Apple granted comprehensive 'iTime' smartwatch patent with in-strap circuitry, arm gesture support

Posted:
in General Discussion edited July 2014
In one of the clearest signs that Apple is -- and has been -- working on a smartwatch device, the Cupertino company was on Tuesday granted a patent for a wrist-worn wearable with augmented strap capabilities, support for arm and wrist gestures, advanced proximity-sensing circuitry and much more.


Source: USPTO


As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 8,787,006 for a "Wrist-worn electronic device and methods therefor" describes a device (dubbed "iTime" in one illustration) that fits squarely with speculation regarding a so-called "iWatch" smartwatch.

The invention's main claims, as the title implies, revolve around a wrist-worn device that can connect with other portables like iPhones and iPads, computers, or even the watch's straps, which integrate sensors and other circuitry to augment device performance.

Basically, a majority of the property details what can be considered a "smart wristband" that features a receptacle for a portable media player. What comes later in the patent, however, potentially reveals Apple's smartwatch aspirations.

As noted, much of the invention pertains to a convertible style smartwatch that incorporates a central electronic device removably secured to an advanced strap strap system. The idea harkens back to the days of Apple's sixth-generation iPod nano, which spawned a cottage industry for ad-hoc solutions that turned the media player into a wristwatch-style device. In fact, Apple's patent background alludes to the iPod nano by name.




Operationally, the system is based on the idea of converting the square-shaped iPod nano into a smartwatch. Initial claims note the media player can be inserted into specially-made straps that integrate various electrical components to augment the device's capabilities. The document mentions parts like accelerometers, GPS modules, wireless communication packages and haptic feedback mechanisms as potential candidates for inclusion in the advanced strap structure.

Things start to get interesting when Apple describes what it calls a "personal wireless environment." In essence, the invention illustrates an ecosystem in which the electronic wristwatch can interact with nearby devices like an iPhone, laptop or desktop computer.

Apple goes on to detail how this "piconet" works. Through either wired or wireless communication protocols, the wristwatch can operatively connect to a cellular or Internet-connected device. In this way, information can be exchanged from iPhone to watch, or watch to iPhone, either automatically or at a user's request.




In one embodiment, the watch is able to receive a notification initiated by a nearby phone, then alert the user to the event through audio, visual or haptic feedback (vibrations). Once alerted, the user has the option to take out their iPhone or dive into the notification directly on the watch, whether it be onscreen or through audio output like system speakers or headphones.

Various embodiments allow for incoming phone calls, text messages, social and news network feeds, among other information, to be displayed on the wristband's display. Apps can tap into the functionality and provide their own notifications, assumedly through iOS APIs. Data is "pushed" to the wearable dynamically, but more importantly users are able to handle the information directly by interacting with the source device.

For example, the wristwatch provides controls for a media player, while other options include control over apps or system-level functions.

Apple is describing a wristband-based remote input/output interface with high-level controls for a mobile phone, otherwise known as a smartwatch.

The patent goes further, noting the wristband can also be linked to an iPhone in order to alert the user when it is left behind, stolen or out of range. While not mentioned in the IP, an appropriate communications protocol for such functionality would be Bluetooth 4.0, which supports proximity-based operations.

The remainder of Apple's patent looks at physical embodiments of the invention, many of which deal with connecting and securing a portable media player like the aforementioned iPod nano.




There is, however, a key embodiment that does not require any additional devices. As illustrated in the image above, all components can be incorporated into a single enclosure, complete with display, sensors, circuitry and I/O controls.

Specifically, electronics available for integration in either the smartwatch core unit or surrounding strap structure include haptic mechanisms, various sensors, biometric components, GPS modules, NFC antennas, Bluetooth packages, proximity detectors and more.

Finally, tacked on to the end of the document is a contingency for arm and wrist gestures. Instead of controlling the smartwatch via fingers, users would be able to shake, bounce, tap or otherwise interact with the device through physical movements. Gesture combinations can be assigned to certain device controls. For example, an incoming call may be answered by a single wrist shake, or declined with two shakes and a tap.

Apple is widely expected to introduce an "iWatch" device with functionality very similar to that described in the patent above. Previously the stuff of rumors, evidence that the connected device exists is quickly mounting. According to the most recent speculation, Apple's first foray into the wearables game may sport a "slightly curved" 2.5-inch OLED display and could come in three sizes. The device is also said to have a heavy focus on health and wellness, with possible fitness tracking functions built-in.

While a specific launch date -- and the product itself -- has yet to be revealed, noted KGI Securities analyst Ming-Chi Kuo forecasts iWatch production to begin in November ahead of a December or early 2015 rollout.

Apple's comprehensive "iTime" smartwatch patent was first filed for in 2011 and credits Albert J. Golko, Mathias W. Schmidt and Felix Alvarez as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 100
    enserioenserio Posts: 2member
    Last to market, first to patent?
  • Reply 2 of 100
    irelandireland Posts: 17,616member
    Gut instinct: Apple calls it iWatch.
  • Reply 3 of 100
    Quote:


    As noted, much of the invention pertains to a convertible style smartwatch that incorporates a central electronic device removably secured to an advanced strap strap system. 


     

    What is a strap strap system?

     

    Does it look like the main body of the watch could be removed, and therefore interchangeable strap designs/colours be offered at some stage?

  • Reply 4 of 100

    Looks pretty good.

     

    I'm waiting for the real action to start - this thread is still in it's infancy.

  • Reply 5 of 100
    calicali Posts: 3,495member
    Did Eddy Cue mean this year we'd see the best Apple lineup in 25 years or this fiscal year?
  • Reply 6 of 100
    irelandireland Posts: 17,616member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by cali View Post



    Did Eddy Cue mean this year we'd see the best Apple lineup in 25 years or this fiscal year?

     

    His comment is meaningless because every year is Apple's best product lineup ever. If it wasn't that would imply Apple's products are getting worse. 25 years ago we couldn't dream of today's iPhone or iPad or iMac or laptop in terms of real shipping products. His comment makes little to no sense when you examine it. 25 years ago we didn't even have the internet. Suffice it to say he could have said, 'Apple's a product company and behind the scenes we are working on products. Don't count us out yet, we're working on things we cannot discuss today'.

     

    Essentially I think he's hinting at iWatch, a thinner Retina MacBook Air, and better iPhones and iPads. Not so sure about what's going on with Apple TV. And at this point it has been established that iTV is being held up on the content front, because the only way people will be willing to buy an amazing AIO TV from Apple is if they get all their shows and they get the TV at a subsidised up-front price: both content related problems.

  • Reply 7 of 100
    huglevhuglev Posts: 10member
    Excited about Jobs' last project to launch soon.
  • Reply 8 of 100
    irelandireland Posts: 17,616member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by huglev View Post



    Excited about Jobs' last project to launch soon.

     

    The iWatch will be very much a Tim Cook product. Jobs' last product will be Apple Campus 2 (God I hate that name).

  • Reply 9 of 100
    ireland wrote: »
    cali wrote: »
    Did Eddy Cue mean this year we'd see the best Apple lineup in 25 years or this fiscal year?

    His comment is meaningless because every year is Apple's best product lineup ever. If it wasn't that would imply Apple's products are getting worse. 25 years ago we couldn't dream of today's iPhone or iPad or iMac or laptop in terms of real shipping products. His comment makes little to no sense when you examine it. 25 years ago we didn't even have the internet. Suffice it to say he could have said, 'Apple's a product company and behind the scenes we are working on products. Don't count us out yet, we're working on things we cannot discuss today'.

    Only seven years ago Steve Ballmer (AKA Uncle Fester) couldn't even dream of an iPhone...
  • Reply 10 of 100
    mejsricmejsric Posts: 133member
    Next month Samesung release S Time.
  • Reply 11 of 100
    THIS is nothing like Samsung tried to get a jump on... and Apple patented it, Boy did they patent it! Back in 2011 too...

    Tying it into the whole Apple line adds value to everything Apple makes. When iOS 8 ships everything I own by Apple is connected, and with [B][I]this[/I][/B] I get connected into my Apple devices as well....
  • Reply 12 of 100
    gtrgtr Posts: 3,231member
    Only seven years ago Steve Ballmer (AKA Uncle Fester) couldn't even dream of an iPhone...

    He can't dream about it now.

    Because he has nightmares instead.
  • Reply 13 of 100
    crowleycrowley Posts: 5,930member

    Not keen on the in-strap circuitry part.  Samsung rightly got skewered when the first version of their Gear watch had the camera in the strap; being able to replace the strap independently of the watch face is a pretty big deal.

  • Reply 14 of 100
    troehltroehl Posts: 31member
    I don't think this has much to do with the "iWatch" My gut tells me that several years ago when they first came out with the square Nano, they saw people adding wrist straps to them and they started tinkering with the idea of it being a wearable device like a watch. They came up with some ideas and they patented them. But I think the concept and the technology has rapidly developed since then and the patents described here are mostly out of date, except maybe the gestures. I don't think anybody has been talking about that yet.
  • Reply 15 of 100
    irelandireland Posts: 17,616member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by troehl View Post



    I don't think this has much to do with the "iWatch" My gut tells me that several years ago when they first came out with the square Nano, they saw people adding wrist straps to them and they started tinkering with the idea of it being a wearable device like a watch.

     

    They saw nothing. Jobs suggested wearing it as a watch at the event.

  • Reply 16 of 100
    irelandireland Posts: 17,616member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by troehl View Post



    But I think the concept and the technology has rapidly developed since then and the patents described here are mostly out of date, except maybe the gestures. I don't think anybody has been talking about that yet.

     

    AFAIK there is a watch out there already using gestures. The key to these watches will be sensors. And I personally believe a killer feature would be decent music playback. It's be nice to have a set of Beats and a watch and go for your jog.

  • Reply 17 of 100
    shogunshogun Posts: 360member
    To me the most interesting thing mentioned here is the piconet. A network of devices that all talk directly to each other without needing to ride wifi is really powerful and not matched by goog or msft as far as I know. It's a personal network of interconnected devices that can speak to the cloud or wider internet through a gateway device in the system (iPhone). This is how the handoff features of Yosemite and airplay features of the next appletv update work. It's really really powerful. I expect there could be lots of different devices that eventually participate in this piconet, including some in the ears, on the chest (pendant?), and even inside the body (why not?). This is the next revolution and it's been in process for years right under our noses.
  • Reply 18 of 100
    nelsonxnelsonx Posts: 278member
    "NFC antennas"!!! I they go the NFC route I'm back into Apple ecosystem and I'll buy this watch and the 5.5 inch iPhone. Otherwise I'll stick to my Android.
  • Reply 19 of 100
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by NelsonX View Post



    "NFC antennas"!!! I they go the NFC route I'm back into Apple ecosystem and I'll buy this watch and the 5.5 inch iPhone. Otherwise I'll stick to my Android.

    NFC is dead-end technology, as is Android.  In 2011, Apple was likely still coming to those conclusions.  Although you never know: perhaps the iPhone 6 5.5" will contain the new Adobe Flash NFC Pico-Projecting 3D Haptic Display.

  • Reply 20 of 100
    ireland wrote: »
    The iWatch will be very much a Tim Cook product. Jobs' last product will be Apple Campus 2 (God I hate that name).
    No one will call it that. It will forever be known as the Mothership.
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