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Apple Advances Automatic Vehicle Location Services for Parking

Apple's intent to create a parking app for future iDevices began to surface with a pair of inventions (one, two) that we reported on back in 2013. Since that time there have been two follow-up patents in 2014 including this one and an important second one that we'll point to later in this report. Today, the US Patent & Trademark Office published Apple's third patent application of the year that relates to finding your car or any vehicle in an outside parking lot, a marina, inside a Parkade and beyond. Last Saturday we posted a report titled "Apple and Google Headed for an Indoor Location Services War" illustrating that indoor location services are going to go far beyond just parking applications. Yet for now, we have to wonder if Apple's new parking location app will make it into iOS 8 for the iPhone 6. The good news is that we'll get the answer to that question in just a few weeks' time.


Apple's Patent Background


Mobile computing devices, such as smart phones, tablet computers, media players, and the like, have become ubiquitous. People are ever more reliant on mobile devices for their day-to-day activities. Mobile devices often have the ability to determine the location of the device. This ability has allowed the user of a mobile device to locate various places of interest with location-based services.


People use vehicles, such as automobiles, motorcycles, scooters, bicycles, and other transportation vehicles, for commuting and other transit needs. Locating suitable parking can be difficult, especially in densely populated urban areas. Even after a parking spot has been located for a vehicle, it can be difficult to remember the location of the parking spot. In some instances, parking areas (e.g., parking garages or bike racks) can have hundreds or thousands of vehicles parked at them. Some parking areas have multiple levels (e.g., Floor, 2.sup.nd Floor, etc.) or sections (e.g., 100A or 17 Blue) that are difficult to differentiate and remember. As a result, time is lost looking for parked vehicles.


Apple Advances their Outdoor/Indoor Parking Location Technology and Services


Apple's invention generally relates to marking the location of a vehicle, and more specifically to determining when a vehicle has entered a parked state and marking the location of the parking spot.


Apple notes that it can be difficult to remember where cars are parked. Applications running on a mobile device can assist users in remembering the parking location and getting directions to the user's parked car by providing an interface for a user to manually mark the parking location. Embodiments of the present invention provide for the automatic determination that a car has been parked using a mobile device (e.g., a driver's smart phone).


The mobile device can determine that the car is in a parked state by analyzing various parameters that can indicate whether the mobile device is inside of a moving vehicle, or inside or near a parked vehicle.


The location of the parking spot where the vehicle is parked can then be stored. For example, the location of the parking spot (e.g., <Latitude, Longitude>) can be associated with a parking location identifier variable (e.g., Current_Parking_Location=<Latitude, Longitude>, Parking.sub.--6l Location_On_Feb2=<Latitude, Longitude>, Last_Parking_Location=<Latitude, Longitude>, etc.). The stored location can be used at a later time when the user returns to the car and wants to know the parking location. In some embodiments, a maps application (or app) running on the mobile device can be used to visually present the location of the car.


In some embodiments, location data can be determined using a global position system (GPS) or another suitable location technology. However, in some situations, GPS location data (or other primary location technology) may not be available. For example, GPS signals may be unavailable inside a parking structure. A second location technology may be used to supplement the first location technology.


Although Apple will likely use technology recently acquired from WiFiSlam, the patent filing notes that "Bluetooth module [#204 of FIG. 2 below] can include suitable hardware for performing device discovery, connection establishment, and communication based on only Bluetooth LE (e.g., single mode operation). As another example, the Bluetooth module can include suitable hardware for device discovery, connection establishment, and communication based on both Bluetooth BR/EDR and Bluetooth LE (e.g., dual mode operation).


Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a high-level flow diagram of a method 100 according to an embodiment of the present invention. The method can be performed in any suitable order and one or more steps may be omitted or added without departing from the scope of the invention. Some steps may be performed in the background, while the mobile device is locked and without launching a maps app.


2AF - Apple indoor parking patent FIG.1


Apple's patent FIG. 2 shows a high-level block diagram of a system (#200). It will be further appreciated that the devices shown in FIG. 2 are illustrative and that variations and modifications are possible. The system can include a mobile device and a vehicle.


3AF - Apple indoor parking patent FIG.2

Apple's patent FIG. 5 illustrates a system 500 including a parking area 502, such as a parking structure or parking lot, and a vehicle at various positions at various times. A mobile device (not shown) and a mobile device user can be in the car and/or operating the car. The system can include one or more parking spots occupied by one or more other vehicles.

4AF - Apple indoor, outdoor parking patent FIG. 5

  5AF - Apple indoor parking patent FIG.7

Apple's patent FIG. 7 noted above illustrates a system 700 with a user returning to a car at a parking area 502 using the future iPhone's parking app as noted below in patent FIGS. 8A and 8B.


6AF - Apple indoor parking patent FIGS 8A,B

In another parking related patent that we covered in June we showed you a Maps graphic from 9to5Mac which showed a new parking pin system was in the works.


And lastly, Apple's patent FIG. 9 below illustrates a mobile device with new parking related components.


7AF - Apple indoor, outdoor parking patent FIG.9

For conciseness, Apple notes that while vehicles such as cars are primarily described in their patent filing, the fact remains that the invention could apply to any suitable vehicle. For example, a vehicle can be any suitable transportation machinery, such as an automobile, truck, a bus, a train, a tractor, a golf cart, a go-kart, a motorcycle, a scooter, bicycle, a motorized bicycle, a boat, a watercraft (e.g., a jet-ski), an aircraft, a lawn mower, a snowmobile, and/or the like. Further, it will be appreciated that the present invention is not limited to locating vehicles


Apple's patent filing covers the following segments: Overview and Method System; Parked State Determination; A. Connection and/or Disconnection between Mobile Device and Vehicle; Inferential Determination Parking Determination; Physical Sensor Data; Mobile Device Receives Signal from Car; Combined Inferences and Confidence Score; and Determining Parking Location in Weak Location Signal Scenarios.


As you can imagine, this is a very detailed patent filing with many scenarios. For those wishing to explore Apple's invention further see patent application 20140232569. For the record, a second parking related patent was also filed under application number 20140232570 titled "Vehicle Location in weak location signal Scenarios."


Apple credits Jason Skinder, Stephen Lemay, Bradford Moore, Seejo Pylappan, Christopher Blumenberg, Marcel van Os and Devrim Varoglu. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


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