A new patent application published today by the United States Patent & Trademark Office details a system Apple could use to automatically configure security and other settings of a device based on its location or the habits of its user (Google filed for the same patent 2 months prior but who’s counting?). The majority of the patent discusses intelligently adjusting settings by detecting a device’s location while using retinal scans, DNA, fingerprints, or other biosensors to present an appropriate level of security to the user:

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.

For example, imagine a device’s passcode requirements changing depending on the location of the user. When the device is detected at “Home” the device, for instance, might not require a passcode to unlock. “a passcode is not required when the mobile device detects a current location corresponding to the user’s home.” The feature could fit in nicely with Homekit, allowing devices to adjust security by talking to other Bluetooth and WiFi connected devices. One example in the patent describes determining a device’s location based on the location of other devices— like a printer or bluetooth speaker or other connected device in your house. Apple also describes the feature working when a location isn’t fixed, such as inside a moving vehicle. A device could automatically adjust settings when connected to a CarPlay system, for example.

Apple also notes that “Security measures can be based on some combination of what the user knows, what the user has, or what the user is.” For “what the user has” that could be a physical object like a key fob while “what the user is” could include “DNA, fingerprints, retinal scans, voice identification, cadence of typing, walking, talking, and other biometric identification methods.”

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.

While the patent was originally filed in December 2012 before being published today, these are feature we certainly do not have yet on iOS and something that might fit in nicely with Apple’s push of HomeKit home automation products in iOS 8.

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About the Author

Jordan Kahn

Jordan writes about all things Apple as Senior Editor of 9to5Mac, & contributes to 9to5Google, 9to5Toys, & He also co-authors 9to5Mac’s Logic Pros series.