Lately, Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) has been in the “no” business. Earlier this year, CEO Tim Cook fought a public encryption battle with the FBI over the implications of unlocking an iPhone owned by one of the San Bernardino shooters, and (possibly) made the user-hostile decision to remove the headphone jack from the iPhone 7. Now, AAPL has been awarded a patent to stop users from recording video at concerts.
The Apple patent states, “the image processing circuitry can determine whether each image detected by the camera includes an infrared signal with encoded data.” Basically, if you’re zooming in on Taylor Swift and your camera detects a hint of infrared, the technology will brick your phone temporarily.
The Potential Behind AAPL’s New Patent
If Apple actually acts on this technology, it would be a big win for musicians and other entertainers irked by attendees shrugging off strict smartphone bans. Even Prince, who was notoriously protective of the rights to his music, had some of his final concert leaked to YouTube.
But it’s not just concerts, either. The technology in the Apple patent can effectively apply wherever picture or video is strictly forbidden:
“Based on the decoded data, a device can display information to a user or modify an operation of the device. In some embodiments, a device can, based on received infrared data, display information to a user relating to an object near the user … an infrared emitter can be located in areas where picture or video capture is prohibited, and the emitter can generate infrared signals with encoded data that includes commands to disable the recording functions of devices.”
As Fortune’s Don Reisinger notes, such technology can apply to banks or federal facilities. In addition, I could see the technology stopping people from using their phones in movie theaters, a result I’d gladly cheer for.
That said, there are some user-friendly uses as well, such as beaming venue-specific information or intricate details for a second-screen experience at a museum or amusement park.
Another possibility, as noted by Quartz, is that AAPL, like Bruce Wayne, is in the business of acquiring technology to keep it out of the wrong hands. That sentiment certainly jibes with Apple taking a hard line on infiltrating personal devices, no matter what crime was committed.
As of this writing, John Kilhefner did not hold a position in any of the aforementioned securities.