What if your iOS device could alert those around you if you were hurt, in an accident, or if it was stolen? It would be a pretty great feature, and one that could help people reach help when they cannot easily do so themselves, and also help prevent iPhone theft. A patent from Apple details a number of methods that allow iOS devices to do just that using existing hardware. This could help make iOS devices into automated personal alarms.
iPhones have a number of sensors they can use to detect their orientation, movement, and the world around them. These include a gyroscope, accelerometer, compass, microphones, screen, buttons, and even the headphone jack. Apple has envisioned a variety of ways these various hardware features could be combined with software to detect falls, sudden movement, or whether or not the device was ripped from the hands of its owner. For example, if the phone is jerked around, and the headphone jack is ripped out, it could have either fallen, or was stolen. From there, the phone can alert the people around by emitting a loud noise at maximum volume, or even alerting the police or an emergency contact with a silent alarm. If the device senses a problem, it would enter a mode where the user would have to cancel the alarm, presumably with their thumbprint or a passcode.
Apple’s system could also be set up with a constant contact point, like something on the screen or the volume buttons, which would work like a “dead man’s switch”. If released, the alarm would sound, which could be used by owners to diffuse an ugly situation with the threat of alerting the police if anything bad were to happen to them. There’a also a fail safe mode, which would require an interaction within a certain time period, which would be good for someone with a potentially deadly health issue, as it could help them get help if incapacitated.
Apple thinks this would help people who have been in accidents, had a health problem, and help prevent potential thieves from even thinking about stealing someone’s phone. The iPhone is the most sought after device for phone theives due to its high resell value. However, with Find my iPhone, locking the device to an account in iOS 7, and a feature like this, stealing an iPhone would become a very foolish plan to make money. Not only that, but it could help protect users during a home invasion or help them get help in emergency situations. Apple patents don’t always become released products, but a feature like this could be a key selling point of iOS 8.