On January, 7, 2010, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals one of the next chapters for Apple's hard drive systems. According to Apple, "Hard drives can be susceptible to mechanical failure or damage due to a physical shock or vibration. Thus, certain hard drives utilize sensors that detect the physical orientation, surrounding environment, or movement of the hard drive and, thereby, detect the occurrence a shock event. One such sensor is an acceleration sensor. One problem with existing shock sensing mechanisms is that additional components, such as an acceleration sensor, are required to enable shock detection based on surrounding environmental conditions. The additional components can add cost, use limited circuit board space, and increase hard drive circuitry size." Apple's patent addresses deficiencies in the prior art by providing systems, methods and devices that enable the detection of a shock event in a less complex and costly manner without the need for sensing surrounding environmental conditions. Secondly, Apple introduces us to what they describe as an intelligent storage device. Apple's technology will cover the iPhone, Mac desktops and notebooks. The only thing missing in this patent is a reference to future solid state drives.
Intelligent Storage Device
In Apple's patent storage device 400 illustration shown below, we see an intelligent storage device being presented (in classic napkin form, no less) to us that includes a processor (402), a motor controller (404), a motor driver (406), a current sensor (408), a memory (410), a communications interface (412), at least one computer readable medium (414 - e.g., a magnetic disk), an actuator (416), a read/write head (418) and/or a disk motor (420). A bus (422) may interconnect the interface, the read/write head, RAM and/or the sensor. The interface may enable electronic communications between the storage device to a host, such as computer system (300) of patent FIG. 3 noted below and in the report's opening graphic.
In one embodiment, the interface routes information and/or data to and from at least one computer readable medium. The interface may also include an embedded processor with suitable firmware for logging certain characteristic operational information, controlling the hard drive operations, controlling read/write operations, receiving sensor signals, and analyzing sensor signals (408).
In one embodiment, the processor and motor controller functions are integrated into a single chip or element. In certain embodiments, at least one non-volatile buffer is located in a reserved area of the at least one computer readable medium. For example, at least one buffer may include an error data, timestamp data; hard drive ID data, host system configuration data, hard drive status data, and shock event detection data.
In certain embodiments, the sensor includes a current sensor that measures the drive current from the motor driver to the motor. By measuring the motor drive current or motor drive signal, the sensor can detect certain events, such as shock events that can affect the motor drive signal. For example, when the device is subjected to a shock (e.g., the device is dropped), the physical shock can cause the motor to slow down. The slow down can, in turn, cause an interruption to the current flow from the motor driver to the motor. The slowdown of the motor will further cause an increase in current demand by the motor to return the medium back to its selected and/or regulated rotation speed (e.g. 7200 RPM).
Shock Event Response Operations
Any number of operations may be performed by the device 400 upon detection of a shock event. For example, the device may provide an alert or notification to an external device, such as a host computer system, that a shock event has occurred. The host computer system could perform any number of operations in response to the notification such as, without limitation: suspend read and/or write operations with the device; switch read and/or write operations to a another storage device; perform a diagnostic operation to determine whether the device has been damaged or any data has been corrupted; and/or provide a shock event notification to a service entity or system user to replace the device.
The device could perform any number of operations in response to the detection of a shock event by the processor including, without limitation: suspend read/write operations; initiate an internal diagnostic routine or error check of the device's hardware and/or the data on the medium; switch read/write operations to another disk; provide notification of a shock event to an external source; memorialize the shock event by storing shock event data in a select memory such as on the medium; and/or provide shock event data to an external source, e.g., a test technician, upon request.
The device may support self-monitoring, analysis, and reporting technology (SMART) to assist in failure analysis prior to sending a hard drive back to the manufacturer.
The Technology's Reach
Consumer electronic devices may include, without limitations, televisions, stereo systems, video gaming systems, disk players, cameras, video cameras, and task-specific computing devices.
Personal computers may include, without limitation, desktop computers, laptop computers, portable computers, workstations, server interfaces, and handheld computers.
Media devices may include, without limitation, cellular telephones, MP3 players, portable video players, media capable cellular telephones, and satellite media players.
Personal communications devices may include wireless communications devices, cellular telephones, satellite phones, personal digital assistants (PDA), and other like communications devices.
Vehicle control systems may include, without limitation, consumer electronic devices, personal media devices, personal communication devices, vehicle operating systems, and vehicle monitoring systems.
Financial transaction systems may include, without limitation, automatic teller machines (ATM), store purchase/check-out systems, credit card transaction systems, and remote purchase systems.
The iPhone Application: It will be possible for an iPhone to synchronize with a remote computing system or server to receive media (such as music, video, digital data etc) either by wireless or wireline communications paths or to provide shock event data to the remote computing system.
Apple credits Thomas R. Colligan as the sole inventor of patent application 20100002564, originally filed in Q3 2008.
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