PatentMonkey: AT&T Wireless Lockdown for iPhone?

ATTLOCKRecent news that Apple had applied for a means to disable recharging on a stolen device, we now have learned that Cingular conceived an even broader concept: shutting down a wireless device when out of a communication with a WiFi zone.

Applicable to a number of devices beyond just cell phones, AT&T has patented a means to lock out stolen (or borrowed) wirelessly enabled gear…

In 2004, Cingular conceived of a means to shut down wireless devices that communicate with a “short range wireless” network. While at the time this was likely viewed as a narrow category, AT&T has an electronics gold mine with the proliferation of Bluetooth and WiFi enabled devices growing by the day from cell phones to laptops to cameras. Specifically, AT&T can offer a service to shut down key functions on your phone, camera, etc when outside of your network/home/office.

For details:

1. A method for selectively disabling a wireless-enabled device, said method comprising:
transmitting a short range wireless signal using one of
(i) said wireless-enabled device and
(ii) a second device separate from the wireless-enabled device;
receiving a predetermined threshold value from the user of the wireless-enabled device;
measuring, using the other of the second device and the wireless-enabled device, signal strength of the signal;
automatically disabling at least one function of the wireless-enabled device when the signal strength is less than the predetermined threshold value; and
automatically reenabling the at least one function of the wireless-enabled device when the signal strength is equal to or greater than the predetermined threshold value.

Even more interesting: AT&T could offer location-specific rentals where wireless devices are ‘checked in’ and would be turned into worthless bricks if they leave the premises. I’m not even sure AT&T realizes the number of applications making for an interesting future for WiFi devices going forward.