We’ve seen a few apps try to manage the ambitious feat of becoming the journal for your entire mobile life, but a new Apple patent suggests the company may be trying to build that kind of functionality right into iOS at the system level, in a way that keeps track of all your phone events, including when and where they happened.
The system could help you recall when and where you took a photo, sent an email, received a phone call or even visited a webpage, and show that to you on a map or in a timeline-style list of events.
It’s an interesting patent with a number of possible practical uses. For instance, it could be used to help a device learn more about the specific habits and patterns of its particular user. If it can establish patterns in their behavior, it should theoretically be able to better predict and adapt to their needs.
In the more near-time, and less sci-fi immediate future, the system could also make it incredibly easy for a mobile device owner to quickly search their interaction history and find all the contextual details around a specific event, which could be very useful if, for instance, your wedding florist is suggesting you never made a call changing your order six months ago.
Filters can be applied to the stored data to group events by time, location, application and according to a variety of other variables, so that users can drill down and find exactly what they’re looking for, even if they’re not quite sure what that is.
The patent system also describes event databases that can be stored in the cloud, freeing up valuable local storage space on the device. The events logged can even be app specific, since Apple’s patent describes a method to invoke it via API, meaning you could theoretically note every time you posted a photo to Instagram, or read an article in Instapaper, too.
This is an a patent application that, while potentially incredibly useful, we likely won’t see make a public experience for at least a while yet.
Users seemed uncomfortable with the fact that iPhones used to maintain a location database to help with location triangulation, for instance, so there would likely be apprehension about such an extensive logging tool, even if designed as a user-accessible feature like the patent described in this system.
But it would be tremendously beneficial in cases of device theft, and when working with personal health monitoring tools, budget trackers and other types of journalling applications, especially in a time when the notion of the quantified self continues to have a big influence on consumer hardware and software development.
Of the numerous “event data” the journaling subsystem can handle are network connections, radio broadcasts, application data such as opening or closing an app, device charging times, attachment of an external device, and more. Because the can be accessed by client applications through an Application Programming Interface (API), almost any high function event can be logged.
Similar products exist in the app store, such as Evernote, which give users the option of tagging notes and other items, however iOS has yet to offer such system-wide functionality. It remains to be seen whether the feature will make its way to a future iteration of Apple’s mobile OS, however the invention could prove to be useful as users become increasingly reliant on information stored in their portable devices.