In the time it takes you to realize your iPhone is missing it could have turned off, been hacked, or flown halfway across the country.
This crucial interval is one limitation of Apple’s anti-theft software Find My iPhone, and the driving motive behind the Cupertino-based company’s new device tracking system.
In a patent filing published on Thursday, Apple revealed a wireless tracking system for devices paired through technology like Bluetooth. When a device is out of a certain range, the monitoring device will receive a notification. The missing device can also implement security measures when entering “lost” mode such as locking the screen, tracking the location of the device or wiping the device.
An illustration from the patent shows a watch paired with a mobile device. As the mobile device moves out of range, the watch receives a signal which varies from changing display colors, sounding an alarm, or showing a graphic. The distance at which the signal is triggered depends on communication range of the devices, and can vary from a meter to 100 meters, according to the filing.
The proximity detection between the two devices makes it easier to find misplaced devices. For example, if the missing device is close by, it can emit a series for beeps. The system not only makes placing missing phone calls obsolete, but also makes it easier to find your device in a crowd. The missing device can detect ambient noise and adjust its volume accordingly.
The system also provides alternatives to the apps that locate missing devices. When the device is out of range and about to lose communication, the system can harness the power of other mobile device users. The missing device can broadcast information about its time and location to people nearby through text message, email, tweet, etc. The device’s owner can also configure the system to send updates to emergency contacts stored on the missing device.