minimal user effort. As such, it should be appreciated that the instructions for carrying out the simplified data transfer of may represent a standalone application, a function of the operating system, or a function of the hardware of the CPU 12, the main memory 14, or the nonvolatile storage 16.


The application that the patent is referring to is a simplified data transfer application that is designated as "Grab & Go" and is represented above as icon number 40 on the iPhone's interface. The selection of icon 40 will allow the iPhone to "grab" data from open applications from another electronic device so the user can "go" with this data.


Apple devices to use NFC


Device State


As described above, the electronic device may take many forms and provide many different functions, yet all are similar to the extent that it may be useful to transfer the state of one electronic device and/or data ton another device.


FIG. 7 is a schematic view of an embodiment of a device state 62, which may represent a device state, e.g., pointers, open applications, and/or associated user data capable of running on the electronic device.



By way of example, the device state, noted as patent point 62 above, may include Apple's Safari web browser, Numbers spreadsheet, a Keynote presentation, iTunes application, stored data on Time Machine etc. and yet should be understood that the device state may include applications by any manufacturer and designed for any platform.


It should be appreciated that the device state 62 may include more or fewer applications than depicted in FIG. 7. Particularly in the case of the iPhone, it could include other types of applications such as Google maps or YouTube. Each of the open applications noted above may have open files or other user data associated with each.


The user may desire to transfer some or all of the user data of the device state from the electronic device that the user is working on to another electronic device in the user's possession. Apple provides a great number of combinations of devices transferring data to each other as note below.


The point made is that rather than manually saving user data associated with each application individually, then manually transferring the user data from the working electronic device to the personal electronic device, the user may transfer the user data from any of the apps noted above (96, 98, 100, 102, 104, 106, 108, 110, and/or 112) of the device state in a simplified manner according to techniques described in the patent.  That appears to be saying that information and/or data could be transferred on demand, quickly, without having to save anything first to get the job done (click image to enlarge).


Various Grab & Go Combinations V2

The Simplified Data Transfer System


As illustrated in patent FIG. 10 below, the simplified data transfer system, noted as patent point 118, principally operates in three phases: initiation, smart prompt and a smart data transfer. Each phase may involve a number of possible steps which, as discussed below, may vary based on preset preferences, available network communication channels between the working device 120 and the personal device 122, or other factors describing the context of the transaction.


Simplified data transfer system

The Initiation: The initiation may begin when the NFC interfaces of the working device and the personal device are placed in close proximity. Alternatively, the initiation may begin via a simplified data transfer application running on either the personal device or the working device.


Grab & Go Application FIGS 17A, B 

Apple's patent FIGS. 17A-C above and 18A-B below illustrate alternative manners of performing the initiation phase.




The Smart Prompt: Following the initiation, the working device or the personal device may or may not display the smart prompt, depending on various factors describing the context of the data transfer transaction.


For example, if factors indicate that both the working device and the personal device are owned by different individuals or that there is a large amount of data to be transferred, the smart prompt may appear on either the working device or the personal device to allow the selection of user data for transfer. Alternatively, if factors indicate that both devices are owned by the same individual and only one application is open on the working device, the smart prompt may not appear on either device and the smart data transfer may begin automatically.


The Smart Data Transfer: During the smart data transfer, the working device may transfer its device state to the personal device. The working device and the personal device may first determine a most appropriate communication channel based on the context of the transaction. For example, a preferred communication channel may be chosen based on factors including shared communication capabilities, available network permissions, and physical proximity.


Simply Tap Two Devices Together to Start a Data Transfer

One of the cooler features is one that simply involves tapping two devices together to initiate a data transfer. The patent states that "in step 450 noted in the flow chart below, the user may, for example, begin the simplified data transfer 114 by tapping the two devices together near their respective NFC interfaces 34. In doing so, the personal device and the working device may begin communication associated with the initiation. In step 452, once the personal device or the working device has issued the smart prompt, the user may select an option to run simplified data transfer software. Finally, in step 454, the user may receive data from the working device on the personal device."



Cover Flow Creatively Used in the Smart Data Transfer


Turning next to FIG. 26B shown below, we see that a visual received data screen may display in the form of Cover Flow by Apple.




With Cover Flow, you'll be able to quickly find the received data that you want to access. Visual descriptions may display an image describing the received data, providing, for example, a screenshot or excerpt of the data of the device state of the working device. With of flick of your fingers, you'll be able to shuffle between the visual descriptions and associated textual description to select the received data of your choice.


MobileMe: Revisit Application


From the information that's actually presented on the Revisit Form in patent FIG. 42 below we see that selected items you could check off would be saved on Apple Servers which translates to MobileMe (double click to enlarge FIG.42).


The screen 620 shown below may include a series of list items having corresponding checkboxes 624. The list items and corresponding checkboxes may enable a user to select particular file types that may be encrypted and sent to the remote storage 460 from the working device. Such file types may include, for example, web pages; Microsoft Office documents; PDF documents; iWork documents; iPhoto files based on events, such as the last imported photos or recently viewed photos; or iTunes files based on events, such as iTunes media files recently purchased or recently played, or files among the top 25 files played on the working device 120. A button 626 may enable a user to set whether or not the working device may periodically update the remote storage, and a button may enable the user to lock desired settings in place. A button 630, labeled "Advanced…," may enable certain advanced preferences, as described below.



Apple patent FIG. 43 may illustrate a screen 632 that may be displayed when a user selects the button labeled "Advanced . . ." The screen may display a series of list items 634, which may represent selected folders of the working device that may not be included in the transfer of the partial device state 572. For example, such list items may include folders containing private documents, banking documents, iChat conversations, email messages, or certain work-related files. A button may enable the user to exclude additional folders by adding them to the list items. Similarly, a button 638 may enable the user to delete any of the list items that the user may want synchronized onto the remote storage. To conclude any changes to the screen 632, the user may select a button, labeled "Done."


It should be appreciated that the functionality provided by the software described in FIGS. 42-43 may be implemented in a variety of ways.


Apple credits Michael Rosenblatt, Gloria Lin, Amir Mahmood Mikhak Taido Lantz Nakajima, Sean Anthony Mayo, Andrew Hodge and Anthony Michael Fadell as the inventors of patent application 20090276547 originally filed for in Q3, 2008.


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Update: February 18, 2010, Apple files a new Near Field Communication related patent. See "Apple Getting Serious about Near Field Communication on the iPhone."


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