Apple has a new patent, granted today by the USPTO (via AppleInsider), that would use contextual information including your current time zone, ringer silence status, battery life, location and cell network strength to automatically determine whether you’re available for a call and display that information to friends.
The new Apple patent details a system that would use all relevant signals from a mobile phone, including whether it’s been placed in airplane mode, or set solely to vibration. Using a combination of various bits of information, it could determine when you were in meetings, for instance, or in the middle of some kind of exercise activity and unwilling to take a call.
The information would be made available to contacts looking to connect on an on-demand basis, with the user of the phone sending status able to specify which contacts specifically should be able to have access. It would appear in contact cards on the iPhone, with status polling happening on demand to ensure you’re looking at current information.
It’s a very cool idea, and one that is probably more feasible as time goes on and data analysis can more reliably predict what you’re doing with your phone at any given time. And so long as it’s an opt-in service with tight sharing controls like Find My Friends, Apple could probably expect users to play along.
Still, the system ultimately depends on the calling party respecting the message, and on the message being right, and the upside may not be worth the effort required to both implement and use it. It was first applied for in 2012, so I’d expect this one to remain on the shelf for at least a little while longer.