Apple Blazes A Trail With Streaming Route Sharing Patent

Apple has a new patent that could result in interesting use cases, including getting directions from a robot scouting ahead, or live route information from your local friend while visiting an unfamiliar city. The new patent (via AppleInsider) describes the sharing of live path tracking between devices, which goes beyond the kind of location sharing in Find My Friends by giving you an evolving map of the specific route another device is taking in real-time.

In the patent, one use can grant second access to streamed map data, via things like cell networks and iCloud accounts, or through proximity based Bluetooth connections. The device sending the information will show not only its current location (as in Find My Friend) but also a history of previous points that can be shown as a route. This could act as a way to help show a contact exactly how to get from point A to point B.

Different aspects of the patent reflect additional tools to help the person you’re sharing your location with find their way. You can communicate via voice and text at the same time, for instance, or mirror exactly what the first user is doing on their own device in terms of looking at Maps data, points of interest, and other waypoint information. One version also simply routes to the location shared by the first device, but changes the directions dynamically based on the second party’s location.

The patent also includes a very interesting provision for having the device transmitting path or route information carried by an animal or a robot, rather than by a person. For search and rescue or other potentially dangerous field work, this could be incredibly useful, especially when the navigation is in an area that wouldn’t normally be charted (i.e., outside of occupied settlements and cities) or where the landscape has changed dramatically¬†(like war zones).

Seeing the route your friends are taking can be handy, and might shore up some of the deficiencies that persist in Apple’s own Maps offering, especially outside of major cities and other densely populated areas.