We’re pretty selective in the Apple patent applications we cover here, simply because Apple patents all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, and for every one of them that makes it into an Apple product, there are hundreds of others that never will. But this is one we think might.
The core concept is nothing new: layered maps. The existing Apple Maps app already allows us to choose between standard mapping, satellite view or both, and Google Maps on the web allows us to switch on or off layers like traffic, weather, public transit lines and so on. But what the Apple patent application describes would, if you’ll excuse the pun, take this idea to a whole new level …
An interactive capability enables a user to dynamically adjust the content of an electronic map. Different modes can be chosen to emphasize features relevant to a particular interest, e.g. commuting, tourism, weather, etc. Combinations of modes can be selected to create a customized map. When a search is conducted, the chosen mode functions as a filter for the retrieved results. The map responds to user input directed to a given feature, to display information relevant to that feature. Tapping or clicking on a highway displays the locations of services along the highway, Touching two points on the map causes available routes between them to be computed and displayed to the user, along with relevant data for each route. Geospatial applications can be integrated with the map to provide information pertaining to the area displayed on the map, and to refine search results to those that are relevant to the area.
So, for example, instead of having all roads shown on one layer, you could choose to show only highways when driving across country, or only minor roads when planning a cycle ride. When you have highways selected, you could tap on a road to display only items relevant to that road, such as junctions, gas stations, diners and so on. Getting hungry? Choose a layer that shows only places to eat.
Touch is integral to Apple’s vision of how the layering would work, for example tapping an airport to bring up flight schedules or touching a town to see its population size. Multi-touch would also be used: touch two different points to see the distance between them.
While the patent doesn’t explicitly reference pulling together personalized information such as calendar appointments and hotel reservations, this would be a very obvious application of the concept.