The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office today released a patent application filed by Apple back in January of 2013, describing a method by which an iPhone or iPad can provide specifically detailed GPS path information to another device after given proper authorization (via AppleInsider).
In the vein of Find My Friends, which allows rudimentary static location-based tracking services and slightly more in-depth parental controls, today's patent application would add another level of detail to the service. The patent suggests providing location- and path-based information accumulated by one device in the visual form of a digital route on a second device following the first.
Because the device receiving the information would be constantly updated with the first device's movements, it would allow users to follow someone in real time. The patent even mentions the receiving device could generate "spoken word directions", so if a user is driving a car, they wouldn't have to constantly be staring at the phone's screen.
A device in motion can record data about the path it travels and send the path data to another device. A user of the second device can then use the data to see where the first user traveled and/or travel the same path as did the first user.
For example, while the first user is driving a car, she could be running a maps application on the first device, and share the path she is travelling with the user of the second device while the second user is also driving a car. The second device could then display the path in an instance of the maps application running on the second device, or the second device could display directions the second user could use to follow the first user, or the second device could generate spoken word directions the second user could use to follow the first user, all in real time.
The patent mentions that while the program would be able to run on "a mobile communications network (e.g., 3G, LTE, WiMAX, etc.), a wireless LAN (e.g., 802.11), or another kind of wireless network", sometimes an intermediary, like iCloud, may be used as well. There's even a mode that could ignore the path sharing altogether, allowing the first device to share directions to a specific location with the second device, automatically generating a route that may be quicker than following the first device's path.
Also of note is a "mirroring mode" that shows "exactly the same view" on the second device as the user on the first device is seeing and interacting with, aiming to further assist the second device's understanding of the route.
As AppleInsider notes, the patent credits Eran Sandel, Elad Harush, and Roman Guy as its inventors. As with all other patents, today's "Sharing location information among devices" application is less of a confirmation of upcoming software by Apple and more of an intriguing look at ways the company may be looking to expand its little-used map-based features in the future.