Two Massive Master Patents covering Apple AirTags has been Published illustrating many styles and Applications
On Tuesday it was leaked by LOvetodream that Apple's rumored AirTags Bluetooth tracking devices could launch imminently and will be available in two size options. Today the US Patent & Trademark Office published what I dub as master patent applications from Apple regarding their future AirTags product that go far beyond "two size options." A master patent is when Apple reveals a grand overview of a coming product line.
Apple notes that electronic devices like mobile phones and portable computers are used extensively around the world. Traditionally, a geographic location of an electronic device may be determined using a global positioning system (GPS) or other locating system or technique. However, it may be difficult to locate personal property that is not an electronic device or to locate electronic devices that lack a GPS. The systems and techniques described herein are generally directed to a wirelessly locatable tag that may be used to determine the location of electronic devices or other personal property or objects.
Apple's invention is about AirTags, a small, battery-powered tag, puck, or other object of convenient size and shape, that can be physically and/or geographically located using wireless communications systems and techniques. For example, a tag may include an antenna that emits a wireless signal or beacon that is detectable by another electronic device such as an iPhone.
Using the detected wireless signal (and using localization techniques such as time of flight, received signal strength indication, triangulation, etc.), an iPhone may be able to determine the position of the tag using an absolute location of the smartphone from a GPS, the absolute location of the tag as well.
Apple's patent further relates to the overall network environment that includes (or is defined by) the tags, smartphones, computers, and other devices, and that facilitates the locating of tags as well as numerous other features and functions.
Knowing the location of a tag enables a wide range of location-based use cases. For example, the tag may be used to track the location of a portable object such as a set of physical keys, a purse, backpack, article of clothing, or other suitable object or item of personal property. Thus, if the portable object becomes lost or misplaced, a user may be able to find the object using his or her smartphone, tablet, or other suitable device. A tag may also be used to trigger some action on a computing device (e.g., a smartphone) when the device is within a certain proximity and/or orientation relative to the tag.
For example, a tag may be positioned in a lobby of a building so that when individuals enter the lobby, their smartphone may detect that it is within a threshold distance of that tag, which in turn causes a map of the building to automatically be displayed on the smartphone. Notably, the devices and techniques described herein allow distance, position, location, and/or orientation determinations with a high degree of accuracy. For example, a smartphone may be capable of determining the location of a tag to an accuracy within three feet, and even to within one foot or less.
The patent filing further notes that a tag used for tracking physical objects may be a small, conveniently shaped device that can be attached to objects, such as keys, purses, or wallets, to help an owner find lost, misplaced, or stolen objects. The tag may feature a robust structural design that ensures reliable use through a variety of conditions and environments.
For example, the tag may be waterproof or at least splash-proof, and may be capable of withstanding impacts, drop events, or other general trauma resulting from normal use of the tag. In part, the ruggedness of the tag may be facilitated by the absence of some types of components, such as glass covers, displays, openings in the housing, external moving parts, and the like.
The tag may include a battery, sensors, a wireless communication system, and one or more output devices that can produce audible and/or haptic outputs. Localization functions may be provided by the wireless communication system, and in particular, by the tag sending wireless signals to other devices (e.g., smartphones, tablet computers, etc.) that analyze the wireless signals to determine the distance, position, location, and/or orientation of the tag with a high degree of accuracy.
The patent's mention of "localization" refers to determining one or more spatial parameters of a tag or other wirelessly locatable device. Spatial parameters include parameters of an object that define an aspect of its distance, position, location, and/or orientation in absolute space or relative to another object. For example, spatial parameters may include parameters such as a distance between objects, a location in a particular geography (e.g., latitude and longitude coordinates), a unit vector pointing from one object to another object, an orientation (also referred to as an angular position or attitude) of an object in three-dimensional space, or the like.
The output devices of a tag may also help a user find a lost tag by emitting sounds and/or haptic outputs. The tag may also include input devices that allow users to control or change the tag's operations. Further, the tag may have a shape and form factor that allows the tag to be easily attached to a user's property (or to a tag retainer or accessory).
AirTags in Multiple Modes
Further, the tag may operate in any of multiple modes. In a normal operational mode, for example, the tag may conserve power and establish momentary or intermittent communications with one or more other devices (e.g., by sending a wireless beacon signal). The communications may function to confirm the location and may exchange some information about the state or location of the tag. In this way, the tag can essentially periodically update other devices (e.g., a user's smartphone) with its location and/or status. In some cases, the intermittent communications from the tag may be one-way communications, such as sending a wireless signal for other devices to receive, but not receiving any information from the other devices.
The tag may also operate in a lost mode. The lost mode may be triggered in response to an unexpected loss of communication between the tag and one or more other devices (e.g., the user's smartphone), which may indicate that the tag is no longer in the personal possession or immediate vicinity of the user.
The lost mode may also be triggered by a user reporting the tag as lost to a host system or service. As described herein, when the tag is in a lost mode, the tag may be adapted to use third-party devices (e.g., devices of individuals other than the tag's owner) in order to relay information back to the user.
When third-party devices are used to relay information between the tag and a user, the communications may use secured and/or encrypted communications to help ensure the privacy and security of the user.
More broadly, a tag's position, location, orientation, or other spatial parameter may be determinable by any device that is configured to communicate with the tag. Example devices include smartphones, tablets, laptop computers, wireless routers, desktop computing devices, home automation systems, or the like.
In some cases, an environment, such as a user's home, may include multiple of these devices, and each device may communicate with the tag and determine the tag's location and/or maintain a record of the tag's location (or other spatial parameter such as orientation). Moreover, as described herein, these devices may update a server or other database with the tag's location. This may improve the ability to locate a lost tag, as a user may be able to determine the location of the tag by querying the server or database, even if the user is out of range of the tag. For example, if a user left her keys at home, a desktop computer at the user's home may have been periodically communicating with (or otherwise receiving signals from) a tag attached to the keys and updating a server with the location of the tag.
The user can then simply request the current location of the tag from the server, even if they're miles away and unable to directly communicate with the tag with her smartphone.
Apple's patent filing is massive with hundreds of patent figures that illustrates various styles of AirTags and various applications that no one has yet covered when discussing AirTags.
Sampling of Apple AirTags Patent Figures
Below is a wide selection of Apple's patent figures to provide you with a wider view of the AirTags product coming shortly to market.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below depicts an example system for locating a wirelessly locatable tag; FIG. 2B depicts an example public-private key encryption scheme for locating a wirelessly locatable tag.
Apple's patent FIG. 2F below depicts example localization processes for a wirelessly locatable tag; FIG. 5A depicts an example wirelessly locatable tag; FIG. 5B depicts a cross-sectional view of the wirelessly locatable tag of FIG. 5A.
Apple's patent FIGS. 129A-129C below depict a lanyard accessory for a wirelessly locatable tag.
Apple's patent FIGS. 43A-43B and 45A-45B depict example configurations for a wirelessly locatable tag.
Apple's patent FIGS. 134A-134B depict an example wireless tag or wireless module that is integrated with Apple Watch and FIG. 135A illustrates another view of an AirTags module in an Apple Watch Band.
Apple's patent FIGS. 59 and 60 depict recharging wirelessly locatable AirTags plus other examples of AirTags.
FIGS. 56A-56B, a wirelessly locatable tag may be incorporated into a device that includes a built-in attachment cord or strap. The tag 5600 may include sensors or other systems that detect whether the tag 5600 is in an open (FIG. 56B) or closed (FIG. 56A) configuration. Such sensors may include for example Hall effect sensors, accelerometers (which detect a characteristic motion caused by the tag being opened or closed), microphones (which detect a characteristic sound caused by the tag being opened or closed), optical sensors, or the like.
Flexible conductors incorporated into a cord portion may be used for other operations or features as well, such as carrying signals, detecting contact with other objects or people, or the like.
As another example, upon detecting that the tag 5600 has been opened or closed, the tag 5600 may send, via a cloud-based service, a message indicating the change in the tag's status. An owner or other authorized individual may receive a message from the cloud-based service that provides information about the tag, such as its location, when it was opened, where it was when it was opened, the time when it was opened, or the like.
Apple's patent FIGS. 54A-54B above illustrate another example wirelessly locatable tag 5400 having a generally flat, rectangular-prism shaped exterior housing.
Apple patent FIGS. 100A-100D depict another example tag retainer for holding a wirelessly locatable tag; FIGS. 109A-109D depict an example wirelessly locatable tag and an associated tag retainer.
Apple's patent FIGS. 136A-136C and 138A-138 illustrate that an array of wireless tags may be used to track and/or monitor a user's posture.
In general, poor posture may be a major contributor to chronic back pain and other musculoskeletal issues. As many as two thirds of adults experience lower back pain at some point in their lives and incorrect posture may be a significant cause.
An array of wirelessly locatable tags (also referred to herein as "wireless tags" or simply "tags") may be positioned or fixed with respect to various regions along a user's body in order to track and monitor a user's posture. Apple goes deeply into these patent figures in their patent filing.
Regarding patent FIG. 142 Apple notes that AirTags may also be used to facilitate augmented reality for gaming or other entertainment purposes. For example, tags may be used as game pieces. Because the devices can determine the locations of the tags with high accuracy, the devices can visually replace the tags in an augmented reality environment with computer-generated graphics. As one specific example, a game of chess may be played with each piece representing one of the chess pieces.
Users may view the tags through a headset (or other device) and the headset may replace the images of the tags with animations of the chess characters, including animated battles between the characters, or the like.
As another example, tags may be attached to a user's body to allow a computer system to track the position of the tags and use position and changes in position (e.g., motion) of the tags to control an avatar that is displayed on a display (e.g., a television, head-mounted display), or the like.
Apple's patent FIG. 142 illustrates an example user #14200 with multiple tags (#14202) attached to his or her body or clothes. A computer system (#14205) may determine the position and/or location of the tags (including the relative locations of each tag to each other), and use the detected spatial parameters to control the appearance and/or motion of an avatar #14206 (or other graphical object) displayed on a display #14204.
The application shown in FIG. 142, in which a user's body motions are tracked and used to control an avatar or other character on a display, may be used for various different applications. For example, an exercise or physical therapy program may display an example of a motion to be performed, and then monitor the actual motion of the user. The user's actual movements may be evaluated by the program to determine if they meet the displayed suggested movements, and optionally to provide additional guidance on how to perform the exercise. The user's motion may also be evaluated to count repetitions of an exercise, evaluate a user's flexibility, or the like.
Apple's patent FIG. 140 above illustrates an iPhone in use in a building that has an automatic electric defibrillator (AED) #14002 and a fire extinguisher #14004. The AED and the fire extinguisher may each be associated with a respective tag. For example, a tag may be mounted on or near each object. The tags may be attached to a mounting base, such as the mounting base #6108, FIG. 61A, so that the tags can be powered indefinitely and without requiring batteries to be changed.
Apple's patent application numbers 20200333421 and 20200337162 that were published today by the U.S. Patent Office was filed back Q3 2019.