The US Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 17 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In our second patent report of the day we focus on a possible next generation docking station from Apple that will include accessory power management. As portables get more powerful, Apple foresees the need for a dock that will be able to manage power more intelligently so that it could power-up larger and more powerful devices safely. As a side note, Apple's patent mysteriously states that the new dock will be able to power up a monitor. That could mean anything ranging from a portable presentation system to that of a TV. Time will tell what Apple has up their sleeve on that particular point; though I must confess that it sounds most inviting.
Apple's Patent Background
Apple's patent background begins with a discussion of device convergence. Apple states that smaller devices, such as smartphones, could now be used to perform functions that were previously limited to larger computing devices. These go beyond native functions, such as actually calling people, and include listening to music, watching movies, viewing documents, surfing the web, and reading email. Larger devices, such as netbooks, are slimming down to ultraportable size by jettisoning their optical drives and other functionality.
The evolution of these devices is thus converging towards a common destination: the portable computing device. These portable computing devices may handle various functions currently assigned to phones and netbooks. They may be used to listen to music, watch movies, view and edit documents, surf the web, read email and books, as well as myriad other functions.
Users of these portable computing devices often place them in a docking station. These docking stations may provide mechanical support for the portable computing devices, holding them in place in a roughly upright manner so that the screen can be viewed easily. Other accessories may be used with these portable computing devices as well. These accessories often provide power to the portable computing device, which is used to run circuitry on the portable computing device and to charge its internal battery.
These portable computing devices have comparatively large batteries and a correspondingly large current is required to charge them. But while the portable computing device's batteries are charging, the accessories require current for their operation. Also, some accessories may only be able to safely supply a certain amount of current.
Thus, what is needed are methods, apparatus, and circuits for managing power among these portable computing devices and one or more accessories.
Apple's Solution In-Part for a Next Generation Docking Station
Apple's granted patent covers their invention of a next generation docking station that includes advanced methods, apparatus, and circuits for managing power among portable computing devices and one or more accessories.
One of the illustrative embodiments of the present invention provides commands that may allow a portable computing device to charge at a maximum available current level while providing an accessory with sufficient current for its proper operation. Another aspect of the invention may help prevent a portable computing device from drawing a high level of current that could be detrimental to an accessory, such as a cable. Another aspect of the invention may allow a battery pack or other accessory to instruct a portable computing device to not charge its internal battery.
Another aspect of the invention may allow a portable computing device to determine which power supply among multiple power supplies should be used to power an accessory. Yet another aspect of the invention may allow an accessory to get charging current parameters from a portable computing device.
Apple's Patent FIG. 1 noted above includes portable computing device 150 and accessory 130. In this example, accessory 130 is a docking station, though in other examples, the accessory could actually be another type of device, such as radios, monitors, interactive displays, and others. In this example, the portable computing device is a tablet computer, though in other systems it may be other types of devices, such as a portable media player, cell phone, monitor, or other electronic device. Docking a monitor is interesting to note. Why would you need to dock a monitor? I wonder what is Apple thinking of here.
The accessory may include insert 135 having insert opening 140. The portable computing device may have one or more receptacles 155 and 160 and include receptacle tongues 165. When the portable computing device is mated with the accessory, the insert may fit in either receptacle. The idea of a secondary connector on an iPad has been floating around for more than a year now.
Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted above is a simplified block diagram of a system 200. Apple's patent FIG. 4 illustrates a packet format for conveying commands that may be employed by an embodiment of the present invention. The commands included in embodiments of the present invention are of two types, specifically, set and get commands. Set commands instruct a receiving device to set an internal value. Get commands request information from the receiving device.
Apple's patent FIG. 21 illustrates an electronic system according to embodiment of the present invention. Power source 2110 may provide current to accessory 2130 and portable computing device 2150. Portable computing device 2150 and the accessory may share first and second power lines 2142 and 2144. The accessory may send a command to the portable computing device asking which power line it should use. The Accessory may do this using the "GetPrefPower" command. This command may include in its payload a current needed if the first power line is used and a current that may be needed if a second power line is used.
Apple's patent FIG. 8 noted below is a table listing commands employed by various embodiments of the present invention to manage power between an accessory and a portable computing device.
Apple credits Shailesh Rathi, Lawrence Bolton, John Ananny and Scott Krueger as the inventors of this patent which was originally filed in 2010.
While on the topic of docks, Apple was also granted another patent for their current styled docking stations. While their original filing dates go all the way back to 2005, with a series of continuation patents along the way, their last filing was made in January 2010.
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.
Sites Following our Original Report: MacSurfer, iPhones Russia, Twitter, Facebook, Digg, Apple Investor News, Google Reader, PriorSmart, Macnews, iPhone World Canada, MarketWatch, 9to5 Mac, iPhoneItalia Italy, CNET, ApfelTech Germany, Phones Review UK, First Loop Russia, iPadItalia Italy, Gadget Police, GMA News Philippines, One More Thing Netherlands, and more.