updated 12:35 pm EDT, Thu March 18, 2010
Networking groups use proximity-based 'tokens'
The US Patent Office on Thursday published an Apple patent application detailing social networking technology using proximity-based communication via Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. The background description suggests the technology could be used to automatically share contact information between devices, rather than requiring manual entry into web-based networking services.
"During private or public events (e.g., concert, tradeshows, business meetings, weddings, rallies), a typical individual may have many brief contacts with individuals for which they would like to have further correspondence post event," the description reads.
The system would enable each device to wirelessly send and receive "tokens" containing relevant information. Another service could track which devices were around the same area, matching tokens with timestamps to create groups.
The application includes several diagrams showing an iPhone interface with an "iGroups" utility. The interface provides listings of locations, current members, and buttons that allow the user to accept or decline an offer to join each group. Additional options appear to link with other apps such as Calendar and Address Book, along with SMS and e-mail services.
Apple has yet to disclose any plans to bring the iGroups technology to iPhones or other devices.