Two of Apple's latest patents that were published this morning by the USPTO detail new fire resistant cabling for MagSafe and a spin-off feature related to the iPhone's "Maps + Compass" feature. This new feature may be engineered right into next generation iOS device cameras allowing users to superimpose compass bearings right onto their photos. Unless you're a spy or surveyor, however, I'm not quite sure why you'd want this feature. If you happen to have an idea or two as to why we'd want this feature, then by all means send in your ideas below in our comment area.
Patent #1: MagSafe's Fire Resistant Design
After being sued for a fire related to Apple's MagSafe design in 2010 and having faced a class action suit back in 2009, it appears that Apple has redesigned the MagSafe cabling – amongst other refinements. Although most of you have seen the new design utilizing a metal housing, perhaps you weren't aware that Apple now uses fire-resistant materials on a key part of MagSafe's cabling.
Apple's summary states that the present invention provides a power cable that is formed using halogen-free materials. To provide adequate fire protection, a strain relief formed using multiple materials is used. This strain relief can provide an interface between the cable and a housing, for example, a housing enclosing a power transformer. The strain relief can include a first, interior portion formed using a rigid, fire-resistant material. The fire-resistant material may be a polycarbonate, polycarbonate ABS (PC/ABS) blend, or other appropriate material. The strain relief may include a second, exterior portion formed using a flexible material. This material may be a thermoplastic elastomer (TPE), fluorinated ethylene propylene (FEP), or other appropriate material.
Specifically, cable plug 105 noted in patent FIG. 1 includes a strain relief noted as patent point #115. The strain relief, states Apple, may be formed of a flexible material. For example, it may be made of a halogen-free material. In a specific embodiment of the present invention, it can be formed using a thermoplastic elastomer, fluorinated ethylene propylene, or other appropriate material.
Elsewhere in the patent Apple states that "it is desirable to use halogen-free materials in manufacturing the cabling used in power cable assemblies. Halogen is commonly used since it provides a flexible cable that is fire-resistant. Unfortunately, materials that are used for halogen-free cabling are themselves not fire retardant. Further, the addition of fire-retardant chemicals makes halogen-free cables brittle and is therefore not suitable. Accordingly, various embodiments of the present invention provide a strain relief that provides fire protection and is halogen-free."
MagSafe for iPad Surfaces Again
In our October 2010 we reported that Apple was considering MagSafe for portable devices like the iPad. In Apple's latest MagSafe related patent this is somewhat repeated as follows: "Power cable assembly 100 may be used for providing power to an electronic device, such as a laptop, netbook, notebook, tablet computer, media player, portable media player, cell phone, or other type of electronic device."
Although it's more likely that apple will implement an all-new Hybrid DisplayPort/USB 3.0 Connector related to Thunderbolt on future iOS devices, we just wanted to point out what this latest patent was still considering. Considering and implementing, of course, are two different things. So time will tell.
Apple credits Zheng Gao, John DiFonzo, Joshua Banko and Min Chul Kim as the inventors of this patent.
Patent #2: Apple to Advance Photo Taking with Electronic Sighting Compass Capabilities
The magnetic compass has been an indispensable navigational tool for centuries. Advances in electronics have made possible a miniaturized electronic compass. Such an electronic compass may be incorporated into a portable electronic device that may be conveniently carried about. The device may be configured to include additional functionalities, such as those of a cellular phone handset, a personal digital assistant (PDA), a digital multimedia player, or a multi-function consumer electronic device combining some or all of the foregoing functions. Currently available portable electronic devices having a compass function may include a display with an electronic representation of a traditional compass rose.
It is often desirable to determine a compass bearing to a distant object. For this purpose, a magnetic compass fitted with a sighting device, referred to as a sighting compass, may be used. A bearing to a distant object can be readily determined by aligning the sighting device with the object while noting the compass reading.
To achieve this, Apple's invention covers devices in which a compass bearing display is juxtaposed with or superimposed on a camera viewfinder display. A portable electronic device includes an image sensor and an electronic compass. When the device is held with the image sensor pointed in a generally horizontal direction, the displayed viewfinder image from the image sensor is combined with a graphic display indicating a compass bearing corresponding to the imaging axis of the image sensor. The display may be presented as a linear scale to indicate off-axis headings as well.
A sighting compass mode of operation in accordance with the present invention combines the functions of a magnetic sensor and image sensor. In this mode of operation, illustrated in FIG. 3, a compass scale is juxtaposed with or superimposed on an image from image sensor. For the most beneficial operation in this mode, the iPhone is held so that the optical axis of image sensor is approximately horizontal and pointing at a distant object, such as a tree as shown in FIG. 3. This allows the iPhone owner to accurately determine the bearing to the distant object.
Apple credits Achim Pantfoerder as the sole inventor of this patent. Mr. Pantfoerder has worked on such Apple patents as the one relating to proximity and ambient light sensors.
Other Noteworthy Patent Applications Published Today
About a year ago, Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple Engineers: Smart Device Covers are a Paradigm Shift!" Today, we see that Apple has tweeked that particular patent under "Continuation Patent" number 20110090626. It isn't a new patent as others are reporting on today.
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. Patents shouldn't be digested as rumors or fast-tracked according to rumor time tables. Apple patents represent true research that could lead to future products and should be understood in that light. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.