Apple wins a Project Titan Patent that reveals an In-Vehicle device location system that extends to buses, cabs and beyond
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 69 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover a new Project Titan granted patent that could apply to automobiles, trucks, vans, buses, taxis and even planes. Apple has invented a device location system for vehicles. In once scenario Apple explains how a user taking taxi cab home drops their device and when leaving the cab a device location system will inform the cab owner that a device has been located in the cab and to notify the customer that their device is still in the cab. This will also be of value in buses and shuttle craft and beyond. In an airplane scenario, Apple has worked on their system connecting to onboard Wi-Fi for not just location but in-flight notifications.
In this Project Titan granted patent, Apple notes that passengers in vehicles may carry mobile devices into the vehicles. Once inside, a passenger may place the mobile device at a location inside the vehicle cabin. Occasionally, the mobile device may move, fall onto the floor, or slide into a location on the vehicle that is difficult to see or access. As a result, mobile devices are often lost inside vehicles. Current methods for locating a mobile device in a vehicle require some degree of manual intervention, which can be tedious and cumbersome.
User elements in a vehicle, for example a car window, can be controlled with a manual control located on the interior of the vehicle. However, these manual controls are usually only accessible to a passenger who is sitting physically close to the control. For example, a passenger in the backseat of a car can generally only operate the window that is located closest to him or her. Moreover, if the particular window control that is closest to the passenger malfunctions, the window may become completely inoperable to the passenger.
Apple's invention covers systems and methods to determine the location of mobile devices inside a vehicle. A vehicle includes an onboard computer and one or more signal generators and/or sensors on the interior of the vehicle.
The signal generators and/or sensors are configured to interact with other signal generators and/or sensors on a mobile device inside the vehicle. Based on the interactions between the vehicle signal generators and/or sensors and the mobile device signal generators and/or sensors, the vehicle's onboard computer determines a location and/or orientation of the mobile device inside the vehicle. The mobile device's location and/or orientation may be used by the vehicle to provide a number of features.
One method includes receiving, by sensors inside an enclosure of a vehicle, signals generated by signal generators in the enclosure of the vehicle. One of the sensors or signal generators may be part of a mobile device inside the enclosure. The method also includes determining a location and orientation of the mobile device from the signals. The method further includes determining, based on the location and orientation of the mobile device, an object in the enclosure that the mobile device is pointing to. The mobile device further includes transmitting a message to the mobile device in response to determining that the mobile device is pointing to the object, so as to cause the mobile device to display a user interface to allow the mobile device to control the object.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 bellow illustrates a vehicle which includes a device location system.
Apple's patent FIG. 7 below illustrates a vehicle interior that includes a device location system using signal sensors and/or generators to determine a device location, according to some embodiments. FIG. 7 depicts a view of the front cabin of a vehicle 700. The exemplary cabin contains a steering wheel 710, a rear view mirror 720, and seats 730A and 730B. The shaded circles 740A-K in FIG. 7 represent signal generators and/or signal sensors.
The placement of the signal generators/sensors 740A-K in the exemplary vehicle cabin are designed to detect the location of a mobile device located in the vicinity of the passenger side seat 730B.
The generators/sensors 740A-K are arranged around and close to the expected location of the mobile device in seat 730B. This arrangement allows any small changes in the position of the mobile device to be more accurately detected, so that the device's location can be measured with greater precision.
The group of sensors/generators 740A-K may include a few sensors/generators (e.g., 740A, 740B, 740E, and 740F) that are farther away from the group. These farther sensors/generators enable the system to perform better triangulation.
To improve the location determination process, the mobile device may register with the vehicle upon first contact. Software may be downloaded to the device that allows the device to communicate with the vehicle's onboard computer about various aspects of the location determination functionality.
For example, the device may be assigned an identifier so that the vehicle may associate data with the particular device. The vehicle may discover the capabilities of the device, for example, the types of signal sensors and generators the device has.
The vehicle and the device may perform a handshake procedure to determine certain parameters of how location determination will be carried out. For example, vehicle's onboard computer and the device may elect a particular method of location determination (for example IR signaling) as a preferred method, and for a particular method, the operational parameters (for example the intensity and the wavelength of the IR pulses to use).
Taxi Cab Example
In one application, the vehicle may remind the user that they are about to leave the mobile device as the user is exiting the vehicle. For example, a taxicab may detect the location of a mobile device as the taxicab nears the end of its route.
The taxicab may determine that the mobile device is not located in the passenger's hand or pocket. The taxicab may further determine that as the passenger door is opened or the passenger is getting out of his or her seat, the mobile device is not picked up. When this happens, the taxicab may alert the taxi driver and/or cause the mobile device to generate a chirp or ringtone.
In another exemplary application, passengers on a plane may allow their devices to be tracked by the plane's onboard computer. This may occur, for example, when the user connects to the plane's onboard Wifi network. Once location of the device is determined, the passenger's location may be tracked as the passenger moves about the cabin, enabling a number of applications.
For example, the passenger may request a drink from the flight attendant using his or her device, and the flight attendant may detect that the passenger is currently seated in seat 123C on the plane. A flight attendant may determine that the plane is about to take off and detect that a passenger seated in seat 134B does not have his or her seatbelt buckled.
In that event, the flight attendant may send a text to the passenger's device requesting that he or she buckle up the seatbelt. As another example, the flight attendant may detect that a device associated with a particular passenger has been inside the lavatory for an abnormally long period of time. In response, the flight attendant may politely check to see whether the passenger is still inside the lavatory, or attempt to communicate with the device to politely check on the passenger.
For more examples check out Apple's granted patent 10,555,133 that was originally filed in Q3 2017 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.