In May 2014 we posted a report titled "Apple may Surprise the Market with a New Smart Home Platform," and in June 2014 we posted a follow-up report titled "Could Apple TV be one of Apple's hottest iDevices of the Year?" The second report was about using Apple TV as an in-home automation hub. Samsung had been working on this idea at the same time. Today, more proof of Apple using Apple TV as an in-home automation hub came to light. The emphasis of Apple's latest invention is about a new Apple TV remote with integrated Touch ID. It will allow users to quickly enter a channel like Netflix without having to key in a password and allow only authorized family members to make purchases on iTunes. But more importantly, Apple describes the remote being able to be used to interact with home automation features and appliances.
Apple's Patent Background
Many electronic devices include a plurality of manually controllable features and settings that users may modify from time to time. For example, a television may include operational controls such as power, volume, channel, screen brightness and so on.
Manually controllable features of electronic devices may provide a personalized experience for a user. However, many electronic devices may be intended to be enjoyed by multiple users. For example, multiple members of a household may share a single television. In many cases, preferences may differ from user to user.
In some examples, alterations to electronic device settings made by a first user may diminish the quality of the experience of a second user. Furthermore, some electronic devices may include features or options inappropriate for some users to modify or enable.
In many cases, electronic devices may include access limitation features such as passcodes or passwords to prevent inappropriate modification of settings. For example, a television may require a passcode to tune particular channels. In still other examples, a home security system may require a password to cancel a false alarm.
Remembering and correctly communicating passwords or passcodes to enjoy limited access features of electronic devices may diminish the quality of the experience of an authorized user. In certain cases, the user may be additionally frustrated when directed to enter a passcode or password via a small remote control or a compact input panel.
In other examples, a user with limited access may undesirably obtain passcodes or passwords to access features that the user is not permitted to enjoy.
Furthermore, if a password or passcode is lost, forgotten, or discovered, a time-consuming and burdensome re-authorization process may be required of a previously authorized user.
Accordingly, there may be a present need for an electronic device having improved limited access features.
Apple TV Remote with Touch ID Extending to Home Automation
Apple's invention may relate to or take the form of an electronic device having at least one operational setting, such as a power setting, with at least a first state and a second state. The electronic device may also include an access controller that can receive state data and authorization data from an external source such as a remote control. The access controller may enable a state of the operational setting upon receipt of proper authorization data.
In many cases, the state data may include an instruction that corresponds to either the first operational state or the second operational state of the electronic device. For example, the state data may include an instruction to power on a television or, in another embodiment, an instruction to increase the temperature of a thermostat.
In another embodiment, the state data may include an instruction to open a garage door or an instruction to deactivate a security alarm. One may appreciate that the state data, instruction, and operational setting may vary substantially from embodiment to embodiment.
In many cases, the authorization data may be at least partially derived from a biometric characteristic of a user seeking to operate the electronic device. For example, the authorization data maybe raw biometric data, such as a fingerprint image.
In other examples, the authorization data may be the output of an algorithm using biometrically identifying information as an input. For example, the algorithm may be a message-digest algorithm, an implementation of the advanced encryption standard, or any other one-way encryption or data processing algorithm.
The remote may include at least one sensor configured to detect a biometric characteristic of a user.
In some examples, a sensor may be a fingerprint sensor or, in other examples, the sensor may be a retina or iris sensor, an electrocardiography sensor, a vein imaging sensor, voice sensor, or any other sensor capable to objectively measure a unique biological characteristic of a user.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is an isometric view of a system #100 for operation of limited access features of a TV (an electronic device #120) using remotely collected biometric data. The system may include a TV and a remote TV controller (device 110). The TV remote controller may be in communication with the TV and may be operable to transmit one or more instructions to it.
Similarly, the remote control device 110 is illustrated as a dedicated remote control with a single control element #140 as an example only. In various implementations and embodiments, the remote control device may be any remote control device that is capable of transmitting instructions to the TV. Such a remote control device may include one or more portable electronic devices, such as dedicated remote control device, a portable electronic device, a smart phone device, a tablet device, a stylus device, a wearable device, a health monitor, or any other suitable electronic device.
In other implementations, the sensor may be any kind of sensor (such as one or more cameras, inertial sensors, photoplethysmographic sensors, and so on) that is operable to detect at least one unique biometric characteristic of the candidate user. Such biometric characteristics may include, but are not limited to, retinal or facial images, palm prints, gesture patterns, signatures, and/or any other kind of unique biometric characteristics of the candidate user. In still further embodiments, the remote control device may include more than one element sensor element. For example, the remote control device may include a number of buttons or sensors, each capable to cause an instruction to be sent to the TV. Such instructions may include state information and/or authentication information. The template biometric data may be previously recorded or otherwise collected from an authorized user during a training process. For example, the template data may be a previously-measured fingerprint of an authorized user.
By way of the first example, a candidate user may hold a remote control device having a fingerprint sensor. The sensor may be positioned anywhere along the outer surface of the remote. For example, the sensor may be positioned on a bottom surface of the remote or, in another example, the sensor maybe positioned on a top surface of the remote. Upon grasping the remote, the candidate user's finger may align with the fingerprint sensor. Thereafter, the remote may detect that a finger is present along the sensor surface and may begin comparing the fingerprint against template fingerprints stored within the remote. This process may authenticate the candidate user as an authorized user.
Parental Control of Remote
In this example, when the authenticated user operates another feature of the remote, the authenticated user may already be authenticated to operate that feature. However, if another user were to hold the remote and alight his or her fingerprint with the sensor, the remote may determine that the second user is not an authorized user. Thereafter, the second user may not be permitted to access certain features of remote. For example, a parent maybe an authorized user of a television remote such that when the parent handles the remote and aligns a finger with a fingerprint sensor, the remote may determine that the parent is an authorized user. Thereafter, the parents may be able to access limited access features of the television without being prompted for a security or authorization code.
On the other hand, a child may be user with only limited access. If a child grasps the remote and aligns a finger with a fingerprint sensor of the remote, the child may not be permitted to access certain limited-access features of the television (or other electronic device) by operating the remote. If the child attempted to access the limited access features of the television, the television may prompt the child to enter the proper access code.
In these and related examples, a remote may send both state data and authentication data to an electronic device. For example, when a parent operates a television with a remote control having a biometric sensor, the remote control may send both the state data and the authorization data to the television upon every button press that the parent makes.
In one embodiment, every feature of the remote control may cause to be sent and instruction and an authorization. For example, if a power button on the remote is pressed, and instruction to turn a television on may be accompanied by an authorization data that identifies the user making the request of the television. In many cases, powering on the television may not be a limited access feature. Thus, the television may ignore the authentication data sent after the instruction. However, when a limited access feature is attempted to be accessed, the television may pass the authorization data to an access controller to determine whether the authorization data permits access to the requested feature.
In other embodiments the authorization data may be uniform for a particular feature. In other words, authorization data used to access the power feature of the television may be the same for every user. In such an example, the electronic device may be entirely unaware of the identity of a particular user.
In another example embodiment, the authorization data may include biometrically identifying information that confirms the identify of a user. For example, if a user selects a button to make a purchase of content displayed on the television (e.g., pay-per-view movie), the remote may send to the television information that authenticates the identity of the user associated with one or more purchase accounts.
Apple makes it crystal clear that the remote can be used beyond controlling your Apple TV and television. Apple specifically notes that the remote will be able to control other electronic devices such as thermostats, air conditioners, heaters, fans, kitchen appliances, home automation controllers, security systems, vehicles and more.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 is a flow chart illustrating a method of operating limited access features of an electronic device; FIG. 4 is a flow chart illustrating a method of using biometric characteristics to operate limited access features of an electronic device.
Apple credits Michael DiVincent, Nicole Hollopeter and Ruben Caballero as the inventors of this patent application which was originally filed in Q1 2014. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time. For other Apple TV related patents see our archives.
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