Apple invents a Waveguide System that uses Millimeter Waves to Transfer Data and Power at Accelerated Speeds
In a March report we pointed to Apple's Phil Schiller proudly announcing that the new iPhones XS/XS Max were water resistant to the IP 68 standard last September. The standard translates to an iPhone being under water at 2 meters deep, like a 6 foot deep pool, for 30 minutes.
Earlier in 2018 two patent applications were published by the U.S. Patent Office showing that Apple has been working on water resistant coating processes on one front while developing a new expandable lightning connector tip to create a liquid-tight seal on another front.
Then in March of this year we posted a report titled "Apple's work on advancing iPhone Waterproofing introduces a New Style of Charging and Data Port. The design, as presented below, was by far the most daring invention of its kind to date in an effort to advance waterproofing an iPhone.
An equally daring Apple invention surfaced and reported on back in 2017 pointed to potentially using millimeter wave technology for charging iPhones and sharing data as noted in Apple's patent figure below.
Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a continuation patent that updates their 2015 invention that was granted back in March of this year. Today's continuation patent is restricted to Apple updating their patent claims of this granted patent.
However, because we've never covered this invention before, we're covering it today as both a patent application with multiple patent figures and details and as a continuation patent pointing out the actually additions that Apple has recently added to their granted patent.
Conductive Cladding for Waveguides
Today's continuation patent is titled "Conductive Cladding for Waveguides." It was the first invention that focused on a new kind of connection system to power and exchange data with. In some ways it's similar to their 2017 patent that I referenced to earlier. A major side benefit of the design is to add a new dimension of waterproofing to devices like the iPhone.
In today's patent, Apple leads into their invention by noting that utilizing conductive wires to transmit data requires the use of receptacles on the receiving side, which may often create openings within which moisture and/or debris may enter.
Utilizing conductive wires may also suffer from capacitive coupling between wires running high frequency signals which can impede signal transmission. To avoid capacitive coupling, shielding solutions may be implemented to shield signal lines; however, such shielding solutions can be bulky in size.
One way to overcome such limitations is to utilize waveguides for sending a wave, e.g., electromagnetic waves for data transmission instead of conductive wires. Waveguides are structures that enable wave signals to propagate with minimal loss of energy.
Waveguides are particularly useful for transmitting waves that are not normally capable of efficient transmission in the atmosphere. As an example, very high frequency waves (e.g., millimeter waves) that easily disperse in the atmosphere can be contained within a waveguide to prevent dispersion of transmitted signals.
By enabling the transmission of millimeter waves, transmissions can be performed at frequencies substantially higher than that of conductive wires (e.g., tens or even hundreds of gigahertz (GHz)) can be achieved.
In order for successful transmission with waveguides, however, the orientation of millimeter waves transmitted from the sending device needs to match the orientation of the waveguide in the receiving device. That is, the orientation of the waveguide of the sending device should match the orientation of the waveguide in the receiving device.
If the orientations of the waveguides are different, then the transmission signals received by the receiving device may be interpreted incorrectly. This is what Apple's invention set out to overcome.
In summary, Apple's continuation patent published today covers improved devices and methods for determining waveguide orientation. As an example, a waveguide may be formed of a core encapsulated by a cladding. The core may be a solid dielectric material that conducts radio waves at millimeter wave frequencies and above. The cladding may include conductive portions within which electrical signals may be sent for determining the orientation of the waveguide.
Determining the orientation of the waveguide is important for data transfer because successful data transmission may be highly dependent upon the orientation of the waves. Having conductive portions in the waveguide cladding allows data to be successfully transmitted through the core when the waveguides are mated in any orientation.
In some embodiments, a waveguide is formed of a dielectric core encapsulated by a cladding. The core may be formed of a dielectric material that conducts radio waves at millimeter wave frequencies and above, and the cladding may include at least two conductive portions. Each conductive portion may be disposed around less than the entire core. The conductive portions may enable devices to communicate with one another to properly transmit data at the correct orientation.
In certain embodiments, a waveguide system may include a waveguide having a dielectric core encapsulated by a cladding. The cladding may include at least two conductive portions electrically isolated from each other by insulation portions. The waveguide system may further include processor configured to interact with the waveguide, and at least one antenna coupled to the processor.
The antenna may be configured to send data through the dielectric core of the waveguide. The waveguide system may further include at least one sensor corresponding to the at least one antenna. The sensor may be coupled to the processor and configured to couple with at least two conductive portions of the waveguide cladding to determine an orientation of the dielectric core.
Noted in the patent claims and not in Apple's patent summary is the important fact that that the system uses a plurality of magnetic alignment structures configured to preferentially attach to a corresponding magnetic receptacle to orient the waveguide in a predetermined position.
What makes this an interesting patent is that the FCC approved Apple's License for Limited Testing of Millimeter Wave Technology. At the time it was thought that millimeter wave technology would primarily be used for a future 5G iPhone. Now we can see that Apple had other reasons for wanting FCC approval for use of millimeter wave technology.
Apple's patent FIG. 1A below is a simplified diagram of a waveguide mating with a device through a window; FIG. 1B is a simplified diagram of a docking station having an embedded waveguide mating with a device.
Apple's circular waveguides make more sense as it follows the philosophy of the lightning cable in that no matter how you place it, it'll fit without thinking, unlike the original USB mini cables that had to be aligned just right to get the cable into the device. My current Logitech mouse uses the old mini USB and it's a hassle compared to using a lighting connector with my iPhone XR.
Apple notes that in contrast to rectangular waveguides, which may mate in two different orientations, circular waveguides are geometrically structured such that they can mate in an infinite number of orientations. That is, the circular shape can be rotated in an infinite number of angles. Thus, to determine an orientation of circular waveguides, larger numbers of conductive portions may increase the ability of the cladding to determine the orientation of circular waveguides. For instance, a circular cladding may include at least two, preferably at least four or eight conductive portions as shown in FIG. 4 below. When waveguides mate, a waveguide-to-waveguide interface is formed, the details of which are discussed herein.
In Apple's patent FIG. 9a below we're able to see an exemplary waveguide system #900 having one antenna capable of emitting waves at different phases. Waveguide system #900 and 901 may be implemented in any suitable device containing a computing system such as an iPhone, iPod, iPad, MacBook, iMac, Mac Pro, server computer and accessories such as a docking station, high-definition (HD) camera/camcorder, speaker, monitor, projector, and the like. Apple has a more elaborate version of 9a with multiple antennas not shown.
Apple specifically points to the use of millimeter wave frequencies with the processor #902 that may be coupled to an antenna # 908 which may be a separate microchip or a part of the processor.
In embodiments, the antenna may be an antenna that can output transmission waves #916 at high frequencies, e.g., millimeter waves having 1 to 10 millimeters in wave length and at a frequency of 60-90 GHz.
The transmission waves, electromagnetic waves, may be outputted through a waveguide #914 to another device through a window #920 rather than through a physical port using male-female connectivity.
Apple updates Patent Claims
A continuation patent is always about adding new patent claims that may cover new technology or methods of use and so forth. The base of the patent never changes. In today's continuation patent Apple has changed patent claim #1.
Note that bolder type on all the patent claims below represent added or new verbiage when compared to the March granted patent.
"A waveguide comprising: a dielectric core having a circular cross-sectional shape and being formed of a material that conducts radio waves; and a cladding having an annular cross-sectional shape and encapsulating the dielectric core, the cladding comprising a plurality of conductive portions formed as segments of the cladding that are equally spaced apart from one another and separated by insulation portions."
New Patent Claim #3: The waveguide of claim 1, wherein each conductive portion is in direct contact with and disposed around less than the entire dielectric core.
New Patent Claim #6: The waveguide of claim 1, wherein the plurality of insulation portions have a dielectric constant similar to a dielectric constant of the plurality of conductive portions.
New Patent Claim #11: The waveguide of claim 1, wherein the dielectric core is concentric to the cladding.
Updated Patent Claim #12: The waveguide of claim 1, further comprising a plurality of magnetic alignment structures configured to preferentially attach to a corresponding magnetic receptacle to orient the waveguide in a predetermined position.
Updated Patent Claim 17 (now #14: A waveguide system comprising: a waveguide comprising a dielectric core having a circular cross-sectional shape encapsulated by a cladding, the cladding having an annular cross-sectional shape and comprising a plurality of conductive portions that are formed as segments of the cladding that are equally spaced apart from one another and separated by insulation portions; a processor configured to interact with the waveguide; at least one antenna coupled to the processor, the at least one antenna configured to send data through the dielectric core of the waveguide; and at least one sensor corresponding to the at least one antenna and coupled to the processor, the at least one sensor configured to couple with the plurality of conductive portions of the waveguide cladding to determine an orientation of the dielectric core.
Updated Patent Claim #18; A method comprising: receiving, by at least one sensor, a first electrical signal sent through a cladding of a transmitting waveguide when the transmitting waveguide is mated with a receiving waveguide, the cladding having an annular cross-sectional shape and encapsulating a dielectric core of the transmitting waveguide having a circular cross-sectional shape and being formed of a material that conducts radio waves, and comprising a plurality of conductive portions that are formed as segments of the cladding that are equally spaced apart from one another and separated by insulation portions; determining a location of the at least one sensor; and determining an orientation of the transmitting waveguide by referencing the location of the at least one sensor.
Apple's continuation patent # 20190195654 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed in Q1 2019. Apple was actually granted this patent back in August 2015. Though by following the history of the patent, it actually points to a March 2019 granted patent that was filed back in 2015. The timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
For the sake of clarity, other Apple news sites covering today's patent give readers the impression that this is a new invention when it clearly isn't as our report has documented.
About Making Comments on our Site: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit any comments. Those using abusive language or negative behavior will result in being blacklisted on Disqus.