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It is official, what Apple inc. does best apart from making iphones is filling for patents. Apple and patents are like a perfect match made in heaven, the Cupertino based tech giant never run of patents to file. From the “evidently generic” to “ingeniously unique” ones, Apple’s patent always find a way to draw interest from technologically curious minds. Perharps recently joining the ranks of the ingenious ones is Apple’s latest patent for a ‘panic button’ on its device.
panic button
The patent documents indicate that the device that the panic button is most likely to be integrated into is the company’s flagship product – the iPhone. For the record, the iPhone isn’t getting any dedicated panic button or something, but rather Apple intends to integrate the panic button into the TouchID sensor. The patent titled Fingerprint Activation Of A Panic Mode Of Operation For A Mobile Device with US patent number ‘20150319294’ , was filed in May 2014 and granted this week. It reveals how the IPhone’s TouchID sensor could be used to activate a panic mode, which would make the handset’s data inaccessible to the user. It explores more interesting ways that the TouchID sensor could be utilized, different from its traditional use for unlocking the device.
 Apple's panic button sketch
Panic button sketch
Image credit: USPTO / Apple inc

The fingerprint (TouchID) sensor was first introduced with the iPhone 5s, primarily serving as a swift method of unlocking the phone and serving as identity verification when making purchases of Apple’s product . It has subsequently been built into the 6 and 6s iPhone generations, as well as recent iPad models. However, Apple is set on implementing a “panic mode” application of the fingerprint sensor. The idea is to determine not just whether a person trying to access the device is authentic (rightful owner), but to also determine whether the person (if authentic) is trying to access the device in ‘panic mode’. The phone will still unlock once panic mode has been activated, which could be implemented in various ways, including disabling a certain set of functions on the phone, denying access to contact information, emails and photos, or activating the handset’s camera or microphone to document who is trying to use it or what is happening around the device. A photo, series of photos or a video may be captured of the situation or person(s) acting in a threatening manner that led the user to activate the panic mode . The mobile device may be set to automatically transmit photos or videos via the Internet to be stored in a remote server via email or any other means of transmission. The recordings could then be forwarded on to law enforcement under certain circumstances.

Apple's panic mode pattern chain of event

Apple currently provides its customers an option to wipe their iOS devices remotely if they’re lost or stolen through its Find My iPhone function, accessed through iCloud. Secondary feature Activation Lock was introduced with operating system iOS 7 once Find My iPhone had been set up, designed to make it harder for thieves to sell on or use your device in an event of it being stolen. Possibly as an advanced upgrade to this function – Apple’s patent document suggests the tech giant is exploring the the transmission of an alert to an emergency service provider via a cellular network. In this context, If panic mode activated a beacon setting, a nearby digital device such as a passer-by’s phone or a computer in a car can be alerted via an alarm, prompting the owner to come to the activator’s aid, the report said.

Unfortunately, Apple being Apple, there is no guarantee that features explored in patents will ever get a spot in its future products. The firm has patented a flexible electronic device (iphone) but it seems a flexible iphone is not coming anytime soon. Apple have a weird hobby of patenting certain functions or materials to actively prevent rivals from using the technologies. Nonetheless, nothing is written in stone, so you may never know until the technology pops in next year’s flagship – the iPhone 7.

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