On June 30, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals various new advanced vicinity sensors coming to future iPads. Apple's patent makes it clear that vicinity sensors will be a tool that will fit into the enterprise quite nicely. New vicinity sensors coming to the iPad include RFID, Infrared and Ultrasonic. The latter utilizes advanced 3D scanning and imaging capablilities. The advanced sensors are designed to locate office equipment anywhere within an enterprise and could actually devise floor plans to properly located devices. Users will also be able to drag document icons to the printer or videos and/or art to a video projector for a presentation using Keynote or Power Point. Without a doubt, Apple is aiming to further advance the iPad into the enterprise.
Network-enabled electronic devices commonly communicate instantly over great distances. A network connection allows these devices to be in communicative proximity. That is, the devices communicate generally without reference to any distance between the devices. However, communicative proximity is not necessarily equal to physical proximity. For example, a computer in an office may be able to interact with a number of printers via a network, even if these printers are not physically near the computer. Indeed, the printers may be located on another side of, or on a different floor of, an office building, making use of the printers inconvenient. In some cases, a user of the computer may be aware of a local printer but unable to find the local printer via the network.
Apple's Solution: Provide Local Device Awareness
Certain embodiments of Apple's invention may take the form of an electronic device capable of local device awareness. That is, the electronic device is configured to determine the identity and/or location of apparatuses located within its vicinity. One or more technologies may be used to determine if apparatuses are in the vicinity.
For example, one or more of an indoor GPS, a Bluetooth antenna, a radio frequency identification (RFID) device, an ultrasonic device, an infrared device, and so forth, may be used to determine if apparatuses are in the vicinity. In some embodiments, the same technology used to find devices in the vicinity of the electronic device may be used to determine the identification of the device. For example, RFID may be used to determine the presence of a particular device and the device's identifying information. In other embodiments, a first technology may be used to determine if apparatuses are in the vicinity of the electronic device and a second technology may be used to obtain identifying information. More information on this is presented below under "Indoor Global Positioning Scheme."
In some embodiments, upon finding apparatuses within its vicinity, the electronic device may query the apparatuses as to whether they are aware of still additional devices within the vicinity. If they are aware of additional devices, these additional devices' relative location and/or identities may be provided to the electronic device. Thus, information may be passed in a daisy chain manner to increase the knowledge of the electronic device.
Your Device Could Reveal an Office Floor Plan to Locate Other Devices
When apparatuses are found in the vicinity, the electronic device may display icons corresponding thereto on a display of an iPad, for instance. In some embodiments, the icons are arranged on the display to imitate the relative location of the apparatuses to the electronic device. In some embodiments, the icons may be overlaid on a floor plan, thus showing the locations of the devices relative to the floor plan.
Easy Transfer of Data
The transfer of data may be initiated by selecting icons displayed on a display of the electronic device. For example, an icon representing a document stored on the electronic device may be selected and moved to an icon representing one of the apparatuses. In some embodiments, the selection and movement of the icon may be via a mouse and in other embodiments gestures could be made on a touch screen to initiate a file transfer. For example, a user may select an icon representing a file stored on the electronic device by touching the display and move the selected icon toward an icon representing one of the other devices to initiate the file transfer.
An Office Scenario Emphasizing the iPad's use of Vicinity Sensors
Apple's patent FIG. 1 illustrates an example room in an office having electronic and computing devices present. In particular, the room includes an iPad (referred to as the "tablet computer 102"), a notebook 104, a scanner 106, a printer 108, a WiFi access point 110, and a projector 112.
Indoor Global Positioning Scheme
Furthering the discussion of local device awareness referred to earlier, one or more local references (114) may be provided. In some embodiments, the local references may be implemented as part of an indoor global positioning scheme. Each of the devices may be configured to communicate via one or more wired and/or wireless communication protocols. For example, the printer may be configured to receive files for printing via a wireless network protocol, such as IEEE 802.11n, and/or via a wired network protocol, such as Ethernet. As such, the devices may be network accessible and may communicate via a network connection.
Additionally, one or more of the various devices may be configured to determine a relative position and identification (ID) of other apparatuses within the room. In some embodiments, the iPad may be configured to determine the presence and/or ID of other devices within a certain radius. In one embodiment, the radius may be defined based on the technology used to find the other devices. In other embodiments, the radius may be defined based on physical properties of the environment, such as walls.
Vicinity Sensors used in Future iPads
Moreover, in some embodiments, the iPad may be configured to determine the relative position or location of other devices within its vicinity. For example, the iPad may determine the relative position of the scanner, the printer, and the projector using vicinity sensors as noted in FIG. 2 above. New sensors for a future iPad include RFID, Ultrasonic and Infrared which we first learned of in our June 2, 2011 report in respect to the iOS camera.
Initiate Vicinity Scans using RFID
According to Apple's documentation, RFID could be used to determine if other devices are located within the vicinity of the iPad. The RFID used in the iPad could be implemented as an active, passive, or semi-passive device. In one embodiment, RFID may be implemented as an active device that transmits radio frequency (RF) signals that could be detected by RF antennas. In another embodiment, RFID could include a passive device that includes an antenna configured to generate an electromagnetic field in response to receiving a particular frequency signal. As such, the passive RFID device may be used to initiate vicinity scans.
Ultrasonic Sensor + High Frequency Device
Apple's documentation states that the use of an ultrasonic sensor shown in FIG.2 along with a high frequency device may be used for determining if other devices are located within an area and for imaging the area. Specifically, the high frequency device may include a steerable field array that may be configured to scan an area, such as room 100 shown in FIG. 1, and determine contours of physical objects within the room. For example, a 60 GHz band device may transmit probe signals that are reflected back and used to determine the location, distance and shapes of objects within the room.
High Frequency Device + Advanced Ladar System
Further on, Apple's documentation states that the proposed high frequency device may be configured to obtain 3-D images. Specifically, the high frequency device may be implemented as part of a ladar system. It should be appreciated that the high frequency device may be internal or external to the iPad.
This future iPad may include software for the processing of images obtained by the high frequency device and the images may be used to determine the location of objects including electronic devices within the vicinity. In some embodiments, the signal strength may be used to triangulate the location of devices.
The last new sensor for a future iPad that the documentation describes is an IR transmitter and distributed receivers. The distributed receivers may be located at different sides of the iPad and configured so that they receive signals generally originating from their side of the computer and not from the other side. As such, the iPad may determine a general location of a source of IR transmissions.
A Future iPad May Display Office Device Icons in a 3D-Like View
Apple's patent FIG. 3A illustrates a possible future iPad with icons 302, 304, 306 and 308 displayed. Additionally, these icons may be stylized representations of the devices to which they correspond. As such, the printer icon looks like the actual office printer, the projector icon looking like the projector and so forth.
Drag and Drop Documents, Videos and More
According to Apple, a user will be able to interact with found devices by dragging and dropping documents onto the icons 302, 304, 306 and 308 and/or gesturally directing documents or other data toward the icons. For example, a user may select an item using the touch screen of the iPad and move it toward an icon representing the projector. In the case of a document, the document may then be sent to the projector for display by the projector.
It should be appreciated that although a document has been used as an example, other data may be communicated between the devices and other services/resources may be provided and/or accessed in a similar manner. For example, printing services on locally connected printers, network access services, video services (i.e., sharing a camera), video projection services (i.e., projector), audio services (i.e., using a microphone on one device by another device), and so forth may be indicated by an icon and accessed by selecting the icon or providing the data to the icon.
Still other embodiments include an electronic security device. The electronic security device includes a processor and a memory coupled to the processor storing operating instructions for the electronic security device. Additionally, the electronic security device includes one or more vicinity sensors configured to determine when other electronic devices are in a vicinity of the electronic security device. When other electronic devices are determined to be within the vicinity of the electronic security device, the electronic security device determines an identity of the other devices and grants access to a document to the other devices while the other devices are determined to be within the vicinity of the electronic security device.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q4 2009 by inventors Brett Bilbrey, Aleksandar Pance, Nicholas Kind and Benjamin Todd.
Another Noteworthy Patent Applications Published Today
Patent application 20110161074 is another interesting Apple patent for those interested in a "Remote Conferencing Center." Generally, devices for generating recordings and/or transcripts include a consolidated device that may have multiple speakers and microphones. However, in larger environments, speakers who are too far removed from the consolidated device do are not detected or not detected to a discernible degree, resulting in an unintelligible recording. Apple's patent is out to remedy that. For those interesting in reading this patent, click on this temporary link which will be good for about 48 hours. Good hunting.
Notice: Patently Apple presents a brief yet detailed summary of patent applications 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 full and accurate details. Revelations found in patent applications shouldn't be interpreted as rumor or fast-tracked according to rumor timetables. Apple's patent applications have provided the Mac community with a clear heads-up on some of Apple's greatest products including the iPod, iPhone, the iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more.
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