Apple Wins an Apple Watch Accessory Patent covering new Band Connector Systems to Power On-Band Features
Yesterday the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office officially granted Apple another Apple Watch accessory patent in respect to future smart bands that Apple has been working on for at three or more years.
Smart bands will contain sensors and features that will be accessible on the band instead of the main watch body. These new sensors and features like LED lighting and touch controls will require power to accommodate them and Apple's patent illustrates a series of new connector systems for Apple Watch being considered that will do just that.
Today's report provides you with a broad overview of the invention and project in the big-picture while highlighting one of the most promising of designs that could eventually be adopted; one that describes a new plug-in style band.
Apple's granted patent 10,448,711 is primarily about a new kind of band connector for a future Apple Watch that will provide the connecting band with power for sensors and new features to function.
While it's understood that the processor and brains of the Apple Watch is in the main body of the device. In the future, the watch band may include active electronic components (e.g., sensors, battery, processor, etc.) that may interoperate with the supporting electronics of the watch body unit to augment or enhance functionality of the watch body unit.
Apple has been working on this project for several years now and to understand some of the features that Apple is thinking of bringing to future Apple Watch bands, check out our patent reports covering future sensors and features in full here: 01, 02, 03, 04, 05, 06 and 07 which illustrates a new band connector with power prongs which is in some ways relates to this latest granted patent. The patent figure below is from a 2016 patent application (from 07 above).
Apple further notes that embodiments of the present invention may provide connector assemblies that may be located in, or may connect to, various types of devices, such as portable computing devices, tablet computers, desktop computers, laptops, all-in-one computers, wearable computing devices, cell phones, smart phones. This was illustrated in a 2016 granted patent which we covered here.
The patent figure above from the 2016 patent shows a possible future Apple Watch band slitting apart at the bottom with one side being a connector that could be plugged into a MacBook for recharging.
Apple notes in their latest granted patent that "In various embodiments of the present invention, these interconnect paths provided by these connectors may be used to convey power, ground, signals, test points, and other voltage, current, data, or other information."
The patent granted to Apple yesterday provides a great number of patent figures showing a wide array of different configurations and mechanisms that Apple's engineering teams are experimenting with until one is finally chosen.
The one design emphasized in this report is found in patent FIG. 49 below. For this design, Apple introduces us to a new style of connector from today's design. Apple notes that patent FIG. 49 shows an example of a connector interface system #4900 using a plug-type connection. A first connector assembly #4902 may be a connector insert, and a second connector assembly #4904 may be a connector receptacle.
The connector assembly may be inserted into the connector assembly along the direction indicated by arrow #4906. In some embodiments, connector assembly #4904 may be formed into a watch body unit, and connector assembly #4902 may be formed as a lug that connects a watch band to the watch body unit.
Apple further notes that where a plug-type connection is used instead of a lateral sliding connection, mechanical design of the connector assembly may be simplified, as the potential for damage to electrical contacts during lateral sliding is reduced or eliminated.
Apple's granted patent was filed in Q3 2017 with work on this patent going back to Q3 2016. To review the wide array of ideas that Apple's engineering team is working on, check out granted patent 10,448,711 here.
Michael Wittenberg: Mechanical Engineer
Eric Jol: Director, Product Design, Interconnect Product Design
Stephen Dey: Product Design Manager
Ben Kallman: Product Design