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Apple Reveals Advanced Automotive Access & Control System

1. Cover, Apple Patent Application for Accessing a Vehicle with an iDevice
On April 25, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new automotive access and control system that will primarily be found in future iPhones. Last June we posted a report that revealed Apple's in-vehicle initiative with nine major auto companies to integrate Siri into popular vehicles regarding "Hands Free Navigation." Today we learn that Apple's work may be going far beyond just integrating Siri and that's major news. Apple's patent filing reveals that future iPhones will be able to open your car door, start your engine, shut off your engine for specific time frames, be able to program complete personalized car settings and much, much more. The depth of these integrated services can't be done in a vacuum, which clearly indicates that the collaboration between Apple and a number auto companies has been quite elaborate.

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.


Using an iDevice to Enable Access to a Vehicle


Apple's invention generally relates to a portable device that can be used to enable access to a vehicle. The portable device can additionally configure other portable devices to enable access to the same vehicle. In certain embodiments, communications between the portable devices and the vehicle can be based on one or more wireless connections, such as Bluetooth and/or Bluetooth LE connections.


For example, a first or "primary" portable device can receive a vehicle access credential from a vehicle over a wireless connection (e.g., a Bluetooth or Bluetooth LE connection). The primary portable device can thereafter use the vehicle access credential to wirelessly activate the vehicle such that one or more of the vehicle's operations can be accessed.


Illustratively, upon activating a vehicle, a user of the primary portable device can interact with the vehicle to perform certain vehicle-related operations such as unlocking the vehicle's door, starting the vehicle's engine, etc. In some embodiments, the primary portable device can additionally transmit the vehicle access credential to a second portable device (designated herein as the "secondary" portable device) over a wireless connection (e.g., a Bluetooth or Bluetooth LE connection, a Wi-Fi network, or a cellular data network). Thereafter, the secondary portable device can use the credential to activate the same vehicle such that one or more of the vehicle's operations can be accessed.


In certain embodiments, the primary portable device can place limitations or restrictions on the secondary portable device. For example, the primary portable device can limit the types of vehicle-related operations that are accessible when a vehicle is activated by the secondary portable device.


Advanced Security: A Vehicle Won't Start without the iDevice Access Credentials


In some embodiments, a vehicle can only be operated so long as an activating portable device is present. For example, a vehicle can be configured such that its engine cannot be started unless a portable device with an appropriate vehicle access credential is detected. In this way, an activating portable device can act as the security point for the vehicle.


Limiting the Hours of Operating Your Vehicle


Interestingly, Apple notes that the usage parameters can limit or restrict the manner in which a vehicle's operations can be accessed when a secondary portable device has been used to activate the vehicle. For example, the usage parameters can limit the accessibility of a vehicle's operations to a certain period of time e.g., one hour from transmission of the vehicle access credential, between the times of 1 pm and 3 pm or overnight so that a thief can't start the engine.


About Vehicle Access Credentials


A vehicle access credential can be any value, data, or information suitable for determining whether a device is authorized to activate a vehicle. For example, a vehicle access credential can be or include one or more access tokens, access keys, access codes, access information, cryptographic keys, data signed using cryptographic keys, and/or the like.


To clarify, a vehicle-related operation can be any operation supported by a vehicle. For example, a vehicle-related operation can be an operation to unlock a vehicle's doors, unlock a vehicle's storage compartment, start a vehicle's engine, activate a vehicle's audio or audiovisual entertainment system, activate a vehicle's global positioning system (GPS), activate a vehicle's dashboard console, turn on a vehicle's passenger compartment lights, adjust a vehicle's seats, turn on a vehicle's headlights, open a vehicle's sun roof, turn on a vehicle's windshield wipers, activate a vehicle's automatic parking system, activate a vehicle's wireless communication system, and/or the like.


Personalized Car Settings


In some embodiments, the vehicle-related operation can include a personalization operation, in which the vehicle automatically adjusts an environmental setting (e.g., seat position, mirror position, temperature controls, settings for an audio or audiovisual entertainment system) based on the received vehicle access credential and/or on the particular portable device from which the vehicle access credential is received.


Quick Overview of the System


Apple's patent FIG. 1 illustrates system 100 including a primary portable device 102, a secondary portable device 104, and a vehicle 106 is illustrated with the vehicle and each device including a wireless communication interface and other key components.


2A. Accessing a Vechicle using an iDevice

The primary and secondary portable devices can each be any portable device with a wireless interface, such as a laptop computer, a tablet device, a key fob, a car key, an access card, a multi-function device, a mobile phone, a portable gaming device, a portable multimedia player, a portable music player, a personal digital assistant (PDA), a household device, and/or any portable or non-portable electronic or electro-mechanical device and/or the like. For example, portable devices could be an iPod, an iPhone or an iPad.


The "vehicle" noted as # 106 below, can be any suitable transportation machinery, such as an automobile, a truck, a bus, a train, a tractor, a golf cart, a go-kart, a motorcycle, a scooter, a motorized bicycle, a boat, a watercraft (e.g., a jet-ski), an aircraft, a lawn mower, a snowmobile, a remote controlled device (e.g., remote controlled car or airplane), and/or the like.


As shown below in FIG. 3, the vehicle's access control system can include Bluetooth module 302, controller 304, and storage module 306.


3A. Accessing a Vechicle using an iDevice

Apple's patent FIG. 8 is a flow diagram of a process usable by a primary portable device to enable a secondary portable device to access a vehicle.


4A. Accessing a Vechicle using an iDevice

Patent Credits


Apple credits Brian Tucker, Emily Schubert, Jesse Dorogusker, Joakim Linde and Stephen Chick as the inventors of patent application 20130099892 which was originally filed 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.


A Note for Tech Sites Covering our Report: We ask tech sites covering our report to kindly limit the use of our graphics to one image. Thanking you in advance for your cooperation. 




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A Patent Flashback


The graphic presented below is from one of our 2010 patent reports that described a future iPhone being able to open doors to your hotel room or office. Today's patent extends that thinking to the car.


7. Extra, Flashback to a 2010 patent in context with Today's report

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Hopefully Siri can understand us better or this wont be a great experience.

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