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Apple exploring wireless system for quantifying the unquantifiable

post #1 of 38
Thread Starter 
Apple this week was granted a sprawling patent on a series of wireless sensing systems aimed at quantifying actions or events that can currently be measured only qualitatively, such as the effectiveness of a karate kick or what exactly happened to a package from FedEx that arrived with its contents broken.

The patent spans some 83 pages, and as such AppleInsider will quote or paraphrase generously from the filing, which incorporates several provisional patent applications.

Cause for Action

Apple begins early in the filing by stating its cause, noting that "the movement of objects and persons occurs continuously but [are] hardly quantified. Rather, typically only the result of [a] movement is known," such as object X moving from point A to point B, or person Y having run to the store. That said, the company notes that recent advances in technology have provided some quantification of movement, such as GPS products that now assist in determining the location of golf carts, vehicles and people.

"However, the detail of movement, minute to minute, second to second, is still not generally determinable," the electronics maker argues. "For example, the movement of tangible objects typically involves (a) the shipment or carrying of goods and (b) electromechanical or motorized apparatus (e.g., planes, trains, automobiles, robots). The exact movements of such objects, and the conditions that they are subjected to, from point to point, are only qualitatively known."

For instance, Apple notes that "a package is moved from location to location through delivery services like Federal Express or UPS; however what occurred during transportation, and what transpired to the package, is anyone's guess. Occasionally, an object within the package is broken, indicating that the package experienced excessive abuse; but whose fault it is, or how or when it happened, are not known. What environments the package experienced is also not readily known."

"The movement of persons, on the other hand, typically involves human-powered transportation, facilitated by biking, a wheelchair, or a motorized vehicle [such as] a car," the company continues. "Body movement involved in transportation is subjected to many forces, some of which are dangerous. But the prior art does not provide for this knowledge; there is no effective way, currently, to efficiently quantify human movement. In sports, physical fitness, and training, precise information about movement would assist in many ways. By way of example, how effective a hand strike is in karate or boxing is, today, only qualitatively known. Quantitative feedback would be beneficial."

Accordingly, one feature of Apple's patent is "to provide systems and methods addressing the afore-mentioned difficulties. A further feature of the invention is to provide methods and devices to quantify movement in a number of applications. Another feature of the invention is to monitor and report meaningful environment information such as temperature and humidity."

Movement Monitoring Devices

A couple of wireless monitoring devices are critical to Apple's concept, the first of which is called a movement monitor device, or "MMD." These tiny transmitters can take the form of an adhesive strip similar to a bandage and include a processor, a detector, communications port, and battery. Alternatively, Apple says they could assume the form of a credit card and/or include a magnetic element for adhering to metal objects. In any of the cases, they'd ideally also include a real time clock so that the transmitter can tag "events" with time and date information.



These MMDs would typically be interrogated by an interrogation device ("ID") or communicate to a remote receiver ("RR") over secure communications protocols. Their functions include detecting movement "metrics," including airtime, speed, power, impact, drop distance, jarring and spin. As Apple explains in more detail:

"In one aspect, the MMD continuously relays a movement metric by continuous transmission of data from the detector to a RR. In this way, a MMD attached to a person may beneficially track movement, in real time, of that person by recombination of the movement metrics at a remote computer. In one aspect, multiple MMDs attached to a person quantify movement of a plurality of body parts or movements, for example to assist in athletic training (e.g., for boxing or karate).

"In another aspect, multiple MMDs attached to an object quantify movement of a plurality of object parts or movements, for example to monitor or assess different components or sensitive parts of an object. For example, multiple MMDs can be attached to an expensive medical device to monitor various critical components during shipment; when the device arrives at the customer, these MMDs are interrogated to determine whether any of the critical components experienced undesirable conditions--e.g., a high impact or temperature or humidity."

MMDs could also be capable of measuring temperature, humidity, moisture, altitude and pressure. These environmental metrics would be combined into an MMD with a detector that facilitates the monitoring of movement metrics. "For temperature, the detector of one aspect is a temperature sensor such as a thermocouple or thermister. For altitude, the detector of one aspect is an altimeter. For pressure, the detector of one aspect is a pressure sensor such as a surface mount semiconductor element made by SENSYM."

MMDs could be collated and packaged in a single container, preferably similar to the cans or boxes containing adhesive bandages, Apple says. "Preferably, in another aspect, MMDs of the invention are similarly programmed within the container. By way of example, one container carries 100 MMDs that each respond to an event of "10 g's." In another example, another container carries 200 MMDs that respond to an event of "100 g's." Packages of MMDs can be in any suitable number N greater than or equal to two; typically however MMDs are packaged together in groups of 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 500 or 1000. A variety pack of MMDs are also provided, in another aspect, for example containing ten 5 g MMDs, ten 10 g MMDs, ten 15 g MMDs, ten 20 g MMDs, ten 25 g MMDs, ten 30 g MMDs, ten 35 g MMDs, ten 40 g MMDs, ten 45 g MMDs, and ten 50 g MMDs. Another variety package can for example include groups of MMDs spaced at 1 g or 10 g intervals."

Any of these MMDs "can practically attach to almost anything to obtain movement information," the filing continues. "By way of example, a MMD of the invention can attach to furniture to monitor shipping of furniture. If the furniture were dropped, an impact event occurs and is recorded within the MMD, or transmitted wirelessly, with an associated time tag. When the furniture is damaged prior to delivery, a reader (e.g., an ID) reads the MMD to determine when the damage occurred--leading to the responsible party who may then have to pay for the damage. In a further example, if furniture is rated to "10 g's", a MMD (programmed and enabled to detect 10 g events) is attached to the furniture when leaving the factory, so that any 10 g event before delivery is recorded and time-stamped, again leading to a responsible party. Similarly, in other aspects, devices of the invention are attached to packages (e.g., FedEx or UPS shipments) to monitor handling. By way of example, fragile objects may be rated to 5 g; and an appropriately programmed MMD of the invention is attached to the shipment to record and time-tag 5 g events. In another aspect, fragile objects that should be maintained at a particular orientation (i.e., packages shipped within "This Side Up" instructions) are monitored by a MMD detecting inversions of about 180 degrees, such as through a Hall Effect detector.



"In one aspect, the MMD includes a tamper proof detector that ensures the MMD is not removed or tampered with once applied to an object or person, until an authorized person removes the MMD. In one aspect, the tamper proof detector is a piezoelectric strip coupled into or with the adhesive strip. Once the MMD is powered and applied to an object or person, a quiescent period ensues and the MMD continually monitors the tamper proof detector (in addition to the event detector) to record tampering activity. In the case of the piezoelectric strip, removal of the MMD from a person or object after the quiescent period provides a relatively large voltage spike, indicating removal. That spike is recorded and time stamped. If there are more than one such records (i.e., one record represents the final removal), then tampering may have occurred. Since date and time are tagged with the event data, the tamper time is determined, leading to identify the tampering person (i.e., the person responsible for the object when the tamper time was tagged)."

Apple notes that the ID can take the form of a cell phone. "Nearly one in three Americans use a cell phone. According to the teachings of the invention, data movement "metrics" are read from a MMD through the cell phone. Preferably, data communicated from the MMD to the cell phone is made only through secure communications protocols so that only authorized cell phones can access the MMD. In one specific aspect, MMD events are communicated to a cell phone or cellular network, and from that point are relayed to persons or additional computer networks for use at a remote location.



"Miniature tension or compression load cells are used in certain aspects of the invention. By way of example, a MMD incorporating such cells are used in measuring and monitoring tension and/or compression between about fifty grams and 1000 lbs, depending upon the application. In one aspect, the MMD generates a warning signal when the load cell exceeds a preselected threshold.

"There are thus several applications of the invention, including the monitoring of movement for people, patients, packages, athletes, competitors, shipments, furniture, athletes in training (e.g., karate), and industrial robotics. The benefits derived by such monitoring can be used by insurance companies and manufacturers, which, for example, insure shipments and packages for safe delivery to purchasers. Media broadcasters, including Internet content providers, can also benefit by augmenting information associated with a sporting event (e.g., airtime of a snowboarder communicated in real time to the Internet, impact of a football or soccer ball during a game, boxing glove strike force during a fight, tennis racquet strike force during a match). The MMD of the invention is small, and may be attached to practically any object--so ease of use is clearly another advantage. By way of example, an MMD can be mounted to the helmet or body armor of each football player or motocross competitor to monitor movement and jerk of the athlete. In such applications, data from the MMD preferably transmits event data in real time to a RR in the form of a network, so that MMD data associated with each competitor is available for broadcast to a scoreboard, TV or the Internet. Other advantages should be apparent in the description within."



Event Monitoring Devices

The second kind wireless monitoring device Apple describes in its filing is called an Event Monitoring Device, or "EMD," which can be used to monitor and report temperature, humidity, chemicals, heart rate, pulse, pressure, stress, weight, environmental factors and hazardous conditions. Nearly identical in structure, composition, and operation to MMDs, EMDs monitor one or more metrics for "events," where data is acquired that exceeds some predetermined threshold or value.

"By way of example, in one aspect the detector is a temperature sensor and the processor coupled to the temperature sensor seeks to determine temperature events that exceed a threshold," the filing says. "In another aspect, a humidity sensor is used as the detector and this sensor is monitored for a humidity event (e.g., did the EMD experience 98% humidity conditions). In another example, the detector and processor collectively monitor stress events, where for example it is determined that the EMD attached to a human senses increased heart rate of over 180 beats per minute (an exemplary "event" threshold). In still another aspect, the detector is a chemical (or pH) detector and the processor and detector collectively determine a change of chemical composition of an object connected with the EMD over some preselected time period.



"In one aspect, a plurality of EMDs are collated and packaged in a single container, preferably similar to the cans or boxes containing adhesive bandages. Preferably, in another aspect, EMDs of the invention are similarly programmed within the container. By way of example, one container carries 100 EMDs that each respond to an event of "5 degrees" variation from some reference temperature. In another example, another container carries 200 EMDs that respond to an event of "90 degrees" change absolute. Temperature sensors may be programmed to determine actual temperatures, e.g., 65 degrees, or changes in temperature from some reference point, e.g., 10 degrees from reference.

Packages of EMDs can be in any suitable number N greater than or equal to two; typically however EMDs are packaged together in groups of 50, 100, 150, 200, 250, 500 or 1000."

Apple goes on in the filing to describe how MMDs and EMDs can monitor and enhance activities and live broadcasts of Nascar races, marathons, rodeos, bike races, and extreme sports. They could also be applied to body armor and used for weight monitoring. Readers can check out the full 83-page patent here.
post #2 of 38
I just hope Apple has something similar to Natal up it's sleeve.
post #3 of 38
If they can provide a NikePlus-ish solution for cycling they'd sell a million of them. PowerTap and things like Garmin Edge are pretty pricey solutions. If you could do output and location with an iPod/iPhone they'd have an edge over everything else.

As for the horseback example, tracking trail rides is problematic - often too much cover for GPS to work well and if they could track body motion for riding form... they'd have another winner.
post #4 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Producer View Post

I just hope Apple has something similar to Natal up it's sleeve.

That would be really interesting and exciting.
Watching the demo of that - sure content etc was a little lame, but it's early days - the potential is fascinating!

As computing power reaches a point where it's almost as fast as i require - my MBP does just about everything in real time that i need, rendering is nearly a thing of the past - we will see new forms and content and this excites me.
post #5 of 38
Some day, battery technology will catch up (let alone keep pace) with all these exciting possibilities....... \
post #6 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by anantksundaram View Post

Some day, battery technology will catch up (let alone keep pace) with all these exciting possibilities....... \

Nokia just said they have created a phone that charges using the radio waves transmitted in the air by everything!! The power is really small but it is good start. Furthermore, I've read somewhere that some university invented a way to recharge batteries in few seconds!
I think we are getting there. Slowly but we are getting there.
post #7 of 38
Apple could start by building an abuse monitor into their iPhones, to determine if
malfunctions are to be covered under warranty.
post #8 of 38
What the Frak? This could eith be huge or be a giant waste of patent office paper.

Besides, I don't want to jump around and wave my arms when playing games. I want to sit and push buttons.
post #9 of 38
Natal=Gimmick, you don't have to be a genius to see that...

I just hope it won't be like Natal...

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post #10 of 38
I'd rather "wait and see" about Natal than condemn it instantly with too little evidence. Microsoft has a bad track record, failing at most things they attempt--but this one has started off very promising. I'd rather see a good idea succeed than not.

As for THIS patent... I could read ALL that text, but I looked at the pictures. They frightened me. Something diabolical is happening beneath our noses, and we won't even know it until the aliens have us shackled together on work detail.
post #11 of 38
Let's imagineer this with some more applications. Here's a sad but important one. Imagine how much more that investigators would learn about the last moments of Air France 447 had several dozen of these devices been fixed at different critical locations around the airframe. The airline was already receiving data from numerous flight systems. Data from these devices could easily be piggybacked on those transmissions. In improving aircraft safety alone, this could be a huge step forward.

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post #12 of 38
I wonder if this concept originated from work done at Pixar. The movie industry (and sports industry) uses this tech to record body movements and then analyze the data for further application.
post #13 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by nagromme View Post

I'd rather "wait and see" about Natal than condemn it instantly with too little evidence. Microsoft has a bad track record, failing at most things they attempt--but this one has started off very promising. I'd rather see a good idea succeed than not.

Well, the XBox game systems are pretty nice, save for a couple bumps and bruises and the unfortunate hemorrhaging of money. I hope Natal works well, I'm not going to judge it positively or negatively until I see it in action.

Quote:
As for THIS patent... I could read ALL that text, but I looked at the pictures. They frightened me. Something diabolical is happening beneath our noses, and we won't even know it until the aliens have us shackled together on work detail.

The hand looks like one that belongs to an octogenarian that's had a lifetime of manual labor.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Kibitzer View Post

Let's imagineer this with some more applications. Here's a sad but important one. Imagine how much more that investigators would learn about the last moments of Air France 447 had several dozen of these devices been fixed at different critical locations around the airframe. The airline was already receiving data from numerous flight systems. Data from these devices could easily be piggybacked on those transmissions. In improving aircraft safety alone, this could be a huge step forward.

I suppose it would be interesting, but it's not as if aircraft crashes are a major problem in the grand scheme of things. It's among the safest forms of motorized vehicle transportation, if it isn't the safest.
post #14 of 38
This sounds like an offshoot of RFIDs or an RFID-plus. Combine a passive wireless transmitter with a motion detector and voila! Stage 3 will be an RFID passive imagery bandaid!! Stick it on the wall and an external trigger sends a pic....Orwell has finally met his doppleganger....
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post #15 of 38
Canon can use this to monitor their employees movements.
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post #16 of 38
Is it just me; or is it not immediately evident *what* Apple would actually use this technology for. If this were MS or Nintendo, I would guess a game machine, but Apple doesn't do that... ****crosses fingers for  Game Machine****
post #17 of 38
...Apple patents feature the creepiest hands.
post #18 of 38
Wii, too, Apple?
post #19 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by NasserAE View Post

Nokia just said they have created a phone that charges using the radio waves transmitted in the air by everything!! The power is really small but it is good start. Furthermore, I've read somewhere that some university invented a way to recharge batteries in few seconds!
I think we are getting there. Slowly but we are getting there.

I completely agree with you. Batteries seem to have improved more in the last 5 years than in the previous 50. It's amazing what can be achieved when some serious money is put into R&D for something.
post #20 of 38
I'm sure this could be used for virtual porn too.
post #21 of 38
Scnr.
post #22 of 38
Q: what exactly happened to a package from FedEx that arrived with its contents broken
A: 25
post #23 of 38
This sounds like "Compass + GPS + Accelerometer + Date/Time + ??? = PROFIT!"

The underpant gnomes are at work here.

That said, the new iPhone does all of this, so a few more years of miniaturization and it should be possible to put this patent into action on shipping containers and bikes, etc. Apparently the "???" in the strategy refers to royalties from US Patent Law.
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post #24 of 38
Apple: making 1984 possible.
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post #25 of 38
I love how Apple pushes the envelope in the way it innovates and applies their R&D towards solutions to our day to day needs. Many of these needs we don't even know we have.

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post #26 of 38
Call me a pessimist, but I could see this technology used to unfairly void limited and AppleCare warranties. For instance, you bring your disabled iPhone to the Genius Bar, and a Genius tells you that "because the MMD sensor has recorded a 'drop event' 3 months back, we are unable to honor your AppleCare plan." Lets face it, who hasn't dropped their iPhone, even if it was in a case or fell on something soft. Am I paranoid?
post #27 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by grebo View Post

I'm sure this could be used for virtual porn too.

That's been done too. I remember taking a "New Media" class in college that went over all sorts of bizare new stuff. One was a porn site where you could interact with the other person through a web site. Clicking on different buttons would make a werid apperatus do different things. You could buy one for yourself and have a two-way interaction for a price.

Technology and such always find their way into porn and sexual desires. From the BBC version of Coupling (good show btw) "When man first created fire, we didn't think of using it for cooking. We thought; hey, now we can see naked bottoms in the dark!"

Yeah... my post was totally un-Apple related... and its too early here to care.
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post #28 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Producer View Post

I just hope Apple has something similar to Natal up it's sleeve.


I just watched the video on Matal, and I think its one of the biggest jokes I have ever seen. You will sneeze while watching a movie and the system will freeze, hahaha
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post #29 of 38
What exactly does this patent mean ?? What new features may expect ?
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post #30 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by grebo View Post

I'm sure this could be used for virtual porn too.

Now you're talking!
post #31 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by jpellino View Post

If they can provide a NikePlus-ish solution for cycling they'd sell a million of them.

everyone needs to read this month's WIRED magazine, it talks about how involved Steve Jobs was with Nike in designing the Nike +... so now we know the connection to the rest of these ideas.
post #32 of 38
How much of these single use pieces of junk will eventually end up in landfills? Can these things be reused? Do they require batteries? Are they recyclable?
IMO Some of the applications sound like legitimate uses but some are obviously way over the top. Effectiveness of Karate? Your opponent or judge will tell you, no need for sensors.
Really this concept is "nifty" but I am tired of electronics that clearly can't be upgraded, reused, or recycled properly. The environmental impacts must be weighed as well.
post #33 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by SuperMacGuy View Post

How much of these single use pieces of junk will eventually end up in landfills?

yes, the Nike + battery can be replaced, google for lots of people doing it... but it's a current blind spot with Steve Jobs... he is probably betting that someday batteries will last for 5 years on a single charge, but forgetting we live in the "today"... not 2028.

i'm a HUGE fan of sensors of all types.... when i drive away from my house, my air conditioning should step down, when i'm driving towards it and the probability is high i'm going back to my house, it should "kick on"... ready for me...

doors should open went i'm accelerating towards them, close when i'm accelerating away from them... etc...

the future so bright, i've gotta wear apple sensors!
post #34 of 38
First thing I thought of when reading this article was... "motion capture". It seems like a low-level motion analysis and perhaps supply chain efficiency tool. Think much larger than just games here. Also, keep in mind that the sensors that would apply to this patent may actually be too small to see, not just the Band-Aid sized things as suggested in the application. In the near future, you may be able to 'spray' on, or inhale (as in an atomizer) a cloud of nano-scale sensors that would provide an overall model of your movements and physical well-being to a central computing architecture remotely or in your iPhone.

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post #35 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by crees! View Post

I wonder if this concept originated from work done at Pixar. The movie industry (and sports industry) uses this tech to record body movements and then analyze the data for further application.

I don't think so. This involves wireless technology to track realtime action - not filming and tracking dots/balls for a motion study.

I think the big news here is the combination of large quantities of strain gauges, shock indication, ion detectors, acceleration gauges, etc all combined with a very low cost realtime clock and low power wireless communication used to collect potentially large amounts of data that can be recombined with a DB to indicate shipping and handling phases, exercise, competition.

If you can collect a large enough data set then it has the potential to be used for not only everyday tracking but it also (depending on the level of analysis of the data collected) could/should allow for better industrial design of products and the packaging.

As someone else mentioned it could be used for warranty purposes (to determine eligibility) - for or against. If deployed to study weaknesses it could possibly help solve problems such as frayed power cords, etc. If used carefully it certainly seems to minimize the Heisenberg effect which is huge using today's tech - this would seem to be minimized with very small devices.

As with anything that has the ability to track a person or persons there is the fear of 1984 - the ethics of dealing with this are not necessarily more complicated than any other - it does point out the need to have a well defined way of dealing with all privacy issues cause this, and a lot more, are coming.

The trick with using this looks like smart analysis of a large set of data.
post #36 of 38
Incidentally, a better way to view the patent is here.

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post #37 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by crees! View Post

I wonder if this concept originated from work done at Pixar. The movie industry (and sports industry) uses this tech to record body movements and then analyze the data for further application.

Pixar had the Academy rules changes to that the animation category excludes films made with motion capture. They explicitly don't use or need mo-cap, so they wouldn't have been behind this.

The commercial potential for this could be huge, dwarfing the iPhone business. If these can be manufactured cheaply (and protected well-enough via patents), this could become something put in millions of packages and be used in countless other applications. But they'd have to be dirt cheap, like rfids.
post #38 of 38
Quote:
Originally Posted by Damn_Its_Hot View Post

I think the big news here is the combination of large quantities of strain gauges, shock indication, ion detectors, acceleration gauges, etc all combined with a very low cost realtime clock and low power wireless communication used to collect potentially large amounts of data that can be recombined with a DB to indicate shipping and handling phases, exercise, competition.

If you can collect a large enough data set then it has the potential to be used for not only everyday tracking but it also (depending on the level of analysis of the data collected) could/should allow for better industrial design of products and the packaging.

As someone else mentioned it could be used for warranty purposes (to determine eligibility) - for or against. If deployed to study weaknesses it could possibly help solve problems such as frayed power cords, etc. If used carefully it certainly seems to minimize the Heisenberg effect which is huge using today's tech - this would seem to be minimized with very small devices.

As with anything that has the ability to track a person or persons there is the fear of 1984 - the ethics of dealing with this are not necessarily more complicated than any other - it does point out the need to have a well defined way of dealing with all privacy issues cause this, and a lot more, are coming.

The trick with using this looks like smart analysis of a large set of data.

I imagine once this is functioning and used on people in the workplace, a lot of folks will be shown the door.

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