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Today Apple was granted 69 patents with one covering a Major Modular Wall Unit System for Smart Homes and Businesses


Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple 69 patents. In this report I cover a patent that relates to a "Modular Wall Unit System" that could automatically configure a smart home or building. And as always, we wrap up this week's granted patent report with our traditional listing of the remaining granted patents that were issued to Apple this week.

Configuring a smart home can present many challenges. For instance, the differentiation of brands and their incompatibilities between each other, differing connection and communication protocols, wiring and connector types, hardware/software configurations, and general system set up can be daunting to the average consumer.  

Even technology savvy enthusiasts may be challenged by the non-intuitive and often frustratingly laborious process of configuring a fully integrated smart home. Furthermore, smart home networks often need to be reconfigured, sometimes extensively, as old equipment is replaced with new equipment.

Despite the many advantages that smart home technology brings to society, there is a need for smart home systems that can allow lay-consumers to more easily customize, scale, and reconfigure their homes in a more effortless and user-friendly manner. 

Modular Wall Unit System

A Basic Overview of Apple's Patent

As a general non-limiting overview of Apple's invention, certain embodiments can relate to a modular and configurable system for a building (e.g., residential, commercial, or industrial site) that can automatically and dynamically configure a smart building (e.g., smart home) environment as modular accessories are added and removed from the system.

Host Unit

 One of the core elements of the system includes a host unit and modular accessory. The host unit (e.g., see 200 in FIG. 2A directly below) can be embedded within (or coupled to) a structure of a building such as a wall, floor, or ceiling, and integrated with the electrical infrastructure of the home (e.g., electrical power grid, cable/Ethernet network, etc.).

The modular accessory (e.g., see FIGS. 5A-5D), such as a power outlet, light switch, sensor device, etc., can be configured to be interchangeably and non-destructively coupled and decoupled with the host unit. Once coupled, the system can automatically authenticate and configure (sometimes referred to as bootstrapping) the modular accessory by, for example, coupling AC power and/or Ethernet access to the accessory and configuring the setup and operation of the modular accessory in the smart home environment, which can include setting modular accessory control schemes (e.g., functionality and user control hierarchy) and the like.


A Mesh of Virtual Tripwires

 Apple's patent FIG. 18 below shows aspects of differentiating between multiple detected objects in a configurable home infrastructure.

In scenario A, user 1 and user 2 are walking in opposite directions toward each other in a mesh of virtual tripwires. For this example, it is assumed that the mesh of virtual tripwires is dense enough such that users 1 and 2 can be continuously tracked within the scene, as represented by the moving Gaussian curves of graph #1810 (denoted as A.sub.1) that track a change as a determined distance between host units and, for the purposes of explanation, a position of the tracked object in the scene.

In scenario B, user 1 and user 2 are crossing paths, which is represented in graph #1820 (denoted as B.sub.1).

In scenario C, it is unclear (from a system detection perspective) whether user 1 and user 2 have crossed paths and are continuing on their previous trajectory, or if they stopped and changed directions crossing paths, as represented in graph #1830 (denoted as C.sub.1). It should be noted that this example is simplified to illustrate alternative ways to differentiate one detected object from another when their corresponding signals (e.g., based on TOF measurements) are momentarily ambiguous, as shown in graphs #1820 and #1830.

(Click on image to Enlarge)4 tripwires

In some embodiments, a mesh of virtual tripwires in a particular area may provide three-dimensions of resolution (trigger points) when enough interconnected host units are located in a particular area, as shown in a simplified manner in scenario A.

Differentiating Home or Office users via Biometrics

Lastly, Apple notes that in some cases, biometrics can be used to differentiate users. Biometrics such as fingerprints, iris scans, etc., generally require a person to physically provide this information for a sufficient level of authenticity (versus a wirelessly sent digital representation of a biometric). A person's heart beat pattern may provide uniquely identifying traits of the person and can be measured remotely. 

Although a heart rate may change, certain characteristics of the heart beat pattern can remain regardless of the heart rate. For instance, a 60 GHz millimeter wave sensor (MWS) system (or MWS system operating at another frequency) may be used to scan a person's heart rate. In some cases, respiration rate can also be measured with this technique, and can be used to help differentiate users.

Referring back to FIG. 18, user 1 can be differentiated form user 2 when tracking their heart rates (shown in the figure). The users may be differentiated based on the rate of the heartbeat and/or the pattern of the heartbeat, as described above. In some embodiments, a 60 GHz millimeter wave scanner (or other suitable heart rate scanning technology) may be incorporated as a modular accessory in one or more of the host units in a given mesh. 

For more details, review Apple's granted patent  11722985.

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