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Apple may turn to induction for iPod docking, charging

post #1 of 40
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Apple Inc. is attempting to develop a revolutionary dock connector for handheld consumer electronics gadgets that will allow the devices to be docked in any orientation and, in some cases, charged wirelessly.

In a patent filing covering docking apparatuses published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, the Cupertino-based iPod maker lays out several new methods for contact-based docking methods that employ electrical contacts to transfer data and/or power between a handheld device and a docking station that lay in contact with each other.

Of greater interest, however, is the company's discussion of "non-contact based platforms" such as inductive devices, optical devices, or wireless devices that are capable of transferring data and/or power without mating contact.

"When electrical contacts are used, the electrical contacts may be implemented in connectors and/or they may be surface or flush mounted on the housings of the portable electronic device and the docking station," Apple said of traditional docking methods. "In either case, each device includes a set of corresponding contacts that when in contact allow data and power to be transferred therethrough."

On the other hand, non-contact platforms, such as inductive coils, can be placed in each device to transfer both power and data. "The inductive coils are typically hidden from view behind the housings of each device and therefore they are more aesthetically pleasing than electrical contacts, which need to be exposed in order to operate effectively," the company said. "Furthermore, inductively based systems are more robust than electrical contacts. For example, there are no contacts to wear out and/or oxidize."

According to the filing, a docking station in inductive based systems includes the primary coil while the portable electronic device includes the secondary coil. Both the docking station and the portable electronic device would also include their own transceiver that both transmits and receives data.



"In one implementation, both data and power are transferred via the inductance-based system. For example, low frequency electrical current may be passed from the primary coil to the secondary coil in order to power or charge the portable electronic device and high frequency current may be passed from one coil to the other in order to send/receive data," Apple said. "The data and power inductors may be separate, integral or they may be superimposed on one another. In another implementation, power is transferred via an inductance-based system and data is transferred via a wireless system. The combination of inductance and wireless provides an efficient way to transfer both power and data while keeping both the docking station and portable electronic device fully enclosed."



Another part of the invention calls for interface mechanisms to be configured to communicate with one another in whatever position the portable electronic device is oriented in relative to the docking station. "That is, the orientation of the portable computing device is irrelevant to ensure communications between the portable computing device and the docking station," the iPod maker explained. "The interface mechanisms and operatively couple with one another when the portable computing device rests on the platform regardless of the orientation of the portable computing device."



For example, Apple added, the interface mechanisms are capable of interfacing with one another if the device is placed at various orientations between 0 and 360 degrees, more particularly at 0/360, 90, 180 or 270 degrees, and even more particularly at 0/360 and 90 degrees relative to the platform.

"In essence, the interface mechanisms are rotationally symmetric so that regardless of the orientation of the portable electronic device relative to the docking station the coupling therebetween still works correctly," the company said.

The August 9, 2005 filing is credited to Apple employees Steve Hotelling and Gus Pabon.
post #2 of 40
Fascinating!
post #3 of 40
This sounds sci-fi cool. But if they eliminate connectors do we then have to carry around an induction dock if we want to sinc the "handheld consumer electronics gadgets" with a portable?
I imagine they would be quite bulkier than regular connectors...
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post #4 of 40
So there you have it. All the speculation about an iMac/Tablet with a removable display is looking quite strong now.
post #5 of 40
http://www.splashpower.com/

they claim the field will not interfere with memory cards.
post #6 of 40
I saw this a while back. Cool that it might be used widespread now that Apple is trying to use the idea.
Quote:
Originally Posted by greenwire View Post

http://www.splashpower.com/

they claim the field will not interfere with memory cards.
post #7 of 40
This looks great! Wireless charging

-tj
post #8 of 40
A Layman's explanation of induction can be found here- It too sounded a bit too sci-fi for me but according to MIT it's perfectly feasible!

http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2006/wireless.html

BENj
post #9 of 40
I've got an Oral-B electric toothbrush which charges using this technology.
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post #10 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhoq View Post

I've got an Oral-B electric toothbrush which charges using this technology.

So have I, but I'd have thought in this day and age it's too wasteful of energy - the current flows through the charger all the time, I'd have thought (we only put the toothbrush charger on when it's flat, which probably spoils the point, but we like to do our bit for global warming and lower electricity bills...).
post #11 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by philb View Post

So have I, but I'd have thought in this day and age it's too wasteful of energy - the current flows through the charger all the time, I'd have thought (we only put the toothbrush charger on when it's flat, which probably spoils the point, but we like to do our bit for global warming and lower electricity bills...).

The iPod is not a toothbrush. The iPhone has a proximity sensor. An inductive dock could use any of a number of methods to sense the presence of an iPod and ramp up the power.
post #12 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Rhoq View Post

I've got an Oral-B electric toothbrush which charges using this technology.

Yes, it's not exactly ground-breaking technology, but I have had the exact complaint of why they didn't do this. About bloody time!

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post #13 of 40
Maybe they saw my post! http://forums.macrumors.com/showthre...on#post1196755

Ffrom Jan 2005
post #14 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by greenwire View Post

http://www.splashpower.com/

they claim the field will not interfere with memory cards.

It certainly shouldn't even be able interfere with memory cards. I'm not sure how a flash memory card could be erased unless the induction field is possibly thousands of times stronger than it really needs to be and heats up the wiring inside the chip.
post #15 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by philb View Post

... (we only put the toothbrush charger on when it's flat, which probably spoils the point, but we like to do our bit for global warming and lower electricity bills...).

Yea lower bills! I've seen this (Splashpower) or something very similar a couple years or so ago too. Very interesting stuff indeed. Oh, and BTW, thank goodness for global warming; or we'd still be in the Ice Age.
post #16 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cavallo View Post

The iPod is not a toothbrush. The iPhone has a proximity sensor. An inductive dock could use any of a number of methods to sense the presence of an iPod and ramp up the power.

True enough, but inductive charging is intrinsically less efficient than conductive charging. Basically, you're creating a second transformer, in addition to the first one in the AC adapter. Transformers always introduce losses into a system. I would have preferred a conductive system with contacts that didn't care about orientation. For instance, maybe contacts in concentric rings on the iPod, with a line of contacts on the dock such that they always align as a radius on the rings.

But energy efficiency is not a big concern for most people anyway. That's why we collectively waste lots of electricity broadcasting WiFi signals all over the place instead of using long Ethernet cables at home.
post #17 of 40
Those pictures look like the Video iPod, now release the damn thing.
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post #18 of 40
Oh, fer cryin' in the sink. I just bought a car deck with an iPod connector. If they phase this out, then how will I connect to amplification systems that don't have the connector? Grr.
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post #19 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cavallo View Post

The iPod is not a toothbrush. The iPhone has a proximity sensor. An inductive dock could use any of a number of methods to sense the presence of an iPod and ramp up the power.

It's not the recieving side that needs a prox sensor.

I'm not sure if this system would be as good as just using a cable. The charging system would add a little weight, and take space and not be as fast to sync as a straight connector, using a high speed wireless would take a fair amount of power.
post #20 of 40
Come on people, this is not a new idea, this is exactly how a transformer works. You have two piece of metal separated by an insultator and you and transfer power, it can be 1 to 1 or you can step-up or down the power and current depending on the ratios.

Ok, maybe some of you are not engineers here, but all they are doing is makeing the prodcut part of the transformer verses it be a separate device. The only way this can works if the product has some type of metal pick-up in it with wires wrapped around it. I would images that this could cause the phone or device to be larger than they are now since transformers are not really effiecent. You will have lots of lost energy.
post #21 of 40
I remember years ago when people joked about a "cordless extension cord." I always had a feeling that it might actually happen someday. This looks closer than anything else.
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post #22 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by SpamSandwich View Post

Yes, it's not exactly ground-breaking technology, but I have had the exact complaint of why they didn't do this. About bloody time!

Yeah, not even remotely new, ground-breaking, or revolutionary... My SoniCare toothbrush has been charged this way since I bought it in 1995. While it works great for my toothbrush in an environment where the electrical parts need to be protected from lots of running water, i don't think I care for the idea with regard to using it in an iPod. Maybe if I saw one, I'd think differently.
post #23 of 40
Bit of more logic analysis as to what this type of inductive charging device might actually translate to if it were to be implemented for portable devices such as an iPod or iPhone:

sure it's a neat idea for a dock but doesn't the dock have to be wired itself? I mean, it doesn't draw power from the sun to provide power to the portable device :P . So it would require an ac plug? If it did it would mean that a secondary plug would be required to sync data (usb). Well now you really have more wires hanging around your desk than if you just used a standard usb to ipod connector cable in the first place. If it didn't require an ac plug could this new dock thing really draw enough power from a usb power to power and sync a device wirlessley using this induction method? I have doubts.


Either way, if this type of docking for iPods & iPhones & other Apple portable devices are eventually going to replace the standard cable charging and syncing method that exists today, its going to get....complicated (to say the least) for 3rd party accessory manufactures. Even if the backside of such a dock still used the standard iPod connector type to attach the dock to a PC or other device, securing and portability of such a dock could be an issue for manufactures whom would like to create portable solutions. For example, you could use standard cellphone/ipod type holder for you iPod/iPhone in your car you just wont be able to charge or play audio through it.


IMO, this is Apple's way of taking control of the accessory market completely. It's a pretty big market that I'm pretty sure Apple's been wanting a piece of for sometime now.
post #24 of 40
I wonder what would happen if you stuck your tongue on it?
post #25 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by boss1 View Post

sure it's a neat idea for a dock but doesn't the dock have to be wired itself? I mean, it doesn't draw power from the sun to provide power to the portable device :P . So it would require an ac plug? If it did it would mean that a secondary plug would be required to sync data (usb).

Of course the dock would need to be wired for power - how else would it get its power that it wirelessly gives the iPhone/Pod? Data sync via USB, however, would not be required in a device that had bluetooth and/or wifi.


Quote:
Originally Posted by boss1 View Post

.... eventually going to replace the standard cable charging and syncing method that exists today, its going to get....complicated (to say the least) for 3rd party accessory manufactures.

I hope they keep the existing dock connector. For charging and data access when away from home (I don't want to carry my dock with me.... defeats the purpose).
post #26 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by BRussell View Post

I wonder what would happen if you stuck your tongue on it?

it vibrates
post #27 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by BRussell View Post

I wonder what would happen if you stuck your tongue on it?



I wonder what would happen if you stuck your tongue between the ipod and the charger?
post #28 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

I would images that this could cause the phone or device to be larger than they are now since transformers are not really effiecent. You will have lots of lost energy.

Transformers can be efficient, 99%+. Puting it into a device whose primary use is something else that's not conducive to this use, a portable device at that, won't be so efficient. That can be improved by using a higher induction frequency, but there's still the gap and other factors in the system that's not ideal for power transfer.
post #29 of 40
You are right that this will allow APPLE to capitalize more on the accessories, and the induction part is just like apple to try and patent. I will say, there are a few companies that have features like the ones they announced today already in place for electronic devices, ours being one of them with Vertical and Horizontal features as well as design(s) implemented for swiveling. You can read about this here



Quote:
Originally Posted by boss1 View Post

Bit of more logic analysis as to what this type of inductive charging device might actually translate to if it were to be implemented for portable devices such as an iPod or iPhone:

sure it's a neat idea for a dock but doesn't the dock have to be wired itself? I mean, it doesn't draw power from the sun to provide power to the portable device :P . So it would require an ac plug? If it did it would mean that a secondary plug would be required to sync data (usb). Well now you really have more wires hanging around your desk than if you just used a standard usb to ipod connector cable in the first place. If it didn't require an ac plug could this new dock thing really draw enough power from a usb power to power and sync a device wirlessley using this induction method? I have doubts.


Either way, if this type of docking for iPods & iPhones & other Apple portable devices are eventually going to replace the standard cable charging and syncing method that exists today, its going to get....complicated (to say the least) for 3rd party accessory manufactures. Even if the backside of such a dock still used the standard iPod connector type to attach the dock to a PC or other device, securing and portability of such a dock could be an issue for manufactures whom would like to create portable solutions. For example, you could use standard cellphone/ipod type holder for you iPod/iPhone in your car you just wont be able to charge or play audio through it.


IMO, this is Apple's way of taking control of the accessory market completely. It's a pretty big market that I'm pretty sure Apple's been wanting a piece of for sometime now.
post #30 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by macbear01 View Post

Yeah, not even remotely new, ground-breaking, or revolutionary... My SoniCare toothbrush has been charged this way since I bought it in 1995. While it works great for my toothbrush in an environment where the electrical parts need to be protected from lots of running water, i don't think I care for the idea with regard to using it in an iPod. Maybe if I saw one, I'd think differently.

Can your toothbrush download MP3s via conductance?

I think that's the more important issue here..

I could be wrong.

-S
post #31 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by BRussell View Post

I wonder what would happen if you stuck your tongue on it?

You'd be 'inducted' into the hall of flames.

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post #32 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Maestro64 View Post

Ok, maybe some of you are not engineers here, but ...

Some?
post #33 of 40
IMHO if Apple is going to opt for an induction charger, I'd like them to do us a favor and develop an induction charger that is not devise specific.

If it's molded to dock with an iPod / iPhone, and nothing else, then they're defeating the whole point of an induction charger. Ideally, you should be able to buy an induction pad that you could place your camera, phone, iPod, vibrator, or whatever on.

For example:
http://www.splashpower.com/
http://www.wildcharge.com/

I'm sick of having cables and docks for an array of different devises. It's about time this ended.
post #34 of 40
I just can't wait to dock 14 into 224.
post #35 of 40
Quote:

Splashpower announced their technology years ago. We're still waiting for products actually on the market. Some speculate it's vaporware. Meanwhile, they refuse to divulge the efficiency of the technology. Educated guesses put it as low as 25%. So you could be wasting 3/4 of the power put into the pad just because you find cords "inconvenient."
post #36 of 40
In terms of power efficiency, the Apple patent states that by having the device rest in close to the charger (ie a customised dock fitting with the iPhone/pod/whatever) the efficiency increases substantially.
post #37 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post

Transformers can be efficient, 99%+. Puting it into a device whose primary use is something else that's not conducive to this use, a portable device at that, won't be so efficient. That can be improved by using a higher induction frequency, but there's still the gap and other factors in the system that's not ideal for power transfer.

It's rare that transformers are that efficient. It's usually much lower due to capacitive leakage, etc.

They can be though, but they are very expensive.
post #38 of 40
What I wonder about here is how they can deal with the very high frequencies used in modern data transmnission. Transformers' main problem is frequency response. There is electrical inerta in a transformer. The higher the frequency, the more inertia. The frequency eventually can't reverse fast enough. This is due to the inductance of the unit (RC).

Transformers are often used as inductors to remove high frequency components from the signal, as in power line conditioners.

Very small transformers with fine wiring can carry higher frequencies, but I've not seen any capable of carrying a direct data signal of this type. Past video frequencies the losses are too great.

I'm interested to see just how they have gotten around these problems.
post #39 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post

True enough, but inductive charging is intrinsically less efficient than conductive charging. Basically, you're creating a second transformer, in addition to the first one in the AC adapter. Transformers always introduce losses into a system. I would have preferred a conductive system with contacts that didn't care about orientation. For instance, maybe contacts in concentric rings on the iPod, with a line of contacts on the dock such that they always align as a radius on the rings.

But energy efficiency is not a big concern for most people anyway. That's why we collectively waste lots of electricity broadcasting WiFi signals all over the place instead of using long Ethernet cables at home.

Hey! I use a long Ethernet cable rather than thoughtlessly wasting energy... but only because I can't afford that neat little Airport Express.. :-(
When are they going to upgrade that to the faster wireless standard anyway?

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post #40 of 40
Quote:
Originally Posted by Kolchak View Post

Splashpower announced their technology years ago. We're still waiting for products actually on the market. Some speculate it's vaporware. Meanwhile, they refuse to divulge the efficiency of the technology. Educated guesses put it as low as 25%. So you could be wasting 3/4 of the power put into the pad just because you find cords "inconvenient."

Those links were more proof of concept then anything else. Yet, the SplashPad seemingly has the same release date as the Optimus Keyboard or Duke Nukem Forever.

That said, the newly announced WildCharger supplies 90w and should go on sale this summer. The things are butt ugly, but could be built into desktops and or given some love by a good industrial design team.

If Apple decides to opt for induction charging, I'd prefer they design a solution that isn't just another proprietary dock, yet with a bigger price tag.
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