Apple inventions could signal new geofencing features for iPhone

Two Apple (NASDAQ: AAPL) patent applications were published last week that demonstrate Apple's ongoing interest in mobile device location sharing, including one that details a new form of indoor request-and-answer location notifications reliant on node-based triangulation, according to AppleInsider. 

Titled "Indoor remote triggered location scanning," the patent application focuses on positioning within structures using wireless transceivers referred to as "nodes." It's related to another application for customized location notifications and talks about being able to locate individuals indoors.

The system relies on static nodes deployed at known locations throughout a building, with devices like smartphones acting as secondary mobile nodes for accuracy refinements. Permanent nodes may be capable of peer-to-peer communication, while mobile nodes might rely on Wi-Fi or other robust networking protocols. Importantly, each device in the system is interconnected in some way, either directly or through proxies interfaced with a larger network, reports AppleInsider.

It's not clear whether Apple will incorporate the location technology into a future iOS release or what exactly it would be used for. Mobile ID World suggests it could be more about getting more devices talking to one another, deepening the embedment of Apple devices in the smart home or, more broadly, the Internet of Things.

Finding mobile devices indoors is an age-old problem for wireless 911 calling. Earlier this year, the FCC voted unanimously to adopt new rules intended to improve how first responders locate people who dial 911 on their wireless phones from indoor locations, including in multi-story buildings.

At the time, the FCC noted that "no single technological approach will solve the challenge of indoor location, and no solution can be implemented overnight."

Soon after the rules were passed, the Boulder Regional Emergency Telephone Service Authority (BRETSA) called for the commission to reconsider its Feb. 3 report and order. It argues that the primary cause of delayed dispatch and the arrival of first responders in emergencies is Phase 1 misroutes. By way of example, BRETSA pointed to the Dec. 29, 2014, accident in Georgia involving Shannell Anderson, who drove into a pond in the dark and did not survive after her call was routed to the wrong public safety answering point (PSAP) based on Phase 1 location.  

As recently as last week, representatives from AT&T (NYSE: T) Mobility, Sprint (NYSE: S), T-Mobile US (NYSE:TMUS) and Verizon (NYSE: VZ), along with Association of Public-Safety Communications Officials (APCO) International, the National Emergency Number Association (NENA) and CTIA met with FCC representatives, providing an update on the progress toward implementing the FCC's wireless 911 location accuracy requirements.

In early June, CTIA announced the formation of an Advisory Group and Working Groups as part of the industry's efforts to enhance wireless 911 location accuracy.

Under the FCC's rules, within two years, carriers will be required to transmit to 911 call centers a caller's indoor position within 50 meters (164 feet) in 40 percent of cases. Within five years the location will have to be accurate to that standard in 60 percent of cases.

For more:
- see this patent application and this application
- see this AppleInsider article
- see this Mobile ID World article
- see this FCC filing

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FCC adopts rules to improve indoor location accuracy for wireless 911 calls
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