A newly published BlackBerry Patent application describes technology that would use GPS data from an incoming caller’s location, and then display that location on a map interface running on the recipient’s BlackBerry.
The Patent application, fittinly enough, is entitled Visual representation of contact location.
The application’s Abstract gives us a basic understanding of what’s going on here. It describes:
A method for visually representing information on a display of a portable electronic device includes receiving location coordinates from at least one other portable electronic device, plotting a visual identifier on a map and displaying the map on the display of the portable electronic device.For those of you curious about how this works, follow along for an illustration with accompanying text.
The position of the visual identifier corresponds to the location coordinates received from the at least one other portable electronic device, which correspond to an actual location of the at least one other portable electronic device. The appearance of the visual identifier is selected to depict the status of the user of the at least one other portable electronic device.
Referring to FIG. 3, display screen 40 of portable electronic device 12 of a first user, is generally shown. A map 52 appears on the display 40. Avatars 54, 56, 58 and 60, which are located at various positions on the map 52, are also shown on the display 40. Each avatar 54, 56, 58, 60 is a visual identifier that represents a different portable electronic device user.
The map 52 is generated using a mapping software application, which uses mapping software to provide worldwide map data. The worldwide map data may be provided by NAVTEQ, Tele Atlas or another provider.
The position at which each avatar 54, 56, 58, 60 is plotted on the map 52 corresponds to the global location coordinates of each user’s portable electronic device at a particular time. The location coordinates are determined locally in each portable electronic device using Global Positioning System (GPS) technology that is integrated into each portable electronic device.
The location coordinates may alternatively be determined locally based on signal strength from cell towers, for example, or any other suitable type of positioning technology. Further, it will be appreciated by those skilled in the art that if a user’s portable electronic device does not support GPS technology, the user may manually input location information into the portable electronic device.
Once the location coordinates have been determined locally, the coordinates are sent to the portable electronic device 12 of the first user, whose display 40 is shown in FIG. 3. The coordinates may be sent following a request from the first user or at regular intervals without a request from the first user. Alternatively, the coordinates may be sent every time there is a change in the coordinates.
The status of each user is also visually represented on the display 40. As shown, avatar 54 is grayed out and includes a picture of a bee 62 to indicate that the user associated with this avatar 54 is busy; avatar 56 is grayed out and includes a picture of a do not disturb sign 64 to indicate that the user is not available; avatar 58 includes a picture of a callout 66 to indicate that the user is typing a message and avatar 60 is available.
The status of each user is determined locally using algorithms on the portable electronic device. Determining the status of a portable electronic device user is well known in the art. For example, a user’s status may be determined to be unavailable if the user does not respond to active notifications, which include emails, calendar events and instant messages, for a predetermined period of time.
Similar to the location coordinates, the status may be sent to the first user following a request from the first user, at regular intervals, or every time there is a change in the user status. The status information is generally sent to the portable electronic device of the first user at the same time as the location information, however, may alternatively be sent at a different time.
The portable electronic device users that are displayed on the map 52 are members of a contact list of the first user. The first user is authorized to receive and view information about each member and therefore is a member of the contact list of each of the other users.
Similarly, the other users are authorized to receive and view information about the first user. The authorization process between a pair of portable electronic device users is well known in the art and therefore will not be described here.
The contact list is divided into a number of groups. The first user may not want to display the location of every contact in his/her contact list all of the time so it is possible to select one or more groups to display. For example, one group may be called “Project Leaders” and contain only those colleagues who are in charge of projects.
It may be useful to plot only this group on a map in order to determine their respective locations at the time a meeting is scheduled to start. Similarly, other groups may be created and plotted on a map.
The information that is stored in the contact list with respect to a particular user typically includes: email address, phone number(s), facsimile number(s) and physical address(es). A profile including a preferred avatar of the contact may also be stored with the contact information.
The contact list is not limited to including only contacts who have completed an authorization process. Contacts for whom location and status information cannot be obtained may also be included on the contact list.
In addition, if a user who is an authorized contact of the first user does not wish to have his/her location or status made available at a particular time, the user may block transmission of such information, if desired.
The first user is able to view additional information associated with an avatar 54, 56, 58, 60 by focusing on the avatar 54, 56, 58, 60 using a mouse or other selection device. As shown in FIG. 3, avatar 60 is “in focus”.
This launches a window 68 that provides additional information from the contact list about the contact. In this case, a photograph and email address is provided, however, other information may alternatively be provided.
In use, the first user powers up portable electronic device 12 if it is not already powered up. The user then selects a group of contacts from a list of predefined groups that is provided. Following selection of the desired group, a location and status request is sent from the first user’s portable electronic device to the portable electronic devices of each member of the selected group.
When the requested information has been received, a map 52 is presented on the display 40 including the avatars 54, 56, 58, 60 of the respective contacts as shown in FIG. 3. As previously described, the location and status may alternatively be broadcast from the portable electronic devices of the other users and received by the portable electronic device of the first user without a request.
Once the avatars 54, 56, 58, 60 have been plotted on the map 52, the first user may focus on any one of the avatars 54, 56, 58, 60 to bring up window 68, which includes further information associated with the avatar 54, 56, 58, 60.
The map 52 may be maintained on the display 40 at all times or alternatively, the map 52 may be launched each time the first user selects a “Map my Contacts” application from a menu. In the embodiment in which the map 52 is maintained on the display 40, the location coordinates and status are updated at regular intervals.
The timing of the intervals may be set by the portable electronic device 12 of the first user. Alternatively, the location coordinates and status may only be updated when the first user clicks a “refresh” button.