Apple already has a feature in its devices that lets users find the locations of their family, friends, and other contacts. But a new patent from the tech giant could allow users not only to determine the locations of their contacts, but also be able to track them in real time.
Apple's patent is called "Sharing location information among devices" has just been granted by the US Patent and Trademark Office this week. The patent details the process in which an owner of an Apple device can see a visual representation of the movement done by another person.
In other words, the patent will enable users to track another person's journey from one place to another. For example, a loved one is going for an early morning jog and wants you to be updated of his or her location in real time. That person would activate a feature on a mobile device to let you view the path taken and track the journey in real time on your own mobile device or even computer. The great thing about this technology is that it works both ways -- two users can update each other on their present whereabouts in real time.
Those familiar with Apple devices might already be familiar with the Find My Friends feature, which allows users to ascertain the location of another contact through that other person's iPhone or iPad. Find My Friends, however, focuses more on pinpointing a specific location. Apple's patent, on the other hand, aims to chart the journey and its progress as it happens.
Also, Apple's patent also describes a process in which the devices of two users could share mapping directions to each other, making it possible for both users to find each other quicker. Moreover, the devices of both users could "mirror" each other -- displaying the tracking information as seen on each other's respective mobile devices.
It is likely that the system will rely on global positioning system (GPS) to facilitate better navigation, but it could also allow communication between two devices through a cell network, Wi-Fi, or Bluetooth. In terms of coverage, communicating via a cell network would be ideal.
But what about the issue of privacy? This piece of technology could also be used by stalkers and criminals for less than noble purposes. Apple was quick to point out though that the feature can only be enabled by the person who is being tracked, which means that you can only let another person track you with your explicit consent.
Of course, because this is just a patent for now, there is no guarantee that this feature will ever get to see the light of day. But considering its many potential uses, it is a good bet that this tracking feature will soon be seen in iPhones, iPads, and maybe even Apple Watches in the next few years.
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