Commentators have seized upon a patent published today, which details how the geo-location capabilities of the device can be used to monitor and control certain car functions.

It has been speculated that the new capabilities would work in conjunction with vehicle-based OS, CarPlay, in order to lock the car or turn its alarm on using Bluetooth LE signals, or possibly Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL)’s iBeacon tech.

New Apple Inc. Patent: Remote Unlocking Via Your iPhone?

Apple CarPlay Patent: Geofences

Various geofences with different boundaries could be used to program functions such as unlocking your car as you approach, or automatically opening the trunk if you move towards the rear of the vehicle. Other uses include improving safety by not allowing the engine to start unless the iPhone owner is sat in the driver’s seat.

There is potential for more ambitious uses of the technology, which would require years of development. One idea is the use of the cellular connection to monitor the owner’s movements, reporting back to the CarPlay unit in the vehicle. This would allow the vehicle to begin certain activities, such as switching on climate control, before proximity is detected locally.

Apple Carplay Patent: Future developments

The first car remote patent filed by Apple came in June 2012, and credited Sylvain Louboutin as the inventor. The latest patent was published by the USPTO on 21 October 2014, according to AppleInsider.

The CarPlay OS could see rapid growth in the coming years, with ABI Research predicting that it will land in 24 million vehicles by 2019.  In order for these kind of numbers to become reality, Apple will have to overcome a multitude of challenges, both technical and in terms of securing support from automakers.

If other technology companies decide to enter the market it would further complicate matters for consumers. Many automakers are currently offering companion apps for their vehicles, but if Apple can secure a wide support base it could turn today’s patent into tomorrow’s mass-market technology, marking another step in the quest to make the iPhone indispensable in daily life.