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Apple Patents Reveal Nano-Silica Fiber Coatings for Macs & iDevices and Future iPhone with Hearing Aid Detection

1. Cover, nano-silica coating, hearing aid detection patents
On February 7, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published 32 patent applications from Apple for which 12 of them were continuation patents. In this report we briefly cover two of Apple's latest inventions. The first relates to a future iPhone's hearing aid detection technology and the second relates to Apple's application of nano-silica fiber coatings in such hardware as the iPhone. We close out our report with a listing of ten additional patent applications with one of them relating to the original iPod Shuffle that lists Apple's Late Cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs as the lead inventor.  


Apple Invention #1: Nano-Silica Fiber Coatings


In this first Apple invention covered in this report, Apple states that one factor contributing to the reduction in size of these devices is that from a visual stand point, users often find compact and sleek designs of consumer electronic devices more aesthetically appealing and thus, demand compact and sleek designs. This trend to smaller, lighter and yet durable poses challenges in the design of portable computing devices.


In order to maintain the compact size desired, wireless communication circuits (such as RF antenna) are integrated into other components. For example, the RF antenna can be formed as part of load bearing elements (e.g., external or then internal portions of the frame).


However, in order to utilize a portion of the frame as the RF antenna, RF isolation (i.e., maintaining multiple RF antennae separate from each other) must be provided. By properly isolating multiple RF antennae, that portion of the frame used as an antenna to be properly tuned to receive the frequencies the device needs to operate wirelessly. The RF isolation can be accomplished by utilizing materials with different conductive properties within the frame. From a design point view, it is challenging to find materials that are both strength compatible and integrate-able together in an aesthetically pleasing way.


Broadly speaking, Apple's invention titled "Functionalized Nano-Silica Fiber Coating for use as an Adhesive Layer for Inorganic Fibers in Thermoplastic Composite," describes methods, apparatus and materials for forming frame components well suited for use in consumer electronic devices, such as laptops, cellphones, netbook computers, portable media players and tablet computers.


In particular, materials as well as methods and apparatus for forming device components, such as load-bearing frame components, useable in a light-weight consumer electronic device with a thin and compact enclosure are described. In one embodiment, a topologically enhanced coating can be applied to a ceramic fiber that can, in turn, be mixed with a mold injectable thermoplastic composite well suited for use in portable communication devices.


The topologically enhancing coating can take the form of functionally activated nano-silica particles. In one embodiment, the nano-silica particles are functionally activated using amine groups. The thermo-plastic composite can be used to join a number of metal components together to form a load bearing structure where the material provides 1) RF isolation between the metal components, 2) is strength compatible with the metal components and 3) is aesthetically compatible with the metal components.


2A. Apple's invention relates to nano-silica fiber coatings


About Apple's Patent Figures: FIG. 1 is a perspective drawing of an external frame component found in Apple's iPhone; FIG. 2 graphically represents coating of a ceramic fiber with a plurality of functionalized silica nano-particles; FIG. 3 shows a flowchart of a process for providing a functionalized ceramic fiber.


Apple's patent application was filed by inventors Marta Giachino and Michael Pilliod in Q3 2011 under serial number 229619. Marta Giachino is a Ph.D. in Materials Science and Engineering at Stanford University who was a product design intern at Apple. Mike Pilliod is a senior composite's engineer at Apple.


Apple's Invention # 2: Hearing Aid Detection


In this second Apple invention covered in this report, Apple states that their invention generally relates to a hearing aid compatible iPhone configured to automatically determine whether or not the device is being used by a hearing impaired user who is wearing a hearing aid, and select a mode of operation based on this determination.


The iPhone includes a proximity sensor and a magnetic field sensor. The proximity sensor is used to detect a change in distance of the device to the user's ear. The magnetic field sensor is used to detect a change in magnetic field caused by the device moving relative to the hearing aid.


The iPhone selects between a normal audio mode of operation and a hearing aid compatible mode of operation based on both the change in detected distance and the change in detected magnetic field.


3. Apple invents hearing Aid Detection for the iPhone


Apple's patent FIG. 1 illustrates a hearing impaired user holding a future iPhone that could detect a hearing aid; FIG. 4 shows graphs of detected proximity data and detected magnetic field data versus time, as a hearing impaired user moves an audio device towards his ear.


Apple's patent application was filed in Q3 2011 by inventors Shaohai Chen and Ching-Yu (John) Tam. Chen is now Apple's Acoustics Design Lead. He previously worked for Motorola. To view the details of this invention, see patent application 20130034234.


Special Patent Highlight for "Highly Portable Media Device"


Although this is a continuation patent, we wanted to highlight this one as it relates to the iPod shuffle dating all the way back to 2005. There's only three names listed as inventors and they are the late Apple Cofounder and CEO Steve Jobs, Jonathan Ives and Anthony Fadell.


4. Apple files continuation patent on the original iPod Shuffle


Some of Today's Other Patent Applications


While Patently Apple may not have highlighted the following patent applications today, they may certainly be of interest to some in the community.


01 Seamless Display Migration


02 System and Method for Branch Function based Obfuscation


03 Graphical User Interface for Tracking and Displaying Views of an Application


04 Securely Recovering a Computing Device


05 Dynamically Adaptive Schedule System: Relates to workouts scheduling


06 Transmission Method and Related Base Station


07 Methods and Apparatus for Antenna Isolation-Dependent Coexistence in Wireless Systems


08 Systems and Method for Wireless Data Protection


09 Flexible Codec Switching



T 03 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. About Comments: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit comments. 


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