Apple patent looks towards “gifting” iTunes media via NFC

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Date: Thursday, August 15th, 2013, 06:19
Category: News, Patents, Software

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With any luck, you’ll be able to give iTunes media as gifts.

Or, even more conveniently than you do now.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, an Apple patent application was published on Thursday for a system that allows users to “gift” media content from iTunes and their own library to other iOS device owners, with the transaction facilitated by near-field communication.

The lengthy patent filing, titled “Media gifting devices and methods,” is a fairly straightforward invention that could may have greater implications as to how iOS device users purchase and consume digital content.

At the heart of the invention is gifting, or the simple idea of purchasing a song, e-book or video to give to another person. The document describes two main modes of giving gifts: purchasing media directly from the iTunes store, or sending a copy of already owned media to another device.

Apple already has systems in place for gifting digital media with the iTunes store app, while Passbook-redeemable gift cards can be purchased with the Apple Store app.

Currently, there is no way to gift a piece of owned media directly from one device to another through iTunes.

Thursday’s patent application outlines a number of techniques that iOS device owners can use to give gifts provided by iTunes, all of which involve digital rights management (DRM) and authentication keys. The system is similar to Apple’s established giving methods in that one user purchases a gift and sends it to another person, but instead of using email, a gifter can transfer the purchase to the giftee over NFC.

The first step of a transaction originating from the iTunes Store occurs when the gifter selects an item they want to give away, such as a song. In one embodiment, the next step authorizes a gift charge to be placed on the gifter’s iTunes account, which the recipient will redeem for the associated file.

Downloads in this scenario are handled by the iTunes server, which checks the recipient’s authorization key before pushing out a gift. In some cases, the download will begin automatically, though the invention allows for recipients to retrieve the file at a later time.

The second, and arguably more interesting, of the two scenarios is the gifting of an already-owned media file.

Here, Apple again employs a method of authentication via a central server to determine what can and can’t be downloaded by a recipient device. For example, a gifter can send a copy of a song currently playing on their device by tapping a user interface button. The operations performed after the gift purchase fork into two separate actions.

In one instance, the gifter’s device sends a request to the server for a charge to be placed on their account for a given song. The giftee transfers an authentication notification to the recipient’s phone, which then has permission to download the song from iTunes.

Alternatively, if Internet access is unavailable, the gifter can send a locked version of the media file via NFC to a giftee’s device, along with a DRM or authentication code to be redeemed when network access is reestablished. Both devices will communicate with the server, and the purchase will be deducted from the gifter’s account, while the recipient will have the media file unlocked. Another option when offline is to send just the key without the associated file, which can later be used to download the song.

Also noted are various operations to ensure proper transmission of authorization and DRM keys, including checks with a central server for both gifter and giftee, purchase acceptance codes sent via NFC, and other safeguards.

Finally, the patent filing adds that a number of attachments, such as photos and audio messages, can be sent along with the gift.

It is unknown if Apple will roll out a gifting feature in a subsequent version of iOS, but the service could be a boon for iTunes and content providers as users would have yet another well-implemented media purchasing system to choose from.

Apple’s media gifting patent application was first filed for in 2013 and credits Gloria Lin, Amir Mahood Mikhak, Taido Lantz Nakajima, Sean Anthony Mayo, Michael Rosenblatt and Andrew Hodge as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple receives patents for push-to-talk, double-sided touch panel features

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Date: Thursday, May 23rd, 2013, 11:30
Category: Hardware, iPhone, News, Patents

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If you’re hankering for new hardware features on a next-gen iPhone, the patent office is on your side.

Per AppleInsider, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office recently published 26 newly granted patents for Apple, and among them were the Cupertino company’s take on a push-to-talk feature and a double-sided touch-sensitive panel, both of which could possibly appear in future iPhones.

No current models of Apple’s bestselling iPhone support the Push-to-Talk (PTT) feature that many carriers have made available for years now. Users do have access to a number of apps in the iTunes App Store that can reproduce PTT, but U.S. Patent No. 8,447,341 indicates that Apple has at least considered integrating it into a model of its phone.

The patent notes that telecommunications networks exist that enable devices to directly access each other through a digital two-way radio feature.

Apple’s invention, though, describes “a method and system to provide push-to-talk from one user to another in a wireless packet data telecommunications network.” It includes a packet data network with at least one mobile station, a radio access network, a location server, registrar, database server, and PTT server that connects PTT users across the network.

Given the company’s secrecy about forthcoming products, it’s difficult to gauge how likely PTT is to show up in a future iPhone model. In 2010, the company was revealed to be exploring PTT capabilities, but such features haven’t emerged in any models to date.

The filing lists the patent as a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/028,086, filed on December 21, 2001. That patent application, entitled “Push-to-Talk Telecommunications System Utilizing a Voice-Over-IP Network,” was originally filed by Nortel Networks. The patent granted on Tuesday was likely a part of the portfolio Apple and other companies bought in 2011 for US$4.5 billion.

Included among the 26 patents granted on Tuesday is one for a “double-sided touch sensitive panel and flex circuit bonding.” The patent — U.S. Patent No. 8,446,386 — relates to the creation of a multi-touch sensor using a substrate with column and row traces on either side. The process bonds printed flex circuits to directly opposing attachment areas of a substrate.

The patent cites the desirability of keeping “the overall size of the sensor panel as small as possible” as a reason to “have two flex circuits connect to directly opposing sides of the sensor panel.” It’s therefore likely that this technology would go toward Apple’s continual push to make each of its devices thinner than the previous generation.

Other patents granted on Tuesday include ones for “gesture control of multimedia editing applications,” “methods and apparatus for decreasing power consumption and bus activity,” “techniques for versioning file systems,” “technique for visually compositing a group of graphical objects,” a “system for optimizing graphics operations,” and a “touch pad for handheld device.”

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple files patent applications for curved battery technology, could lead to unique new devices

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Date: Thursday, May 2nd, 2013, 08:44
Category: News, Patents

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If nothing else, the patent applications tell you what’s coming down the pipe.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, a pair of patent applications (1, 2) filed by Apple reveal the company is working on unorthodox battery designs with curved cells and irregular shapes, suggesting slimmer, more shapely iOS devices could be on the horizon.

The patents filings for “Curved battery cells for portable electronic devices” and “Non-rectangular batteries for portable electronic devices,” both describe methods in which a battery can be designed and manufactured for incorporation into slim, new device chassis.

Both filed for on Oct. 28, 2011, the applications call for battery cells to be manipulated during the manufacturing phase in order to facilitate easy installation into curved and non-rectangular device designs.

For example, the invention regarding curved batteries uses industry standard production techniques, which include a set of layers, a cathode, an anode, a separator and active coatings, before manipulating the unit to a given specification. Like some batteries already on the market, Apple’s proposed design uses a flexible pouch to enclose the cell layers created by the separator.

The pouch is then exposed to pressure of “at least 0.13 kilogram-force (kgf) per square millimeter” and heat of about 85 degrees Celsius in a set of curved plates in order to set the shape. As noted, this process may take as long as four hours.

In some embodiments, the curve is held by employing a binder coating within the battery cell, which is activated during the curing process to laminate the layers together. The resulting structure would be solid and take the shape of curved plates.

From the filing’s summary:
“In some embodiments, the curve is formed to facilitate efficient use of space inside a portable electronic device. For example, the curve may be formed at one or more ends of the battery cell to allow the battery cell to occupy a curved and/or rounded space within the enclosure of a laptop computer, tablet computer, mobile phone, personal digital assistant (PDA), digital camera, portable media player, and/or other type of battery-powered electronic device.”

In the second application a similar method is employed, but where the former uses pressure and heat to set the shape, the “non-rectangular” property removes material from the battery before stacking the cell layers. An example is given of how a non-rectangular shape can be achieved by removing material from one or more sides of the anode and cathode to form a rounded corner. By utilizing this method, varying thicknesses can be achieved, such as those seen in the fourth-generation iPad.

Both techniques aim to shape a battery that fits snugly into a device’s housing, thereby reducing wasted internal space. While merely speculation, the battery designs could be used in an upcoming version of the iPhone or iPad, both of which are becoming increasingly slim as consumers demand thin, lightweight portables.

Also a possibility is the use of such battery design in an iPhone with a “wrap-around” display, the patent of which passed through the USPTO in late March. While it is unlikely that such a device will make it to market in the near future, if ever, the recent patent filings show Apple is continuously looking for innovative ways to save space in its iOS device lineup.

Both patent applications credit Ramesh C. Bhardwaj, John Raff, Stephen R. McClure, Erik L. Wang and Taisup Hwang as their inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Two new patents show how Apple would use iPhone, Bluetooth to interact with cars

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Date: Thursday, April 25th, 2013, 07:29
Category: iOS, News, Patents

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One day, your iPhone WILL talk to and control your car.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office (1, 2) and AppleInsider, a pair of patent filings discovered on Thursday reveal Apple is actively investigating the possibilities afforded by the iOS mobile platform’s various wireless connectivity options, including the ability to interact with, and at times control, a Bluetooth-enabled automobile.

The two patents, describe Apple inventions for using an iOS device to find a parked car in a parking structure, getting guidance to said car, gathering parking fee information and, once near the automobile, activating vehicle functions like door locks, power windows and the engine starter.

First, Apple’s “Method for Locating a Vehicle” outlines a method in which a mobile device can pair with a vehicle via Bluetooth to determine whether it is in a parked state. If the condition is met, the handset then communicates with a wireless system within the parking structure to determine a parking location before moving away from the vehicle.

When returning to the parking structure, the mobile device can access the parking structure’s location system to request current positioning data. The received information is then compared to the vehicle location already stored on the device to determine a route back to the car.

In another embodiment, the automobile itself communicates with the parking structure’s location system, which logs the car’s position and stores the data for later access by a mobile device. This method also allows the parking system to handle guidance and routing directions, which are subsequently sent to a handset upon request.

Apple’s invention calls for the parking structure to hold an array of wireless sensors that are deployed in such a way as to determine the location of a car and a mobile device. An example would be one sensor per stall, or one per row. The system can use Bluetooth technology to transmit positioning data, as well as guidance data if necessary, to the mobile device.

Further, the parking system can also incorporate cameras, microphones and other sensors to determine whether a car is in a parked state. Such information would include an opened car door, active running lights or engine noise. In some embodiments, a user can manually inform the system that a car is parked by interacting with a digital interface either in the vehicle or on a mobile device.

Regarding guidance, a handset can receive a map over cellular or Wi-Fi, which can have an overlay of current positioning data much like a GPS navigation system. Indeed, in some examples, GPS can also be used in concert with the parking structure’s location data to determine a route back to the vehicle.

As a side note, Apple recently acquired “indoor GPS” firm WiFiSLAM, which developed technology to serve up location data within structures where GPS signals are usually absent. Such systems could be implemented effectively in the utility filing described above.

In Apple’s second car-related patent application, titled “Accessing a vehicle using portable devices,” a mobile handset pairs securely with a car over Bluetooth or other suitable method to control various onboard functions.

The invention is basically a more intelligent replacement for existing automobile personalization systems offered by some manufacturers. These methods usually rely on key fobs, which interact with the car via NFC or radio to open doors, roll down windows, start the engine, and so forth. Instead, Apple proposes a mobile device take the place of a fob to offer enhanced control of the vehicle through wireless protocols like Bluetooth.

As noted in the filing, the system can support a primary and a secondary mobile device. Both would use proven authentication methods to access the vehicle, thereby allowing said devices to act as a security point in lieu of a key fob. A user can set preferences to cause the system to act automatically, or have greater control by requiring a PIN or passwords before a device unlocks and interacts with the car.

Some embodiments allow restrictions to be placed on the second mobile device, such as authorization to start the engine only within a given time period, for example between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. Further limitations can include speed, entertainment options, number of “uses” allotted and GPS-based fencing, among others.

Besides describing the variety of functions available for operation, much of the patent application focuses on authentication techniques and device-to-car security.

Apple is apparently looking to take advantage of popular “infotainment” systems a number of auto makers include in their vehicles, which usually carry some sort of wireless communications protocol such as Bluetooth. While it is unknown if and when the pair of patent applications will be used in a consumer product, a number of car manufacturers have already signed on to support Apple’s “eyes-free” initiative.

Both of the applications were filed in 2011 and credit Brian J. Tucker, Emily C. Schubert, Jess L. Dorogusker, Joakim Linde; Joakim and Stephen Chick as their inventors.

Apple receives patent for offline purchasing system

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Date: Tuesday, April 9th, 2013, 07:46
Category: iOS, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, Patents, Software

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Ok, this is interesting.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office and AppleInsider, Apple on Tuesday was awarded a patent for an offline purchasing system that would allow iTunes users to buy music, movies and other media when not connected to the internet.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office granted Apple U.S. Patent No. 8,417,575 for “On-device offline purchases using credits,” which describes a system involving the purchase of offline credits stored on a given device that can be put toward media in the iTunes store even when not connected to the online marketplace.

Currently, iTunes users must be logged in or have an internet connection to successfully purchase and download content from the online storefront, but Tuesday’s patent lays the groundwork for a type of “pre-loaded” payment system. Beyond the obvious applications for on-the-go iPod touch users and perhaps frequent travelers, the patent could be a harbinger of new never before seen iTunes functionality.

According to Apple, the proposed service involves media stored on an electronic device, like an iPhone or iPod touch, that is not part of the user’s owned library. If a user wants to buy a track, but cannot connect to the Internet to provide a means of payment, they can use pre-paid credits previously purchased through the store and subsequently loaded onto the device. Once a data network is accessed, the appropriate deductions are made to a user’s on-board credit allotment.

Users can add credits to their device accounts either through the device itself or what appears to be a specialized portal on the desktop version of iTunes, along with other options. Multiple forms of payment are accepted, including credit cards, bank accounts and other digitally connected assets a user links to their online profile.

As noted by the patent, in order to play back a purchased song or movie, a device must first have a copy of said media item, as well as authorization to play back the content. The device can retrieve copies of “unauthorized” media in any number of ways, including recommendations downloaded from the media store. Carrying on with the recommendation example, the device can restrict access to the content in any number of ways until authorization, or a purchase, has been detected. In some instances, the media might be played back at a lower quality, or there could be a limit to how many times a track is played.

The locally-stored media can be displayed in a variety of arrangements, including a layout similar to the existing iTunes iOS app, making browsing and buying new content easy. Once a user makes a selection, they can purchase the locally stored media with the credits they bought in advance, which will remove the restrictions previously imposed on the content. In other words, the authorization and playback transaction would be fully completed offline.

The property could be a boon for iTunes users who don’t have ready access to the Internet and, if made real, would likely drive sales for the digital music giant. Specific implementations were not thoroughly discussed, though Apple already has iTunes Match, which allows users iCloud access to their entire music collection, even tracks imported from CDs, for a yearly fee. While mere speculation, further cloud computing integration could bring even more tie-ins with the offline purchasing service, such as music sharing or gifting.

It remains unknown if and when Apple plans to roll out the offline crediting functionality, but the device-specific solution could theoretically be implemented with a firmware update as no hardware limitations were described in the patent.

Apple’s offline purchasing patent was first filed for in 2010 and credits Taido Nakajima, Tyler Mincey, Gloria Lin and Joey Darragh as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Recently published Apple patents show possible road to improved pedometer accuracy, possible health accessory

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Date: Thursday, April 4th, 2013, 07:04
Category: News, Patents

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It’s the patent filings that show the useful stuff coming down the road.

Per AppleInsider, three filings published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday reveal Apple is working to improve the accuracy of pedometer readings when implemented in mobile devices, hinting that the company may be planning an entrance into the health accessory industry.

While Apple’s patents (1, 2, 3), each titled “Techniques for improved pedometer readings,” don’t specifically mention a wearable accessory, the technology detailed can easily be applied to such a device. Perhaps most interesting is that Apple filed three separate patent applications describing three different pedometer logging techniques, yet the company has yet to implement a first-party solution or product that leverages such technology.

Each filing looks to solve the same problem: pedometer accuracy. Current devices, even those specifically made to track a user’s steps, are not completely accurate due to hardware and software limitations. Apple’s invention hopes to rectify the situation through intelligent data collection and processing.

The patent applications start out by describing a pedometer, which is a device having motion sensing capabilities, such as a built-in accelerometer or gyroscope, that provides step count, running step count, distance traveled and other metrics. It is pointed out that the device described in some embodiments is not limited to one suitable for step detection, meaning the tech can be applied to smartphones and the like.

Conventional techniques detects steps using acceleration swing over a fixed threshold, but Apple’s invention uses adaptive threshold and frequency filtering to garner more accurate results. Frequency analysis can include fast Fourier transform (FFT) or other algorithms, while distance calibration can apply least squares simple regression, least squares multiple regression, or K-factor.

However, by using fixed threshold techniques, some steps may not be detected due to offsets or shifts in the accelerometer. For example, when a user of the device is running, the average acceleration of the device may be higher due to the greater acceleration of each footstep and the overall faster forward motion. Due to the higher offset of average acceleration during running measurements, some negative slope 88 to positive slope 86 threshold crossings may not be detected. For example, the negative slope 88 to positive slope 86 transition at point 94 in the graphed modulus 52 does not cross the 1 g threshold between peaks 92a and 90a. As a result, while peaks 92a and 90a may actually correspond to two steps (e.g., a left step and a right step), conventional threshold filtering techniques may detect only one step due to the lack of a negative to positive transition (e.g., point 94) crossing below the fixed 1 g threshold.

These methods allow for a finer set of data due that can conform more readily to changes in stride and a user’s personal physical attributes. On that point, a GUI is also implemented into which weight, height and other user specifics can be entered for processing with the given algorithms.

By using these advanced methods, a more accurate assessment of user motion can be tracked, consequently generating more accurate pedometer data.

The language goes on to detail the various algorithms and implementations of adaptive threshold and frequency filtering.

Third-party app makers have indeed created pedometer software that uses data from the iPhone’s built-in sensors to track steps taken and estimated distance traveled, but Apple itself has yet to launch such an asset. Furthermore, the invention seeks to improve upon existing techniques, suggesting the company is planning to implement the tech in a pedometer app, or possibly a wearable device like the much-rumored “iWatch.”

All three applications were filed for in September of 2011 and credit Yash Rohit Modi, Vinay Bethgiri Ganesh Dixit and Saurabh Gupta as their inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple receives patent for Smart Cover wireless charging system

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Date: Thursday, March 14th, 2013, 07:25
Category: Hardware, iPad, News, Patents

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It’s sort of a weird patent application, but apparently it’s been pushed through.

Per 9to5Mac, Apple on Thursday published an Apple patent application that details a system of inductively charging an iPad through the Smart Cover. The idea is that rather than plugging in the iPad, the Smart Cover would include an inductive power transmitter that would allow it to pair with an inductive power transceiver embedded into the iPad. The result is the Smart Cover would become a wireless charging station, connecting to an external power source, and allowing you to power your iPad in various positions. Apple also explained that it could use “ambient power gathering devices, such as solar cells, can be used to gather ambient power (such as sunlight) to be stored internally in the flap for later inductive transfer.”

A method for wireless powering a tablet device, comprising: determining if a protective cover is in a closed configuration with respect to the tablet device; enabling a wireless power receiver circuit in the tablet device when it is determined that the protective cover is in the closed configuration with respect to the tablet device; and wirelessly receiving power from a wireless power transmitter associated with the protective cover.

Apple described the advanced Smart Cover as including multiple power transmitters to allow the iPad to charge even when using the case, for example, as a stand to prop up the device. Alternatively, the cover could continue charging the device when in the closed position or when an iPad is placed on top:

The method as recited in claim 10, the method further comprising: determining that the tablet device is positioned relative to a flat surface at a viewing angle; and enabling a second wireless power receiver circuit only when it is determined that the tablet device is in the portable mode and is positioned relative to the flat surface at the viewing angle and the tablet device is configured to present video by the display. An apparatus for wireless powering a tablet device, comprising: means for determining if a protective cover is in a closed configuration with respect to the tablet device; means for enabling a wireless power receiver circuit in the tablet device when it is determined that the protective cover is in the closed configuration with respect to the tablet device; and means for wirelessly receiving power from a wireless power transmitter associated with the protective cover.

13. The apparatus as recited in claim 12, the tablet device further comprising; a battery; a display; and a sensor arranged to detect an external stimulus only when the protective cover is in the closed configuration with respect to the display.

The system described in the patent would be similar to wireless charging systems already available on the market, something that Apple’s Phil Schiller recently described as “more complicated” than Apple’s current solution:

As for wireless charging, Schiller notes that the wireless charging systems still have to be plugged into the wall, so it’s not clear how much convenience they add. The widely-adopted USB cord, meanwhile, can charge in wall outlets, computers and even on airplanes, he said. “Having to create another device you have to plug into the wall is actually, for most situations, more complicated,” Schiller said.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple patent application explores idea of magnetic stand that could hold iPads in new ways, configurations

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Date: Thursday, February 28th, 2013, 08:23
Category: iPad, News, Patents

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If you ever need to hang an iPad upside down, Apple may just have you covered.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office and TechCrunch, a new patent application by Apple published this week describes a stand for the iPad that uses magnets to hold the Apple tablet in place. iPads already come with fairly powerful magnets built into their frames, something Apple introduced along with the very first model to make the iPad compatible with its smart cover. The patent describes a magnetic stand which would be able to hold the iPad firmly in place in a number of different settings, and perform various functions.

Some examples provided in the patent include mounting the iPad to a tripod, a treadmill, or a music stand, and even attaching two iPads together via a hinge that would allow iPads to be used together in a book-style configuration. The patent text says that the mounting device would work together with a shielded, in-built magnetic component on the target device (which the iPad already has), thus enabling for a much stronger connection that would normally be possible, since powerful unshielded magnets could have an adverse effect on internal electronic components.

The mounting system described in the patent does more than just provide for a stand that can grip the iPad firmly: different permutations also include data connections, so that in the book type instance, for example, both tablet devices have a wired connection built in to their portion of the hinge, making communication between the two tablets possible. That would mean things like flipping pages in a book would actually have an effect on both tablet displays simultaneously, instead of each acting independently.

The patent also goes into a lot more detail about how an in-car mount might work with an iPad. A rotational sensor could be used to activate and deactivate the tablet, for instance, meaning the iPad could have an on and off position (likely portrait and landscape respectively), and there’s also potential to have a tablet-to-vehicle connection initiated when a car detects a specific “magnetic signature.” That, combined with wireless connection direct to a car’s communication system, would effectively render a person’s iPad a unique and personalized in-car entertainment device and control console.

The patent describes a driver issuing voice-based commands to the iPad, which are passed on to the car to change the car’s “configuration.” The communication would be two-way, too, with the car feeding ”car status information “ back to the iPad, which would also be able to handle navigation duties and play back music through the connected car’s stereo.

Cool stuff and it could help integrate the iPad into even more areas than before.

The proposed invention, made public this week, was first filed with the USPTO in August of 2011. The invention is credited to Matthew D. Rohrbach.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Previous Apple patent applications reveal plans for line of wearable computing devices

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 08:51
Category: Hardware, News, Patents

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You know that whole iWatch thing? It could be just the tip of the iceberg where Apple and wearable technologies are concerned.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, the company is secretly developing an entire wearable/attachable computing platform and ecosystem comprised of wireless sensing systems for monitoring not only sports activity, athletic training, medicine, fitness, and wellness in humans, but also for tracking packages and industrial production.

The site initially discovered an 83-page patent filing granted to the company that covered a series of wireless sensing systems aimed at quantifying actions or events that can currently be measured only qualitatively, such as the effectiveness of a karate kick or what exactly happened to a package from FedEx that arrived with its contents broken. Industry watchers could think of the technology as a series of Nike FuelBands for nearly all aspects of motion.

Since then, Apple has continued to refine the provisional filing, and on Tuesday was awarded the rights to a continuation of the now divisional patent application under the title “Personal items network, and associated methods.” It makes references to dozens of earlier filings, including several from the company itself dating back to 2001.

A couple of wireless monitoring devices are critical to Apple’s concept, the first of which is called a movement monitor device, or “MMD.” The company says these tiny transmitters can take the form of an adhesive strip similar to a bandage and include a processor, a detector, communications port, and battery. Alternatively, they could assume the form of a credit card and/or include a magnetic element for adhering to metal objects. In any of the cases, they’d ideally also include a real time clock so that the transmitter can tag “events” with time and date information.

In one aspect, the MMD continuously relays a movement metric by continuous transmission of data from the detector to a RR. In this way, a MMD attached to a person may beneficially track movement, in real time, of that person by recombination of the movement metrics at a remote computer. In one aspect, multiple MMDs attached to a person quantify movement of a plurality of body parts or movements, for example to assist in athletic training (e.g., for boxing or karate).

“In another aspect, multiple MMDs attached to an object quantify movement of a plurality of object parts or movements, for example to monitor or assess different components or sensitive parts of an object. For example, multiple MMDs can be attached to an expensive medical device to monitor various critical components during shipment; when the device arrives at the customer, these MMDs are interrogated to determine whether any of the critical components experienced undesirable conditions–e.g., a high impact or temperature or humidity.”

MMDs could also be capable of measuring temperature, humidity, moisture, altitude and pressure. These environmental metrics would be combined into an MMD with a detector that facilitates the monitoring of movement metrics. And they “can practically attach to almost anything to obtain movement information,” the filing claims.

By way of example, an MMD can be mounted to the helmet or body armor of each football player or motocross competitor to monitor movement and jerk of the athlete. In such applications, data from the MMD preferably transmits event data in real time to a RR in the form of a network, so that MMD data associated with each competitor is available for broadcast to a scoreboard, TV or the Internet. Other advantages should be apparent in the description within.”

Event Monitoring Devices:
The second kind wireless monitoring device Apple describes in its filing is called an Event Monitoring Device, or “EMD,” which can be used to monitor and report humidity, chemicals, heart rate, pulse, pressure, stress, weight, environmental factors and hazardous conditions. Nearly identical in structure, composition, and operation to MMDs, EMDs monitor one or more metrics for “events,” where data is acquired that exceeds some predetermined threshold or value.

In [one] example, the detector and processor collectively monitor stress events, where for example it is determined that the EMD attached to a human senses increased heart rate of over 180 beats per minute (an exemplary “event” threshold). In still another aspect, the detector is a chemical (or pH) detector and the processor and detector collectively determine a change of chemical composition of an object connected with the EMD over some preselected time period.

Apple goes on in the filing to describe how MMDs and EMDs can monitor and enhance activities and live broadcasts of Nascar races, marathons, rodeos, bike races, and extreme sports. They could also be applied to body armor and used for weight monitoring.

Apple receives patent for solar multitouch panels, could harvest additional energy for iOS devices from sunlight

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Date: Tuesday, February 5th, 2013, 08:08
Category: Hardware, News, Patents

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This could turn into something very, very spiffy.

Per the United States Patent and Trademark Office, on Tuesday Apple a patent for an invention that integrates a touch sensor array with a solar panel, allowing for portable device to be both power-efficient and compact.

Apple’s newly-granted U.S. Patent No. 8,368,654 for an “Integrated touch sensor and solar assembly” points directly to the system’s use in portable electronic devices like a media player or phone. The technology is arguably most useful in these types of products as consumer demand for larger, power-hungry screens is pushing the limit of battery design.

Instead of merely layering solar cells within the touchscreen’s array, the ’654 patent calls for true integration, meaning the solar panel can operate as both an energy harvesting component as well as an optical sensor. To accomplish this feat, the touch panel’s electrodes are used for both capacitive sensing and collecting solar energy. Further, because the proposed component includes electrodes that offer the same “coverage” as a typical solar panel, it provides “far more quadrants or pixels” to be used as touch sensors.

Unlike capacitive touch panels, such as those used in Apple’s iPhone, the hybrid system’s solar panels can be used to simultaneously provide optical-based sensing while capturing and converting energy.

The patent offers a number of examples to illustrate the benefits of having a dual-mode touch panel. In one case, when an approaching object such a finger is detected, the panel may switch to a “capacitive sensing mode” for precise input, increasing the number of capacitive cycles within a given time period. In other situations, the panel may cycle between “solar power/optical sensing mode” and “capacitive sensing mode” depending on whether an object is near the screen. If no object is detected, the number of capacitive cycles is reduced, giving the electrodes more time to facilitate energy production from the solar cells.

Behind the scenes, a so-called “traffic control” unit, which can be either a hardware or software solution, decides whether generated energy should be allocated to running the device or sent to the battery for storage.

Physically, the capacitive touch sensors and solar cells are separated using isolation trenches, though both are routed through multiplexer circuitry. The MUX is fed either touch signals or power from the solar cells and delivers them to the CPU or power management unit, respectively.

While the technology may not be incorporated into the next iPhone Apple releases, the patent could help in cutting valuable space from the handset. With the most recent iPhone 5, Apple used in-cell touch panel technology to bring the phone’s depth down to 7.6 millimeters.

Apple first filed for the ’654 patent in September 2008 and credits Michael Nathaniel Rosenblatt, Benjamin Lyon, John Benjamin Filson, Steve Porter Hotelling, Gordon Cameron and Cameron Frazier as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.