Apple patent details modular Apple Watch accessories disguised as bracelet links

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2017
Apple on Tuesday was granted a patent detailing a modular accessories system for Apple Watch that disguises electrical components like batteries, biometric sensors, solar cells and more as links in the wearable's metal band.


Source: USPTO


As granted by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's U.S. Patent No. 9,553,625 for "Modular functional band links for wearable devices" details a method by which Apple can greatly expand Apple Watch's capabilities after initial sale, thus prolonging platform longevity.

First published last March, the invention involves modular links that contain working electronic components. The miniature devices are fashioned after traditional watch band links like those found in Apple's Link Bracelet, and attach one to the next via flexible conductive material.

Apple mentions a number possible devices for inclusion in the link design including batteries, photovoltaic cells, electricity generators, cameras, haptic output devices, speakers and more. With Apple pushing the Watch platform as a top-notch health tracker, the document expectedly notes any ilk of biometric sensor can also fit into the link format, from blood pressure monitors to thermometers to sweat sensors.

Just as the traditional watch link design lends itself to easy-on, easy-off operation, so does Apple's modular accessory system. Each functional link can be thought of not as a standalone device, but as a node in a larger ecosystem. These nodes attach to one another and ultimately to the 6-pin diagnostics port on Apple Watch.


Illustration of link attachment mechanisms.


With links arranged in serial, the nodes share a common power line -- or power delivery circuit in the case of power generators and batteries -- and communications bus. Module control is accomplished by assigning unique identifiers to each link. In one example, Apple describes sending an audio signal from Watch through a chain of linked modules. The data travels over the communications bus and activates only those links that match the accompanying identifier code, in this case an attached speaker module.

Other embodiments allow for link extensibility, in some cases acting as an external port for interfacing with electronic components like SIM cards or expandable memory modules.




Whether Apple is looking to bring a line of modular Watch accessories to market is unclear, but today's patent grant suggests the company is interested in expanding the wearable platform beyond its current capabilities. Apple already addressed complaints from owners of the original Apple Watch by adding a GPS module in Apple Watch Series 2, but the device still relies on a paired iPhone for many tasks. Today's patent could go a long way in making the device more autonomous, and in addressing underlying battery limitations that currently preclude the integration of such features.

Apple's modular wearable link patent was first filed for in February 2015 and credits Motohide Hatanaka, Douglas J. Weber, Brian Shadle, Alex M. Lee, David S. Herman, Patrick S. Wieler and Simon R. Lancaster-Larocque as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 35
    How about a cellular baseband radio in one of those links?

    I would get rid of the phone for the watch all together. 
    mattinoz
  • Reply 2 of 35
    mattinozmattinoz Posts: 1,000member
    Bone conducting speaker would be cool as well. 
  • Reply 3 of 35
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,554member
    You could have a link that is a built in tracking device for parolees, probationists, deadbeat dads and sceptical scientists.

    The last ones also get a link get a little electric jolt whenever the next link along senses their thoughts don't comply with the concensus. Three zaps and they get automatically reported by another link to minitru.
    edited January 2017 williamhtoysandmejdgaz
  • Reply 4 of 35
    entropysentropys Posts: 1,554member
    Seriously though, links with extra battery capacity.
  • Reply 5 of 35
    leighrleighr Posts: 171member
    Doh! I came up with the same idea a while ago, should have patented it first! Although I don't think it was before March 20-6 though. Oh well 😔
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 6 of 35
    How expensive would these bands be? and if you wanted different bands for different looks you'd have to pay for all these components again? And what about 3rd party bands? Or would this be a specific watch model for people who don't care about changing bands? I change mine depending upon what I'm wearing but some people might not care.
  • Reply 7 of 35
    I can't imagine the reliability of this would be great...
    SpamSandwich
  • Reply 8 of 35
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,012member
    I would imagine most companies developing wrist-worn smart devices are working on similar systems. There's a limit to the bulk that consumers will accept, so adding additional components to the strap that would be used anyway makes sense.
    http://newatlas.com/unique-smartwatch-strap/39458/ ;
  • Reply 9 of 35
    fracfrac Posts: 480member
    mattinoz said:
    Bone conducting speaker would be cool as well. 
    Last I heard, the cochlea is not located in the wrist. 
    1983watto_cobra
  • Reply 10 of 35
    leighr said:
    Doh! I came up with the same idea a while ago, should have patented it first! Although I don't think it was before March 20-6 though. Oh well 😔
    Unless you came up with the implementation as well, trying to patent just the idea wouldnt do you much good.
  • Reply 11 of 35

    How expensive would these bands be? and if you wanted different bands for different looks you'd have to pay for all these components again? And what about 3rd party bands? Or would this be a specific watch model for people who don't care about changing bands? I change mine depending upon what I'm wearing but some people might not care.
    Are you actually trying to criticize the future price of a thing that hasnt even been released or announced, but merely patented? Do you realize how absurd that is?

    As for the other questions, I don't think Apple gives a crap about third-party bands. These would be modules for this concept, if you wanted to wear something else I'm sure you would be free to do so but it wouldn't be this.
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 12 of 35
    fracfrac Posts: 480member
    Mmmm...cool. Total immersion in EM radiation with direct skin contact. Makes me feel fuzzy all over. 
  • Reply 13 of 35
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,506member
    The Watch expanding as a sensing and communicating platform, between it and the user and the world. This is a very big deal.

    Apple is relentless.
    GeorgeBMacradarthekatwatto_cobra
  • Reply 14 of 35
    sfitzsfitz Posts: 1unconfirmed, member
    I think they may have an issue with this patent since a company called Blocks  (chooseblocks.com) has been working on this very idea and is now in last stage before going to production.  

    This would be considered pre-existing artwork and thus Apple should not be able to patent the idea... But then again they are Apple and there may be trouble for the small startup. :(
  • Reply 15 of 35
    flaneurflaneur Posts: 4,506member
    frac said:
    Mmmm...cool. Total immersion in EM radiation with direct skin contact. Makes me feel fuzzy all over. 
    Very low wattage, though. What are you, a mosquito?
    fracwatto_cobra
  • Reply 16 of 35
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 20,012member
    sfitz said:
    I think they may have an issue with this patent since a company called Blocks  (chooseblocks.com) has been working on this very idea and is now in last stage before going to production.  

    This would be considered pre-existing artwork and thus Apple should not be able to patent the idea... But then again they are Apple and there may be trouble for the small startup. :(
    Patents are not (supposed to be :/ ) for general implementations of an invention but instead very specific ones. As long as the claims Apple is including read on very specific ones applicable to the way they are used with Apple hardware they may be just fine. That would not mean others can't do very, even extremely, similar things with components built into watch bands.
    radarthekat
  • Reply 17 of 35
    blastdoorblastdoor Posts: 1,889member
    Seems like a neat idea. We'll see how long it takes them to turn it into an actual product. Hopefully they can do it before the people who came up with the idea move to Tesla. 
    watto_cobra
  • Reply 18 of 35

    How expensive would these bands be? and if you wanted different bands for different looks you'd have to pay for all these components again? And what about 3rd party bands? Or would this be a specific watch model for people who don't care about changing bands? I change mine depending upon what I'm wearing but some people might not care.
    Are you actually trying to criticize the future price of a thing that hasnt even been released or announced, but merely patented? Do you realize how absurd that is?

    As for the other questions, I don't think Apple gives a crap about third-party bands. These would be modules for this concept, if you wanted to wear something else I'm sure you would be free to do so but it wouldn't be this.
    Well there's no way a modular watch band would be cheap. Also Apple did partner with Hermés as well as providing official lugs for 3rd party band makers. Bands have certainly been an important part of the watch. I'm guessing this would be another Watch model or a different device all together. Or it could be like Google's Project Ara...a good idea in theory but not in practice. 
  • Reply 19 of 35
    http://www.leatherman.com/tread-425.html?dwvar_425_color=11

    Like the electronic version of the Leatherman Tread—a manly bracelet with interchangeable links with various tools. 

  • Reply 20 of 35
    flaneur said:
    The Watch expanding as a sensing and communicating platform, between it and the user and the world. This is a very big deal.

    Apple is relentless.
    My guess is this would be some sort of stand alone device or another Watch collection. I'm skeptical though about anything that would require FDA approval. 
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