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Apple Patent Backup Through a Friend's Device

Personal data is valuable and many companies continue to research into the best ways to ensure that there’s in-built redundancy, like through automatic backup to the cloud. It should always be simple to create a copy of your data. Ideally, everyone would make it their top priority, but we know for a fact that doesn’t happen. Some people forget to create their backups entirely; others don’t backup regularly enough.

With a recent patent application, Apple has outlined a system that would allow users without a network connection on their device to use their friend’s connection instead. The patent application is named ‘Secure Ad Hoc Data Backup to Nearby Friend Devices’ and was submitted to the US Patents and Trademarks Office.

The technology itself isn’t anything new. The system envisioned is essentially a peer-to-peer backup, which would backup valuable data on iOS devices even when that specific device has no internet connection.

Outlined in the patent, the ad hoc network would be created through the pairing of two devices, via NFC, Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, to create a private mobile network which would be used for the transfer and backup of files to somewhere like iCloud.

“In many situations, the user of a mobile device in the ad hoc network may be collecting data (eg, photos, notes) at a time where there is no connectivity with a data backup server. If the mobile device is damaged, lost or stolen during this period of no connectivity, the data may be lost,” Apple wrote.

While it might not be often that such a situation would occur, where you’re without connection and desperately need to backup, it’s always useful to have as many backup features as possible. To have a stable and secure backup plan, it’s customised to your needs and doesn’t put anything in the way of getting your data securely replicated and stored elsewhere.

If you’ve used an iOS device before then you’re probably familiar with AirDrop, which allows you to send files to a friend. Apple’s backup system would likely operate in a similar way, scanning for friendly devices in the nearby area and then asking to use their connection for the backup.

Of course, security is paramount in a feature like this. The backup data would be encrypted when transmitted and would also be timestamped. The data could only be transferred to a friend’s device providing it met certain criteria, like whether there was enough storage space, battery charge, and bandwidth.

The data backup would also be removed from the friendly device after a specific amount of time and when the backup has been successfully backed up to the cloud.

This is just a patent request at the moment, and hasn’t even been approved, so this is not a definite feature that we’re going to see in the near future. It may even hit Android devices before coming to Apple devices, developed off the back of existing technology. But it’s an insight as to what Apple is planning in terms of backup for their iOS devices.


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