Apple files mobile social networking patent request

Apparently Apple is interested in developing a location-aware application for the iPhone

A recently disclosed patent request suggests Apple may be working on a mobile social networking application that would presumably let iPhone users form ad-hoc groups based on their locations.

Titled "Group Formation Using Anonymous Broadcast Information," Apple's request with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office describes a token-exchange system that would allow mobile devices in close proximity to discover each other and form a group, which the document states could be helpful at events like concerts, conferences, meetings, rallies and weddings.

"User interfaces, filters and search engines can be provided to the users to enable users to search and manage groups. The groups can be used with various applications -- e.g., calendars, address books, e-mail, instant messaging -- to provide additional content and services to the users. If the geographic location of the group at the contact time is known, then members of the group can be targeted to receive location-based services (LBS) and content," the patent request reads.

The patent request, first discovered and reported on by technology news site Patently Apple, is leading to speculation that Apple wants to jump into the hot area of location-aware mobile applications, which offer data and services based on where users are, like the increasingly popular Foursquare.

The social networking and microblogging service Twitter now allows its users to specify a geographic location for their "tweets," whether posted on the Twitter site or through a third-party application. Facebook is reportedly working on a location feature for its social networking site as well.

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Juan Carlos Perez

IDG News Service
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