Indoor And Outdoor Location Patents Have Apple Swinging For Geo-Fences

The patents make references to "nodes," implying that the tech giant may already be working on the next stage of its iBeacon platform.

Two patents filed by Apple suggest how important the sharing economy and indoor navigation are motivating the the tech company in its efforts to make its location services more meaningful to businesses and consumers.

While Apple’s iOS already offers some features that use location, Find My iPhone being a prominent example, one of its new patents suggests they could start implementing these new features in some interesting ways, according to AppleInsider’s Mikey Campbell, who first reported the news this past week.

The first patent is for something called “customized location notification” that allows users to send customized notifications to each other’s phones when those devices pass through a predetermined location.

For example, if you were expecting to have guests over for a party, you could set up a customized notification saying “come in the back door, it’s unlocked” whenever your friends came within a certain distance of your home. They would have to consent to receiving notifications from you, so no griefing everyone in your contact lists with constant notifications.

iOS already has a similar feature, allowing users to send their friends notifications when they are in a certain area, but the new patent would allow for customized messages and notifications.

The second patent is a bit more complicated. “Indoor remote triggered location scanning” apparently involves wireless “nodes” placed within an indoor structure to triangulate a consenting user’s location within the space, presumably for data collection and to send notifications.

Marc Prioleau
Marc Prioleau

If that sounds like almost exactly the same as beacons, there’s a reason for it. “In patent speak, ‘nodes’ is a more general term that includes what Apple calls iBeacons but could also be expanded to include other types of signaling devices,” says Marc Prioleau, the head of Prioleau Advisors, a location marketing consulting firm. “‘iBeacons’ is a specifically Apple term for a bluetooth enabled node. Beacons is a more generalized term and I suspect nodes is considered even more general.”

Prioleau wouldn’t make much of the first patent either. “Sharing location between consenting devices with a few added bells and whistles (like making a request) seems pretty obvious and I would be surprised anything besides a very narrow patent were allowed,’ he said.

“Those filings are not always approved and are often not related to real product plans.”

But even if those features don’t become huge new features in iOS, their inclusion in Apple’s research shows that the tech giant is putting stock in location-based services, including potential beacon-based marketing. Right now, Google still dominates the location field, but these reports have Apple pushing deeper into its rival’s territory.

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Daniel Parisi Daniel Parisi @daniel_parisi_

Daniel Parisi is a New York City-based writer and recent graduate of the University of Maryland. Daniel specializes in coverage of mobile payments, loyalty programs, and the Internet of Things.