Apple looking to turn the iPhone into an intelligent universal media, 'smart home' remote control

in General Discussion edited January 2014
An Apple patent published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on Tuesday describes a method in which a portable device, like the iPhone, can save, manage and recall entertainment and "smart home" system settings, called "scenes."

Universal Remote
Source: USPTO

Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,519,820 for "Systems and methods for saving and restoring scenes in a multimedia system" was first filed for five years ago by the developer who coded the first iTunes Remote iOS app, Alan Cannistraro.

While Remote has become a powerful app that controls not only an iTunes library, but the Apple TV as well, Cannistraro's scene capturing patent is on a completely different level. What Apple proposes is a software driven intelligent universal remote that can connect to multiple A/V components, as well as "smart home" devices like lights and window shades, via Wi-Fi, Bluetooth or other wireless protocol.

As noted in the document, regular universal remote controls allow for scene selections, such as "play game" or "movie," but the devices are unable to intelligently suggest television, stereo or lighting settings. In addition, users must first set up what components are in the entertainment system, specify the settings for each "scene" and finally activate said scene.

To ease the burden of manually configuring the remote, the portable device receives information broadcast from separate components regarding their operating states. For example, the volume and fade settings from an amplifier can sent to the device and saved for later retrieval. Both software and hardware settings are supported, including what media is playing. Scenes can be adjusted as necessary and users can select their own saved scenes or create new sets via a common user interface.

Universal Remote

Further, the system can detect usage patterns and metadata associated with a certain scene, offering settings recommendations when appropriate. As for usage patterns, the system can track the times and frequency that a saved scene is accessed. For example, when a user turns on the multimedia system on a Saturday, the system will search for and recommend a scene that is frequently accessed at that time on that day.

For metadata, the system can detect identifiers like "horror movie" or the name of a song, then search saved scene data for a settings list that best suits the genre. Users have the option to accept or deny the recommendation.

Universal Remote

In some embodiments, the system allows users to stop and restart media when they move from one position in their home to another. If, for example, a horror movie is playing on one television and a user moves to another television, the system can recognize the switch and recommend playback be restarted from a selected scene. This swap changes the scene at the second television, from the point at which the media stopped to component specific hardware and software settings.

In yet another embodiment, the system can wait until a commercial break is detected to display scene recommendations.

While the remote control method would be helpful for many iOS device users, the possibility of its implementation remains uncertain. To operate efficiently, each component, including the television, must be able to broadcast identifier settings, as well as receive and respond to signals over a wireless network. The patent language notes wireless bridges can be used between connected devices and those without access, though compatibility may be an issue for older hardware.

Cannistraro first filed for the universal remote patent in September 2008, but much of the technology described has yet to make its way to an Apple device.


  • Reply 1 of 17
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  • Reply 2 of 17
  • Reply 3 of 17

    Software patents like this are bad.

  • Reply 4 of 17
    nikiloknikilok Posts: 383member


    Originally Posted by bzzlink View Post

    Software patents like this are bad.


    You know what they say.. "Neccessity is the mother of all inventions".

    There were days when Apple chose to be more light on what to patent and what not to.


    Ever since they realized the cunning cloning foxes out there, enjoying the fruits of there work, it leaves them no option but to patent everything from A-Z.

    This in turn will push the industry to do some of there own innovation. Which in the end will be good for everyone.

  • Reply 5 of 17
    ochymingochyming Posts: 474member


    Originally Posted by bzzlink View Post

    Software patents like this are bad.



    Patents are NOT dead ends.

    Each patent is just a way among zillions of doing A thing. 

    It is the ’’market’’ that decides which is The Best, which is The Cheapest.


    There are always plenty of ways of doing anything.

    The patent system was the basis of the Industrial revolution, without it no one would have invested on ideas, and those with big money would have always won.


    To patent an idea is one thing, buying patents to blackmail people is another thing.

  • Reply 6 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,387member
    This particular patent application seems relatively innovative to me. Nice work Apple. 8-)

    Of course that doesn't mean it will be granted. Even tho[B] I[/B] don't know of any similar developments doesn't mean someone else hasn't already done much the same work. That's what the patent examiner's get paid for.
  • Reply 7 of 17
    Now the question. Why did the USPTO take five years to publish this patent?
  • Reply 8 of 17
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 24,387member
    Now the question. Why did the USPTO take five years to publish this patent?

    Perhaps it was originally a provisional patent application?
    Edit: No, the time limit on those is effectively 24 months

    Edit2: Looks like it's now a granted patent (August 27th) rather than just a published patent application as the wording implied. Tho I'm no fan of software patents this one actually looks unique.
  • Reply 9 of 17

    good or bad, this is the next frontier for Apple.


    This sort of software will be critical for an iTV experience.  And with electrical usage soon to become a premium, the ability to manage your entire home's lighting will be a normal thing to do.


    I use Insteon now, and their iOS app is suckwads.   I do want to be able to say "Siri, I'd like to watch Batman The Dark Knight on the upstairs telly, please turn off the rest of the lights in the house.  Set the upstairs telly sound to "low Boom" and the room lights to 'theatre'".

  • Reply 10 of 17
    bzzlink wrote: »
    Software patents like this are bad.
    If apple didn't do this silly patent,others will do starts troll apple.
  • Reply 11 of 17

    Sounds very much like the Harmony Remote I'm currently using.


    The Harmony App turns the iPhone (also Androids) into a universal remote that controls all modes of electronic communication -- via Bluetooth, infrared and via WiFi. 


    While the Harmony App comes with a compact and useful physical remote controller for when your phone or iPad aren't handy, the system includes a Hub that handles all the switching between components.


    Like most people, I have a mixture of devices controlled via different technologies.  So the Harmony controls an IR Sony amplifier, an HDMI driven large screen TV, a DirecTv DVR, and an Apple TV, seamlessly.


    So if I want to switch, for example, from watching DirecTv to the local stations via HD antenna, the Harmony figures out the programming steps and executes the script for you automatically.


    I'm not sure how many of these claims will survive scrutiny.

  • Reply 12 of 17
    tom atom a Posts: 1member

    I disagree with your interpretation of the patent. What this patent does is store the current settings as a mode. For example, many stereos have different audio equalizer modes, ranging from rock to pop to movie, and some also have user definable custom modes.


    The patent extends that to allow storing all the currently selected settings (not only equalizer, but volume, etc., throwing lighting into the mix just for the hell of it, probably they would also add the kitchen sink setting as well), and instead of calling them user defined modes or states, the patent calls them scenes.


    Seeing that the patent cites only 13 references, it seems pretty obvious that Apple will not be using this as a strong patent, but might like to wave it around to prevent others from getting too silly.

  • Reply 13 of 17
    There's no way this can work, any more than any previous attempt has worked.

    The problem is that the devices are modal, and do not broadcast their mode. So, for instance, if I walk up to my receiver and press the "DVD" button, there is no way for the remote to know this. It still thinks it is in "TV" mode, so if I press the DVD button on the remote, it flips 3 times and now it's set to VCR.

    This applies only to certain devices and certain models. Other devices allow direct command to a particular input, which avoids this issue. Others do allow interrogation through HDMI, which avoids that problem. However, enough devices do not do this that practically any HT setup will have at least one of these.

    In my stack I have only a PS3, ATV, Sharp TV and Pioneer receiver. Of these, the TV and receiver are modal and unqueryable. Sooner or later the devices will get out of sync with the remotes and everything goes south. This isn't something Apple can fix, it's inherent to the devices.
  • Reply 14 of 17
    Apple TV. The tv we know is just around the corner.
  • Reply 15 of 17

    Originally Posted by bzzlink View Post

    Software patents like this are bad.


    Explain why or don't bother complaining. Is Apple trying to patent the concept or an execution of said concept?

  • Reply 16 of 17
    sockrolidsockrolid Posts: 2,789member

    Originally Posted by SolarEnergy View Post

    Sounds very much like the Harmony Remote I'm currently using.




    I'm not sure how many of these claims will survive scrutiny.


    I wonder if Harmony patented their technique.  And if they did, was the patent filed before Apple's?

    Apple filed their patent five years ago:


    "Systems and methods for saving and restoring scenes in a multimedia system" was first filed for five years ago ..."


    And yeah, I'm sure there are plenty of universal remotes that have some kind of multi-step programming feature.

    The remote that came with my DirecTV recorder has that.  And I didn't have to pay $400 for just the remote.  

    What a f-ing joke.  $400 for a remote?  That's an industry niche screaming to be disrupted.

  • Reply 17 of 17
    For there Apple TV probbaly
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