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Apple May Advance their "Find My iPhone" Security Feature

Apple Invents Wildly Advanced Bumping Technology

On July 17, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple titled "Bump or Close Proximity Triggered Wireless Technology." Although Apple's Sr. VP of Software Engineering Craig Federighi made light of Samsung's bumping technology during his 2013 WWDC keynote segment introducing "AirDrop" by saying that there was no need to wander around the room bumping your phone with others in order to share photos and so forth, the fact is that bumping technology was long established in previous Apple inventions going back to 2009. Today, Apple takes bumping technology to newly advanced levels. Although Apple notes that it does use peer-to-peer Wi-Fi Direct like with AirDrop in some cases, they also note that they use many other communication standards that could be applied to a wide range of future applications such as e-Commerce, in-vehicle applications and into wild new areas involving vehicle collisions, theft and beyond.


Apple's Patent Background


Wireless communication systems are rapidly growing in usage. Further, wireless communication technology has evolved from voice-only communications to also include the transmission of data, such as Internet and multimedia content.


Wireless communications may utilize various security protocols. Such protocols may prevent unauthorized access to a wireless network, for example. In some situations, it may be desirable to allow some nearby users to access to the network without using the security protocol or automatically authenticate a user's wireless device using the security protocol. For example, two individuals may desire to quickly transfer contact information between their respective mobile devices. As another example, an apartment owner may desire to avoid the time required to find and type a relatively long password to allow guests to access his or her local network, but may also desire to exclude other users in nearby apartments from using the local network.


Further, wireless sensors may be present in many situations where transfer of data could be used to improve security of mobile property. For example, many vehicles include wireless sensors, such as Bluetooth sensors, Zigbee sensors, IEEE 802.11p sensors, and so on. Transfer of data between such sensors may be desirable in order to identify those responsible for vehicle collisions or thefts.


In various situations, it may be desirable to automatically: initiate a connection, authenticate, transfer data, and/or bypass security protocols between wireless mobile devices.


Apple Bump or Close Proximity Triggered Wireless Technology


Apple's patent application relates to wireless devices, and more particularly to wireless communications based on bump conditions and/or close proximity between wireless devices.


Apple's invention relates to techniques for detecting bump conditions and/or proximity between wireless devices and automatically performing various communications functionality based on the detected bump conditions and/or proximity.


As one non-limiting example, a wireless access point may be configured to automatically authenticate with a User Equipment (UE) device based on the UE device bumping the wireless access point and/or being brought into close proximity with the wireless access point.


In one embodiment, a wireless access point includes an antenna, a processing element, and a motion sensor. In this embodiment, the motion sensor is configured to detect a bump condition involving the wireless access point and a UE device. In this embodiment, the processing element is configured to automatically initiate an authentication procedure with the UE device based on detection of the bump condition. The wireless access point may request information about the bump condition from the UE device.


In various embodiments, based on a bump condition and/or proximity, a wireless device may be configured to disabled a security protocol for another wireless device and/or transfer data to and/or from another wireless device. Transferred information may include identification information, advertising information, purchasing information, collision information, time information, and so on.


Apple clarifies User Equipment (UE) (or "UE Device") as being any of various types of computer systems devices which are mobile or portable and which performs wireless communications. Examples of UE devices include mobile telephones or smart phones (e.g., iPhone, Android based phones), portable gaming devices (e.g., Nintendo DS, PlayStation Portable, Gameboy Advance, iPhone), laptops, PDAs, portable Internet devices, music players, data storage devices, or other handheld devices, etc. In general, the term "UE" or "UE device" can be broadly defined to encompass any electronic, computing, and/or telecommunications device (or combination of devices) which is easily transported by a user and capable of wireless communication.


Communication between User Equipment and an Access Point


In a specific example, Apple notes that there are various situations in which entering a password, selecting a nearby device to communicate with, and/or manually initiating a data transfer may be inconvenient. These situations include guests desiring to access a local wireless network, friends who want to quickly transfer particular data between UEs, and users of various devices desiring to trigger various device functionalities, for example.




In Apple's patent FIG. 3 above we're able to see an embodiment of a methodology for initiating communication between a wireless access point (WAP) and a UE. In the illustrated embodiment, UE 106 is tapped to WAP 103 (i.e., brought into close proximity with WAP 103 and/or bumped with WAP 103). Movement of UE 106 is illustrated by the dashed lines in FIG. 3.


Communication between User Equipment




The techniques described above with reference to a UE and a WAP may be implemented between UEs when communication using a peer-to-peer communication methodology. For example, UE 106A and UE 106B of patent FIG. 4 may automatically authenticate or bypass a security protocol based on a tap.


Bump Condition: Vehicle Collision


In Apple's patent FIG. 8 noted below we're able to see an embodiment of a methodology for identifying perpetrators of vehicle collisions. In the illustrated embodiment, vehicles 810, 820, and 830 each include a wireless sensor. The wireless sensors may be included in UEs (User Equipment, e.g., for WiFi, WiFi Direct, and/or Bluetooth communication). The wireless sensors may be included in the vehicles (e.g., for wireless communications through Bluetooth or some other wireless specification between UEs and the vehicle).



In the illustrated embodiment, vehicle 810 collides with vehicle 820, causing a physical bump condition between vehicle 810 and vehicle 820. Based on the physical bump condition, the wireless sensors are configured to transfer information associated with the collision.


The information may indicate one or more of: the time of the collusion, identification information for vehicles that experienced the bump condition, identification information for vehicles that were nearby when the bump condition occurred, the location of the vehicles at the time the bump condition occurred (e.g., as ascertained using GPS units associated with the vehicles) and so on.


The bump condition may be detected by a motion sensor included in a UE (e.g., a UE such as a mobile phone of a passenger in a vehicle) or a motion sensor included in the vehicle itself.


Generally, when a UE detects a bump condition, it may be configured to gather as much information as possible about other nearby wireless devices, which may use various different wireless protocols. Thus, a UE in a vehicle that is a victim of a hit and run may obtain identification information associated with both a mobile device carried by a driver of the perpetrating vehicle and wireless devices included in the vehicle itself (such as Bluetooth devices, for example) as well as information about other nearby wireless devices (e.g., those not associated with either vehicle).


For example, a wireless sensor associated with vehicle 820 may monitor for nearby wireless sensors. A motion sensor associated with vehicle 820 may detect the bump condition and the wireless sensor associated with vehicle 820 may send a packet to detected nearby wireless sensors with information and/or send a request packet for information. Similarly, a wireless sensor associated with vehicle 810 may send and/or request information. Thus, if vehicle 810 departs without exchanging information with the owner of vehicle 820, the owner of vehicle 820 may be able to identify the perpetrator of the hit and run. Similarly, identification of vehicle 830 in this example situation may allow the owner of vehicle 820 to identify potential witnesses to the collision.


Additionally, based on a detected bump condition, one or more nearby wireless sensors may be configured to transmit information corresponding to distances between nearby wireless sensors. Using this information, a mapping of vehicles involved in an accident may be reconstructed. Thus, a motorist who causes an accident by venturing too near another vehicle may be identified, even if he or she is not affected by the accident. This could be handy for insurance companies as is the next example.


In another embodiment, a vehicle may be associated with one or more cameras (e.g., a camera included in a UE inside the vehicle or camera mounted on the vehicle itself). In this embodiment, the camera may capture an image or a video based on a detected bump condition and/or proximity. The images and/or video may be used to identify those responsible for a collision. Similarly, the images and/or video may allow for evaluation of driving skills. For example, drivers who drive too close to other vehicles may exchange data with those vehicles based on proximity, and images and/or video may be used to show the proximity.


Bump Condition: Wireless Payments and Advertising


In respect to wireless payments and advertising, Apple notes that a wireless device may detect taps between the wireless device and other nearby wireless devices.


Based on detecting a tap between a UE and the wireless device, the device may be configured to accept a payment from the UE, e.g., using the Passbook service. For example, a UE user may create an account with such a service and add money or a credit line to the account. A wireless device associated with the service may be placed at a checkout counter. Based on a user placing a UE within a particular proximity of the wireless device, the device may initiate a connection with the UE. The UE and the device may transfer data indicating a payment, such as account information and the amount of the payment.


Similarly, a wireless device may be configured to check-in a user based on the user placing a UE within a particular proximity of the wireless device. Such a wireless device may be implemented at an airport boarding gate, for example. Such a wireless device may also allow a user to "check-in" using a social media application, in order to allow other users to view the check-in location, the number of users checked in a particular check-in location, etc.


A wireless device may also send advertising data to a UE based on movement of the UE and/or calculated distance from the UE. For example, a wireless device may send different advertisement information to a UE depending on where in a particular store the UE is located at a given time (i.e., based on a distance from the wireless device to the UE). Similarly, a wireless device may send different advertisement information to a UE depending on whether the UE has moved recently. Based on movement information generated by a UE, the wireless device may determine what type of user is currently using the UE (e.g., categorized by age, physical characteristics, etc.) and send appropriate advertisement information.


In various embodiments, various wireless devices may be configured to perform various operations based on detecting taps between UEs or between stationary wireless devices and UEs. For example, a printer may be configured to print based on a tap, a door may be configured to unlock based on a tap, etc. (which was covered in an earlier Apple patent.)


Bump Condition: Theft


Apple's patent application also covers techniques related to automatic data transfer based on proximity and/or bump conditions may be used to determine those responsible for various security breaches.


For example, consider a situation in which a man walking down the street is robbed. Based on one or more bump conditions caused by the robbery, a UE on the man's person is configured to request, send, and/or receive information from nearby UEs. The information may include motion information in order to determine another UE involved in any struggle involved in the theft (e.g., the robber's UE). The information may include identification information that may be used to identify the robber and/or nearby witnesses to the crime.


In one embodiment, such techniques may be used to determine information regarding vehicle thefts. For example, in response to a detected a bump condition, a vehicle may transmit a request packet requesting a packet from a known UE (e.g., a UE associated with the owner of the vehicle). If the vehicle does not receive a response to the request packet (e.g., because the bump condition was caused by an intruder stealing the vehicle), the vehicle may be configured to sound an alarm and/or exchange information with nearby wireless sensors (e.g., information regarding the time of the theft and identification of nearby vehicles).


In April we posted a report titled "Apple Agrees to Provide a Kill Switch on iPhones in 2015." In that report we noted that "The prosecutors said in a joint statement that 'While CTIA's decision to respond to our call for action by announcing a new voluntary commitment to make theft-deterrent features available on smartphones is a welcome step forward, it falls short of what is needed to effectively end the epidemic of smartphone theft.'"


Apple currently provides their iPhone customers with the feature called "Find My iPhone." In today's patent application noted above we see that Apple is thinking of new ways to thwart thieves and in fact, there's a second patent covering security today under the title "Generating Notifications based on User Behavior."


Apple notes in that second patent filing that "By comparing the current behavior data to behavior patterns, the system may protect against misappropriation or theft of the user device as well as unanticipated incidents or atypical events."


Additional Techniques based on Bump and/or Proximity Detection


Apple notes that in some embodiments, a UE or access point is configured to perform further functions in response to bump and/or proximity detection. For example in one embodiment, a UE such as a laptop computer is configured to skip a password entry step during user logon in response to detecting bump or proximity of another UE of the user, such as a mobile phone, for example. In this example, a prior authentication between the laptop and the mobile phone may map the two devices, e.g., by transferring a key. Thus, based on detecting a bump or proximity by the known mobile phone, the laptop may be configured to skip a password entry step. In other embodiments, other actions may be performed, such as executing a particular software application, backup of data, etc.


Similarly, after authenticating a device (e.g., for a first time) based on bump and/or proximity, an access point or UE may be configured to recognize the device at a later point in time and authenticate without bump and/or proximity. For example, the access point or UE may exchange a shared key with the device, or store an ID associated with the device. In one exemplary embodiment, a UE included in a vehicle is configured to communicate with another UE (e.g., a mobile phone) based on an initial tap between the vehicle UE and the other UE.


Patent Credits


Apple credits Devrim Varoglu, Gencer Cili (Systems Engineer, Cellular Technologies at Apple, ex-BlackBerry software developer) and Ravisastry Parupudi as the inventors of patent application20140199967 which was originally filed in Q1 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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