April 27, 2011
Patently Apple, in the course of its ongoing portfolio investigation, has come across a new development out of Cupertino that it claims could allow Apple to "dramatically quicken the process of data sharing" between future home and mobile computer systems. Device-to-device discovery has long been the bane of socially-minded technophiles everywhere, as pairing devices for data transfer is often a clunky, lengthy mess. Apple started researching near field communication (NFC) solutions to combat the inconvenience in 2009, and Patently Apple sums up the train of thought thusly:
Various protocols for device-to-device communications require some type of identification process... Certain characteristics of various network device discovery processes are worth noting. For instance, WiFi requires a configuration process that is more complex and lengthy than that required by Bluetooth... The set up process for Bluetooth is in turn more complicated and lengthy than that needed for NFC. When an NFC interface is available, it could be used to exchange Bluetooth pairing information... [T]he process of activating the Bluetooth interface on both sides, including searching, waiting, pairing and authorization between the two devices, may be replaced by a relatively fast setup over NFC followed by an exchange of Bluetooth pairing information over NFC.But now, Apple's got plans for something even faster. Essentially, the computing giant is considering the use of a compass-output monitor that can detect unique magnetic fluctuations as it comes within range of compatible electronic devices. This way, the pairing process will be initiated whenever two (or possibly more) units are in close proximity, readying each system for any potential file-sharing or data transfer. In practical use, the scheme could speed up transfers while keeping battery-draining processes at bay, turning on Bluetooth automatically in the presence of a headset or pairing up with a friend's nearby phone, for example. The patent application goes much further, outlining many technical considerations, including how to sonically encode external device signatures. If you can wrap your head around the jargon, it makes for an interesting read.