Apple Inc. of Cupertino, CA, is back in focus this week at IPWatchdog as we return to our regular coverage of technology companies that have patent documents regularly published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office after our Earth Day 2013 series. As usual, Apple has filed many applications and received patents recently from the USPTO that show what the company sees for the future of its iPhone, iPad and other digital device products.
This month, the USPTO has published many Apple patent applications that are specifically for improvements to the technology developer’s mobile devices. These include a more secure system of connecting an iPhone to a computer and two new applications, one for easily creating social groups among acquaintances and another for students who wish to enroll in online courses. Apple also wants to protect a system of pre-processing images to create and store thumbnails that are accessed by image applications.
One patent recently received by Apple grants them the legal right to protect a system of generating security codes for more security in connections between two or more devices.
Complete file histories are provided courtesy of The Patent Box.
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130095464 — Click for complete file history
Online learning has become a major topic in education, and many reputable schools currently offer degree programs that can be completed entirely through the Internet. Classroom content, including documents, sound recordings or videos, can be uploaded to students through the Internet, without ever needing to visit an on-campus classroom. Apple’s patent application, originally filed in October 2011, seeks to protect a digital e-learning application, optimized for the iPad.
This application would allow student users to log into an account, through a browser or other means, to access either live or self-paced courses. The graphic user interface is designed to be highly visual, and students can browse available online courses by scrolling through a digital bookshelf where each course has a graphic icon. Within each courses, professors can customize a series of tabs which can hold links to uploaded course materials, like eBooks or class assignments.
Claim 1 of this Apple patent application would protect:
“A method comprising: generating for display a graphical user interface (GUI), the GUI including a display object having user-selectable tabs for providing access to different types of course content; and receiving user input selecting a tab; and responsive to the input, providing access to course content in the GUI according to the selected tab where the method is performed by one or more hardware processors.”
Portable storage devices allow their owners to carry gigabytes of data around with them in their pocket, including hours of music and audio and plenty of other files. When a user wants to send a file to another computer, or vice versa, the two can be connected through a universal serial bus (USB) link. In this way, an iPhone could connect with a computer that runs iTunes to download songs or other digital content.
This Apple system of connecting a portable storage device to a computer, explained in this patent application, tethers a device to a computer through both transmission control protocol (TCP) and Internet protocol (IP) digital communications standards. This provides a more secure interface for accessing a computer’s file storage, both in terms of privacy and connectivity.
As Claim 16 (Claims 1 to 15 cancelled) states, Apple wants to protect:
“A computerized method, comprising: configuring a portable storage device to enable a tethering interface, a portable storage interface and a link interface; detecting a host device via a wireless link that corresponds to the link interface; configuring the tethering interface to allow the host device to access a network coupled to the portable storage device; configuring the portable storage interface to share data between the host device and the portable storage device; and transmitting data between the host device and the portable storage device, including: communicating data between the host device and the network through the tethering interface; and sharing files stored on the portable storage device with the host device through the portable storage interface.”
There are plenty of times when a person may meet a person or group of people at an event who wish to stay in contact. In the case of a trade show or business event, people who’ve met for the first time may decide to go in on a venture together and want to stay in contact. However, the process of setting up a group among acquaintances typically requires manually setting up a group through social media. If acquaintances aren’t members of the same social networks, this becomes even more difficult.
This system of establishing group contacts on a mobile device allows users to wirelessly detect another user’s device to set up a digital group through an application. This application is called iGroup, and an iPhone user could run the app to find other devices within a close geographic range and create a group that connects multiple devices. The system of connecting devices is more secure than a typical ad-hoc connection, which is more susceptible to hacking.
As Claim 24 (Claims 1 to 23 cancelled) explains, Apple is seeking protection for:
“A method comprising: receiving, at a trusted service, tokens that do not identify a particular device, at least some of the tokens having been received by a first device from a first plurality of devices and at least some of the tokens having been received by a second device from a second plurality of devices; determining, at the trusted service, that the first device and the second device have collected one or more matching tokens within a first timeframe; identifying, at the trusted service, users associated with the first device and the second device; and creating, at the trusted service, a group for the identified users.”
In digital photography applications, one image file may be converted into many different sizes for depicting image thumbnails. For instance, in iPhoto, users can browse listings of image files with small thumbnail pictures that open into the full sized image file when selected. However, processing the image data to create thumbnail images of different sizes can use up a large amount of system resources.
This new image processing system, devised by Apple, would store data sets for images that could recalled whenever an image application needs to display an image size other than the image file’s original size. This pre-processing would cut down on the time needed to convert digital image files into thumbnails. Instead of converting the image’s size, the application would simply load the data already stored in a database.
Claim 1 of this patent application describes:
“A non-transitory program storage device, readable by a processor and comprising instructions stored thereon to cause the processor to: store, to persistent storage, three or more image previews for each of at least one image, wherein the image previews for each of the images are all of differing pixel resolutions and wherein an image preview comprises a representation of its corresponding image and wherein a data format of at least two of the three or more image previews are different from each other; receive an indication of a magnification level for presentation of the at least one image; determine characteristics of the indication of the magnification level; identify which of the three or more image previews’ data formats represent a more efficient preview to use based on the characteristics of the indication of the magnification level; select, based on the identification, one of the three or more image previews to correspond to one of a plurality of magnification levels for the at least one image; retrieve, from the persistent storage, one of the three or more image previews in accordance with the selected image preview and indicated magnification level; and display the at least one image in a graphical user interface.”
Creating a secure connection between two devices that are in close physical proximity allows users to share a great deal of digital content. Instead of showing a webpage or document to another person by turning the screen towards them, a user could choose to send the info directly to another’s device, preventing people from having to crowd around a small device screen to see. The same is true of videos and pictures. Also, some applications allow users to interact with other nearby devices for money transfers or to play a game.
Last week, Apple was granted the right to protect the system of creating a secured connection between devices laid out in this patent. It would allow an iPhone to create a bar code or alphanumerical code that can be scanned by the camera of another device. Once the “digital handshake” has taken place, other phones can also scan the key that was generated by the device to connect with the other devices as well.
As Claim 1 describes, Apple has gained legal protections over:
“A method for establishing a communications path between a first device and a second device, comprising: capturing an image of the second device using the first device; extracting, from the image, a first key associated with the second device; selecting from a plurality of processes a process to be used for generating a digital handshake key; generating the digital handshake key using the selected process with the first key; and establishing a communications path with the second device using the digital handshake key.”