When we're working with our iPhones and sharing information with other people, it sometimes takes more steps than it should to perform a task. Patently Apple recently published information about an Apple patent application describing a new icon and process to make multi-step workflows easier to accomplish.
In the patent description, each transaction takes place between an initiator and a target. While several examples are shown, the most interesting one deals with Facebook integration. As seen in the above diagram from Patently Apple, this workflow creates what appears to be a Wi-Fi Direct or Bluetooth connection to another iPhone, requests a vCard from the target, receives the information and allows you to either edit or accept it, adds a picture of the target person, and then sends a friend request to Facebook.
Today's process requires several apps (Contacts and Facebook) and the target would have to send contact information via email or MMS, adding another app and more complexity. The ability to add workflows to the iPhone automates the process of adding information to Contacts and Facebook much in the manner that Automator on the Mac can be set up to integrate applications.
There were rumors circulating last week about Apple integrating Facebook into iPhone OS 4; perhaps the workflow concept is a way of doing that and building an Automator-type functionality into iPhone OS. As always, applying for the patent doesn't necessarily mean that Apple will use this technology in a future product.