In yesterday's NFC focused report we covered a unique Point of Purchase application that Apple appears to be preparing in conjunction with a number of highlighted iPhone hardware upgrades. In today's report we're going to open the flood gates to examine how Apple's engineers see the iPhone eventually controlling every single electronics device in your home including the water sprinkler and home security system for starters. As you could clearly see from our opening graphic above, the iPhone will apparently work with Microsoft's Xbox 360, an HDTV and the Apple TV remote. But that doesn't even scratch the surface of what they envision NFC being used for. One wild 3D CAD application shown in this report will definitely open your eyes to some of the interesting twists that Apple is exploring in conjunction with NFC.
A person may use a wide variety of electronic devices each day, including computers and media players, televisions and other entertainment devices, thermostats and other utility devices, and/or consumer electronics such as digital cameras. Each electronic device may generally be controlled locally or using an associated remote control device. Initiating and establishing control of each device may involve a series of complicated, unintuitive procedures using separate remote controls.
Apple's patent provides a method for controlling a variety of electronic devices using an NFC enabled iPhone which may include "receiving control information associated with a controllable electronic device via near field communication, determining a control scheme for controlling the controllable electronic device based on the control information, and controlling the controllable electronic device using the determined control scheme. The control information may be received from a near field communication interface of the controllable electronic device or from a radio frequency identification tag associated with the controllable electronic device." And all of this controllability is totally out of control – ha! But seriously, FIG. 7 below explains the importance of a Controlling and Controllable devices.
Controlling & Controllable Devices
Apple's patent FIG. 7 is a block diagram of potential communication channels (Patent Point #90) over which communication between two denoted as a controlling device (92) and a controllable device (94), may take place during a simplified device control procedure. It should be appreciated that the communication channels (#90) of FIG. 7 may be formed between any two electronic devices (which you'll see below in numerous examples) that are NFC capable. Each communication channel shared between the controlling device and the controllable device may be used for any data transfer that may take place between the two devices, and may include, for example, a transfer of control information indicating how the controllable device may be controlled, a transfer of a control software plug-in for controlling the controllable device, or various intercommunication that may take place in a control stream for controlling the controllable device using the controlling device.
In other words, the iPhone will be the "controlling device" controlling controllable devices like Apple TV, an Xbox, a DVR and so forth. When the NFC capable iPhone initially connects with another NFC capable device, the iPhone will be given the parameters of what is controllable on the other device (sound, picture, channel, game info etc, etc, etc.)
RFID & Matrix Barcode Tags
Apple's patent FIG. 8 illustrates an RFID tag (patent point #118) that may be associated with the controllable device. The RFID tag may adhere to the controllable device, and may provide certain control information to the controlling device that may be used to control the controllable device. By way of example, the RFID tag may instruct the controlling device where software for controlling the controllable device may be obtained and/or how to locate the controllable device over a network. Thus, the RFID tag may be particularly effective when the controllable device lacks an NFC interface. Components of the RFID tag may include, for example, an adhesive portion 120 and an RFID microchip 122.
The RFID microchip 122 may passively or actively transfer certain data related to controlling the controllable device when the NFC interface of the controlling device is placed nearby (e.g., within 2-4 cm). To enable the controlling device to control the controllable device, the RFID microchip may include certain control information. The information stored on the RFID microchip may include, among other things, a serial number and/or an XML message having various information identifying the controllable device. For example, the serial number may enable the controlling device to search a database at the web service 104. Based on the serial number from the RFID microchip, the web service may provide information identifying the type of device, an internet protocol (IP) address of the controllable device, a location where a control software plug-in for controlling the controllable device may be obtained, and/or the control software plug-in. The XML message may provide similar information, such as the serial number, the type of device, and/or a location where the control software plug-in may be obtained.
The other chip which is found in Apple's patent FIG. 9 above illustrates a matrix barcode tag 124 that may be associated with the controllable device. In the manner of the RFID tag of FIG. 8, the matrix barcode tag may be placed on the controllable device to provide control information to the controlling device that may be used to control the controllable device. By way of example, the matrix barcode tag may instruct the controlling device where software for controlling the controllable device may be obtained and/or how to locate the controllable device over a network. Thus, the matrix barcode tag may be particularly effective when placed on a controllable device that lacks an NFC interface. The matrix barcode tag may include an adhesive 126 with a printed matrix barcode 128.
The matrix barcode may be any 2-D matrix code capable of encoding a serial number or other data pertaining to the controllable device with which it may be associated. By way of example, the matrix barcode may be a QR code, an Aztec Code, or a Data Matrix code. The matrix barcode 128 may be read by a camera or a matrix barcode reader associated with the controlling device.
Now here comes the fun part: Seeing some of the applications that will one day use NFC.
Cool: Rotate a 3D CAD Image by Rotating the NFC Enabled iPhone
Apple's patent FIGS. 63a/b and 64 illustrate the use of an iPhone to control the 3-D CAD application 872 that may be running on a desktop like an iMac.
Turning first to FIG. 63A noted above, selecting the list item 882 of the screen 880 labeled "3-D CAD" may cause the iPhone to display a screen 904, which may be illustrated by FIG. 63B. The screen 904 may represent a control screen for controlling the 3-D CAD application 872 from the iPhone. The control screen 904 may include a button 906, labeled "Zoom In," and a button 908, labeled "Zoom Out." Selecting the buttons 906 or 908 may cause a three-dimensional image displayed in the 3-D CAD application 872 to be zoomed-in or zoomed-out, respectively. A button 910, labeled "Rotate View," may allow the user to rotate the view of the image displayed in the 3-D CAD application 872 by rotating the iPhone.
If a future iPhone will be able to rotate a 3D CAD image it will certainly be technically able to do the same for rotating images within a video game if the developers work with the iPhone's new capabilities as noted here. Other apps that are applicable are noted below in FIG. 60.
Apple's patent FIG. 60 represents a control initiation operation 866 between an iPhone and an iMac. As shown in FIG. 60, at the outset of the control initiation operation, the iMac may be running a variety of applications, such as a presentation application 868, such as Keynote, a video game program 870 or a 3-D computer aided design (CAD) application 872.
The iMac may include the NFC interface 34. If the NFC interface 34 is present, a user may tap the iPhone to the NFC interface 34 of the iMac to create an NFC communication channel 96. Various control information may be transferred across the NFC communication channel according to the techniques described above.
Example Set 1: The NFC iPhone for the Smart Home
The patent provides us with yet other examples of an NFC-iPhone interacting with a digital camera, another with a projector system, another with a home thermostat and finally one that allows the iPhone to be used as a pointer on a keynote application for reviewing a company's Quarterly Results as an example (perhaps using iWork's Numbers application).
Apple credits Michael Rosenblatt, Gloria Lin, Sean Mayo and Taido Nakajima as the inventors of patent application 20100081375, originally filed in Q3 2008. Another NFC related patent could be found under patent number 20100082784, where we retrieved the office device graphics shown below. Other NFC related reports may be posted in the coming days and/or weeks.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for further details. For additional information on any patent reviewed here today, simply feed the individual patent number(s) noted in this report into this search engine.
New Apple Trend
Patently Apple has posted three major reports covering Apple's NFC related patents since January. This now accounts for a total of twelve listed patents for 2010. I think that It's safe to say that Near Field Communications (NFC) is now a major developing trend in the making. Patently Apple hereby opens a new category covering this sector. See Tech: NFC
Update, June 18, 2010: Industry Related News