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Apple's Bluetooth-based wireless hotspot tech prime candidate for 'iWatch'

post #1 of 19
Thread Starter 
An Apple patent filing published on Thursday by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office details a wireless network sharing technology that leverages low-power Bluetooth instead of Wi-Fi, making it a prime candidate for small devices like the much-rumored "iWatch."

Comm
Source: USPTO


In its application for "Network access using short-range connectability," Apple proposes a method by which a device can connect to, and share a network with, a second device via low-power communications, such as Bluetooth.

Specifically mentioned in the document is a primary device that has the ability to establish a connection with a remote network, but may not have a built-in radio transceiver, as would a smartphone. A second device, which has such a radio, is paired to the first and can provide the necessary communications access by allowing the first device to pair and share data over protocols such as Bluetooth. This also lets the primary unit stay in a low-power state, thereby increasing battery life.

The invention works much like existing Bluetooth tech. A supporting device, such as an iPhone, can broadcast a signal, advertising the availability of its shared network to other electronics within range. In turn, the device without a cellular radio can send a request to pair with the host, asking that its network sharing be activated. Pairing takes place when the supporting machine activates the shared network and begins sending data to the first device. All this is done without user intervention.

Comm


Apple intends for the hotspot pairing to be brief, leaving enough time to obtain push notifications, messages, emails, news and other Web-based assets. In one embodiment, the first device establishes or re-establishes a connection with a remote cloud server, like iCloud, for various updates. Once this task is complete, the shared connection is severed by the host device, allowing both units to return to a low-power sleep mode.

From the filing's description:

In this manner, users can leverage their mobile radio communication devices, such as their cell phones, to provide network access to their other devices without having to manually enable such connections. In turn, the other devices can benefit from the network access while remaining in low-power mode during a short-range connection that uses a low-power enabled connection.


Although the invention makes no mention of a watch, the tech's low-power data transfer capabilities are in line with features some speculate will be incorporated into the so-called "iWatch." For example, the wearable device may rely on another iDevice for heavy computation and other power-hungry operations via Bluetooth, making it somewhat of a "headless" product. This idea was first seen in an Apple patent application published earlier this year.

It should be noted, however, that other industry watchers see Apple building in Wi-Fi connectivity and possibly high-functioning components like GPS modules. Alternatively, the purported watch may use the above described technology as means of power savings, while still sporting Wi-Fi and other advanced communications hardware.

The most recent iWatch rumors point to the inclusion of a low-energy, flexible OLED display manufactured by LG, though specifics are scarce as usual.

Apple's short-range communications patent application was filed for in March and credits Daniel Borges, Michael Jason Giles, and Michael Larson as its inventors. The invention first passed the USPTO's desk as a provisional patent application in 2012.
post #2 of 19

Makes a lot of sense to me.

27" iMac, i7 2.8G CPU, 16 GB, 2TB Hd, Radeon HD 4850,  MacBookPro 13",  iPad2 64Gb, 2 x  iPhone4S 32Gb, 1 x 64Gb iPhone5S, 1Tb TimeCap,  2 x Apple TV.   Got my AAPL when they were $12.50 each.
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27" iMac, i7 2.8G CPU, 16 GB, 2TB Hd, Radeon HD 4850,  MacBookPro 13",  iPad2 64Gb, 2 x  iPhone4S 32Gb, 1 x 64Gb iPhone5S, 1Tb TimeCap,  2 x Apple TV.   Got my AAPL when they were $12.50 each.
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post #3 of 19
These patents are ruining everything. Just look at graphene. Patents can make sense, but patents like this should never be allowed.
Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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Citing unnamed sources with limited but direct knowledge of the rumoured device - Comedy Insider (Feb 2014)
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post #4 of 19

iPhone's could be the low-power network provider - as could an AppleTV, Airport, or other Mac computer.

 

iWatch could work with this - but just as easily they could be making a tiny remote for an AppleTV, or other wearable technology

post #5 of 19
I watch and wait 1smile.gif
post #6 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by Ireland View Post
These patents are ruining everything. Just look at graphene. Patents can make sense, but patents like this should never be allowed.

 

Spoken like someone who never invented anything, doesn't understand what patents are and hasn't read the patent in question.  Frankly, every time I've investigated a so-called "bogus" patent that the brain socialists cry about, it turned out to be far more invented, and far less obvious than they claimed. 

 

I guess Ayn Rand was right-- the intellectually bankrupt left just wants to enslave other people's minds for their own profit.

post #7 of 19
Ahh....

This could be a very significant patent!

Instead of limiting it to the current (and rumored) iDevices, it could could be much. much more.

Consider removing all the GPS radios,cell radios, WiFi radios (and their needed battery capacity) from our glasses, cameras, iPhones, iPads, mobile computers and other devices.

Then, put all these into a very small headless connection hub that you put in your purse, wallet or pocket. It would contain a small, inexpensive CPU, small amount of RAM and SSD. It would have no display or graphics capability. It would have enough battery to last 1-2 weeks. Its job would be to:
  • know where you are outside (GPS)
  • know where you are inside (WiFi, BTLE) (WiFiSlam)
  • on demand, seamlessly connect with other mobile devices
  • on demand, seamlessly connect with local WiFi LAN
  • on demand, seamlessly connect with cell network
  • on demand, seamlessly connect with the Internet (through WiFi or cell)
  • on demand, seamlessly connect with the BTLE/WiFi public networks (access points)
  • on demand, seamlessly connect with the BTLE/WiFi private networks (in store, museum, hospital, airport, campus, etc)
  • pass data to your other devices

Basically, it would your connection hub to the world and its data.

Now, each of your other devices would, at a minimum include low-cost, low-power BTLE. iPads, iPhones and mobile computers would include WiFi for higher speed communication through your connection nub.

All of these mobile devices need not include GPS radios, cell radios and their carrier service/subscription. The power/battery in these devices could be smaller because of no need to service the radios.


Potentially, the mobile devices could be less expensive and not tied to a carrier (and subscription) -- and you would not need to buy radio capability for each device.

You could carry whichever devices make sense at the moment -- from glasses, watch, mini tablet, tablet mobile computer.
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"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
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post #8 of 19
I've been doing this for years with my MacBook Pro and iMac with an air card. Sometimes the wifi cuts in and out when creating a private network so I've used Bluetooth to share connectivity- it's more reliable but much slower.
post #9 of 19
This patent appears to be a spin on network computing as envisioned 18 years ago - the terminal can be a relatively cheap (component-wise) device connecting to a server of sorts that does all the heavy lifting. In the case of leveraging the radios and sensors in a host device (like an iPhone) to a lower power device (like a wearable computer) this makes a lot of sense. One would expect a company like Apple to make this type of implementation quite seamless. Time will tell if they still employ engineers that create magic. But it still shouldn't be patentable IMO.
post #10 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by AjbDtc826 View Post

I've been doing this for years with my MacBook Pro and iMac with an air card. Sometimes the wifi cuts in and out when creating a private network so I've used Bluetooth to share connectivity- it's more reliable but much slower.

Yeah, but this is a little different. It looks like this patent involves BTLE, BlueTooth Low Energy (also called BlueTooth Smart). The only thing it has in common with older BlueTooth is the name.

BTLE does not require pairing -- you just ask for a connection, receive confirmation, transfer some data and disconnect. The data packets are small with little packet overhead.

You can request data from the connected device that is not currently available or meaningful -- an the connected device can be directed to notify you when the requested information is available.

For higher speed/volume data exchange, BTLE can be used to pair, connect (and reconnect) with WiFi or cell.

Just to put this capability into some kind of perspective, here; a tiny GPS BTLE device for $90:


Quote:
The Stick-N-Find BluTracker is an ultra small Bluetooth GPS locator. It has a range of over 0.5 Miles, the battery lasts for over 2 months in between charges, and it has a full GPS engine and motion detector. There are absolutely no service fees!

https://www.sticknfind.com/BluTracker/


I couldn't find any more detailed specs, but it likely has an inexpensive ARM CPU and a small amount of flash storage (you can buy BTLE beacons about the size of a quarter with ARM, RAM and flash for around $20).
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- Michael Lille -
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post #11 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by blurpbleepbloop View Post

This patent appears to be a spin on network computing as envisioned 18 years ago - the terminal can be a relatively cheap (component-wise) device connecting to a server of sorts that does all the heavy lifting. In the case of leveraging the radios and sensors in a host device (like an iPhone) to a lower power device (like a wearable computer) this makes a lot of sense. One would expect a company like Apple to make this type of implementation quite seamless. Time will tell if they still employ engineers that create magic. But it still shouldn't be patentable IMO.

The thing that hit me (and what I think is patentable) is that the server as you call it, doesn't do the heavy lifting -- it just requests and serves data to smarter terminals.

The server is analogous to a dumb web server -- it receives a request for data (an HTML page), retrieves it from somewhere (storage, a DB Server, a web app server, etc.), then passes it to the smart terminal (computer, iPad, iPhone, etc.) where it i.e. rendered and interacted with.

The specialized, heavy lifting is done in the smart terminal.

The slower, potentially expensive data retrieval/exchange is concentrated in the dumb web server.


AFAICT, this is a different use of the BTLE stack -- and thus might be patentable.
"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
- Michael Lille -
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"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
- Michael Lille -
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post #12 of 19
Don't IOS devices (with cellular) do this, I have even heard of macs having the ability (not fully aware if they do), is this patent for devices to do it by itself I guess, one thing is the iPod nano could use such a feature(which the Iwatch may be based off)
post #13 of 19
Perhaps the full patent document explains better what is patentable, but the excerpt here at least only shows something obvious which by itself wouldn't pass the test for patentability, i.e. make a transient connection, do business, and drop it.
post #14 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by AppleInsider View Post

In its application for "Network access using short-range connectability," Apple proposes a method by which a device can connect to, and share a network with, a second device via low-power communications, such as Bluetooth.

Specifically mentioned in the document is a primary device that has the ability to establish a connection with a remote network, but may not have a built-in radio transceiver, as would a smartphone. A second device, which has such a radio, is paired to the first and can provide the necessary communications access by allowing the first device to pair and share data over protocols such as Bluetooth. This also lets the primary unit stay in a low-power state, thereby increasing battery life.

Quote:
Originally Posted by y2an View Post

Perhaps the full patent document explains better what is patentable, but the excerpt here at least only shows something obvious which by itself wouldn't pass the test for patentability, i.e. make a transient connection, do business, and drop it.

The patent document can be read -- it is linked in the article above.

I think what you are missing is this:

A device that doesn't have any [radios that supply] access to the Internet can share another devices internet connection/connect-ability.

Consider something like a $5 BTLE beacon on a supermarket shelf that detects/logs customer traffic. Periodically, it needs to:
  • update its time/date maintained within the beacon
  • transmit its traffic log to headquarters

Today, that device has to wait until another device, say an iPad, initiates the request, asks for the information, then performs the desired actions.

What if the beacon's log is almost full and it needs to dump it it now?

With this patent, the beacon initiates the request! Even if a desired device is not available, the beacon can request access and be notified when an iPad comes within range.


AFAIK, this a different use of BTLE/WiFi than anyone has proposed, nay implemented.


Edit: Maybe a few more meaningful examples:

Raising the hand to his ear on the wrist wearing the iWatch:

"[Siri] Call 911"

"[Siri] When's the next Laker game?"

"[Siri] How did my stocks do today?"
...

The iPhone is in your pocket, purse or across the room.
Edited by Dick Applebaum - 11/7/13 at 2:27pm
"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
- Michael Lille -
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"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
- Michael Lille -
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post #15 of 19
Yes I understood the principle, but even supposing this has not been done before, is it not obvious? Which would counter the case for patentability.
post #16 of 19
I love how the patent says nothing about an iWatch, but AppleInsider keeps talking about iWatch. Based on what? Apple files a lot of patents.

"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

John C. Dvorak, 2007
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"Apple should pull the plug on the iPhone."

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post #17 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by y2an View Post

Yes I understood the principle, but even supposing this has not been done before, is it not obvious? Which would counter the case for patentability.


I don't think that BTLE was designed to do this.

Basically, it was designed so that a dumb device (beacon, heart rate sensor, thermometer) could advertise and provide data (on request) to an intelligent device.

The dumb device is called a peripheral, and the smart device is called a central device.

To make things especially confusing, the peripheral device is called a "server" because it serves up data...

Naturally, then, the central device is called a "client" because it requests/consumes data from the server.


This is all very new with lots of companies [many startups] offering different implementations -- some implementations even have a bunch of beacons [AKA peripherals, AKA servers) wired together similar to a LAN.

Other, implementations involve standalone battery-operated beacons [AKA peripherals, AKA servers).


Recently, several significant things have happened:
  1. Apple released a higher-level of BTLE protocol implementation called iBeacons.
  2. iOS 7 multitasking and the M7 chip support low-power background processing of some BTLE/iBeacon protocols.
  3. the realization that an iPhone or iPad * could:
    • implement both iBeacon and lower-level BTLE protocols in the same app
    • act as both a BTLE peripheral/beacon and a central/client in the same app
    • in fact, an app can act as multiple peripherals/beacons and central clients at the same time.


* or a $35 Raspberry Pi

So, this last really changes things -- it gives power to the [dumb] masses of peripherals/servers -- they don't need to wait for commands from the intelligent central/client, they can initiate things themselves.

Add to that, the realization that al least one of these devices likely has radios (WiFi, Cell) that can provide Internet connectability. By definition that makes it possible for a dumb peripheral/server to request services, data and notifications from the Internet at large... Whoa!


I don't think any of this was ever intended or even obvious... it just kind of happened.

I suspect that Apple is applying for a patent for FRAND or defensive purposes -- to protect its implementation.
"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
- Michael Lille -
Reply
"...The calm is on the water and part of us would linger by the shore, For ships are safe in harbor, but that's not what ships are for."
- Michael Lille -
Reply
post #18 of 19
It's the strangest thing but I was running ip over Bluetooth a decade ago - it's been a supported Bt profile all this time. So I have no idea what the fuss is about...
post #19 of 19
Quote:
Originally Posted by sgordon View Post

It's the strangest thing but I was running ip over Bluetooth a decade ago - it's been a supported Bt profile all this time. So I have no idea what the fuss is about...

mobile devices communicating using low energy over BLE (Bluetooth Low Energy) while running in the background -- none of that was available a year ago.

Bluetooth != BLE

Here's an early iBeacon demo:

Edited by Dick Applebaum - 11/7/13 at 10:36pm
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