On Aug 28, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals electronic devices such as an iWatch with wireless charging circuitry. The news of Apple's future iWatch possibly offering wireless charging first surfaced in June. According to the patent filing, Apple's future iWatch will be able to work with wireless payment system at retailers and one day even open security doors of one sort or another like a hotel room, an office door or your car door. The new wireless circuitry will also one day extend to a wide variety of devices including the MacBook Pro, iPad and beyond. Whether this patent pending wireless chagrining circuitry will make it into Apple's first wearable device expected to launch in September is unknown at this time.
Apple's Patent Background
Electronic devices often include batteries. A battery in an electronic device can often be charged by using a cable to couple the electronic device to a source of power. It is not always convenient to rely on wired charging arrangements such as these. In compact and portable devices, for example, the use of a charging cable may be unwieldy. Charging cables can be avoided by using wireless charging, but wireless charging circuitry can be bulky.
It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide electronic devices with improved wireless charging capabilities.
Apple Invents iDevices with Wireless Charging Circuitry
Apple's invention generally relates to electronic devices and, more particularly, to electronic devices with wireless charging circuitry.
Apple notes that a future electronic device may contain an input-output device such as a speaker, vibrator, or near field communications antenna. The input-output device may include an inductor. For example, a speaker may include an inductor called a voice coil that is coupled to a speaker diaphragm. The speaker may contain travel-limiting stop structures. When the speaker is overdriven using vibrator control signals, the voice coil will strike the travel-limiting stop structures. In this mode of operation, the speaker may be operated as a vibrator. In configurations in which the inductor serves as a near field communications antenna, the inductor may be used in transmitting and receiving near field communications signals.
The inductor in the input-output device may be shared by wireless charging circuitry in the electronic device so that wireless charging signals can be converted into power to charge a battery in the electronic device. The wireless charging circuitry may include a capacitor to help convert alternating current wireless charging signals into direct current signals for charging the battery and powering circuitry in the electronic device. Switching circuitry in the wireless charging circuitry can selectively couple the capacitor to the inductor when wireless charging signals are being received and converted into power in the electronic device and can selectively isolate the inductor from the capacitor when it is desired to use the inductor as part of a speaker, vibrator, or near field communications circuit.
If desired, a separate inductor that is co-located with the input-output device inductor may be provided to support wireless charging. With this type of configuration, the drive circuit may supply drive signals to the inductor of the input-output device such as audio signals, vibrator control signals, or near field communications output signals for a hearing aid or other external near field communications equipment. An input amplifier that is coupled across the inductor in the input-output device may be used in receiving near field communications signals. When it is desired to receive wireless charging signals, the wireless charging signals may be received using the separate inductor.
Apple iWatch with Wirelessly Charging Circuitry
An illustrative electronic device that may be provided with wireless charging capabilities is shown in Apple's patent FIG. 1. Electronic devices such as device 10 of FIG. 1 may be cellular telephones, media players, other handheld portable devices, somewhat smaller portable devices such as wrist-watch devices, pendant devices, or other wearable or miniature devices, gaming equipment, tablet computers, notebook computers, desktop computers, televisions, computer monitors, computers integrated into computer displays, or other electronic equipment.
As an example, the device may be a small portable device such as a wristwatch device that is attached to the wrist of a user with optional strap #16. A wristwatch device or other compact portable device will benefit from the inclusion of compact wireless charging circuitry.
In the configuration of Apple's patent FIG. 1 noted above we see that the watch includes a display that has been mounted in a housing such as housing #12 which may sometimes be referred to as an enclosure or case, may be formed of plastic, glass, ceramics, fiber composites, metal (e.g., stainless steel, aluminum, etc.), other suitable materials, or a combination of any two or more of these materials.
The housing may be formed using a unibody configuration in which some or all of the housing is machined or molded as a single structure or may be formed using multiple structures (e.g., an internal frame structure, one or more structures that form exterior housing surfaces, etc.).
The watch's display #14 may be a touch screen display that incorporates a layer of conductive capacitive touch sensor electrodes or other touch sensor components (e.g., resistive touch sensor components, acoustic touch sensor components, force-based touch sensor components, light-based touch sensor components, etc.) or may be a display that is not touch-sensitive. Capacitive touch screen electrodes may be formed from an array of indium tin oxide pads or other transparent conductive structures.
The watch's display may include an array of display pixels formed from liquid crystal display (LCD) components, an array of electrophoretic display pixels, an array of plasma display pixels, an array of organic light-emitting diode display pixels, an array of electrowetting display pixels, or display pixels based on other display technologies.
The display may be protected using a display cover layer such as a layer of transparent glass or clear plastic. Openings may be formed in the display cover layer and in the housing to accommodate buttons, speaker ports, data ports, audio jack connectors, and other components.
A schematic diagram of the device and associated external equipment is shown in Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted above. In system 18 of FIG. 2, the device may receive wireless power from wireless charging equipment #34 in the form of wireless radio-frequency signals #40. Tuned circuitry within the watch may receive radio-frequency signals and may convert the alternating current (AC) power associated with the received radio-frequency signals into direct current (DC) power for powering the watch (or other electronic device). .
In the bigger picture, Apple notes that the new wireless charging circuitry could be used in a wide variety of devices including the iPhone, the iPad, the MacBook Pro/Air, iPods pendant devices, or other wearable or miniature devices, gaming equipment, the iMac or even a hearing aid.
Wireless Payments, Opening Doors & More
The system could also be used in a near field communications point of sale terminal for handling wireless payments, a near field communications reader associated with security equipment (e.g., a door opener, a badge reader, etc.), other near field communications equipment, or other external equipment.
For example, a user of the device may place the device near to a point of sale terminal when it is desired to make a wireless payment using near field communications, may place the device near a door lock when it is desired to obtain access to a building using near field communications, may place the device near a security card reader when it is desired to authenticate to a computer system using near field communications, and may place the device near to a hearing aid when it is desired to communicate with the hearing aid using near field communications.
Apple's patent FIG. 8 noted above is a cross-sectional side view of an audio transducer such as a speaker that has been provided with an ancillary co-located inductor coil to handle wireless charging functions; Apple's patent FIG. 9 is a circuit diagram of an electronic device having an input-output device such as an electroacoustic transducer and an ancillary inductor coil for handling wireless charging functions.
Apple credits Jeffrey Terlizzi as the sole the inventor of patent application 20140241555 which was originally filed in Q1 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.NOTE: This is a patent application and not a design patent, so the iWatch figure is a generic image of a future iWatch and doesn't represent the design in any way shape or form.
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