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Apple envisions new ways to use 'bump' tech

A patent application describes several ways to share data between wireless devices with a tap -- and Apple isn't just thinking about phones.

Google shut down the file-sharing app Bump at the beginning of this year. Bump/Google

When Apple introduced AirDrop, its wireless technology for sharing photos and other content between Apple devices, at last year's Worldwide Developers Conference, Senior Vice President of Software Craig Federighi teased Android users for needing to "wander around the room bumping your phone" to transfer data. It turns out, Apple was working on a similar technology in the background.

On Thursday, an Apple patent application filed with the US Patent and Trademark Office, called "Bump or Close Proximity Triggered Wireless Technology," was spotted by Patently Apple. The patent focuses on several technologies -- including Wi-Fi Direct which is used for AirDrop -- that would allow two iPhones or an iPhone and other wireless devices to be bumped against each other to transfer data and information. It envisions using the technology in areas such as mobile payments, advertising, security, and vehicle safety.

Bumping phones sound familiar? Mobile devices running Google's Android operating system can share content with a tap using near-field communication (NFC) -- same goes for Microsoft Windows Phone devices. Samsung's S Beam, which was introduced alongside the Galaxy S3 back in 2012, lets Galaxy users send files between two phones using NFC and Wi-Fi Direct. An app called Bump used to provided a cross-platform way for users to transfer data by tapping phones, but Google acquired Bump in September 2013 and discontinued the app at the beginning of this year.

According to Apple's patent application, the initial device holding the data needs to be connected to a wireless access point. Upon bringing the devices within close proximity, or bumping them together, data is transferred between the products over the access point. This could be sharing files between two phones, or the patent application describes a scenario where an iPhone is "bumped" with a wireless router to access a friends local Wi-Fi network without typing in a password. Interestingly, the technology would allow Apple devices to automatically bypass security protocols to make data transfers quicker. It does that, however, by first authenticating the security between the devices.

In addition to transferring data, Apple's patent application describes several other ways information can be transferred to and from devices. Apple envisions the technology being used in-car. If you were in a car accident, for example, you car could automatically communicate with your iPhone and a security or safety protocol would then be followed. Apple also sees the technology being used for advertising and mobile payments.

Apple, like every other major company, files patents for new technology all the time. It should be noted that Apple might not necessarily bring the technology to the market. Still, given Apple's recent comments about "bumping" technology, it's interesting that Apple is exploring new ways for sharing content.

CNET has contacted Apple for comment. We will update this story when we have more information.