Mobile

Apple files patent for crowdsourced real-time mapping, event, and traffic data

The United States Patent Office published an Apple filing today for a patent on real-time user ratings and alerts on routes, traffic, and locations. Yes, it sounds pretty much like Waze, which Apple rival Google just bought for over a billion dollars.

But the patent goes far beyond traffic conditions.

Originally filed on December 28, 2011, patent application 20130173155 does describe mapping technology that allows users to rate and review routes. However, it also describes a mobile app that allows users to share information about events occurring at various locations. And other aspects of the patent application hint at integration with in-car navigation systems — something that is very reminiscent of recent Apple announcements on “iOS in the Car” at its recent developer conference, WWDC.

“What if you could get iOS on the screen that is built into your car,” Apple VP Eddie Cue asked at that conference. “So that you could make phone calls, play music, go to maps, get your iMessages, right on the screen in your car?”

With that level of integration, route alerts via Apple’s Maps app could appear right on your in-car navigation system. Alternatively, when you’re near an event that seems popular, Apple’s in-car iOS integration could pop up a notification asking if you’re interested in checking it out. Participating manufacturers, according to a screen Apple flashed up at WWDC, include Honda, Mercedes, Nissan, Ferrari, Chevrolet, Infiniti, Kia, Hyundai, Volvo, Acura, and Jaguar.

But there’s no doubt that the technology Apple’s seeking to patent is very similar to what Waze already offers, as Apple’s detailed description shows:

iOS in the carIf a user is travelling along a road and notices an accident, the user can initiate an accident alert by providing input to a graphical interface of navigation engine on mobile device 102.

The alert information … can be transmitted to navigation service …

In some implementations, route engine can determine routes based on the alert information stored in alert database  …

Alerts can be broadcast to mobile devices based on the locations of the mobile devices.

Interestingly, doubtless via deep integration into Apple Maps, the patent allows users to select the kind of driving conditions they want: scenic route, light traffic, no construction, smooth roads, or more. Alerts seem very simple, and, according to the patent drawings, consist of simple buttons with titles such as Accident, Heavy Traffic, Power Outage, and the always-popular Protesters.

Waze was founded in 2008, and by 2011, when this patent was originally filed, it already had 80 people on staff. According to Wikipedia, the company has just two issued patents, one for “parking time estimates” and another for “condition-based activation, shut-down, and management of applications on mobile devices.”

You can bet, however, that the company has more patent applications in progress. And you can also bet that Google’s intellectual property lawyers will be inspecting this Apple patent for flaws and loopholes.

Hat tip: AppleInsider

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