The iPhone could help reduce the anxiety of wondering if loved ones are traveling safely

It may eventually be easy to tell when a loved one arrives at a destination safely — or for them to know when you arrive safely. That is, as long as the traveler is packing an iPhone. Apple has been granted a patent (number 9,173,061) by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office for “monitoring a mobile device en route to a destination.”

In the patent filing, Apple notes that most of us have experienced the anxiety of waiting for a loved one to arrive safely at a destination. Typically, you knows the departure time, destination and estimated time of arrival of a traveler. When the traveler arrives safely at the destination, contact is made through telephone, e-mail or text messaging to confirm safe arrival. 

There are instances, however, where a traveler's estimated time of arrival is delayed due to traffic, severe weather, flat tire or some other event. If the traveler is traveling on an airplane, a flight tracker application may be used to determine when their plane is estimated to arrive at a destination airport. If the traveler is traveling in a car, train, boat, bus or on foot, there may be no convenient way to know whether the traveler will be delayed or is in need of assistance without the traveler initiating contact or without the concerned individual making many phone calls to track down the traveler's whereabouts. Apple wants to eliminate these worrisome situations.

According to the patent summary, the user of a monitored device — that would be the iPhone — specifies geo-fence regions along a route to the destination. Entry and exit of regions triggers the sending of event notifications to a monitoring device. 

Event notifications may be sent if an estimated time of arrival changes due to delay. They may be sent if the monitored device deviates from a planned route by a threshold distance. And event notifications may be sent through a direct communication link between the monitored device and monitoring device or through a location-based service.