Apple wants to turn your iPhone into an advanced remote control for your car, but this idea may go a bit further than current such devices.
Published on Tuesday by the US Patent and Trademark Office, a patent application called "Accessory control with geo-fencing" imagines a virtual field or boundary around your car known as a geofence. By detecting your proximity to the car based on the geofence, your iPhone can then perform a variety of tasks, such as opening the door, starting the ignition or popping open the trunk.
Of course, smartphones that act as remote controls for your car are nothing new. Various apps and technologies are already available that can enable your phone to remotely unlock the door or start your car. As an alternative, Apple's invention would perform certain functions automatically based on your position inside or outside the geofence. Your iPhone itself could communicate with your car viaor a similar device.
For example, upon leaving your car and thereby the geofence, your iPhone could send a signal to lock the doors and turn on the alarm. Multiple geofences could also target specific areas of the car. For example, a geofence in the rear could automatically open the trunk if it detects that you're in the right place and you're carrying an iPhone.
The technology might even work over a long distance via cellular signal. As one example listed in the patent application, your car could start to warm up when it detects that you and your iPhone are a few minutes away.
As Apple describes the idea in its patent application:
A vehicle accessory can transmit a first signal to a mobile device, the first signal including a location of a vehicle. The mobile device can monitor its own location. The mobile device can assess whether one or more location-based criteria have been satisfied based on the location of the mobile device and the location of the vehicle. Upon determining that a location-based criterion has been satisfied, the mobile device can transmit a second signal to the vehicle accessory indicating that a function of the vehicle is to be controlled. Thus, for example, the mobile device can activate or de-activate vehicle features (e.g., door locking, vehicle defrosting, etc.) in a manner that capitalizes on efficient signal transmission.
As always, a patent application doesn't mean this invention will ever reach the real world. But Apple is clearly interested in integrating its technology with the automobile as seen in CarPlay. So such a remote control system could pop up sometime down the road.