Apple invents Smart Fabric that integrates electrical components and advanced sensors into the seams of Garments & more
Up until this morning, Patently Apple has covered 47 smart fabric related Apple patents and today we're covering smart fabric patent #48 titled "Fabric Seam With Electrical Components." Apple envisions integrating electrical components and advanced sensors, including biometric sensors into the seams of smart clothing, furniture, computers and more. The two Apple product designers listed on this patent are high profile. One worked on Nike's Flyknit Technology while the other has worked in the entertainment industry for 30 years working on films like Westworld and Terminator: Genisys.
In Apple's patent background It may be desirable to form bags, furniture, clothing, and other items from materials such as fabric. Fabric items generally do not include electrical components. It may be desirable, however, to incorporate electrical components into fabric to provide a user of a fabric item with enhanced functionality.
It can be challenging to incorporate electrical components into fabric. Fabric is flexible, so it can be difficult to mount structures to fabric. Electrical components must be coupled to signal paths (e.g., signal paths that carry data signals, power, etc.). It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide improved techniques for incorporating electrical components into items with fabric.
Apple's patent covers Interlacing equipment that may include weaving equipment, knitting equipment, braiding equipment, or any other suitable equipment used for crossing, looping, overlapping, or otherwise coupling strands of material together to form a network of strands (e.g., fabric).
Interlacing equipment may be provided with individually adjustable components such as warp strand positioning equipment (e.g., heddles or other warp strand positioning equipment), weft strand positioning equipment, a reed, take-down equipment, let off equipment (e.g., devices for individually dispensing and tensioning warp strands), needle beds, feeders, guide bars, strand processing and component insertion equipment, and other components for forming fabric items.
The individual adjustability of these components may allow interlacing operations (e.g., weaving operations, knitting operations, braiding operations, and/or other interlacing operations) to be performed without requiring continuous lock-step synchronization of each of these devices, thereby allowing fabric with desired properties to be woven.
As an example, normal reed movement and other weaving operations may be periodically suspended and/or may periodically be out-of-sync with other components to accommodate component insertion operations whereby electrical components (sometimes referred to as nodes or smart nodes) are inserted into the fabric during the creation or formation of the fabric.
Items such as item #10 of FIG. 1 below may include fabric and may sometimes be referred to as a fabric item or fabric-based item. Item #10 may be an electronic device or an accessory for an electronic device such as a laptop computer, a computer monitor containing an embedded computer, a tablet computer, a cellular telephone, a media player, or other handheld or portable electronic device, a smaller device such as a wrist-watch device, a pendant device, a headphone or earpiece device, a device embedded in eyeglasses or other equipment worn on a user's head, or other wearable or miniature device, a television, a computer display that does not contain an embedded computer, a gaming device, a navigation device, an embedded system such as a system in which fabric item 10 is mounted in a kiosk, in an automobile, airplane, or other vehicle (e.g., an autonomous or non-autonomous vehicle), other electronic equipment, or equipment that implements the functionality of two or more of these devices.
If desired, item #10 may be a removable external case for electronic equipment, may be a strap, may be a wrist band or head band, may be a removable cover for a device, may be a case or bag that has straps or that has other structures to receive and carry electronic equipment and other items, may be a necklace or arm band, may be a wallet, sleeve, pocket, or other structure into which electronic equipment or other items may be inserted, may be part of a chair, sofa, or other seating (e.g., cushions or other seating structures), may be part of an item of clothing or other wearable item (e.g., a hat, belt, wrist band, headband, etc.), or may be any other suitable item that incorporates fabric.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram of an illustrative fabric item; FIG. 12 is a front view of an illustrative fabric item, a shirt, having a seam with one or more integrated electrical components; FIG. 10 is a perspective view of an illustrative fabric item having a seam with one or more integrated electrodes; FIG. 11 is a perspective view of an illustrative fabric item having a seam with one or more integrated tubes.
Apple further notes that electrical components #26 in the patent figures above may include one or more sensors that are used in gathering health-related measurements and/or user input and may include light sensors (visible light sensors, color sensitive light sensors, ultraviolet light sensors, etc.), optical proximity sensors, capacitive proximity sensors, temperature sensors, force sensors (e.g., strain gauges, capacitive force sensors, resistive force sensors, force sensors for measuring biometric information, etc.), microphones for sensing audio and/or ultrasonic signals, magnetic sensors (e.g., Hall effect sensors, giant magnetoresistance sensors, or other sensors or magnetometers that measure magnetic fields), gas pressure sensors, heart rate sensors, blood oxygen level sensors (e.g., based on emitted and detected light), electrocardiogram sensors (e.g., sensors for measuring electrical signals on a user's body), humidity sensors, moisture sensors, particulate sensors (e.g., sensors that use light measurements and/or other measurements to measure particulate concentration in the air), image sensors (cameras), gas pressure sensors, carbon dioxide sensors and/or sensors measuring other gas concentrations, motion sensors for detecting position, orientation, and/or movement (e.g., accelerometers, magnetic sensors such as compass sensors, gyroscopes, barometers, and/or inertial measurement units that contain some or all of these sensors), radio-frequency sensors, depth sensors (e.g., structured infrared light sensors and/or depth sensors based on stereo imaging devices), optical sensors such as self-mixing sensors and light detection and ranging (lidar) sensors that gather time-of-flight measurements, accelerometers for gathering user tap input (e.g., single taps, double taps, triple taps, etc.), and/or other sensors.
For more details, review Apple's patent application # US 20230008099 A1.
- Daniel Podhajny: Product Design. Joined Apple in 2014. Podhajny claim to fame was working at Nike's Knit Exploration Innovator working on Flyknit technology.
- Linda Benavente-Notaro: Product Design Engineer. Linda previously worked in the entertainment industry for 30 years. More specifically, Linda's experience materialized in designing, engineering and fabricating specialty costumes on over forty major motion pictures including Westworld, Terminator: Genisys and Interstellar. Linda has worked with HBO, Warner Brothers Television, Skydance and others