By: Matthew Miller, Patent Agent
Most citizens of the more-developed countries on the planet accept the fact that the smartphone is becoming a larger and larger part of everyone’s lives. To that end, famed internet statistician Mary Meeker has recently shown just how much people love their devices. As one might expect, with people using their smartphones more and more, companies are looking for all sorts of ways to implement smartphones into their business plans.
One area that has received particular attention has been the integration of smartphones and automobiles. We’re not talking mere Bluetooth integration here (which has been around for years), but full-blown, app-specific, integration and optimization. Surprisingly, the first major player to enter into this space was Microsoft via their partnership with Ford. Together, they developed the Sync and Sync with MyFord Touchtechnologies incorporated in some of Ford’s recent models. This collaborative effort was widely heralded as a positive thing for consumers, and since then, other entities have been attempting to enter this marketspace.
The next major player to enter this space was Apple with the announcement of their CarPlaytechnologies. While these devices are just starting to come to market, the announcement has generated a large amount of media attention. Not to be outdone, Google, the developer of the Android smartphone operating system, subsequently announced the development of their own service, Android Auto. Both of these services attempt to integrate the features that user’s desire the most from their phone (maps, music, phone, etc.) with their car in an easy to use fashion.
While the above services appeared to be the trend in the smartphone/automobile integration market, a new patent from Apple suggests that the smartphone/automobile integration is going to run even deeper than what has been advertised to the public. Apple’s new patent, United States Patent Number 8,868,254, is directed towards “accessory control with geo-fencing.”
This patent describes a device that will, depending on the location of the user, enable a user to activate different features of the car with their smartphone. For example, if a user is behind the car, they will be presented with the ability to unlock the trunk, if a user is a predetermined distance away from the car, the phone will automatically warm the car to a desired temperature, or a variety of other functions described in the ‘254 patent.
When taken alone, this patent in and of itself is nothing special, it can be viewed as an indicator of what types of functionality will be assimilated into the smartphone/automobile integration movement. Do you think that Apple’s new patent is a sign of what’s to come, or that it is merely a stand-alone patent in Apple’s massive patent portfolio? Let us know in the comments.