Feeds

Apple plan to rate shops etc by number of iPhones visiting

Why has the butcher started selling turtlenecks?

Intelligent flash storage arrays

Apple has patented software that will automatically log the visits of iPhone users to restaurants, stores and business and then use the number of visits by Jesus-mobe owners as an indication of how good/popular/worthy-of-a-high-search-ranking that business is.

We've known Apple logged our location before, but this is the first time we've seen software that connects you to the businesses you patronise, rather than just the GPS co-ordinates. Finally it seems to be a use for the vast amounts of detailed info Apple collects about where we go.

The patent – now spotted by AppleInsider – was filed by Apple engineers Jaron Waldman and Chad Richard on 3 May 2010 and published on 9 August this year. Where location services like Foursquare or Facebook Places require users to fire up an app and hit a check-in button to log their location, all the new Apple system needs to log your visit to Starbucks is for you to be there for a certain amount of time. You won't need your maps apps open or even to kick the phone out of sleep mode for your visit to be logged. Sinister.

But this is no Foursquare or share-your-favourite-frappuchino-joint-with-friends venture. This is a way for Apple to improve its mobile search facility by harvesting data from its users. Apple will use the popularity of venues with iPhone users as a way to rank them in search results. The information will be anonymous and you can opt out of the system altogether.

Apple's patent lays out the limitations of the current ways we have of organising location search:

"Search results ordered by proximity do not account for quality of the search result relative to the query. Search results ordered by average-user-ranking are based upon opinions of relatively few people whom take the time to review the location. Search results that are ordered based on advertising dollars also do not take into account quality or desirability and sometimes broaden the criteria for relevance beyond a desirable measure."

Apple explains that it will ensure anonymity by assigning users a unique ID number. The server which tracks and logs your location will only know the ID number and not your identity. Though we imagine it wouldn't be impossible to connect the two.

"Data can be anonymously recorded and tracked for individual devices by assigning the device a unique identifier that is separate from any user information. One way to do this is to alert the handheld communication device of its unique ID, and the handheld communication device can report data along with its unique ID. In this way, the server will only be tracking the movements of an anonymous user based on an ID."

Note that Apple have made sure they are the only ones authorised to use the users' unique IDs - this isn't some open feature that app developers will be able to use. This will be a treasure trove of user behaviour information that will accumulate behind Apple's closed doors.

It seems like an intelligent way to improve search, but a couple of questions occur – what if Apple decides to sell this information off? Chunked up and packaged this could be valuable. What if the police want to know something: will Apple be able to find and track the location of particular users? ®

Remote control for virtualized desktops

More from The Register

next story
Mighty Blighty broadbanders beg: Let us lay cable in BT's, er, ducts
Complain to Ofcom that telco has 'effective monopoly'
Download alert: Nearly ALL top 100 Android, iOS paid apps hacked
Attack of the Clones? Yeah, but much, much scarier – report
Broadband sellers in the UK are UP TO no good, says Which?
Speedy network claims only apply to 10% of customers
Yahoo! blames! MONSTER! email! OUTAGE! on! CUT! CABLE! bungle!
Weekend woe for BT as telco struggles to restore service
Fujitsu CTO: We'll be 3D-printing tech execs in 15 years
Fleshy techie disses network neutrality, helmet-less motorcyclists
Facebook, working on Facebook at Work, works on Facebook. At Work
You don't want your cat or drunk pics at the office
Soz, web devs: Google snatches its Wallet off the table
Killing off web service in 3 months... but app-happy bonkers are fine
prev story

Whitepapers

Why cloud backup?
Combining the latest advancements in disk-based backup with secure, integrated, cloud technologies offer organizations fast and assured recovery of their critical enterprise data.
A strategic approach to identity relationship management
ForgeRock commissioned Forrester to evaluate companies’ IAM practices and requirements when it comes to customer-facing scenarios versus employee-facing ones.
10 threats to successful enterprise endpoint backup
10 threats to a successful backup including issues with BYOD, slow backups and ineffective security.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.