Deciding on a place to meet with friends can often be a hassle, especially if they’re spread out all over the place. But a new invention from Apple could make the process a whole lot simpler.

A patent application titled, “Collaborative Location-Based Search Results” was published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday. It describes a method in which iPhones in multiple locations can used to simultaneously search for online information relevant to mulitple users. In one instance, the feature could be used to display places of interest in reach of all search participants through the use of GPS coordinates, making it easier to decide on a place to, say, grab a coffee or cocktail. This information can then be forwarded onto a vehicle navigation system or navigation app.

AppleCollabSearchPatent An illustration on how Apple's collaborative search invention could work Photo: USPTO/Apple

In another instance, an iPhone user can send a request to another user to visit a nearby establishment -- such as a grocery store -- to pick up a certain item. The invention can also be used in an emergency situation, allowing a user to search for which of their friends are closest to their physical location and call for assistance.

The patent is among one of the many moves Apple has made in recent years to step up its efforts in search -- both in online and location-based searches -- before its deal with Google as the default search provider for Safari expires later this year. Its next mobile operating system, iOS 9, is expected to come with a number of location features, such as mass transit directions and indoor mapping.

Apple filed the patent on January 21 and credits Apple engineers Swapnil Dave and Kaustubh Rao for the invention.