On September 22, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals how future iPhones and other Apple devices will be able to effortlessly communicate with everyday electronic devices like a downtown parking meter, a garage or home door, a grocery store cash register or a stereo component. Apple first established some of these future functionalities, such as using the iPhone as an electronic key or working with in-home devices back in early 2010 working with NFC. Then last week a new Apple patent application revealed how the iPhone could adopt RFID circuitry and reader to perform some of the very same noted tasks. In today's revelations, Apple states that they'll adopt a host of other wireless technology standards to enable the iPhone to communicate with all of tomorrow's smart devices. Apple is preparing future iPhones to work as an electronic wallet and in doing so must ensure that it'll work on any given wireless network that a retailer or city service implements. In the big picture, Apple now has all of their bases covered. The next step will be introducing iWallet capabilities into a future iPhone that will take e-commerce to the next level.
Enabling a Feature of another Device or Identifying the Electronic Device to another Device
In various mini scenarios presented in Apple's patent application, a user of an electronic device such as an iPhone will want to effortlessly form a network connection with one of two or more nearby devices in the future for identifying the user and/or enabling a feature of the other device. Upon forming the network connection, the iPhone will be able to exchange identification information and commands with the device with which the network connection is being formed for performing corresponding operations. This could, for example, be in a parking garage, at a computerized cash register at a grocery store, at home (as a garage door opener or a front door key), etc.
For example, Apple's patent FIG. 7 shown below presents a block diagram illustrating an iPhone near a number of Bluetooth-enabled computerized cash registers 700-704 in a grocery store 706. In this exemplary embodiment, the electronic device could be an iPhone or any other device that could form a Bluetooth connection with cash registers 700-704 such as a Bluetooth-enabled identification keyfob (e.g., an electronic keyfob that could identify a particular user), a Bluetooth-enabled smart card in a wallet, etc.
In these embodiments, a user approaches one of the computerized cash registers (e.g., cash register 702, as shown in FIG. 7) in a grocery store to check out or for another function (e.g., to register a complaint, special order a product, purchase stamps, etc.). Because cash registers in grocery stores are often located within a few feet of other cash registers, the formation of a Bluetooth network connection to the closest cash register could be enabled by measuring a signal strength of an inquiry scan response from each of the cash registers, and forming a network connection with the cash register with the strongest signal strength. The Bluetooth network connection could then be used to perform the function using the cash register.
As another example, Apple's patent FIG. 8 shown above presents a block diagram illustrating a Bluetooth-enabled automobile 800 near a number of Bluetooth-enabled parking meters (PK MTR) 802-810. In this exemplary embodiment, the automobile could form a Bluetooth connection with a nearby parking meter for identifying itself and paying a fee associated with parking in the corresponding parking space. As with the examples above, there are typically numerous parking meters within effective radio range of one another. Thus, these embodiments could use received signal strength to determine a parking meter with which a network connection is to be formed. In addition, these embodiments could also use one or more contextual values (location, heading, etc.) to assist in making the determination of a parking meter for forming the network connection.
General Overview of the System
The following information is a simple overview of some the key components associated with Apple's invention.
Networking subsystem: Apple's networking subsystem 106 could include one or more devices configured to couple to and communicate on a wired and/or wireless network (i.e., to perform network operations). For example, the networking subsystem could include, but is not limited to, a Bluetooth networking system, a cellular networking system (e.g., a 3G/4G network), a universal serial bus (USB) networking system, a networking system based on the standards described in Institute for Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) 802.11 (i.e., an 802.11 wireless network), an Ethernet networking system, or a wired or wireless personal-area networking (PAN) system (e.g., an infrared data association (IrDA), ultra-wideband (UWB), Z-Wave, or a network based on the standards described in IEEE 802.15).
Service subsystem: Apple's service subsystem 108 could include one or more location-sensing systems. The location-sensing systems could include, but are not limited to, global positioning systems (GPS), cellular-phone-system-based location systems (e.g., cell-identification (cell-ID), cell-ID++, enhanced observable time difference (E-OTD), and/or 3G positioning), and/or WiFi positioning systems for determining a geographical location of electronic device 100. In embodiments where the service subsystem includes two or more of these location-sensing systems, the location-sensing systems could be used separately, or could be used in combination to sense a location of the electronic device. In addition, the service subsystem could include one or more compasses or direction-indicating mechanisms that could be used to determine the direction that the electronic device is oriented (e.g., as the electronic device is held by a user).
As another example, the service subsystem could include one or more sensing systems; each coupled to one or more sensors for sensing external and/or internal conditions for tracking a current, past, or projected future state for the electronic device. The service subsystem could include sensors such as accelerometers, compasses, tilt/rotation detectors, thermometers, ambient light sensors, atmospheric pressure sensors (barometers), cameras, microphones, and/or timers/clocks.
Overview of the Applicable Devices
The noted Electronic device 100 described throughout the patent application could be any of a number of different types of electronic devices or combinations of electronic devices. Generally, these electronic devices include any device that could compare a signal property for two or more signals received from other devices to determine a device for forming a network connection. For example, the electronic device could be a desktop computer, a laptop computer, a server, a media player, an appliance, a tablet computer, a subnotebook/netbook, a network appliance, a set-top box, a personal digital assistant (PDA), a smart phone, a toy, a remote control, a set of headphones, a microphone, an audio/video receiver, a playback mechanism, a controller, or another device.
While the subsystems presented will apply to OS X and iOS, in general, the system will be able to play nicely with Windows or Windows Mobile (or likely Win 8) and Google's Android where a file transfer and/or a service discovery application applies.
Apple's patent application that was published today was originally filed in Q1 2010 by inventor Vevrim Vargolu.
In Other IP News
Apple has filed six trademark filings for iMessage. The first was filed in Hong Kong China (302029653), the second in Europe (010264026), the third in Canada (1543019) and final three in the US under numbers 85423006, 85422982 and 85422999. Excluding Canada, all of the filings were filed under International Classes 9, 38 and 42.
In Addition, Apple has filed for the AppleCare trademark in Hong Kong under number 30203423 and filed it in under International Classes 9, 36, 37, 41 and 42.
Notice: Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics 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 product trends including the iPod, iPhone, iPad, iOS cameras, LED displays, iCloud services for iTunes and more. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments.
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