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Thursday, February 23, 2012

Find my iPhone should switch on a Bluetooth beacon

This afternoon, I've been listening to Santa Clara PD chase down another iPhone in an apartment complex next door in Sunnyvale. These units were coordinating with each other and the victim and were using Apple's iCloud web site to get location updates on the phone.

The problem is that once you get it narrowed down to a particular apartment complex or block of condos, it's hard to go much beyond that. GPS is of variable use indoors, and the "fix" tends to jump around. It's hard to know exactly where it is in a big complex, even though it might be right on the other side of a wall.

I think Apple needs to add something new in their "find my iPhone" software. It would just be something that would make the phone switch on its Bluetooth and start pushing beacons which could be detected by other devices. This way, once you've exhausted the precision of the actual GPS fix and have a suspect location, you can use the very-short-range BT to make sure.

The way-out-there extension of this idea would be to have multiple "seeker" phones working together. In that scenario, all of them would start listening for the stolen phone's beacon and would share results with the others. If it could render signal strength, then some rudimentary form of direction finding might be possible. Even if it's just an binary yes/no answer, even that could be still be helpful.

Okay Apple, there it is. Please make it so.