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Apple Invents In-Vehicle Holistic ID for "iOS in the Car"

1. Apple iOS in the Car related Patent
On December 12, 2013, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new aspect to their forthcoming "iOS in the Car" product that will be supported by more than 18 car companies by the end of 2014. The invention generally relates to providing an in-vehicle infotainment system with a logical holistic ID methodology for coordinating multiple services with multiple devices automatically and seamlessly throughout the vehicle.

 

Apple's Patent Background

 

Portable electronic devices, such as smart phones, tablet computers, media players, and the like, have become ubiquitous. Various accessories have been created to interoperate with portable electronic devices to extend their functionality and/or enhance the user experience.

 

Examples of accessories include chargers, speaker docks, in-vehicle docks that provide options for controlling the portable device using the vehicle's console, workout equipment, health monitoring accessories (e.g., heart rate, blood pressure or glucose meters), and so on. Accessories can be designed to interoperate with multiple portable electronic devices that may differ in their form factor and capabilities (e.g., processing power; firmware version; battery life, presence or absence of cameras, microphones, or other components). In addition to variability in "internal" components, accessories can also incorporate a variety of communication interfaces for purposes of communicating with portable devices.

 

To provide a reliably pleasant experience for a user operating a portable device in conjunction with an accessory, it can be desirable to verify that the accessory will operate correctly with a particular portable device. However, the sheer variety of possible accessories, as well the number of different portable devices to which a particular accessory can be connected and the number of possible communication interfaces, makes such verification difficult.

 

Apple Invents Holistic ID of an Electronic Device

 

Apple's invention generally relates to communicating data between electronic devices and in particular to holistic identification of one device to another.

 

Certain embodiments of Apple's invention provide a holistic identification process that can facilitate reliable interoperation between accessories and host devices (including portable devices), particularly where the accessory includes multiple components and/or multiple communication interfaces.

 

The process can be executed as part of initializing communication when the accessory connects to a host on a first communication channel via a first interface. At that time, the accessory can provide identification information that includes information about every communication interface it is capable of using to communicate with the host (e.g., USB, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, UART, and any other interfaces).

 

The accessory can subsequently establish a second (or third, etc.) connection to the host via any of its interfaces, and the host can recognize that the second connection is to the same accessory. Based on this, the host can use the initial identification information when communicating with the accessory over the second connection. When the accessory has established multiple connections to the host, the host can select an optimal routing for particular communications. Further, if one connection becomes disconnected, the host can continue to communicate with the accessory as long as at least one connection is available. Routing and re-routing of communications to various interfaces can be made transparent to the user.

 

In some embodiments, the identification information provided by the accessory can also include information about various components that the accessory has available for use in interacting with the host device. For example, the accessory can provide information about its display device(s), speakers, and/or user-operable input devices (e.g., keyboard, keypad, buttons, dials, touchscreens, trackpads, etc.).

 

The accessory can also define "bundles" or groupings of components based on a common purpose or common physical location. The host device can use this information to tailor its interaction with the accessory, e.g., by routing particular information to specific accessory components or by responding differently to input signals from the accessory depending on which component was the source of the input signal.

 

Obtaining complete identification of all available communication interfaces and/or components from the accessory at the outset of interoperation can enhance the ability of the host device to interoperate with the accessory in a coordinated manner.

 

Holistic ID for an In-Vehicle Infotainment System

 

2. Apple patent fig. 1 - An iOS in the Car related patent re Holistic ID of Electronic Devices

Apple's patent FIG. 1 shows a host device 100 (an iPad) and an accessory 102. The host device 100 can be a handheld device such as a media player, smart phone, or personal digital assistant; a tablet computer; a laptop computer; or any other electronic device capable of communicating with accessory devices.

 

Accessory 102 can be any accessory capable of interacting with host device, such as a speaker dock or speaker system, a media console, an automobile head unit, or the like.

 

In the example shown, the accessory is a multi-component, multifunction device such as an entertainment and information system provided in a motor vehicle. A head unit (#112) coordinates the operation of various components. The components can include, for example, front speakers (#114); rear speakers (#116); a front console unit (#118) with a display (#120) and input controls (#122); a rear console unit (#124) with its own display (#126) and input controls (#128); and additional controls (#130) mounted in steering wheel (#132).

 

The accessory can provide support for a number of services. For example, the accessory can present navigation information to a driver on the front display while presenting a movie or other entertainment on rear display. In some embodiments, the accessory can provide different audio streams to different speakers. Thus, for example, audio associated with a movie being presented on rear display can be provided using rear speakers while a different audio stream (e.g., from a radio station) can be provided to the driver and any front-seat passengers using front speakers.

 

In the example shown, the accessory has a plug connector (#134) located within or near front console unit that can be inserted into receptacle connector (#110) to provide electrical and mechanical connections between the accessory and host device. In some embodiments, the electrical connections can include both power and data connections which will allow the accessory to deliver power to the host device and/or to receive power from host device.

 

While a direct connection between connectors is one option, it is to be understood that some embodiments can use an indirect connection, e.g., via a cable or adapter. In some embodiments, the host device and accessory may be capable of communicating wirelessly, e.g., using radio-frequency communication technology such as Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, near-field communication technology, infrared communication or the like, in addition to or instead of a wired signal path as provided by both connectors (110 and 134).

 

.In order to optimize information delivery, it can be useful for control and routing logic (#168) to have "holistic" information about the accessory, such as information indicating what components are available to interoperate with host device for what purposes, and via what ports or interfaces. For example, if the control and routing logic is aware that display (#120) is positioned to present information to a driver of a vehicle while the second display is positioned to present media content to rear-seat passengers, then control and routing logic can implement routing rules to make sure content is delivered appropriately.

 

For instance, caller-ID info from an incoming call can be routed to the front/driver display while a movie is streamed to the rear/passenger display. As another example, if a call comes in, the control and routing logic can continue to deliver media content to the rear display and speakers (possibly at reduced volume) while providing audio from the phone call to front speakers.

 

Holistic identification information can also be useful when control and the routing logic receive information from the accessory. For example, input from rear-seat controls (#128) can be interpreted as controlling media being streamed to the rear seat (e.g., play, pause, asset selection), while input from steering-wheel controls can be interpreted as controlling a different operation, e.g., initiating or terminating a phone call or controlling a different media stream that is being delivered to the front seat.

 

To facilitate interoperation, the host device and accessory can negotiate an operating agreement that defines the functionality they will mutually support and that also specifies the various components and capabilities of the accessory. In some embodiments, the agreement is negotiated when the host device and accessory establish a connection, and negotiating the agreement can be part of a device identification process.

 

For example, the head unit of the accessory device can include accessory-side identification logic (#170) that makes use of component descriptors (#172) for each component of the accessory. A "component" can be, for example, a specific port (communication interface) or a particular input/output device that can interact with host device and the descriptors can include information about each component. In the embodiment of FIG. 1, examples of components can include the front console display, front console keyboard, front speakers, steering wheel controls, rear display, rear controls, and rear speakers, as well as USB port (#154), UART port (#156) and the Bluetooth port (#158).

 

In some instances, component descriptors can also include "bundle" descriptors that identify groups of components as being related into a logical unit having a particular purpose. Thus, for example, the rear display, rear controls and rear speakers can be further identified as components of a bundle whose purpose is, e.g., "passenger entertainment." The component and bundle descriptors can be defined, e.g., within the accessory firmware stored in the head unit, and provided to the host device by accessory-side identification logic during an identification process.

 

Patent Credits

 

Apple credits Shailesh, Edwin Foo, Jason Yew and Gregg Golembeski as the inventors of this patent application which was originally filed in Q4 2012 and published today by the US Patent Office. This is a very detailed patent. For those wishing to investigate it further, see Apple's patent Application 20130332632.

 

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