updated 12:20 pm EDT, Tue July 26, 2011
Technology already used by many third-party apps
(Updated to reflect win) A newly-granted Apple patent suggests the company's interest in deterring theft of its devices. Titled Acceleration-based theft detection system for portable electronic devices, the filing describes a hardware/software system in which a motion sensor could be used to trigger an alarm if a device is suddenly taken. The system could, critically, be set to ignore motions which are uncharacteristic of stealing. Users could also tweak its behavior, by adjusting sensitivity or leaving it off completely.
The invention is credited to Paul Wehrenberg from Palo Alto, California, and the application was originally submitted by Apple in May 2009. The concept though is already widespread on the iOS App Store, employed by many third-party apps of varying price and quality. Apple could in theory be looking to make anti-theft integral to iOS and/or OS X, although the feature does not appear to be in iOS 5 or OS X Lion.