Apple Invents a Hybrid Docking/Charging Station that could be as flat as AirPower or take on a Boxy-look with a Lid
In mid-May of this year Patently Apple posted a report titled "Apple Patent Reveals an Alternative to their Failed AirPower Wireless Charging Pad in the form of a 3D Container." Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new boxy docking station that could double as a charging device.
One of the inventors of this device is Brandon Beckham, Hardware Development Engineer who joined Apple when Beats was acquired. Beckham was the Senior Electrical Engineer at Beats with a longer history at Texas Instruments as both an Audio Systems and Haptic Systems Engineer.
In respect to patent FIG. 1 below, Apple notes that three accessories (#200) can be placed in openings or recesses (#110) in docking station (#100). The docking station can also include optional lid (#120), which can be attached using a hinge (#122). The accessories can communicate with the docking station when mated with docking station.
In various embodiments of the present invention, the accessories can communicate with each other through the docking station when docked. These communications can be wired or wireless. For example, they can be Bluetooth or other wireless communications. The docking station can also provide charging power to one or more of the accessories.
In this example, charging and communication between accessories and the docking station can be one where data and a charging voltage are provided over the same contact.
In a specific embodiment of the present invention, the docking station can provide a charging voltage on a first contact and a reference ground on a second contact of an interface between docking station and an accessory.
Data can be transferred by modulating the charging voltage on the first pin. The docking station can modulate the charging voltage to send data to an accessory and the accessory can modulate the charging voltage itself to send data to the docking station. More specifically, the modulation can be done by adding or omitting an intermediate frequency (IF) signal or radio frequency (RF) to the charging voltage.
Apple seems to leave the design wide open by noting that the docking station could be relatively flat like AirPower or be a case or other container having a lid.
The accessories Apple lists as taking advantage of this docking/charging station include rechargeable batteries, speakers, Bluetooth headphones, headsets, or earbuds, wearable computing or media devices such as jewelry or watches, or other types of accessories.
Further, the docking station can be powered by an internal battery, external power source, or other appropriate source or combination thereof. Docking station #100 can provide power to one or more accessories #200.
Lastly, the patent is titled "Connection and Moisture Detection." The word "moisture is listed 70 times in this filing which goes to illustrate that this is a key aspect of the invention.
In one paragraph Apple states: "When the accessory is inserted in recesses or otherwise mated with docking station, docking station can determine that it is mated to an accessory. The docking station can also detect whether or not moisture is present at the mating connection. These determinations can allow the accessory to be charged by docking station.
In another paragraph, Apple states that "These and other embodiments of the present invention can disable the current source once the ramp voltage reaches a first voltage. A pull-down resistor can be connected to the docking station contact to ensure that the ramp voltage decays once the current source is disabled. If moisture is present, the moisture can provide an additional pull-down resistance, thereby causing the ramp voltage to decay more quickly. Accordingly, when the ramp voltage decays below the threshold voltage before a first duration, it can be determined that moisture is present at the connection to the accessory.
When an accessory is detected, and excessive moisture is absent, the docking station can charge the accessory, otherwise the docking station can prevent such charging to protect the contacts of the docking station and accessory."
Apple's patent application number 20200319675 that was published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back Q3 2019. To drill down into the finer details, check out the full patent here. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
For the record, this isn't a design patent, so don't get caught up in the appearance of the device drawn in patent FIG.1. It's the overall concept that counts here.