Apple Wins a Watch Patent relating to Next-Gen Smart Bands that each will provide very Specific new Functionality
The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a series of 82 newly granted patents for Apple Inc. today. In this particular report we cover Apple's patent relating to the identification of Apple Watch bands that triggers added functionality to a Watch.
Apple notes that "a selection of a certain band can influence operation of the electronic device in a variety of ways. For example, the electronic device can respond to the identification of a particular band by performing particular functions, such as changing an aspect of a user interface or altering settings of the electronic device. Such functions can be readily executed by the electronic device upon identification of the band, such that user input is not required. Accordingly, a user's experience with the electronic device can be enhanced based on the user's selection of a particular band."
Beyond that meager revelation, the patent focuses on the construction of the new bands communicating with Apple Watch and various aspects and new hardware features like adding Touch ID to the Apple Watch display.
In December Patently Apple posted a patent report about Apple Watch in relation to assisting seniors with Parkinson's disease. In the future, those with a distinct health issue could choose a band that could monitor specifics for the user and present a custom UI for that particular health issue without the user having to play with settings that are too complicated.
The same could be true for those with a specific heart problem or perhaps one band could be for athletes that are seeking to monitor very specific health measurements while exercising or playing a sport.
Apple is being very secretive about distinct watch bands that they'll be making available. Apple reveals little about the possible end user bands and interfaces coming to Apple Watch in the future. Then again, Apple could reveal more about the new UI's in a follow-up patent which is a common Apple practice to have one project broken into several patents over time.
In this granted patent, Apple simply supplies us with enough to know that this could be another major addition to Apple Watch relating to health. Apple's patent was never made public as a patent application under "Apple" and has only shown up as a granted patent showing that Apple has been trying to keep this project off the radar screen of their competitors for as long as they could. Once it's a granted patent, Apple must be shown as the Assignee taking ownership of the patent. Now on to some specifics revealed about the new bands.
In Apple's patent FIG. 2 below, the band #110 can include an identification element #190 that is detectable by one or more components of the Apple Watch. The identification element can include a feature on a surface of the band and/or be embedded within the structure of the band. The display of Apple Watch may provide an image or video output. The display #104 may also provide an input surface for one or more input devices such as a touch sensing device, force sensing device, temperature sensing device, and/or a fingerprint sensor.
In some embodiments, the electronic device 100 includes a light source 122, a biosensor 124 (e.g., biometric sensors, environmental sensors, etc.), a communication element 160, and/or a detector 170.
The Apple Watch may also include one or more biosensors #124 positioned substantially anywhere on Apple Watch, though shown at the bottom of the watch in FIG. 3 below. Biosensors may be configured to sense substantially any type of characteristic such as, but not limited to, images, pressure, light, touch, force, temperature, position, motion, and so on. For example, the sensor(s) 124 may be a photodetector, a temperature sensor, a light or optical sensor, an atmospheric pressure sensor, a humidity sensor, a magnet, a gyroscope, an accelerometer, and so on.
In other examples, Apple Watch may include one or more health sensors. For example, the biosensor can be configured to perform an electrical measurement using one or more electrodes. The electrical sensor(s) may be used to measure electrocardiographic (ECG) characteristics, galvanic skin resistance, and other electrical properties of the user's body. Additionally, or alternatively, the biosensor can be configured to measure body temperature, exposure to UV radiation, and other health-related information.
In patent FIGS. 3 and 4 above, we see that Apple Watch can detect an identification element #190 of a band by operating components that also perform other, independent functions.
For example, Apple Watch can include one or more biosensors and may include optical and/or electronic biometric sensors that may be used to compute one or more health metrics.
As shown in FIG. 3, Apple Watch can include a light source #122 and a biosensor #124, such as a photodetector, that are exposed on a bottom surface #120 of the watch housing (#102) to form a photoplethysmography ("PPG") sensor.
In some cases, a PPG sensor may be configured to detect changes in blood volume based on reflected light, and one or more physiological parameters of the user may be determined by analyzing the reflected light.
The optical (e.g., PPG) sensor or sensors may be used to compute various health metrics including, without limitation, a heart rate, a respiration rate, blood oxygenation level, a blood volume estimate, blood pressure, or a combination thereof.
The light source 122 can emit, for example, visible (e.g., green) light, which may be adapted for detecting blood perfusion in the body of the wearer. The light source 122 can emit, for example, infrared light, which may be adapted to detect changes in water content or other properties of the body.
Other types of light sources and colors can be used, depending on the sensing configuration. Multiple light sources #122 may operate at the same light wavelength value or range, or the light sources can operate at different light wavelength values or ranges. One or more lenses can be aligned with components of the PPG sensor to magnify, amplify, or otherwise enhance the ability of the sensor to capture such data.
As shown in FIG. 4 above, the components of the PPG sensor can also be used to detect an identification element #190 of the band. In some embodiments, the band can be positioned so that the identification element is within a light path of the light source #122 and within a field of view of the biosensor #124. Light emitted from the light source can be reflected off of the identification element.
For example, the identification element can include a pattern on the band that reflects the wavelength(s) of light emitted from the light source. As discussed above, the light can be infrared light, visible (e.g., green) light, or another wavelength value or range. Where the identification element reflects light outside of the visible spectrum, it can be non-visible to a user. For example, the identification element can include ultraviolet-reflective ink. As such, the identification element can provide identification capabilities without being noticeable by a user.
In some embodiments, the identification element #190 is a symbol, such as a barcode, including a machine-readable representation of information in the form of one or more patterns.
The symbol may be formed as patterns of dark (e.g., black) and light (e.g., white) bars, circles, dots or other shapes. Other patterns are contemplated, such as patterns of dots, concentric circles and the like. Other examples of barcodes include Universal Product Codes (UPCs), Code 39 barcodes, Code 128 barcodes, PDF417 barcodes, EZcode barcodes, DataMatrix barcodes, QR Code barcodes, or barcodes that utilize any other type of barcode symbology.
A 1D sensor or a 2D sensor can be used to capture images of adequate resolution (e.g., pixels) to detect the identification element 190 (e.g., barcode). With some sensors, such as a PPG sensor, the barcode can be scanned by swiping the barcode in front of the sensor. The depth of focus of the sensor can be arranged so that the barcode is in focus when the band is swiped past the sensor.
In patent FIG. 5 above, Apple watch can detect and identification element #190 of a band by using a sensor that applies a communication protocol. Apple Watch can employ NFC, RFID, Wi-Fi, Wi-Fi Direct, WiGig and more.
Apple's granted patent 10,691,072 was originally filed in Q4 2017 and published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office.