Apple patent filing details iPhone-controlled car and home environments

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
In a patent application filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, Apple describes a system that can automatically customize a car's seat, steering wheel, and mirror positioning, as well as home climate control, based on information from a single device like an iPhone.

Configuration
Source: USPTO


Apple's patent filing for "Automatic configuration of self-configurable environments" covers a system that uses a portable consumer device to automatically adjust configurable objects to a user's preferences, with or without interaction from said user.

The filing offers an example of a "self-configurable environment" as being the cockpit of an automobile. In many cars, seats, mirrors, steering wheel and other functions are mechanized, with some able to store a driver's personal preferences to an on-board computer. This way, two or more drivers who share a car don't have to hassle with resetting the above controls each time they enter the vehicle.

As Apple's invention notes, while such self-configurable environments are convenient, they are rarely transportable. To solve this apparent problem, the patent application details a method of using a portable device, such as an iPhone, to take environment configuration information on-the-go. The technology could allow for an iPhone to become a universal configuration tool for the world around its user.

Configuration
Block diagram of portable device and configurable environment.


The document focuses mainly on the car, which is understandable given the level of environment customization implemented by a number of auto makers. In one embodiment, the portable device acts connects with the car's computer to relay a set of custom options stored by the user. For example, a user could store their personal preferences onto a portable device, and when that device enters a car, it will send the appropriate configuration information.

Aside from the basic seat positioning information, the patent filing goes further and describes an embodiment that can adjust components in a car based on angle measurements, driver positioning, and other metrics. Driving the advanced configuration is "environment-translation software" that would run on a user's device, adjusting options based on measurements taken by the car. Such a system would be useful in the case of car rentals, or new car purchases, the application notes.

Configuration
Illustration of angle measurements.


In other embodiments, house or hotel climate controls, television, lighting and other home automation settings are briefly covered. Though sparse on details, it can be imagined that a portable device would be able to control an entertainment system, air conditioning, and other connected appliances.

While Apple's invention would rely heavily on the cooperation of third-party manufacturers to build out the robust ecosystem required to facilitate such a system, the benefits to the user would be substantial. The company is already rolling out a type of configuration method in iOS in the Car, though it has already seen pushback from car manufacturers hesitant to implement the solution in their infotainment systems.

Apple's automatic environment configuration patent application was first filed for in 2012 and credits Thomas Ethan Lowry as its inventor.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 14
    cnocbuicnocbui Posts: 3,613member
    An Apple controlled car - It will only go where Apple thinks it is in their best interests that you go.
  • Reply 2 of 14
    ochymingochyming Posts: 474member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post

    An Apple controlled car - It will only go where Apple thinks it is in their best interests that you go.

     

    They want you in your sofa.
    No?
  • Reply 3 of 14
    blackbookblackbook Posts: 1,361member
    I am see if Apple plans to build a house akin to Microsofts house of the future in Redmond :lol:

    Climate control seems strange because other apps already do that with the iPhone.

    Also I think Mercedes has an app on iPhone that is based on driver memory adjustments where you can automatically adjust the seat from your iPhone.
  • Reply 4 of 14
    I was JUST talking to someone about this idea of mine...someone at Apple is listening to me...

    But replace the car environment with any place where you spend time regularly, AND replace iPhone with iWatch - adding bio-sensoring to the mix.
    Think about the possibilities!
  • Reply 5 of 14


    Sounds like this patent overlaps existing technology (and perhaps other patents). I know for sure that some automobiles already store custom environment information in dongles or key memories, because my dads car keeps messing up my seat position whenever I grab the wrong key.

  • Reply 6 of 14
    kdarlingkdarling Posts: 1,640member


    As others have noted, most luxury cars already do this when you click your remote.


     


    Now, if it wasn't your car, I can see this being useful.  For example, if you were renting one of those by-the-hour cars, like Zipcar.


     


    As to personalizing an environment, I am imagining more than one person walking into a home or office, and their phones fighting it out for dominance.   :)


     


    You'd have to have priorities built in.  Like the bosses' phone wins.  And the wife's phone wins.  

  • Reply 7 of 14
    imgmkrimgmkr Posts: 15member
    Apple, why don't you give us the most useful function first, preset configurations and preferences by time and environment!!! is that so hard???
  • Reply 8 of 14


    Since you have to ask...


     


    perhaps you shouldn't assume its SOOOOOO easy.

  • Reply 9 of 14
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    imgmkr wrote: »
    Apple, why don't you give us the most useful function first, preset configurations and preferences by time and environment!!! is that so hard???

    1. They'd have to build the system first.
    2. What are you even talking about?
  • Reply 10 of 14
    froodfrood Posts: 771member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by cnocbui View Post



    An Apple controlled car - It will only go where Apple thinks it is in their best interests that you go.


     


    And lock you inside- for your own safety... Its a dangerous world out there!


     


     


    That said, another obstructionist non-patent from a tech company here.  Microcontrollers in many cars already store multiple users and do all this automatically.  Copying exactly something that has been done for years and adding 'on an iPhone' does not make it magic, revolutionary, nor a patent that will hold up in court.


     


    The patent office has to grant patents based on their strict rulesets- part of which is no one has patented this yet because until recently patenting the obvious wasn't a business strategy.  Well, okay, maybe Amazon with one click purchasing, but even that is fairly recent.


     


    Plenty of other companies are going to do this, Apple will claim IP theft and get their troops in an uproar, Apple will be smart enough not to use this patent in litigation- but if they do it will be invalidated and that will 'bond' their fans to commiserate with them.


     


    I'm really beginning to believe this is a strategy Apple uses to convince their users they are magical and everyone is stealing from them.  Obviously on this site that strategy is working pretty well.  If you took all the IP out of an iPhone that Apple did not contribute, there really isn't much left.

  • Reply 11 of 14

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Frood View Post


     


    And lock you inside- for your own safety... Its a dangerous world out there!


     


     


    That said, another obstructionist non-patent from a tech company here.  Microcontrollers in many cars already store multiple users and do all this automatically.  Copying exactly something that has been done for years and adding 'on an iPhone' does not make it magic, revolutionary, nor a patent that will hold up in court.


     


    The patent office has to grant patents based on their strict rulesets- part of which is no one has patented this yet because until recently patenting the obvious wasn't a business strategy.  Well, okay, maybe Amazon with one click purchasing, but even that is fairly recent.


     


    Plenty of other companies are going to do this, Apple will claim IP theft and get their troops in an uproar, Apple will be smart enough not to use this patent in litigation- but if they do it will be invalidated and that will 'bond' their fans to commiserate with them.


     


    I'm really beginning to believe this is a strategy Apple uses to convince their users they are magical and everyone is stealing from them.  Obviously on this site that strategy is working pretty well.  If you took all the IP out of an iPhone that Apple did not contribute, there really isn't much left.



     


    The difference is that all current systems are not portable.


    You can configure your car, but that configuration parameters are stuck to that one car.


     


    Apple's innovation is that your settings could become portable.


    Imagine you are a frequent business traveler...


    You walk up to a rental car...it is configured to your preferences.


    You arrive at your hotel room...it is configured to your preferences.


     


    You get on a plane and sit down in first class...it is configured to your preferences.
  • Reply 12 of 14
    tallest skiltallest skil Posts: 43,399member
    frood wrote: »
    And lock you inside- for your own safety... Its a dangerous world out there!

    That said, another obstructionist non-patent from a tech company here.  Microcontrollers in many cars already store multiple users and do all this automatically.  Copying exactly something that has been done for years and adding 'on an iPhone' does not make it magic, revolutionary, nor a patent that will hold up in court.

    The patent office has to grant patents based on their strict rulesets- part of which is no one has patented this yet because until recently patenting the obvious wasn't a business strategy.  Well, okay, maybe Amazon with one click purchasing, but even that is fairly recent.

    Plenty of other companies are going to do this, Apple will claim IP theft and get their troops in an uproar, Apple will be smart enough not to use this patent in litigation- but if they do it will be invalidated and that will 'bond' their fans to commiserate with them.

    I'm really beginning to believe this is a strategy Apple uses to convince their users they are magical and everyone is stealing from them.  Obviously on this site that strategy is working pretty well.  If you took all the IP out of an iPhone that Apple did not contribute, there really isn't much left.

    So why are you even here?
  • Reply 13 of 14
    gtbuzzgtbuzz Posts: 129member
    I would really like to be able to hear well on the iPhone. Is that too much to ask. It does almost everything except function as well as our older clamshell phones. I guess they forgot that the number 1 thing is to be able to hear well. And my hearing is not impaired either.

  • Reply 14 of 14
    I think too many of you read the headline and not the article.
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