Apple looks into enhanced ‘wireless leash’ connectors between its various devices

Apple has filed for a patent (number 20190096228) for the “establishment and detection of breakage of wireless leash between devices.” It would allow Macs, iPhones, iPads, Apple Watches, and upcoming devices to better communicate with each other and automatically sync under certain conditions such as when an item is lost.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that because owners of small devices such as an iPhone tend to take their devices along with them to most places to which they travel, and because these devices are designed to be relatively small and lightweight, it’s relatively easy for such a device to be lost or misplaced. And those items often contain important personal information.

Apple says that, in many cases, the chances of the forgotten device remaining there undisturbed are slim. The loss of the valuable or sensitive information stored on the device, and the cost of replacing the device, can be a serious tribulation for the owner of a lost device. Additionally, to access functionality on a device, one usually has to perform some type of manual authentication process, which can be inconvenient. Apple’s invention is designed to address these and other problems. 

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Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: “Companion and accessory devices can be wirelessly leashed together in a manner that enables the devices to estimate their proximities to each other. One device can periodically attempt to detect a signal from the other device. For each attempt, the attempting device can store an indication of whether the signal was detected. 

“If a number of times that the signal was undetected exceeds a threshold, then the attempting device can perform specified operations, such as alerting a user that the wireless leash was broken. As another example, one device can detect that a strength of a signal from the other device exceeds a threshold. In response, the detecting device can measure signal strengths more frequently. If the measuring device then detects that the signal strength exceeds another threshold, then the measuring device can cause specified operations to be performed, such as data synchronization between the devices or unlocking a device.”

Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.