Apple introduced HomeKit addressing the coming Home Automation market almost two years ago at their World Wide Developer Conference. Since that time Apple has filed multiple patent applications in support of this new market segment (one, two, three, four and five) that is likely to begin rolling out in earnest within the year with Apple including a centralized HomeKit App for iOS 10 coming this fall with the iPhone 7. Apple's most detailed patent filing to date on Home Automation and a HomeKit app was first covered in our 2015 report.
Today, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals an accessory management system and in particular to an automated environment that can implement automated behaviors based on aggregation of individual user routines.
Effectively Apple wants to go far beyond just providing users with a simple ABC app allowing them to merely list their new home automated accessories and devices for the home or office. They want to create iOS devices to be smarter so that they can know what new apps are being added to your home automated list and then begin to learn your behavior in how you're using them so that an automated process could be created for the user.
Apple notes that "An automated environment can allow users' mobile devices (and/or other 'controllers' e.g. Apple TV remote.) to control various other devices (referred to as "accessories") in the automated environment. The user can interact with an accessory by operating a controller that can communicate message to the accessory in response to user input. In some instances, accessory operation can be automated. For example, a controller can be programmed to automatically instruct an accessory to initiate a specific action when certain triggering conditions are met, such as turning on a heating system or changing a thermostat's target temperature at a particular time, or turning on a light if the controller detects an ambient light level below a threshold. One or more controller devices can also act as a 'coordinator' to manage communications between multiple controllers and multiple accessories.
Certain embodiments of the present invention relate to techniques usable in an automated environment to implement automated behaviors based on aggregation of individual user routines. For example, users who frequent the automated environment (e.g., residents of a home) can have mobile devices (e.g., mobile phones, wearable devices, or the like) that they use as controllers for accessories in the automated environment.
Some or all of the mobile devices can incorporate pattern detection logic to identify patterns in the user's behavior (e.g., going to particular places at particular times or invoking particular accessory functions at particular times). A coordinator can receive information about detected patterns from the mobile devices and can analyze the information to detect an aggregate pattern (i.e., a pattern involving multiple mobile devices and/or multiple users).
Based on a detected aggregate pattern, the coordinator can identify an operational behavior to automate (e.g., turn off the lights when the last user goes to bed) and can implement the automated behavior, e.g., by establishing an automation rule that reflects the detected aggregate pattern."
Not Just for Home Automation
Apple later notes in their patent filing that their invention goes beyond the scope of just home automation. "Embodiments of the present invention can be implemented in any environment where a user wishes to control one or more accessory devices using a controller device, including but not limited to homes, cars or other vehicles, office buildings, campuses having multiple buildings (e.g., a university or corporate campus), etc.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 shows an overview of a typical home environment; FIG. 5 is a simplified block diagram of a system for determining a user's routine; FIG. 6 is a simplified block diagram of a system learning how to automate an environment.
Some Examples of Using Aggregate Patterns
Apple notes that "Any type of aggregate pattern can be detected and used to implement an automated behavior. For example, there may be a pattern that the last resident to go to bed turns off the lights and makes sure exterior doors are closed and locked, even though there is not a consistent pattern of which resident is last to go to bed, and automation can be based on detecting when the last resident goes to bed or on a typical time at which all residents are routinely in bed.
Embodiments of the present invention are not limited to home environments. For example, in a workplace environment, a coordinator can aggregate information about when workers arrive and leave and can implement automated heating, cooling, and/or lighting schedules based on this information. This can reduce the need for employees who habitually work outside of standard business hours to request after-hours heating, cooling, and/or lighting.
As another example, patterns can be detected among a group of users who frequent a common environment. For instance, in the workplace, it may be possible to detect patterns such as where or when the workers are likely to go for lunch or what nearby gyms they frequent. This can be used, e.g., to make recommendations to workers who might not be familiar with the area or who might be looking for new places to try.
Another example is a resident of a home may behave differently depending on who else is at home. For instance, if Bob comes home when no one else is there, he may turn on the TV, but if someone else (e.g., Alice) is there, he may prefer to leave the TV off and interact with Alice. Such patterns may not be detectable by Bob's device, as it may not have information pertaining to the comings and goings of other residents of the home. But such patterns can be detected by aggregating patterns of the various residents
Once any aggregate pattern is detected, it can be automated. For instance, if the coordinator detects that Bob has come home and no one else is there, the coordinator can automatically turn on the TV or present a prompt to Bob asking if Bob would like to turn on the TV.
Apple's patent application 20160132030 titled "Aggregating user Routines in an automated Environment," is richly details with many more examples that could find here.
Patently Apple presents a detailed summary of patent applications with associated graphics for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application should be read in its entirety for full and accurate details. About Making Comments on our Site: Patently Apple reserves the right to post, dismiss or edit any comments. Comments are reviewed daily from 5am to 6pm MST and sporadically over the weekend.