Apple explores customizable layers for future Apple Maps app – new patent application


We’re pretty selective in the Apple patent applications we cover here, simply because Apple patents all kinds of things for all kinds of reasons, and for every one of them that makes it into an Apple product, there are hundreds of others that never will. But this is one we think might.

The core concept is nothing new: layered maps. The existing Apple Maps app already allows us to choose between standard mapping, satellite view or both, and Google Maps on the web allows us to switch on or off layers like traffic, weather, public transit lines and so on. But what the Apple patent application describes would, if you’ll excuse the pun, take this idea to a whole new level … 

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The existing layering available in Google Maps

An interactive capability enables a user to dynamically adjust the content of an electronic map. Different modes can be chosen to emphasize features relevant to a particular interest, e.g. commuting, tourism, weather, etc. Combinations of modes can be selected to create a customized map. When a search is conducted, the chosen mode functions as a filter for the retrieved results. The map responds to user input directed to a given feature, to display information relevant to that feature. Tapping or clicking on a highway displays the locations of services along the highway, Touching two points on the map causes available routes between them to be computed and displayed to the user, along with relevant data for each route. Geospatial applications can be integrated with the map to provide information pertaining to the area displayed on the map, and to refine search results to those that are relevant to the area.

So, for example, instead of having all roads shown on one layer, you could choose to show only highways when driving across country, or only minor roads when planning a cycle ride. When you have highways selected, you could tap on a road to display only items relevant to that road, such as junctions, gas stations, diners and so on. Getting hungry? Choose a layer that shows only places to eat.

Touch is integral to Apple’s vision of how the layering would work, for example tapping an airport to bring up flight schedules or touching a town to see its population size. Multi-touch would also be used: touch two different points to see the distance between them.

While the patent doesn’t explicitly reference pulling together personalized information such as calendar appointments and hotel reservations, this would be a very obvious application of the concept.

If Apple wants to leave its early glitches (even the beautiful ones) as nothing more than a distant memory, this would be an extremely effective way to go about it.


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  1. Hey I know – how about adding a DETOUR function to Maps so it will re-route instead of constantly telling me to do a u-turn. And if I did not know the area, I’d be fricken screwed wouldn’t I. Serious omission.

  2. Pierre Calixte - 9 years ago

    I’ve been asking for weather data in my navigation app for a long time. I thought google would have done this by now. I think adding a weather layer would be a killer feature. I’ve been asking for weather data in my navigation app for a long time. I thought google would have done this by now. I think adding a weather layer would be a killer feature.

  3. Andy Fuchs (@tiptronic) - 9 years ago

    OMG – I’m glad Apple did not patent the color ‘red’!

    The US patent system is really flawed – custom layered street-maps is something we did over 10 years ago in our software – and I’m not sure what is worth patenting here… From an european pov it looks like a minority of the americans are on a healthcare contract, but everyone holds a patent or two (for completely obvious things)

    Sorry – I didn’t mean to denounce someone, but these kind of things make me quite happy I don’t live in the US.


Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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