Apple patent application outlines automatic security settings based on location, behavior and sensors

Biosensor patent app

Apple has a ton of patents out there, often outlining pretty great ideas that we all just have to hope come to fruition at some point in the future. For a new patent application published today, Apple’s vision of a smart home may becoming crystal clear.

As clear as a patent application can be, anyway, that was originally filed in December 2012. In the new filing, published today with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office, we can see that Apple is outlining processes to automatically configure security settings for devices based on things like location, or even just the habits of the user. While a big focus of the patent is geared towards location-based security options, and adjusting security parameters as needed based on that information, Apple’s also looking to include DNA, retina scanning, fingerprints, and more to add another (few) layers of security for good measure.

Considering Apple’s iBeacon movement, which promote certain elements based on where you’re located (like a retail store or baseball park), are an obvious area where the company plans to expand, using a location-aware security set up makes a lot of sense. Especially with the implementation that Apple has planned. The patent application suggests that a device’s security parameters could adjust in real-time based on the location of the device. For example, it could be set up to require two-level authentication (a passcode and fingerprint input) when the device is located at work, but not require a password at all when the user is recognized as being at home.

From the patent application:

Mobile devices often have security requirements, such as passwords or passcodes. Security requirements help ensure that a mobile device is in the hands of the appropriate party. Often the security level remains the same regardless of the location of the mobile device. Because some locations may be inherently more secure, such as a user’s home or office, these locations may be considered “safe” and require less stringent security. It can be desirable to have decreased security requirements when the mobile device is at a secure location. Conversely, some locations may be considered higher risk or “unsecure.” In these locations, it can be desirable to implement stronger security protections. When the mobile device is in an unsecure location (e.g., public location such as cafes or shopping centers), security requirements can be increased.

image Apple biosensor patent2

There’s quite a bit about doubling up the security options, based on different aspects. As the patent application suggests, it could be something the user knows, something the user has, or something the user is. So, a passcode or number combination for what the user knows; an accessory, maybe a key fob, for what the user has; and your fingerprint scan for what a user is. While location and automatically adjusting security plays a big role, it’s quite obvious that adding the layered, extra security is certainly a main point as well:

The term “security level” can refer to the types of security measure used (e.g., passcode, retinal scan, etc.) to control access to a mobile device. Each type of security measure used may be associated with a level of inherent security. For example, passcode-based security may be considered less secure than a retinal scan. The term “security level” can refer to the frequency with which a particular security measure is used. For example, a passcode may be required immediately or may only be required after 5 or more minutes of inactivity. The term “security level” can refer to the level of strength of a particular security measure used. For example, 4-digit numerical passcode may be associated with a lower security level than a longer alphanumeric password.

Apple has obvious plans to make the home smarter, especially with their new HomeKit which was announced at WWDC 2014, but there’s a sense that Apple is aiming quite a bit higher with the technology we use every day. Having automatically adjusting security to our devices that changes based on location, and uses multilayered security in the way that Apple is suggesting here is pretty intricate. How soon could we expect to see something like this? That’s anyone’s guess, but it does seem to fall right in line with what Apple has released over the last couple of years.

[via 9to5Mac; USPTO]