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 “microslot antennas”, could see improvements in wireless functionality in coming years

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Date: Tuesday, February 12th, 2013, 08:01
Category: Hardware, iOS, iPad, iPad mini, iPhone, iPod Touch, News, wireless

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Your notebook and iOS device’s wireless system could be getting that much niftier.

Per AppleInsider and the United States Patent and Trademark Office, Apple on Tuesday won the patent rights to “microslot antenna” technology that allows micron-wide antenna assets to be integrated into the housing of a portable device, such as an iPhone, making them nearly invisible to the human eye.

As portable electronics become thinner and more compact with each successive generation, internal space is quickly becoming a limiting factor to device designers. Apple’s U.S. Patent No. 8,373,610 for “Microslot antennas for electronic devices,” granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday, could drastically cut down on the size of at least one component needed to create products like the iPhone.

While the patent refers to implementations in a laptop computer, the antenna tech can be used in other portable electronics like smartphones and tablets.

With Apple’s current technology as seen in the iPhone 5, two internal radio antennas dynamically switch between multiple frequency bands, including those carrying fast LTE data. In order to fit the units within the handset’s slim body, Apple had to design a window for radio waves, while keeping the unit small enough to leave room for other important structures like the logic board and battery.

Tuesday’s patent focuses on so-called “microslot antenna” technology, or “dielectric-filled microslots that are formed in a ground plane element.” According to the invention, the ground plane can be a device’s housing as long as it is conductive, meaning the slots would be integrated on the outer hull of a product. The system can also support multiple communications bands, meaning functionality would not be compromised for size enhancements.

As for the size of the microslots, the patent language states that the widths of the slots are usually significantly less than their lengths. For example, widths can range from microns to hundreds of microns, while a microslot’s length can be on the order of millimeters or centimeters.

Filling the slots is a dielectric such as epoxy, plastic, air or other suitable substance that prevents foreign matter from entering. Antenna feeds can be located at or between the functional microslots, and operate on common communication bands that support Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS and 3G cellular, among others.

The ‘601 property was first filed for in December 2007, less than six months after the original iPhone debuted, and credits Bing Chiang, Gregory Allen Springer, Douglas B. Kough, Enrique Ayala and Matthew Ian McDonald as its inventors.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases iOS 6.1.1 update for iPhone 4S users

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Date: Monday, February 11th, 2013, 12:32
Category: iOS, iPhone, News, Software

Well, that was quick.

Per AppleInsider, Apple on Monday released iOS 6.1.1 to address a number of bugs for iPhone 4S owners who recently ran into a handful of issues following the release of iOS 6.1 for all of Apple’s mobile devices.

The release is currently available as a direct download here (968MB) or as an over-the-air download (weighing in at about 23 megabytes). It’s available only to iPhone 4S users. No release was issued for iPhone 5 or other models of the handset at this time, despite claims from iPhone 5 owners that they were also negatively impacted by the iOS 6.1 update.

Two weeks after Apple released iOS 6.1, a number of iPhone 4S users began reporting battery drain and overheating issues possibly related to the update. British wireless carrier Vodafone UK even sent out a warning telling iPhone 4S owners not to upgrade to the latest OS version because the carrier determined it to cause 3G performance problems.

For instance, Apple’s Support Community forum battery drain and overheating problems after applying the iOS 6.1 update.

In particular, the carrier noted that iOS 6.1 was creating intermittent problems with iPhone 4S models, causing the handsets to experience 3G-related issues with making calls, sending texts and accessing the company’s data network. The reports on Apple’s support forums, however, suggested that the problems may not be limited to just iPhone 4S users and may also affect iPhone 5 users to some extent.

One iPhone 5 owner saw their battery drain of 35 percent overnight, while an iPhone 3GS user said Apple’s latest update actually boosted battery life. It’s unclear whether Apple is separately preparing an iOS 6.1.1 update for iPhone 5 owners.

Stay tuned for additional details and if you’ve tried iOS 6.1.1 and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple may be developing Bluetooth-based “iWatch” wrist watch device

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Date: Monday, February 11th, 2013, 08:15
Category: Hardware, Rumor

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Because you ALWAYS hope Apple would make a snazzy wristwatch product.

Per the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, Apple is apparently working on developing a smartwatch device. In exploring devices beyond its currently hot-selling iPhone and iPad, Apple is said to have discussed a smartwatch with Hon Hai Precision Industry, also known as by its U.S. trade name Foxconn.

Foxconn is said to be working on multiple technologies that could appear in wearable technologies. The Taipei-based company is looking to lower power-usage and to strip down the chip technologies that would go into such devices. In particular, the report claims that Foxconn is working on the underpinnings of wearable technology for more customers than just Apple. The Journal does not detail for which other companies Foxconn might be developing the components.

Google is known to be working on its own wearable technology, a glasses-mounted heads-up display known as Google Glass. That device is currently in testing with developers, and Google has targeted early 2014 as a consumer release window. Shortly after Google Glass was unveiled, an Apple patent emerged, showing off similar technology aimed at solving issues arising from such displays.

Many industry observers believe that “wearable” computing is a near-inevitable next step for mobile technology. In January, Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster predicted such technology would ultimately replace the iPhone, much like the iPhone has replaced the iPod.

Apple is likely to leverage its existing patents on creating curved glass to bring to market a product its competitors could not quickly and easily imitate. Such a device might also intermittently satisfy Wall Street investors, who have pummeled Apple’s stock in recent weeks due to concerns over competition, and possibly plateauing profit growth and innovation.

The Journal was the second major news publication on Sunday to leak details on a possible Apple smartwatch, lending credence to the notion that such a device is in development or at least under consideration. The past months have seen increasing speculation on the existence and capabilities of an “iWatch.”

In December, rumors emerged that Apple was working with Intel on a smartwatch accessory that would feature a 1.5-inch OLED display and low-power Bluetooth 4.0 connectivity. That device was said to work alongside a user’s iPhone, with the ability to access simplified iOS functions.

And just last week, prior to the New York Times and Wall Street Journal reports, Bruce Tognazzini opined in long-form on his blog about the possibilities of an iWatch. Tognazzini — creator of Apple’s Human Interface Guidelines — based his predictions on his knowledge of the way Apple operates, saying an iWatch would “fill a gaping hole in the Apple ecosystem” and would complement all of Apple’s other devices.

Apple is notoriously secretive about products in development. Chief Executive Tim Cook, during Apple’s most recently quarterly conference call, would say only that Apple’s product pipeline is “chock full” of “incredible stuff,” but that Apple would only reveal its plans when the company feels the time is right.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Vodafone UK, some users warn about overheating issues between iPhone 3GS handset and iOS 6.1 update

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Date: Monday, February 11th, 2013, 08:11
Category: iOS, News, Software

If there’s one constant in the IT world, it’s that no update will make everyone happy…

Per AppleInsider, a little over two weeks after Apple released iOS 6.1, a number of iPhone users are reporting battery drain and overheating issues possibly related to the newest update, while Vodafone UK sent out a warning telling iPhone 4S owners not to upgrade to the latest OS version as it has been found to cause 3G performance.

While the extent of the 3G problems Vodafone reported is unknown, multiple Apple Support Community threads exist regarding battery drain and overheating issues, which appear to be affecting a number of iPhone models.

The Support Community forum battery drain and overheating problems after updating to iOS 6.1. Reports are conflicting, however, as one iPhone 5 owner saw a drain of 35 percent overnight, while an iPhone 3GS user said Apple’s latest update actually boosted battery life.

In Vodafone’s warning, the British carrier noted that iOS 6.1 is causing intermittent problems with iPhone 4S models, causing the handset to experience 3G-related issues with making calls, sending texts and accessing the company’s data network. The telecom said Apple is working on a fix, but failed to elaborate further on the matter.

From Vodafone’s release regarding iOS 6.1:
“Hi everyone,

We’re aware of an issue caused by Apple iPhone 4s handsets that have been upgraded to iOS 6.1 which impacts performance on 3G.

Some customers may occasionally experience difficulty in connecting to the network to make or receive calls or texts or to connect to the Internet. Apple is working on a solution to their software issue. These connection problems are intermittent.”

While Apple’s investigations continue, we would recommend that anyone who has not yet installed iOS 6.1 on their iPhone 4s should delay doing so until Apple has confirmed that their problem has been fixed.
Apple released iOS 6.1 on Jan. 28, bringing a host of bug fixes and feature enhancements like added LTE support to its mobile operating system.

If you’ve seen these issues on your iPhone 3GS handset after installing the iOS 6.1 update, please let us know in the comments.

Rumor: Apple to release “iPhone 5S”, 5-inch “iPhone 6” this year

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Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 09:33
Category: Hardware, iPhone, Rumor

There’s got to be a nugget of truth in here somewhere…

Per BrightWire, a new report out of Asia claims Apple will release both an upgraded “iPhone 5S” as well as a new “iPhone 6” with a larger 5-inch screen this year.

The report comes out of Chinese mobile phone information site Laoyaoba.com. That source reportedly spotted two new iPhone models at Apple’s suppliers.

The report said that Apple “may” release both models in 2013. The iPhone 5S reportedly has a design similar to the current iPhone 5, while the 5-inch iPhone is said to be lighter and thinner.

As larger iPhones like Samsung’s Galaxy Note series have gained traction in the marketplace, there has been increasing speculation that Apple could go even bigger with a future iPhone model. The company increased the screen size of its flagship handset from 3.5 inches to 4 inches with the launch of the iPhone 5 last September.

Some have speculated that Apple could launch an iPhone with a bigger 5-inch display by keeping the same 640-by-1,136-pixel resolution as the current iPhone 5 screen. Stretching those pixels out to a 5-inch display would give a lower pixel density of 264-per-inch, but it would allow developers to continue to create applications for one screen resolution.

Analysts have also called on Apple to launch a big-screen iPhone, sometimes referred to as an “iPhone Plus.” They believe Apple is “leaving money on the tablet” by not competing with larger devices like the Galaxy Note.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.

Apple releases AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule Firmware Update 7.6.3

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Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 08:42
Category: News, Software, wireless

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You can’t knock a decent networking update.

On Friday, Apple released its AirPort Base Station and Time Capsule 7.6.3 firmware updates. The updates, which are available for all 802.11n AirPort Express, 802.11n AirPort Extreme and Time Capsule models, include the following fixes and changes:

– Extend the Guest Wi-Fi network for a network configured with multiple AirPort Base Stations.

– Ability to add a WPS capable Wi-Fi printer.

– Support for additional countries.

It is recommended that AirPort Utility 5.6 or later be installed before updating to Firmware version 7.6.3.

The updates can be located and installed via AirPort Utility’s update feature and require an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.2 or later to install and run.

If you’ve tried the new firmware and have any feedback to offer, please let us know in the comments.

Apple releases AirPort Utility 6.2

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Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 07:47
Category: News, Software

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Late Thursday, Apple released AirPort Utility 6.2, a 10.2 megabyte download which offers the following fixes to the AirPort Utility software:

– The ability to extend the Guest Wi-Fi network on a network that is configured with multiple AirPort Base Stations.

– The ability to add a WPS-capable Wi-Fi printer.

– Improved international support.

The update requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.5 or later to install and run. The AirPort Utility update can be located, snagged and installed via Mac OS X’s Software Update feature or via the update feature in Airport Utility itself.

Apple releases Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 4.04

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Date: Friday, February 8th, 2013, 07:27
Category: News, Software

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On Thursday, Apple posted its Digital Camera Raw Compatibility Update 4.04, an update designed to extend RAW image compatibility for the Aperture 3 and iPhoto ’11 applications.

The update, a 5.3 megabyte download, adds support for the following cameras:
– Leica D-Lux 6

– Leica V-Lux 4

– Leica X2

– Nikon D5200

– Pentax K-5 II

– Pentax K-5 IIs

– Pentax K-30

– Pentax Q

– Sony Cyber-shot DSC-RX1

The update requires an Intel-based Mac running Mac OS X 10.7.5 or later to install and run and is also available via Mac OS X’s built-in Software Update feature.

If you’ve tried the new Digital Camera RAW update and noticed any changes, please let us know how it went.

Apple job postings, logs hint towards Siri integration in upcoming OS X 10.9 operating system, iLife, iWork suites

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Date: Thursday, February 7th, 2013, 08:06
Category: News, Siri, Software

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Sometimes it’s the job postings that give the future away.

Per MacRumors, builds of Apple’s upcoming OS X 10.9 have been appearing in site logs since November, the logs hinting at possible Siri integration into the operating system.

A recent Apple job posting reinforces the rumor that Siri might be bundled with the next version of OS X. In its listing for a Siri UI Engineer, Apple specifies that candidates should possess “Familiarity with Unix, especially Mac OS X” and a “Passion for the Macintosh platform and writing simple, elegant software that is easy and fun to use.”

The listing, which does not include a specification for experience with iOS aside from knowledge of Apple’s development APIs, states that the engineer will be in charge of implementing the content that appears within Siri’s conversational view. The position will also require collaboration with other Siri teams.

To quote the posting:
“This is a broad-ranging task – we take every application that Siri interacts with, distill it down to fundamentals, and implement that application’s UI in a theme fitting with Siri. Consider it an entire miniature OS within the OS, and you get a good idea of the scope!

Of course, each of these little “snippets” corresponds to an individual application, so you will have extensive cross-functional work with many other teams. You’ll need to work with them to enable access to their data and behaviors, and wire them up to your implementations. As a result, strong API design is needed to keep communications ideal.”

As of mid-January, OS X 10.9 activity has increased considerably, suggesting the new operating system, with Siri included, may be imminent.

Job postings for Apple’s iLife/iWork team also surfaced this week. iWork’s last major update was in 2009, while iLife was last updated in 2010. An overhaul of the apps could potentially include Siri integration, allowing for voice commands for simple tasks such as photo and music editing.

Apple has been upgrading OS X on a yearly basis. 10.8 Mountain Lion was released in July of 2012, a year after 10.7 Lion was released in July of 2011. The first developer preview of OS X 10.8 appeared in February, and OS X 10.9 could follow a similar timeline.

Stay tuned for additional details as they become available.