Apple Files for Patent on 'iGroups' Proximity-Based Social Networking

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Patently Apple points to a patent application from Apple published today addressing technology to allow users at large events such as concerts, tradeshows, and rallies to utilize their mobile devices to automatically create social networking groups by exchanging "tokens" using such wireless technologies as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi.

The patent application, which was filed in September 2008, describes an example of the technology involving Apple's Worldwide Developers Conference, specifically using an "iGroups" application on the iPhone to demonstrate the process by which attendees could invite one another to a group and access information related to group discussion and activities on their devices.

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A similar example shows how concert attendees could set their mobile devices to participate in the formation of a group at the event.

In this example scenario, a number of attendees of a rock concert set their Bluetooth-enabled devices to Token Exchange mode. All devices within transmission range of each other at the concert and that are set in Token Exchange mode begin exchanging and storing tokens. These devices are collectively referred to as a Group, and the users associated with devices in the Group are referred to as Group members. The Token Exchange is referred to as a "contact event." The contact event can be associated with a "contact time" defined by timestamps provided to the trusted service.

Groups created using the method could then utilize functionalities such as e-mail and calendaring applications to interact with each other. The specific "rock concert" example poses a situation in which the musicians on-stage could initiate a group, linking to attendees near the front of the audience. The technology could also "daisy chain" to allow those further back in the crowd to still join the group via attendees further forward even if out of range of the musicians.

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