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Apple Invents iDevices that will allow Future Scuba Divers to communicate & recharge while underwater

1 cover Apple patent for magneto-inductive technology

 

In the last month, several major, if not game changing inventions from Apple have surfaced covering autonomous vehicles and a next-gen headset that could one day replace our desktop computers (one, two, three and four) and be used as a futuristic entertainment system to entertain us while our cars battle traffic to get us to our destination. Apple's streak of fresh new ideas / inventions being made public continues today.

 

Earlier today Patently Apple discovered a newly published patent application from Apple in Europe that relates to magneto-inductive charging and communication in wireless electronic devices.

 

Apple reveals that their invention will allow a scuba diver with this future iDevice (iPhone and iPad) to communicate underwater with those on a boat above. A text message could be sent to those onboard a boat that there's a problem such as circling sharks and require immediate assistance.

 

The diver will also be able to send great photos of marine life to those on the boat as well.

 

If that wasn't enough, future iDevices will be able to fully recharge underwater using magneto-inductive technology without ever having to surface to do so.

 

Apple's Invention

 

Apple notes in their patent filing that a wireless transceiver is generally used to allow mobile electronic devices such as an iPhone, iPad, Apple Watch and MacBook to wirelessly communicate data over the air via a network channel (e.g., cellular network or internet network channels) to and from one or more external mobile electronic devices or other wireless electronic devices.

 

However, as it may be appreciated, within certain environments (e.g., underwater environments, underground environments, high-altitude environments, rural areas, and so forth) wireless electronic devices may not be able to connect to, for example, cellular networks and/or internet networks.

 

Thus, the wireless electronic devices may not be able to communicate in such environments. Accordingly, it may be useful to provide techniques useful in allowing wireless electronic devices to communicate in the absence of cellular and/or internet connectivity.

 

Apple's invention covers performing magneto-inductive charging and communication in the absence of a cellular and/or internet network connection.

 

By way of example, an electronic device includes inductive charging and communication circuitry configured to receive a signal configured to induce a charging function based at least in part on an inductive coil coupled to inductive charging and communication circuitry.

 

Inducing the charging function includes charging an energy storage component of the electronic device. The inductive charging and communication circuitry is also configured to receive an indication to switch from the charging function to a communication function.

 

The communication function is based at least in part on the inductive coil. The inductive charging and communication circuitry is further configured establish a communication link between the electronic device using the inductive coil to transmit and receive communication signals.

 

Apple's patent FIG. 7 presented below is a schematic diagram of inductive charging and communication circuitry included within an electronic device such as an iPhone; FIG. 8 is a flow diagram illustrating an embodiment of a process useful in performing magneto-inductive charging and communication in the absence of a cellular and/or internet network connection.

 

2 Apple patent figs 7 and 8 communicate and charge underwater

In more detail, Apple's patent FIG. 7 illustrates an example of inductive charging and communication circuitry #44 that may be included within the electronic device #10. For example, as depicted, the inductive charging and the communication circuitry may include an inductive charging coil #46, charging circuitry #48, communication circuitry #50, and switching circuitry #52.

 

In certain embodiments, the inductive charging coil may include any metal coil useful in receiving an alternating current (AC) and inducing a time varying magnetic field and/or receiving a time varying magnetic field in response thereto.

 

Similarly, the charging circuitry, which may be coupled to the inductive charging coil via the switching circuitry that may include any circuitry that may be useful in converting the current flowing through the inductive charging coil into a direct current (DC).

 

The charging circuitry may then use the DC current to charge, for example, the battery or other energy storage device that may be included within the electronic device.

 

Indeed, the electronic device may allow a user to enable magneto-inductive communication in lieu of any of the aforementioned more traditional wireless communication methods.

 

In certain embodiments, as further depicted by FIG. 7, the inductive charging and communication circuitry may include communication circuitry, which may be also coupled to the inductive charging coil via the switching circuitry. The communication circuitry may be used to generate an electromagnetic signal (e.g., magneto-inductive signal) to establish a P2P communication link with, for example, another electronic device and/or a base station or other antenna base.

 

For example, as will be further appreciated, the communication circuitry may be used to allow the electronic device to communicate one or more short messaging service (SMS) messages or multimedia messaging service (MMS) messages via the P2P communication link offline (e.g., via magneto-inductive signaling as opposed to utilizing a cellular network, internet network, or any of various other traditional communication networks).

 

Underwater Environments

 

Apple's patent FIGS. 9, 11 and 12 presented below provide us with three different scenarios regarding the use of the iDevice found in patent FIG. 7 above.

 

First Scenario

 

In Apple's first scenario regarding an underwater environment example they note that FIG. 9 presented below depicts an iPhone / electronic device #10 may be used to communicate in underwater environments.

 

3 X apple patent fig. 9 magneto

For example, as illustrated above, the electronic device #10 (e.g., "underwater device A" in highlighted blue box) may be located within an underwater environment #65 (e.g., sea, ocean, river, pool, and so forth).

 

In this example, another electronic device #66 (e.g., "underwater device B") may also be located within the underwater environment, while a third electronic device #68 (e.g., "surface device C") may be located above water.

 

In certain embodiments, utilizing the inductive charging and communication circuitry, the device may wirelessly communicate (e.g., low-frequency magneto-inductive signaling) one or more messages (e.g., SMS, MMS) to the underwater electronic device #66 which may then communicate the one or more messages to the above-water electronic device #68 (Help – Shark!).

 

Apple notes that the device (e.g. iPhone) may be waterproofed or may be encapsulated in a water-insulated casing. The device will be able to launch an application a noted above that's conductive to underwater usage and may include special keyboard features (e.g. enlarged keys, character rolls, and so forth).

 

There could be predetermined messages for quick action stating such things as : Help, Shark!, Going up, Going down, etc.

 

In some embodiments, the predetermined SMS messages may be user-customizable and may include specific user identification (ID) signatures.

 

Thus, Apple's patent FIG. 9 illustrates that the inductive and charging and communication circuitry may allow the electronic device to wirelessly communicate in the following scenarios: underwater electronic device-to-underwater electronic device, surface electronic device-to-underwater electronic device, and/or surface electronic device-to-surface electronic device.

 

Second Scenario

 

In Apple's second scenario they note that in certain embodiments, as depicted in FIG. 11 below, the inductive charging and communication circuitry may allow the electronic device, which may be positioned within an underwater environment (e.g., sea, ocean, river, pool, aquarium, fish tank, animal cage, liquid storage tank, a container including a gaseous or liquid medium, a container including a low or high pressure gaseous medium, vacuum) to capture and store still images or video images of the underwater environment and, for example, sea animals #80 within the underwater environment.

 

4 FIG. 11 SCENARIO 2 UNDERWATER COMMUNICATION WITH IDEVICE

In some embodiments, the electronic device / iDevice may commence capturing still images and/or live video images based on, for example, a timer or motion detection.

 

The iDevice may then transmit the still images and/or live video images to a surface electronic device 10 via a P2P communication link #82 (e.g., via magneto-inductive signaling).

 

Furthermore, if the iDevice begins to run low on power while submerged, the inductive charging and communication circuitry may recharge the iDevice without it having to be removed from the underwater environment.

 

Third Scenario

 

In this third and last scenario, Apple's patent filing points to FIG. 12 presented below that illustrate a large-scale high-power magnetic field source coil antenna 86 may be placed on a sea vessel 88 (e.g., boat or ship) and operate as a communication beacon on the surface for divers that may be within the underwater environment. For example, as further depicted, in one embodiment, the coil antenna #86 may extend from the sea vessel #88 into the open air. In another embodiment, the coil antenna may be submerged within the underwater environment directly underneath the sea vessel.

 

5 X Apple patent fig. 12 underwater activity with future idevices

In this scenario, the inductive charging and communication circuitry of the iDevice (e.g., "underwater device A") may operate only in receive-mode to indicate, for example, a received signal strength indication (RSSI) of the communication beacon signal generated by the coil antenna.

 

For example, in this way, a user of the iDevice may rotate or move underwater and/or on the surface of the water while observing RSSI increasing or decreasing, which would thus indicate the direction in which the sea vessel is moving.

 

In certain embodiments, the coil antenna on the sea vessel may be powered from a high-power source on the sea vessel and may thus be useful in achieving large underwater communication coverage such that communication beacon signal may be detected by the iDevice #10 near the surface of the water and the deeply submerged iDevice #66 (e.g., "underwater device B").

 

In some embodiments, the coil antenna of the sea vessel may be a single-loop, fixed orientation antenna, or, in another embodiment, may include a number of loops positioned in orthogonal orientations and may operate at the same frequency or at different frequencies.

 

In some embodiments, the iDevice # 10 may include software that may be useful in correlating the different frequencies and RSSI values to the specific positioning of the coil antenna to increase direction detection accuracy.

 

Apple's patent application that was published in Europe was originally filed in July 2017. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.

 

Two out of the three inventors listed on Apple's patent application are Electromagnetic Compatibility (EMC) engineers with of them having left Apple to work in a similar position at Google last June.

 

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