On November 20, 2014, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new invention that generally relates to using networked electronic devices like Apple iDevices and Macs as smoke detectors for your home. As part of a smart home system, Apple illustrates how future iDevices will act as smoke detectors and be able to automatically call 911 for emergency assistance. The system will be able to supply emergency services with information about how many occupants are currently in the home and in which rooms they're located in due to motion sensors embeded in Apple's mobile and stationary devices. Apple's HomeKit will be able to work with future third party dedicated forms of Fire Detectors as well so as to work in conjunction with Apple's new system. Interestingly Apple illustrates that the new system could actually be integrated into their upcoming Apple Watch or at least a future generation of it.
Apple's Patent Background
Fires are a serious threat to the occupants of residential and commercial buildings. Smoke detectors are widely used to combat the risks associated with fires. Smoke detectors are generally mounted at fixed locations within a building. A building occupant who is located in a portion of a building that is remote from fixed smoke detector locations may be out of range of smoke detector coverage and may have difficulty hearing audible alarms generated by the smoke detectors. Smoke detector alarms are typically limited in scope and do not include information of interest to first responders and neighbors such as information on current building occupants.
It would therefore be desirable to be able to provide systems with improved smoke detection and alert capabilities.
Apple Invents Wireless Device Networks with Smoke Detection Capabilities
Apple's invention generally relates to electronic devices, and more particularly, to using networked electronic devices to detect smoke associated with fires.
Apple states that in the future, an electronic device such as an iPhone, iPad, Mac computer or other electronic equipment may include a smoke detector. The electronic device may use the smoke detector to monitor for the presence of smoke. In response to detecting smoke with the smoke detector, the electronic device may issue an alert or take other suitable action.
For example, the electronic device may activate fire suppression equipment, may transmit a text or email message, may transmit alerts to other electronic devices, may generate audible alerts, etc.
Using wired and wireless communications circuitry, the electronic device may transmit alerts to nearby electronic devices and to remote electronic devices such as electronic devices at emergency services facilities. Alerts may contain maps and graphical representations of buildings in which smoke has been detected.
Motion detectors and other sensors and circuitry may be used in determining whether electronic devices are being used by users and may be used in determining where the electronic devices are located. Alerts may contain information on the location of detected smoke and building occupants.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a diagram of a system in which a network of electronic devices may be used to monitor for the presence of smoke in the surrounding environment and may be used to take actions such as issuing alerts or controlling fire suppression equipment.
In patent FIG. 10 noted above we're able to see is a cross-sectional side view of an illustrative electronic device of the type shown in FIG. 9 showing how a smoke detector may be mounted within a housing of the electronic device adjacent to a speaker grill in a speaker port.
Apple's patent FIG. 8 is a perspective view of an illustrative wearable electronic device such their future Apple Watch that may be provided with a smoke detector. Apple earlier noted that it could apply to other future iDevices like an iPhone, iPad or even a Mac.
Apple's patent FIG. 11 is a schematic diagram of an illustrative electronic device in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
Interactive Alert Prompts
According to Apple, alerts can contain graphics, video, moving image content, text, photographic images, graphic (visual) representations of buildings, and other visual content. In the illustrative configuration of FIG. 15, alert #238 contains a graphic representation of the home in which the smoke has been detected (i.e., graphic home representation 240). The home representation may include rooms such as rooms (108) and room name labels such as room name labels (244). The home representation may also include information on the location at which the smoke has been detected by one of the iDevices or Macs.
In the example of FIG. 15, information #242 is being presented to inform the recipient of the alert of the location where smoke has been detected. Smoke location information may be visually presented on the graphic home representation in a location that represents the location of the room that contains smoke (i.e., in the upper left room 108 of FIG. 15) and/or may contain text or other information that labels the location of the detected smoke (e.g., "master bedroom").
The user's current location #248 may be displayed in alert #238 (e.g., using a "current location" label that is located at the position within the graphic representation that corresponds to the alert recipient's current location).
Labels such as occupant location labels may also be provided to identify the locations of other occupants of the building. Labels #246 may indicate the location of the occupants visually by virtue of the position of each label on the graphic home representation and/or with text. If desired, identification labels such as labels #246 may contain information on the name of the building occupants, as shown in the FIG. 15 example.
Alerts may be presented using output from input-output devices of Apple's iDevices or Macs. As an example, alerts may be presented in the form of an audible tone, a vibration, a voice recording, a synthesized text-to-voice message, a visible output such as light from a light-emitting diode or a flashing camera strobe or other light source, a visible output such as images on a display (e.g., text, graphics, video, interactive prompts, etc.), or other suitable types of alerts. The content of an alert may inform the recipient of the alert about the nature of the detected smoke incident (e.g., incident location, the identity of nearby people, etc.), whether emergency services personnel have been notified, etc.
Wireless Device Networks with Smoke Detection Capabilities
Apple's patent FIG. 12 noted below is a system diagram of a network of electronic devices with smoke detection capabilities and alert generation capabilities in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
Apple's patent FIG. 13 noted above shows us an illustrative alert of the type that may be presented on an electronic device to alert emergency services personnel of the location and nature of an emergency in which smoke has been detected.
Apple's patent FIG. 14 shows us an illustrative alert of the type that may be presented on an electronic device to alert a homeowner or others about an emergency in which smoke has been detected in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.
Light Based Smoke Detector
Apple's patent FIG. 2 noted above is a diagram of an illustrative light-based smoke detector of the type that may be used in future iDevices and Macs. As shown in FIG. 2, the smoke detector #124 may include a light source such as light source #126 and a light detector such as light detector #128.
Baffle structure #130 may be used to block light #132 that is emitted from light source #126, so that light doesn't directly reach light detector #128. The baffle structures may have an opening such as opening #134 that allows particles of the smoke #122 to enter the interior of baffle structures in alignment with the output of light source. During operation, the light source emits light. In the absence of smoke, the light will exit opening #134 and won't be detected by the light detector.
In the presence of smoke, the light will illuminate the smoke particles. The light that is deflected by the illuminated smoke particles may pass through the interior of baffle structures to light detector. The output of the light detector on path #136 will be proportional to the amount of smoke that is present. When little or no smoke is present in the baffle, the light detector may produce a signal on an output indicating that smoke and therefore fire are absent from the building. When smoke is present, the light of more than a threshold amount will be reflected into the light detector. In response, the light detector may generate an output signal on output #136 that indicates that smoke and potentially fire have been detected.
Office or Apartment Buildings
Lastly, Apple's patent FIG. 16 shows an illustrative visual alert of the type that may be presented on an electronic device to visually inform a building occupant such as an apartment dweller or others about the nature of an emergency in which smoke has been detected and the location of known occupants of the building relative to the location of detected smoke and the alerted building occupant.
Apple's patent FIG. 17 shows an illustrative map-based alert of the type that may be presented on electronic devices to visually alert neighbors and other members of the public in the vicinity of a home in which smoke has been detected.
Apple credits Paul Puskarich as the sole inventor of patent application 20140340216 which was originally filed in Q2 2013. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
Obviously the system would be coordinated so that an iDevice in a distant room detecting a fire would be able to alert all iDevices and Macs in the home and one in your bedroom so as to wake you up. This is where working with third party devices via HomeKit will be of assistance in tying all of this together.
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