Future iPhones could intelligently modify security settings based on location

Screen Shot 2014-07-03 at 12.12.28

Future Apple devices may be able to dynamically modify user interface elements, security levels, and other types of behavior based on location, according to a new patent application published Thursday.

Referred to as “Location-sensitive security levels and setting profiles based on detected location,” Apple’s application describes a setup in which both the hardware and software of your iPhone, iPad, and whatever other mobile devices Apple releases in future can seamlessly work together to automatically adjust various UI and device behavior settings.

While this a broad area, the most interesting element of the application are the potential security settings, which would allow iOS devices to intelligently demand differing levels of security authentication depending on whether users are at home, or out and about — meaning that unlocking your iPhone in the confines of your house could involve a simple four-digit passcode, while unlocking it in a public area may require Touch ID.

Your iPhone could demand different amount of security verification depending on if you're at home, in the car, or in the office.

Your iPhone could demand different amount of security verification depending on if you’re at home, in the car, or in the office.

This could possibly work alongside an Apple patent published back in March, revealing how Cupertino is exploring different types of biometrics — including palm prints, face-recognition, retina scans, and voice signatures — which can be requested in various combinations before users are able to access their data.

Location could be determined by a variety of different means, including cellular tower data, recognition of a home Wi-Fi network, GPS data or even closeness to other smartphones, among others. At least two location aspects would be required for the system to be able to function with the kind of accuracy needed for this to work.

New locations could be automatically measured using a “location context” module, which would apply security settings based on a predefined scale. Public areas — recognized through the presence of mobile Wi-Fi hotspots — could also demand higher authentication requirements for apps containing sensitive information, such as Address Book or Calendar.

How the context-aware security settings may appear on a future iOS device.

How the context-aware security settings may appear on a future iOS device.

Apple’s “Location-sensitive security levels and setting profiles based on detected location” patent application was first filed December 31, 2012.

  • AlanAudio

    “… meaning that unlocking your iPhone in the confines of your house could involve a simple four-digit passcode, while unlocking it in a public area may require Touch ID.”

    Why would somebody choose to use a four character passcode rather than Touch ID when at home ? Touch ID is much simpler to do and quicker.

  • Daniel Blaney

    This has been possible on android for years. A very popular use of the app tasker. Wish the USPTO would stop granting these bogus patents.

    • http://www.sutanaryan.com/ Ryan S

      What else didn’t have in Android for years? My dick pics? we all know they already have our Selfie Duck Mode photos, so what’s next?

About the author

Luke DormehlLuke Dormehl is a UK-based journalist and author, with a background working in documentary film for Channel 4 and the BBC. He is the author of The Formula: How Algorithms Solve All Our Problems, And Create More and The Apple Revolution, both published by Penguin/Random House. His tech writing has also appeared in Wired, Fast Company, Techmeme, and other publications. He'd like you a lot if you followed him on Twitter.

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