Imagine a mobile phone that automatically turns off its display and sounds when it senses that it's in a movie theater.
That technology would make movie goers happy. And it could pop up in a future iPhone, at least if Apple brings its latest patent to life.
Described as an "apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device," a patent awarded today to Apple reveals a way to change aspects of a mobile device based on certain events or surroundings.
For example, the phone could disable its own noise and display if it knows it's in a theatre. It could be prevented from communicating with other devices if it detects that it's in a classroom. Or it could automatically go into sleep mode if entering a sensitive area where noises are taboo.
In a typical scenario, the mobile device would communicate with a network access point that enforces a certain policy, such as putting the handset on mute. Users could have the option of accepting or rejecting a connection with the access point based on the policies. A single access point could also offer multiple policies.
Implementing such policies could be tricky. Most of us don't like it when someone else's phone goes off in a movie theater, library, or similar public place.
But some people would almost certainly object to the restrictions placed on the functionality of their own phones.
For now, of course, this "situational-awareness" technology remains in Apple's patent stage. But it would be interesting to see how people react to it should it ever come to fruition on the iPhone or other mobile consumer devices.