Apple invents active shutter system to protect iPhones from liquid, contaminants

Posted:
in General Discussion edited November 2015
An Apple patent application published Thursday details methods of implementing a powered shutter system that automatically blocks access to speaker, microphone and other iPhone and iPad port openings, protecting the sensitive components within.


Source: USPTO


As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's "Electronic devices with housing port shutters" application describes a system of electrically controlled shutters disposed over the openings of critical components like speaker boxes and microphones. At the command of an onboard logic, these shutter mechanisms can quickly block acoustic pathways -- portholes -- from damaging physical contaminants, potentially saving hundreds of dollars in repair costs.

Apple's invention can be applied to nearly any opening on an iPhone, from the headphone jack to the side-mounted SIM card slot. The document goes into detail on higher risk structures like an ear speaker or microphone, which in current designs have only a fine mesh standing between them and the elements.




In practice, multiple moveable shutter members or louvers are installed to align with openings in a device housing. On an iPhone 6s, for example, an effective shutter array protecting the down-firing system speaker would feature six slats, one for each round porthole. The idea is to seal off the air chamber when a speaker is not in use, thereby preventing ingress of liquid, dust and other contaminants.




Coupled to the shutter members, either individually or as an integrated mechanism, are movable positioners controlled by dedicated circuitry. Ideal embodiments for these components include solenoids, shape memory metals, piezoelectric actuators and the like. When activated by the central control logic, the positioner or positioners rotate, slide, pivot or otherwise move its attached shutter into position over a corresponding housing port.

In some embodiments, the shutter or shutter slats are curved to conform to similarly formed device walls, a design element liberally applied to Apple's most recent iOS devices. A silicone O-ring might also be installed on shutter edges, or integrated into the shutter itself, to achieve an air-tight seal.




Apple proposes employing sensing modules to detect the presence of moisture, airborne contaminants and other potentially detrimental environmental conditions that would warrant a state change from open to closed, or vice versa. The shutters might maintain a fully closed state, opening only when an event like a phone call or system alert requires speaker access. Alternatively, shutters could naturally maintain a fully open state, closing when onboard sensors detect an elevated risk of contamination.

In some cases users can activate shutters using voice commands or a dedicated onscreen GUI.




Finally, Apple's invention allows for an external switch to act as a manual override, handy for conserving energy or operating a shutter mechanism on a powered-down device.

While a novel invention, Apple's shutter mechanism is unlikely to make its way into a shipping product anytime soon. The company is already having difficulty cramming components into devices that grow increasingly thin with each successive design refresh. Today's patent application, however, is yet another indicator of Apple's recent interest in active protection systems, suggesting some type of advanced implementation could be in the offing.

Apple's active shutter patent application was first filed for in May 2014 and credits SungChang Lee, Kee Suk Ryu and Ki Myung Lee as its inventors.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 17
    19831983 Posts: 1,165member
    Nice idea, but seems rather too complex to be practical. But you never know, technology advances at a rapid pace...
  • Reply 2 of 17
    Just put a thin layer of GoreTex in front of the vent ;)
  • Reply 3 of 17
    Awaiting a similar announcement from Samsung within days.
  • Reply 4 of 17
    lkrupplkrupp Posts: 6,939member

    Apple has never invented anything. I read this on the Internet.

  • Reply 5 of 17
    lkrupp wrote: »
    Apple has never invented anything. I read this on the Internet.
    lol...:D
    Ya.. I read on the internet that everything on the internet is true..

    Cheers ;)
  • Reply 6 of 17
    1983 wrote: »
    Nice idea, but seems rather too complex to be practical.

    um, so do cell cell phones. and computers. and...
  • Reply 7 of 17

    File this under DAFT along with the water wings

     

    Researchers at Apple are working on an automated bumper system which doubles as a flotation device, absorbing shock from falls while also protecting the phone from water

  • Reply 8 of 17

    Okay, so that second port on the iPad Pro. Why not just replace Lighting with something like that, and then you can have the entire device already closed up all the time?

     

    “3.5mm...”



    I think by the time Apple could make such a port Bluetooth would finally have the bandwidth needed to carry ALAC audio.

  • Reply 9 of 17
    jonljonl Posts: 210member

    Just like the Batmobile. I approve of this.

  • Reply 10 of 17
    Well, I think this invention is stupid, IMHO. What if it break easily since that part is so tiny? What if it failed to cover when the iPhone dropped in water? What if it cover premature where you can't hear the speaker and iPhone can't "hear" your voice via microphone? Apple should use nanotechnology to coat iPhone with. It's just IMHO. In some of states in the United States have high humidity especially Oklahoma, the East and West Coastal and Gulf of Mexico that can triggering that Apple invention technology premature and may be cover for long time while humidity is higher than 50% or more... Hope y'all understand what I'm talking about....
  • Reply 11 of 17
    An Apple patent application published Thursday details methods of implementing a powered shutter system that automatically blocks access to speaker, microphone and other iPhone and iPad port openings, protecting the sensitive components within.

    Apple's active shutter patent application was first filed for in May 2014 and credits SungChang Lee, Kee Suk Ryu and Ki Myung Lee as its inventors.

    Wait! Those are all Korean names! What's going on with Apple? Have they been hiring away Samsung engineers to learn what DOESN'T work?
  • Reply 12 of 17
    texdeafy wrote: »
    Well, I think this invention is stupid, IMHO. What if it break easily since that part is so tiny? What if it failed to cover when the iPhone dropped in water? What if it cover premature where you can't hear the speaker and iPhone can't "hear" your voice via microphone? Apple should use nanotechnology to coat iPhone with. It's just IMHO. In some of states in the United States have high humidity especially Oklahoma, the East and West Coastal and Gulf of Mexico that can triggering that Apple invention technology premature and may be cover for long time while humidity is higher than 50% or more... Hope y'all understand what I'm talking about....
    Obviously, they wouldn't implement the tech in any products until it can reliably detect such humidity levels. Remember that Apple's patents don't usually manifest in a consumer-facing product until at least 2 years after they file it, and many times it takes even longer.
  • Reply 13 of 17
    jmc54jmc54 Posts: 202member
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by Moreck View Post





    Obviously, they wouldn't implement the tech in any products until it can reliably detect such humidity levels. Remember that Apple's patents don't usually manifest in a consumer-facing product until at least 2 years after they file it, and many times it takes even longer.



    If at all! Such is the nature of research!

  • Reply 14 of 17
    texdeafy wrote: »
    Well, I think this invention is stupid,

    thanks. now, just so i can weigh your technical opinion appropriately, where can i review your engineering credentials and portfolio?

    because if you're not an engineer I'm confused how you can believe a thing is stupid that you haven't seen, used, evaluated, thought about deeply, etc..
  • Reply 15 of 17
    "a novel invention"

    "increasingly thin"

    Please stop butchering the English language!
  • Reply 16 of 17
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TexDeafy View Post



    Well, I think this invention is stupid, IMHO. What if it break easily since that part is so tiny? What if it failed to cover when the iPhone dropped in water? What if it cover premature where you can't hear the speaker and iPhone can't "hear" your voice via microphone? Apple should use nanotechnology to coat iPhone with. It's just IMHO. In some of states in the United States have high humidity especially Oklahoma, the East and West Coastal and Gulf of Mexico that can triggering that Apple invention technology premature and may be cover for long time while humidity is higher than 50% or more... Hope y'all understand what I'm talking about....

     

    What if it break easily since that part is so tiny?

    First, the iPhone is a huge collection of micro miniature parts. Proper materials choice & stress testing during EVT/PVT phases should eliminate this. These phones are built structurally sound -- just cause some folks showed the 6/6+ iPhones flexing when applying torque longitudinally and latitudinally does not mean the were weak.

     

    use nanotechnology to coat iPhone with

    Is this supposed to mean some nano pumps that would collect and remove moisture actively? Talk about small. I don't think anything like that exists outside the lab -- I would look for these with the quantum CPU devices ¡

     

    Typically these types of sensors have more that just a 'douche' detector -- some environmental detectors look for 2 or more positives to make sure it is not a false pos (eg, for a fire: fine airborne particulate, heat, CO, etc.). I have lived down Houston area (i.e., adjacent to Gulf of Mexico) since I got my first iPhone and myself and family have been thru most of the models. My wife dropped her 4s in the toilet, shut it down, shock it out, cool blow dryer then pack with dry rice -- steamed or fried really messes things up -- after a nice rest and full recharge it booted up and has been no problem.

     

    Relative humidity reaches >90% regularly here late summer (hurricane season) and the sweat from our bodies concerned me that it might register a false positive with the indicators -- the Genius Bar and AppleCare say that this will not register false positive (with or without a case).

     

    BTW: RH >= 60% is considered sticky outside not 50% -- 50% is fine with a light breeze.

     

    IMHO it might be worth looking at some truly fine mesh in a couple layers on a bias (with a 0.5mm btwn) might stop simple splash due to the boundary layer (aka surface tension) effect. I have also thought maybe an emergency activation of the vibrator pulsing when trying to dry it out. This would require a method to activate the vibrators alone without booting the device. This would complicate speakers a bit: might make it tricky to tune sound. I suspect ultimately the 'final solution' would be a hybrid (i.e., shutters, O-rings, screens, etc.) since covering multiple protection use-cases: splash, 1 sec dip in fluid to less than 6", the full monty jumped in the pool with it in your pocket went to 9 ft deep before you remembered it was in your pocket.

     

    P.S. If TexDeafy was intending to post something humorous then I fell for it hook, line and sinker. 

  • Reply 17 of 17
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by NolaMacGuy View Post

     
    Quote:

    Originally Posted by TexDeafy View Post



    Well, I think this invention is stupid,...


    ...Apple should use use nanotechnology to coat iPhone....




    thanks. now, just so i can weigh your technical opinion appropriately, where can i review your engineering credentials and portfolio?



    because if you're not an engineer I'm confused how you can believe a thing is stupid that you haven't seen, used, evaluated, thought about deeply, etc..

     

    +1

    Especially after @TexDeafy recommends the use of nanotech coating which I assume would have pumps or mops or smoother bot to help it  remove water -- or does this coating check it out diagnostically and repair PRN? ¡

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