Apple Reveals more of their Smart Home Plan in 6 Patent Filings covering Multi-User Devices in a Connected Home+
When Apple introduced the new HomePod mini, they introduced the foundation for Apple's vision of an interconnected smart home. The video presented below which starts at the 2:59 mark and runs through to the 12:42 mark, acts as a reminder of how the HomePod mini was introduced and where Apple's VP Worldwide Product Marketing Bob Borchers and others explained how HomePod mini was designed to not only deliver music but also act as a new smart intercom system in the home that could work with "multi-user devices in a connected home environment." That also happens to be the title of five Apple patents that were published yesterday supporting Apple's smart home vision.
Multi-User Devices in a Connected Home Environment
Yesterday the U.S. Patent Office published five Apple patents relating to the smart home that carried the very same title though each carrying a different piece of the whole. The patent abstracts below capture the differences between each.
In addition, Apple's patent claims, while sharing some commonality, are generally different in what features that they're specifically protecting.
20200382332 - Abstract: An electronic device, with a display device, a communication device, one or more processors and memory, displays a first representation of a first controllable external device, where the first controllable external device is situated at a location. The device detects a first input corresponding to a selection of the first representation of the first controllable external device. In response to detecting the first input, the device transmits instructions, using the communication device, to the first controllable external device to perform a function if the first controllable external device is of a first type or displays, using the display device, a user interface for controlling characteristics of the first controllable external device.
20200382513 - Abstract: A device implementing a system for sharing a voice profile includes a processor configured to receive a request to share a first voice profile corresponding to a first user account associated with a first device, with a second device associated with a second user account, the second device being voice-enabled, the first voice profile being stored on a first data store associated with the first user account. The processor is further configured to update a second data store associated with the second user account to include a reference to the first voice profile stored on the first data store, and to send, to the second device, a notification that the second data store has been updated to include the reference to the first voice profile.
20200382517 - Abstract: A device implementing a system for responding to a voice request includes a processor configured to receive a voice request, the device being associated with a user account, and determine, based on the voice request, a confidence score that the voice request corresponds to a voice profile associated with the user account. The processor is further configured to select, based at least in part on a content of the voice request and the confidence score, a request domain from among plural request domains for responding to the voice request, and provide for a response to the voice request based on the selected request domain.
20200380983 – Abstract: A device implementing a system for providing content in response to a request includes a processor configured to receive a voice request for content associated with a home environment, the voice request corresponding to a user account, and determine, based on the voice request, not to provide the content via the device. The processor is further configured to select, in response to the determining, a second device from among multiple devices associated with the home environment, wherein the selecting is based at least in part on configuration settings associated with the home environment, and provide for the second device to output the content based on a profile of the user account.
20200380996 – Abstract: A device implementing a system for responding to a voice request includes a processor configured to receive a voice request for content, the voice request corresponding to a first user account, the device being associated with the first user account, a second user account and a default account. The processor if further configured to determine that the content is unavailable via the first user account, and provide, in response to the determining, the content via at least one of the second user account or the default account.
While the content of each of the five patents under the same title are different in varying aspects thought they each carry a common set of patent figures. Below are just a few of the key ones.
Apple's patent FIG. 1 below illustrates an example network environment that includes a connected home environment containing multi-user devices.
Apple's patent FIG. 3 illustrates an example process for utilizing a voice profile in a connected home environment.
Apple's patent FIG. 4 below illustrates an example process of sharing user profile data contained within data stores with a multi-user device.
User Interfaces for Managing Controllable External Devices."
A sixth patent from Apple covering the smart home theme was published yesterday under number 20200382332, titled "User Interfaces for Managing Controllable External Devices."
Apple's patent covers techniques that provide electronic devices with faster, more efficient methods and interfaces for managing controllable external devices. Such methods and interfaces optionally complement or replace other methods for managing controllable external devices. Such methods and interfaces reduce the cognitive burden on a user and produce a more efficient human-machine interface. For battery-operated computing devices, such methods and interfaces conserve power and increase the time between battery charges. In some embodiments, having a user interface for managing controllable external devices instead of having a different application for managing each controllable external device simplifies the user experience and therefore reduces unnecessary/extraneous/repetitive received inputs needed to manage controllable external devices.
This particular patent filing is directed towards HomeKit interfaces that could apply to the iPhone and iPad, even though the patent figures only illustrates iPhone UIs. Below are just a few of the patent figures within a sea of interface patent figures that you could review on your own.
HomeKit was officially released on September 17, 2014, along with iOS 8. The framework allowed third-party apps to interface with HomeKit devices using Siri and allow remote access through home hubs.
Apple's '332 patent covering HomeKit was only filed in May 2019 and published yesterday. Meaning that yesterday's patent application is covering new information about this project and likely presents many new user interface patent figures.