Apple Invents a Smart Home Outdoor Camera System to View and Communicate with those at your Front Door
Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that generally relates to accessory control systems and in particular to an integrated accessory control system that can include real-time viewing of video from an IP camera. The invention relates to HomeKit and in particular a home security system wherein a user could view who is at the door on their iPhone or iPad and communicate with an individual and even unlock and re-lock the door.
Certain embodiments of Apple's invention relate to an integrated accessory control system that can integrate functionality (services) of multiple disparate accessories and provide a unified user interface for interacting with the system via a controller device (e.g., a user's mobile phone, tablet, wearable device, or the like).
In some embodiments, the integrated accessory control system can include one accessory that can act as an "activator" for the system. The activator accessory can include a sensor capable of detecting an event or action; examples can include operating a doorbell, flipping a switch, moving through an area, movement of an object, making sounds, etc. The integrated accessory control system can also include at least one accessory that the user may desire to make operational in response to detection of the event or action by the accessory. The term "integrated" in this context is intended to indicate that the control system is integrated; the system can include disparate accessories (e.g., accessories separately manufactured and sold) and there is no requirement that the included accessories communicate with each other or even know that other included accessories exist. The integration can be provided by the controller device, which can have information identifying the accessories included in the integrated accessory control system and their relationship to each other. Apple's patent FIG. 1 below is an overview for a home environment that could be controlled as part of a smart home using HomeKit.
In some embodiments, an integrated accessory control system can include an IP camera, which can be any device that is capable of capturing video images and streaming data representing the images to some other device that can display and/or store them (e.g., using protocols based on the Internet Protocol (IP) suite). When the activator accessory of the integrated accessory control system detects an event or action, the activator accessory can notify a controller device, and the controller device can activate the IP camera. In some embodiments, the controller device can generate a user alert and activate the IP camera based on user input received in response to the user alert. Based on the user input, the controller device can also present a user interface to allow interactions with any accessory that is included in the integrated accessory control system.
As a specific example, one type of integrated accessory control system can be an integrated entry control system that can be used to remotely control access to a door. The activator accessory can be, for example, a doorbell located near the door, and the integrated entry control system can include an IP camera positioned to provide a view of an area around the door. The integrated entry control system can also include a lock accessory that provides a door lock capable of being remotely operated by a controller device to lock or unlock the door. Additional accessories can also be included, such as a remotely controllable light to illuminate the area around the door, an alarm system, a one-way or two-way intercom system, and so on. In operation, the integrated entry control system can be triggered when a person operates the doorbell that is included in the integrated entry control system. Operation of the doorbell can result in notifying a controller device (which may be inside or outside the local environment where the accessories are located). The controller device can generate an alert to the user and prompt the user to interact with the integrated entry control system. If the user chooses to interact, the controller device can obtain a live video stream from the IP camera of the integrated entry control system and present the live video to the user along with an interface that provides options for further interactions with the integrated entry control system. Depending on implementation, the options can include unlocking the door lock, operating a light, arming or disarming an alarm associated with the door, activating audio streaming to communicate with the person at the door, and/or other options determined based on the particular accessory services that are included in the integrated entry control system. The operations can be conducted without any of the accessories communicating with each other or even being aware of each other's existence; all communication can occur between an accessory as one endpoint and a controller device as the other endpoint.
Apple's patent FIG. 18 illustrated above shows a flow chart of a process for interacting with an integrated accessory control system that includes a camera.
Apple's patent application was filed back in Q3 2016. Considering that this is a patent application, the timing of such a product to market is unknown at this time.
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