February 5, 2009, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a series of Apple patent applications involving a new advanced battery charging system. The new battery charging system will allow host machines, be it an iMac or MacBook, to both power consuming devices as well as power charging devices. Another aspect of the patent relates to the concept of a "universal battery" where a few "types" of batteries are adapted to be coupled with a large variety of electronic devices. For instance, there'll be a battery type for large mobile devices such as the MacBook, a medium size battery for the iPhone and iPod and yet a smaller battery for such things as wireless mice, watches, RFID devices, and small sport-type headphones. Apple's rechargeable battery system will also introduce a plurality of sensors to measure temperature and pressure of the battery core or to measure the current and voltage of the battery core in response to power flowing into or out of the battery core. Apple's new battery system will also uniquely alert end users when battery servicing or replacement is required. The system will direct users directly to either Apple's own iTunes Store or other participating retailer for convenience.
The New Battery Charging System
Apple's patent FIG. 1, noted below, illustrates a battery charging system for mobile and accessory devices in accordance with a specific embodiment of the current invention. An exemplary battery charging system (100) may include a host machine, such as an iMac (110), a plurality of wireless or mobile accessory devices such as an iPhone (120), wireless mouse (130), wireless keyboard (140), and plurality of rechargeable batteries (160) powering the wireless or mobile accessory devices.
Examples of wireless or mobile accessory devices include mice, keyboards, speakers, mp3 players, personal digital assistants, cell phones, laptop computers, microphones, headphones, and headsets. In another exemplary embodiment, the host machine can be a laptop computer and the wireless or mobile accessory devices can be any of wireless or mobile devices proximally located to the laptop computer and adapted to communicate wirelessly with the laptop computer.
In an exemplary embodiment, the host machines can act as power charging devices while the wireless or mobile accessory devices can act as power consuming devices. As shown in FIG. 1, batteries can be adapted to couple to power charging devices such as host machines through coupling mechanisms labeled as charging slots 150 in FIG. 1. Similarly, batteries can couple to power consuming devices such as mobile or wireless devices through coupling mechanisms labeled as battery coupling components 155 in FIG. 1. In an embodiment, host machines can be both power consuming devices as well as power charging devices. In a further embodiment, the charging slots and the coupling components may be the same components.
An example where a host machine can be both a power consuming device as well as power charging device is a laptop computer. In an embodiment, a laptop host machine may be both a power charging and power consuming device that can enter either a power charging mode of operation or a power consumption mode of operation. When plugged into an external power, the laptop may enter into the power charging mode wherein the host machine is adapted to charge a plurality of batteries coupled to its battery charging slots. These batteries may later be used to provide power to either the accessory devices of the laptop or the laptop itself.
When unplugged from an external power supply, the laptop may enter into power consuming mode and begin to consume power from some of the batteries coupled to its battery charging slots. In an embodiment, while unplugged, instead of continuing to provide power to recharge batteries for the accessory devices, the laptop may, to conserve power, terminate delivering power to charge the batteries for the accessory devices. The laptop may return to charging batteries for accessory devices when the laptop is plugged back to an external power supply.
To decrease the potential downtime that a user may face as a result of waiting for rechargeable batteries to charge, another aspect of the invention envisions host machines with recharging slots that are adapted to hold in standby a plurality of rechargeable batteries that are fully charged. Since all batteries take time to recharge, it is convenient for the host machines to maintain a plurality of excess, fully charged batteries in standby that can be easily swapped with drained batteries once a drained battery is detected.
Rechargeable Battery Form Factors
Noted below, Apple's patent FIG. 2A illustrates various perspectives of an exemplary physical form factor of rechargeable battery 200. In an embodiment, the overall physical form factor is of a flat type that is adapted to conveniently couple with a large variety of electronic devices.
From the outside, the exemplary battery comprises at least two visible parts, battery shell 201 and battery end cap 205. In an embodiment, battery shell 201 can be made of either recyclable plastic or metal.
In another embodiment, battery shell can be made of anodized aluminum similar to the material used in the Apple iPod Shuffle. In an embodiment, end cap 205 may be further adapted to be removed to facilitate the replacement of the battery core 202 inside the battery. Depending on the embodiment, end cap may be adapted to be removed by an end user directly or by specially designated recyclers. In a further embodiment, the end cap can be removed by users directly with specially provided tools.
Apple's patent FIG. 2B shows us a perspective view of components of a rechargeable battery as envisioned under an embodiment of the current invention.
Illustrated above are battery shell 201, battery core 202, terminals for conducting power 203, sensor terminals 204, and end cap 205 that fits over a portion of battery core 202 and battery shell 201. In an embodiment, battery core 202 can be made of lithium polymer. The battery core can further be contained in a bag made of a material such as Mylar.
Universal Battery Concept
Another aspect of Apple's patent filing relates to the concept of a "universal battery" where a few "types" of batteries are adapted to be coupled with a large variety of electronic devices. In one embodiment, the battery may be adapted to be charged at a range of power parameters. In another embodiment, the battery may be adapted to power devices at a range of power parameters. In one embodiment, when a battery is coupled to a power consuming device, electrical component 208 may be adapted to negotiate with the electronic device for power settings at which to output power. In the embodiment, electrical component 208 is preferably adapted to configure the battery to provide for power at the agreed power settings.
According to an embodiment, a specific "type" of a universal battery may also specify a physical form factor. In patent FIG. 2G, Apple shows us four exemplary form factors--labeled here as Class A, Class B, Class C, and Class D - of an exemplary universal battery. According to one embodiment, all universal battery types feature a flat form factor adapted to conveniently couple with a large variety of electronic devices.
A large form factor such as Class A may be adapted to couple with large mobile devices such as laptops. A medium form factor such as Class B and Class C may be adapted to couple with medium mobile or wireless devices such as cell phones, mp3 players, wireless keyboards, mice and game controllers, personal digital assistants, smart phones, larger wireless audiophile-type headphones. A small form factor such as Class D may be adapted to couple with smaller mobile or wireless devices such as mice, watches, RFID devices, and small sport-type headphones.
The Rechargeable Battery System Utilizes a Plurality of Sensors
According to an embodiment, an exemplary rechargeable battery may include a plurality of sensors to measure a plurality of properties associated with the battery. An exemplary rechargeable battery may, for example, include sensors to measure the temperature and pressure of the battery core in response to power flowing into or out of the battery core as a function of time. A rechargeable battery may include sensors to measure the current and voltage of the battery core in response to power flowing into or out of the battery core. A rechargeable battery may be adapted to monitor and manage the battery core based on the measurements from its plurality of sensors.
According to an embodiment, a rechargeable battery may be adapted to transmit and receive electric power over the same electrical path that the battery transmit and receive communications signals with the coupled electronic device. An exemplary rechargeable battery may include temporary power storage to store power its communications circuits can access in the event the battery core is drained. A rechargeable battery may be adapted to allow power transmission between the electronic device the battery core only when the electronic device is coupled and to disable power transmission between the electronic device the battery core when the electronic device is not coupled.
In Apple's patent FIG. 4A above, we're shown a perspective view of various sensors adapted to measure properties of the battery that may be useful to determine a battery's charge state. In one embodiment, the battery may be provided with sensors 209 adapted to measure the pressure and temperature or the voltage and current flowing into or out of battery core 202. In another embodiment, the battery may also be provided with sensors 209.e that may be fitted along battery shell 201 to measure various ambient properties of the battery, including ambient humidity and temperature. Sensor terminal 204 may be adapted to conduct signals from sensors to electrical component 208 and vice versa.
Possible iTunes Store Alerts
Another aspect of the invention involves a method to enable batteries to be serviced when the battery core or some of the other more perishable parts need to be replaced as the rest of the batteries are reused. Apple's patent FIG. 9A below, shows us an exemplary process by which a rechargeable battery may be serviced. As shown, in the first step 9010, a user may be alerted of a need to replace or service a battery. The process may then splits into two branches. The left side of the branch, constituting steps 9030 to 9070, shows an exemplary process by which a rechargeable battery may be replaced by an end user. The right side of the branch, constituting steps 9130 to 9170, shows an exemplary process by which a rechargeable battery may be serviced by an end user.
In step 9030, the user may need to replace a battery and can be directed to an e-commerce site to purchase a replacement battery. More than likely, that would translate to meaning Apple's iTunes Store. In the embodiment, the battery may have to be sent in because the replacement of the battery core, and/or other parts, is considered too complicated to perform by the end user. In an embodiment, a recycling surcharge may be issued in step 9040 for the purchase of a battery replacement. Recycling credits equaling the surcharge may be refunded when the user return the battery later when the battery needs to be replaced. In general, according to the embodiment, the new battery may be delivered by mail or picked up in a retail store. When a user receives or picks up the battery, the user may be provided an envelope or container in which to return the old battery 9050.
When the manufacturer or recycler receives the old battery, the user can be issued a recycling refund at step 9060. The refund may be credited against the purchase price of the new battery or for future purchases in a network of e-commerce or retail establishments. At step 9070, the manufacturer or recycler can refurbish the battery by replacing components including the battery core and reselling the battery again. Alternatively the manufacturer or recycler may destroy the battery, reusing and responsibly disposing as much of the battery's parts and materials as possible.
Step 9130 may begin a series of steps for the user to service the battery directly. In step 9130, the user can be directed to an e-commerce site to purchase a replacement battery core or other replaceable components. In an embodiment, the host machine may be adapted to guide the user through the process. In an embodiment, a host machine may direct a user to an e-commerce website to purchase a battery core replacement. In an embodiment, an e-commerce website address can be provided to the user. In the embodiment, the e-commerce website address may be retrieved from the memory of the battery or the host machine. In an alternative embodiment, the address may be obtained from a web service.
Recycling credits can be given to provide an incentive for users to return the old core or other recyclable parts. In an embodiment, a recycling surcharge may be issued on the new battery core when the user purchases a replacement core at step 9140. The replacement core may be delivered by mail or can be picked up in a retail store. When the user receives the battery core at step 9150, the user can be provided with instructions and any necessary tools to replace the old battery core. The instructions should preferably be easy to follow, and the tools should be preferably easy to use.
The patent also discusses directing the user to a retail kiosk which could be an Apple Store or other participating retailer such as Best Buy – though no specific retailer is listed in the patent.
According to an embodiment, a rechargeable battery may include a plurality of metallic posts with predetermined dimensions adapted to electrically couple with the electronic device only in certain orientation. In the embodiment, an electrical connection between the battery and the device is properly made only when the rechargeable battery and the electronic device are coupled to each other in a correct configuration. According to an embodiment, a rechargeable battery may also an internal switch that is activated only when an electronic device is detected to be located in close proximity. Without activation of the internal switch, no effective power is allowed to flow into or out of the battery core.
According to a specific embodiment, an exemplary internal switch is activated only in the presence of a magnetic field of predetermined characteristics. In an embodiment, an electronic device adapted to couple with the exemplary battery may include a magnetic component that emits magnetic fluxes of the right strength and orientation. When an electronic device with the right magnetic signature is brought into close proximity with an exemplary battery, the internal switch is closed and power may be allowed to flow into or out of the battery. If either the strength or orientation of the magnetic flux is off, the internal switch remains inactivated.
Storing Charging History
According to an embodiment, a rechargeable battery may be adapted to store a charging history. A rechargeable battery may be adapted to reset the charging history when the battery core is replaced. According to an embodiment, based on the histories stored on board, a battery may determine whether the rechargeable battery should undergo a normal charge or reconditioning charge, and then configure the battery to undergo a normal charge or reconditioning charge accordingly, and update the charging history as appropriate.
According to an embodiment, a rechargeable battery may be adapted to couple with electronic devices through latching mechanisms. According to another embodiment, a rechargeable battery may be adapted to couple with electronic devices through magnetic or electromagnetic-based systems. According to an embodiment, power may be transferred to and from a rechargeable battery through metal contacts. According to another embodiment, power may be transferred to and from a rechargeable battery through inductive means.
A Host Machine may also be Adapted to Join a Network
In one embodiment, when a host machine joins in a network of cooperating host machines, the host machine may expand the inventory of charged batteries available at its disposal to swap when a battery in one of the wireless devices becomes drained. For example, a host machine alone may only have the batteries in its charging slots at its disposal to offer to swap with a drained battery. After joining a network, when a drained battery appears, a host machine may also query other host machines for batteries compatible with the drained battery to swap with one of its drained batteries.
Apple lists Harold Aaron Ludtke (San Jose, CA) as the sole inventor of this patent.
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