"The Quiet TimeTM Universal System turns cell phones off automatically in designated areas such as theaters, hospitals, doctor's offices, and business meeting rooms. Our patented technology converts your incoming calls to text messages and alerts the cell phone owner."
This may sound like the latest gizmo you would see at the Consumer Electronics Show. It is actually an invention created by my students using Systematic Inventive Thinking...in 2007, the year the iPhone was first released. Five years later, Apple has been awarded a patent described as an "apparatus and methods for enforcement of policies upon a wireless device." It reveals a way to change aspects of a mobile device based on certain events or surroundings.
As reported by CNET:
"Imagine a mobile phone that automatically turns off its display and sounds when it senses that it's in a movie theater. For example, the phone could disable its own noise and display if it knows it's in a theatre. It could be prevented from communicating with other devices if it detects that it's in a classroom. Or it could automatically go into sleep mode if entering a sensitive area where noises are taboo. In a typical scenario, the mobile device would communicate with a network access point that enforces a certain policy, such as putting the handset on mute. Users could have the option of accepting or rejecting a connection with the access point based on the policies. A single access point could also offer multiple policies."
This is a classic example of the Attribute Dependency Technique, one of five in the SIT innovation method. You can spot Attribute Dependency concepts immediately when you see one aspect changing as another changes. In this new patent, Apple calls it "situational-awareness" technology.
Attribute Dependency differs from the templates in that it uses attributes (variables) of the situation rather than components. Start with an attribute list, then construct a matrix of these, pairing each against the others. Each cell represents a potential dependency (or potential break in an existing dependency) that forms a Virtual Product. Using Function Follows Form, we work backwards and envision a potential benefit or problem that this hypothetical solution solves.
Attribute Dependency is a versatile tool, and it explains the majority of new products as reported in the research by Dr. Jacob Goldenberg. I used it to create a lot of new concepts for the iPhone in my September 2008 blog posting. In each of these concepts, look for the telltale sign of Attribute Dependency: as one thing changes, so does another.