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Future iPhones will use Blazingly Fast Line-of-Sight Device-to-Device Communications for Sharing Photos, documents and more

1 Cover line-of-sight Optical Communications System for iDevices


Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple reveals that future iPhones will likely use a next-gen device-to-device line-of-sight optical communication system instead of offering AirDrop for sharing documents and photos with friends and colleagues nearby in your home or in a conference room. AirDrop is still considered overly complicated with too many steps for most average users. Apple also points out that using Bluetooth Low Energy handshake protocols takes at minimum 15 seconds to confirm a connection while line-of-sight optical communications can accomplish this in a mere few seconds and be easier to use in general.   


According to Apple's engineers, device-to-device awareness is defined as the capability of electronic devices to discover (identify), map, and track other electronic devices, typically in real time.


During device discovery, information such as a device identifier (ID), a hash key, and supported protocols may be exchanged with other electronic devices and verified. Device discovery enables further data exchange (sometimes in higher bandwidth channels than the channel(s) used for device discovery.)


The Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) handshake protocol is one example of a device discovery handshake protocol. Poor response time (handshake latency) has been an issue with BLE handshakes.


For example, the low duty cycle and frequency hopping used in BLE handshakes has resulted in discovery times of up to ten seconds, coupled with another five seconds of paging time. Ideally, the device discovery process should be capable of being completed in less than a few (or couple) seconds.


Line-of-Sight Optical Communications


Apple's invention covers systems, devices, methods, and apparatus using  line-of-sight optical communication systems, and techniques by which electronic devices that include line-of-sight optical communication systems may become optically aware of other electronic devices and quickly perform optical communication handshakes with other devices.


In Apple's techniques for providing device awareness, an electronic device may use a motion sensor to record its posing when it determines, during the performance of an optical communication handshake, that it is pointed at the electronic device with which it is performing the optical communication handshake.


Device awareness (or device-to-device awareness) is a prerequisite in order to have device-to-device interaction. Device-to-device location awareness can also be useful, as it can enable electronic devices to be associated with their owners in context (e.g., when using smart phones to communicate in private around a conference room table, when navigating amongst motor vehicles on a highway, when communicating with smart appliances in a home or office, and so on), and may enable certain functionality in interactive applications (e.g., an ability to locate other players in an augmented reality game).


Apple's patent FIG. 1 below shows a future iPhone having a line-of-sight optical communication system; FIG. 2 shows an example of a method performed by a first iPhone to optically communicate with a second electronic device;


2 Line-of-sight optical communication system


Apple's patent FIG. 3A below shows an example of an electronic device communicating with another electronic device using a single channel line-of-sight optical communication system.


3 single and multiple line-of-sight optical communcation system figs 3a and 7a


Apple's patent FIG. 7A above shows an example of an electronic device communicating with other electronic devices using a multiple channel line-of-sight optical communication system.


Apple's patent FIG. 4 below shows an example of an electronic device communicating with another electronic device using a dual receive channel line-of-sight optical communication system.




Apple's patent FIG. 5 above shows an example series of optical communication handshakes that may be performed between a pair of electronic devices.


Apple notes that in some embodiments, the posing cue may take the form of a relative position of an icon on a display of the electronic device 400 (e.g., as shown in FIG. 7A in our second graphic above).


The icon may identify the second electronic device or its user (Guest #3), and may change position on the display as a user moves the electronic device #400 (of FIG. 4) with respect to the second electronic device #402.


In some embodiments, a reference for interpreting the second electronic device's direction or location with respect to the electronic device #400 may be displayed on the display.


For example, the walls of a room in which the electronic devices #400, #402 are located may be displayed on the display of the electronic device #400.


Apple's patent application 20190372668 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back in Q2 2029, with some work on the invention dating back a year. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.


Some Apple Inventors


Tong Chen: Optical Sensing Engineer; Expertise in VCSEL-based optical system design, mainly focused on 3D laser sensing solutions such as Lidar scanner, Structured Light projector, Time-of-Flight illuminators etc.


Mark Winkler: Engineering Manager, Optical Sensor Design


Wenrui Cai: Optical Engineer


Mehmet Mutlu: Senior Display Exploration Engineer; Senior Optical Engineer (Optical Sensing)


Orit Shamir: Manager of Optical Sensing EPM Team, Senior Engineering Program Manager; Managed and grew a team of talented engineering program management developing and integrating critical optical sensors across multiple product lines. Shamir left Apple months ago.


Omid Momtahan: Optical Sensing Architect: previously worked at Foxconn Interconnect Technology and is now with Amazon Web Services.


10.51FX - Patent Application Bar


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