The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 20 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. This morning's report covers patent wins relating to icon designs, assembly methods for the iPod and the iPod's capacitance sensing electrode based clickwheel. Yet the patent standing out amongst them all this morning relates to future solar powered portables and the power management circuitry that'll make it all happen. This is Apple's second major solar related patent win for 2011. While this technology may take another five to ten years to come to market, Apple is amongst a growing list of tech companies that are in a race to power portable devices like smartphones and notebooks with solar energy as one of their key power sources.
Apple Wins their Second Solar Cell Related Patent in 2011
Apple has received a Granted Patent relating to power management circuitry and solar cells. It's Apple's second solar power related patent win this year. Apple's iPhone patents began to roll out in 2000 and the actual iPhone came to market in 2007. That same type of patience will be required to see integrated solar technology come to market.
The good news is that serious work has already begun on this front. Evidence of this came via two Intel demos during last week's IDF in San Francisco. Otellini forecasted future platform power innovation reaching levels that are difficult to imagine today. The solar cell that Intel demonstrated only measured about the size of a postage stamp.
While it will be a few years down the road before this ever meaningfully reaches the market, a company by the name of Nanosolar, who is mentioned in Apple's patent, lists a number of tech companies already working to bring this technology to market: ARM, Cisco, HP, National Semiconductor, 3Com, BMW, Siemens and more.
Until such time arrives, there are some ingenious Apple developers that are already offering Macites an iPhone case that supports solar power.
As shown in Apple's patent FIGS. 1A and 1B above, solar cells 106 and 108 could be placed on the front and back sides of portable electronic device 100, respectively. Each solar cell could be an integrated component, external device, or any part of a component of the device, which is capable of converting light energy into electric energy.
Any suitable material could be used to produce a solar cell, including rigid materials (e.g., crystalline silicon wafers and amorphous silicon films), non-rigid materials (e.g., Nanosolar SolarPly available from Nanosolar of Palo Alto, Calif.), and/or any other material that converts light into electricity.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 shows an exemplary array of multiple solar cells; FIG. 6A shows a flowchart of an exemplary process for powering a portable electronic device using solar cells.
While this particular solar cell related patent focuses mainly on portable devices such as the iPod, iPod Shuffle and iPhone – the patent does in fact briefly mention that the technology could extend to displays and televisions as well.
Apple's First Claim: A method of powering a portable electronic device using a plurality of solar cells, comprising: determining that a battery of the portable electronic device is drained; and in response to determining the battery is drained, switching the plurality of solar cells to a first operational state that facilitates the generation of a startup voltage to power the portable electronic device, wherein the switching comprises connecting the plurality of solar cells in a series configuration.
To review Apple's other 24 patent claims and invention detailing, see granted patent 8,022,571. Apple credits Daniel Warren and Michael Rosenblatt as the inventors of this patent which was originally filed in Q3 2008. The original patent application was filed in January 2010. For more on Apple's green technology patents see our archives, Tech: Green.
Update # 1: MacRumors has posted a new report revealing that Apple has registered the domain iPodsolar.com. Now how's that for timing. Update # 2: Please note that this is actually Apple's third solar patent of the year. The second one of the year was granted on August 23rd.
Apple Wins a Patent for a Capacitance Sensing Electrode with Integrated I/O Mechanism
Apple has received another Granted Patent relating to the iPod's capacitive sensing Clickwheel. Three other clickwheel related patents were awarded to Apple in May 2010.
Apple's First Claim: A touch sensing device, comprising: a controller, an I/O mechanism, a touch sensor, the I/O mechanism and the touch sensor being structurally and electrically integrated wherein disparate parts of the I/O mechanism and the touch sensor are incorporated into a single defined unit and the I/O mechanism and the touch sensor form a unitary multifunctional node representing a single touch pixel configured to provide multiple functions at one location, the I/O mechanism comprising a first connection point electrically coupled to the touch sensor and a second connection point electrically isolated from the touch sensor, a first communication line connecting the touch sensor and the controller, a second communication line connecting the I/O mechanism and the controller, the first communication line being electrically coupled to the touch sensor and the second communication line being electrically isolated from the an electrode and electrically coupled to the second connection point.
To review Apple's other 39 patent claims and invention detailing, see granted patent 8,022,935. Apple credits Steve Hotelling as the sole inventor of this patent. The original iPod debuted in 2001. The dates relating to this patent range from 2002-2005. The official date shown on this particular granted patent is 2005, though it incorporates other patents listed in this document.
Apple Granted Double Patent Wins for iPod Assembly
Apple's First Claim relating to the iPod Classic: An electronic device having a display region, comprising: a bezel comprising a planar portion having an opening at the display region and a plurality of walls stepped vertically from an outer periphery of the planar portion, the bezel forming an edge about the perimeter of the opening, the edge comprising a first chamfered portion angled from an exterior surface of the bezel at the perimeter away from the opening and from the exterior surface of the bezel; a window positioned at the display region, the window comprising a boundary about its perimeter, the boundary comprising a second chamfered portion operative to mate with the first chamfered portion; and a frame operative to support components of the electronic device, wherein the plurality of walls are operative to surround and engage the frame.
Apple's First Claim relating to the iPod nano: A method for assembling an electronic device, the method comprising: providing a housing including a first open end and a second open end opposite the first open end, a cavity extending between the first open end and the second open end, and an opening positioned in a housing wall of the housing between the first open end and the second open end; inserting a first assembly into the cavity through the first open end; inserting at least a portion of a second assembly into the cavity through the second open end; operatively coupling the first assembly to the second assembly through the opening; and coupling an input mechanism to the housing, wherein the input mechanism comprises: a pad comprising at least a first notch and at least one extension used to align the pad relative to the housing; and an input button positioned on the pad, wherein the input button comprises at least one tab operative to engage with the at least first notch such that the input button is aligned with the pad.
Apple Granted Design Patents for "Notes" & "Time Machine" Icons
The US Patent and Trademark Office have officially granted Apple two minor design patents today. The first covers iOS's "Notes" Icon designed by Marcel van OS and the second covers Apple's OS X "Time Machine" Icon designed by Mike Matas.
Other Granted Patents Published Today
1. Granted Patent 8,022,964: This patent, which relates to Apple's now defunct Shake application, may have been rolled into Final Cut Pro X. The patent is titled "3D histogram and other user interface elements for color correcting images;" 2. Granted Patent (GP) 8,024,658: This patent which relates to Apple's iPhoto and Aperture applications is titled: "Application for designing photo albums;" 3. GP 8,024,193: Methods and apparatus related to pruning for concatenative text-to-speech synthesis; 4. GP 8,024,618: Multi-client and fabric diagnostics and repair; 5. GP 8,024,657: Visually encoding nodes representing stages in a multi-stage video compositing operation; 6.GP 8,020,762: Techniques and systems for supporting podcasting; 7. GP 8,024,295: Method and apparatus for archiving and unarchiving objects; 8. GP 8,024,552: Performing variable and/or bitwise shift operation for a shift instruction that does not provide a variable or bitwise shift option; 9. GP 8,024,731: Assigning priorities to threads of execution; 10. GP 8,024,351: Query result iteration; 11. GP 8,024,322: Ordered index; 12. GP 8,023,262: Lid-closed detector; 13. GP 8,021,198: Low-profile power adapter; and lastly, number 14. GP 8,021,183: Cold headed electric plug arm.
Notice: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of granted patents with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each Granted Patent is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any Granted Patent should be read in its entirety for full details. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
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