Apple applies for 'security magnet' patent to unlock future devices

By on January 30, 2012, 12:30 PM

A patent filed by Apple late last week regarding the potential use of coded magnets to secure and grant access to a device or data set could eventually show up in a consumer product at some point. The process sounds similar to existing external hard drive enclosures that use RFID and sensor keys to grant access to a drive, although likely much more secure.

In the past, magnets have been used for security purposes but rarely to grant access to applications or data. For example, a bank vault may implement magnets as a physical locking mechanism built into the door. In the patent that Apple has applied for, the magnets would serve as a key code of sorts to grant access to a device like an iPad or iPhone.

One example that Apple illustrates is the ability to unlock an iPad using a stylus inserted in a port connected via a cable to the tablet. If the magnets in the tip of the stylus match those found on the dock or the iPad, the device would be unlocked. Otherwise, access would be denied.

A secondary example shows an iPad with a built-in magnetic structure rather than a docking station connected by a transfer cable. The same coded magnet principal applies here as well where one would need to unlock the device with a paired stylus.

The patent is admittedly vague about potential possible uses, only presenting the idea itself. Such technology could easily find its way to the iPhone or other portable device and may have many other uses outside of the security realm. Some possible examples include a battery safety application, preventing accidental system shutdowns and a laptop security latch.

It’s worth noting that Apple, like many other large tech companies, apply for a wide range of patents and the majority of them never actually make it to consumer products. This could very well be one such example, so don’t get your hopes up prematurely.

Magnet image from Nicemonkey / Shutterstock.

User Comments: 5

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MilwaukeeMike said:

"It?s worth noting that Apple, like many other large tech companies, apply for a wide range of patents and the majority of them never actually make it to consumer products. This could very well be one such example, so don?t get your hopes up prematurely."

Haha, yes. and knowing Apple's record of lawsuits, it's equally possible that they filed this patent only so competitors like Samsung can't use this technology in the future.

Come to think of it.. i wonder how many cool ideas are sitting around out there and not being used because the patent owner is neither using nor licensing the technology.

raybay said:

Cannot discount an Apple Idea or patent... We have learned that over and over... but the final product is a long way from what is in the patent... you can be sure of that.

Guest said:

I'm sure this has some other driving force behind it. Why would they need a peripheral that could bypass the security on the device to access the information inside? I think this goes hand in hand with Government access to personal information on the device since they are having ever increasing difficulty trying to extract passwords and other decrypting information from individuals who plead the 5th. Criminals disobey the law, or so you're told. But if you read your history, with all Mom & Gang action, they didn't blatantly disobey the law. They conducted matters within the "gray areas" of the laws. That's what many companies are doing right now with mobile programs that collect your information without your authorization. There aren't any laws clearly defining what's allowable and what's not. It seems BOTH Criminals and Government organizations are conducting their actions in these areas to bypass the laws already enacted to prevent them from preying on the general population. Yes, they both prey on the population, the only difference is their motives. With that being the only difference, that means our Government is now only a hairs-breadth away from becoming the criminals themselves. We're just the ****** allowing them to do so, being assured it's for our protection when ultimately it's you they're preying on. In the Law Enforcement Community, there's a belief that everyone's a criminal in some way, they just don't know exactly what you have done or are doing. For them, it's their perogative to find out any way necessary without being hindered by Constitutional Rights. The only way to do so without being restricted is to operate in these yet-to-be-defined areas of the law. You complain about malware on mobile devices that steal your information when the Government is researching and commisioning a plethora of ways to pry into your most private information, even your own brain (see fMRI scanners). This device for Apple is just another one of the methods to grant them unrestricted access to your private information without your authorization. Don't get me wrong, it's not them as a whole. Just like religious factions, one bad group within the bunch gives a bad name to all of them.

davislane1 davislane1 said:

The next time I have a great idea I'm going to scribble it down on a sheet of paper, run it over to the patent office, and sue the hell out of every company that tries to produce anything vaguely resembling it in form or function. Just think of how much money could have been made if the guy who invented the wheel had acquired a patent before it went mainstream? He'd be pulling money from everyone's pocket!

In all seriousness though, this is an interesting concept but another prime example of why patent requirements need to be restructured. These general concept filings are ridiculous.

Guest said:

why don't Apple apply for a patent to close it's own doors.

no more fanboys

no more shoddy overpriced products

no more stupid advertisements

no more stampedes


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