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Apple's work on a Smart Ring continues with a focus on near-field communications circuitry, motion, health & Fingerprint sensors

1 cover Smart Ring

Apple has filed multiple patents regarding a smart ring over the years as covered in our reports here: 01, 02, 03, 04 (2015) and 05. Apple's engineers have generally focused on rings for use with HMDs, though they have crossed over to using it to control the UI's of Macs and iDevices for scrolling web pages and documents, to using in-air gestures to control various interfaces and lastly health. Today's patent focuses on motion and fingerprint sensors in addition to near-field communications circuitry.

Each design has introduced possible new ways to use the mechanics of a ring that could have moving parts, buttons, touch pads, a mini digital crown, include a microphone and more.

Today the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially published a patent application from Apple that relates to a smart ring with near-field communications circuitry used to gather near-field communications tag information and possibly act as an added controller for Vision Pro.

Electronic System With Ring Device

Apple's granted patent relates to an electronic device such as a wearable ring device having a finger-ring housing that surrounds a finger-shaped opening. A ring device may have a coil. The coil may be formed from metal traces on a printed circuit having an elongated strip shape that wraps around the finger-shaped opening. Opposing ends of the printed circuit may be electrically connected so that the metal traces form a continuous spiral path for the coil with a desired number of turns.

The ring device may have near-field communications circuitry. The near-field communications circuitry may use the coil to transmit and/or receive any suitable near-field communications signals. For example, the near-field communications circuitry may use the coil to gather near-field communications tag information from a near-field communications tag, may use the coil to emulate a tag, and/or may otherwise support bidirectional operations (e.g., reading and/or writing operations). If desired, tag information may be gathered in response to user input such as a device tap or shake that is detected with an accelerometer or other sensor.

The ring device may have wireless communications circuitry that uses a non-near-field communications antenna to wirelessly transmit the tag information and/or other information to a companion device.

Consider, as an example, a scenario in which a user is walking through a building. The user views an item on a shelf that contains an NFC tag with information about the item.

The information associated with the identifier and/or other NFC tag information that is obtained by device 10B (Vision Pro may be presented to the user with the output devices of device 10B (iPhone, iPad, a Mac or Vision Pro) displaying this information in the form of a label, an image, or other visual content on a display in device 10B that can be viewed by the user, by presenting audio information using a speaker in device 10B, by playing video related to the tag, etc.).

Other types of near-field interactions may be performed using the ring (device 10A), if desired. For example, the ring may exchange information with peer devices using near-field communications (or other wireless communications such as Bluetooth® communications), may upload information to the internet over a wireless connection with a wireless access point, cellular telephone network, or other wireless network, etc.

Apple's patent FIG. 2 below is a circuit diagram of illustrative circuitry for a ring device; FIG. 3 is a front side view of device #10A.  As shown in FIG. 3, device the ring may include components #48 that are interconnected by signal paths #50 that may be formed on one or more printed and/or one or more other dielectric members that serve as substrates (e.g., members formed from polymer, glass, ceramic, etc.) that are shaped using three-dimensional printing (e.g., to form a three-dimensional substrate of the type sometimes referred to as a three-dimensional printed circuit board), molding, machining, and/or other fabrication techniques. The substrate for signal paths may, in some embodiments, be formed from portions of a dielectric housing for ring.

2 ring patent figs

Apple's paten FIG. 10 above is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative ring device. During operation, the ring (device #10A) may be used in sensing the environment surrounding the ring and/or may be used in gathering position information (e.g., information on the orientation, location, and/or motion of the ring; FIG. 11 is a flow chart of illustrative operations associated with operating a ring device in a system.

Apple has updated their invention with 20 new patent claims to advance and ensure that key features are legally protected. Below are eight of Apple's key new patent claims. 

  • A ring device, comprising: a ring-shaped housing; sensors including a motion sensor and a fingerprint sensor mounted in the ring-shaped housing; and near-field communications circuitry that is configured to emulate a near-field communications tag, wherein information from at least one of the sensors is configured to trigger an operation with the near-field communications circuitry.
  • The ring device's motion sensor comprises an accelerometer
  • The Ring's near-field communications circuitry includes a near field communications reader
  • The Ring's near-field communications reader is configured to obtain tag information from a near-field communications tag in response to the information
  • User input into the ring comprises movement of the ring-shaped housing that is detected with the motion sensor
  • The sensors in the ring device comprise a microphone for user audio input
  • A motion sensor in the ring device is configured to detect gesture input that could include tapping, shaking and pointing
  • The Ring could also include sensors for motion, temperature, ambient light, health sensors, a compass, gyroscope and inertial measurement unit


In respect to the ring including health sensors, Apple notes that "health and fitness data may be used to provide insights into a user's general wellness, or may be used as positive feedback to individuals using technology to pursue wellness goals." This particular patent doesn't elaborate on specific health sensor features or benefits to the user.

For more details, review Apple's patent application # 20240070409. Apple has been working on this project since 2021. One of the inventors listed on the patent is 15 year veteran Travis McQueen, Senior Platform Architecture Engineer.  

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