Future iPhones may be able to transfer data, such as payments and digital business cards, just by pointing them at each other. Apple has been granted a patent (number 11516622) for “wireless communication modes based on mobile device orientation.”
About the patent
Many different types of wireless network protocols have been implemented to support wireless communications between mobile devices, including device-to-device file transfers, Internet-of-Things (IoT) environments, remote device automation and control systems, and the like.
Different wireless protocols may have different characteristics based on their network infrastructures, the network layers in which they operate, and the capabilities and requirements of the protocols. For instance, wireless protocols may differ significantly with respect to transmission ranges, data transfer rates, power consumption requirements, security/encryption capabilities, etc.
Apple says that, however, regardless of the different characteristics of wireless protocols, there may be similarities in the techniques used to establish wireless connections and transmit data between devices. To establish a wireless connection between mobile devices, using any number of different wireless protocols, a first mobile device (an iPhone) may generate and transmit an initial communication to a second mobile iPhone.
In some cases, the initial communication may contain the data to be transferred to the second iPhone. For example, in the near field communication (NFC) wireless protocol used for short-range wireless data transfers, a first device may generate a magnetic field modulated with the information to be transferred.
The magnetic field generated by the first device may inductively couple onto a second device that is located near the first device, and the second device may respond by generating its own modulated magnetic field to be inductively coupled to the first device.
In other cases, the initial communication from the mobile device may correspond to a request for a connection or session, and may include information such as device identifiers, header information, protocol or encryption details, etc. For example, in a secure Bluetooth wireless protocol, the first device may transmit an initial pairing request, and the second device may reply with a pairing response, after which the devices may generate and exchange encryption keys and proceed with the data transfer via a secure connection.
Summary of the patent
Here’s Apple’s abstract of the patent: “Wireless communications may be established between mobile computing devices via wireless protocols in asymmetric modes, using the orientation of the mobile devices to determine the asymmetric modes in which the mobile devices are operated. Requests may be received to initiate wireless communications using a wireless protocol that supports at least two asymmetric communication modes.
“The orientation of the mobile devices may be determined, and the asymmetric communication modes to be used by the mobile devices may be based on the orientations of the mobile device. Each mobile device may be configured to operate in the determined asymmetric communication mode of the wireless protocol, for establishing communications via the wireless protocol with other mobile devices.”