Future Apple devices might warn users of environmental dangers

Posted:
in General Discussion edited December 2016
Apple published a patent application on Thursday covering an embedded environmental sensor capable of sampling both gas and liquids, a component that could one day inform iPhone and Apple Watch owners of potential unseen dangers in their surrounding environment.




As published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's application for an "Electronic device with speaker enclosure sensor" details a method by which an environmental sensor is integrated into a device speaker cavity where it can both sample material and enjoy moderate protection from the elements.

Incorporating an environmental sensor within a mobile electronic device is no easy feat. While movement, inertia and positioning components can be embedded deep within a device housing, sensors measuring air quality and other tangible assets must be exposed at least in part to conditions not suitable to sensitive electronics.

Apple proposes positioning the environmental sensor in a speaker enclosure or speaker port, a hardware array that includes a moving diaphragm situated in an empty volume or cavity. As the component is designed to weather the elements thanks to various vents, seals and other supporting features, it is an ideal fit for the proposed environmental sensor placement.

Further, movement of the diaphragm, perhaps under normal operating conditions, draws in, captures and expels air, water and other materials for sampling by sensor circuitry. A mechanically assisted sampling method can be particularly useful in refreshing air or liquids touching the environmental sensor. Without regular motion, sample material can become stagnant, thereby inhibiting accuracy.

Though a shipping version may be far off, or not coming at all, Apple already implements alternative speaker technology in its wearable lineup. Apple Watch Series 2 debuted this year with a speaker system that actively expels water after being submerged in liquid, thus allowing for clear, crisp sound following a swim or shower.


Illustrations of speaker enclosure with embedded sensors. | Source: USPTO


Apple notes the proposed sensor suite can include any number of components, including a temperature sensor, a volatile organic compound sensor, a particulate sensor, a carbon monoxide sensor, a carbon dioxide sensor, an oxygen sensor, an ozone sensor, other gas sensors, a humidity sensor, a moisture sensor, chemical and biological substance sensors and more.

A host device can be configured to take readings from said sensors, perform data analysis, keep logs and issue actionable user notifications. For example, sensor data can be used to issue a visual, audio or tactile alert if a user enters an environment with a high concentration of carbon monoxide or other dangerous gases.

Environmental sensor data can be combined with readings from other sensors, such as accelerometers, to inform more advanced alerts. In one example, a high temperature warning is dynamically adjusted based on user location and movement. Another scenario imagines the presence of high ozone levels, which might trigger an alert warning the user not partake in strenuous exercise.

Whether Apple intends to integrate the IP into a shipping device remains unclear, though a number of product lines, Apple Watch in particular, could benefit from the inclusion of tech described in today's filing.

Apple's environmental sensor patent application was first filed for in May 2015 and credits Fletcher R. Rothkopf as its inventor.

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 10
    I can already hear the voice in my head telling me: "Warning! Hazardous radiation levels detected!"
    randominternetperson
  • Reply 2 of 10
    I can already hear the voice in my head telling me: "Warning! Hazardous radiation levels detected!"

    Jeez, I'm glad I'm not the only one who thought that very thing. :)
  • Reply 3 of 10
    calicali Posts: 3,494member
     Apple, always thinking of stuff no one else does. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 4 of 10
    avon b7avon b7 Posts: 5,959member
    cali said:
     Apple, always thinking of stuff no one else does. 
    Well, for air quality sensors it won't be the first to try it. I've seen home surveillance cameras with sensors in them that tell you to open windows etc if it detects anything out of the ordinary in the air quality.

    The problem though, isn't the idea but if the sensors are up to the task and how much information is presented to the user. 


  • Reply 5 of 10
    When I read the headline I was thinking about "environment" more generally.  "Caution: sniper reported in the area.  Use cover wisely."  "Zombies detected on Pleasant Street; turn left on Maple Road."  But I guess sampling for anthrax and gamma rays is cool too.
    JanNL
  • Reply 6 of 10
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,022member

    Perfect product for hypochondriac.

    Just what we need people acting like Robby the Robot (actually Class M-3, Model B9), saying warning warning Will Roberson, danger inside. I can see it now people being afraid of their environment and trying to sue everyone. There is a reason ignorance it bliss, most people do not know what to do with all the information and having too much just make them worry about non issues. 

    edited December 2016 randominternetperson
  • Reply 7 of 10
    anomeanome Posts: 1,465member
    maestro64 said:

    Perfect product for hypochondriac.

    Just what we need people acting like Robby the Robot (actually Class M-3, Model B9), saying warning warning Will Roberson, danger inside. I can see it now people being afraid of their environment and trying to sue everyone. There is a reason ignorance it bliss, most people do not know what to do with all the information and having too much just make them worry about non issues. 


    That's not Robby the Robot, that was only ever referred to as "Robot" (or "Bubble-headed booby").

    This is Robby the Robot:


    Star of Forbidden Planet, and occasional villain on Lost in Space.

    edited December 2016 randominternetperson
  • Reply 8 of 10
    frank777frank777 Posts: 5,837member
    Does having to throw out a perfectly good machine because Apple made it impossible to upgrade the graphics qualify as an environmental danger?
  • Reply 9 of 10
    dewmedewme Posts: 3,946member
    This sounds like a great idea, especially if the data is crowd sourced into a central data analyzer and used to provide early warning of developing environmental conditions.  

    Now ... only if Apple could come up with an accurate BS detector  :p ...
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 10
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 5,022member
    anome said:
    maestro64 said:

    Perfect product for hypochondriac.

    Just what we need people acting like Robby the Robot (actually Class M-3, Model B9), saying warning warning Will Roberson, danger inside. I can see it now people being afraid of their environment and trying to sue everyone. There is a reason ignorance it bliss, most people do not know what to do with all the information and having too much just make them worry about non issues. 


    That's not Robby the Robot, that was only ever referred to as "Robot" (or "Bubble-headed booby").

    This is Robby the Robot:


    Star of Forbidden Planet, and occasional villain on Lost in Space.


    Correct, that is why I put in the correct designator for the lost in space robot, but people did refer to him as robby the robot since they were both created by the same person.
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