Apple may turn to induction for iPod docking, charging

Posted:
in iPod + iTunes + AppleTV edited January 2014
Apple Inc. is attempting to develop a revolutionary dock connector for handheld consumer electronics gadgets that will allow the devices to be docked in any orientation and, in some cases, charged wirelessly.



In a patent filing covering docking apparatuses published by the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Thursday, the Cupertino-based iPod maker lays out several new methods for contact-based docking methods that employ electrical contacts to transfer data and/or power between a handheld device and a docking station that lay in contact with each other.



Of greater interest, however, is the company's discussion of "non-contact based platforms" such as inductive devices, optical devices, or wireless devices that are capable of transferring data and/or power without mating contact.



"When electrical contacts are used, the electrical contacts may be implemented in connectors and/or they may be surface or flush mounted on the housings of the portable electronic device and the docking station," Apple said of traditional docking methods. "In either case, each device includes a set of corresponding contacts that when in contact allow data and power to be transferred therethrough."



On the other hand, non-contact platforms, such as inductive coils, can be placed in each device to transfer both power and data. "The inductive coils are typically hidden from view behind the housings of each device and therefore they are more aesthetically pleasing than electrical contacts, which need to be exposed in order to operate effectively," the company said. "Furthermore, inductively based systems are more robust than electrical contacts. For example, there are no contacts to wear out and/or oxidize."



According to the filing, a docking station in inductive based systems includes the primary coil while the portable electronic device includes the secondary coil. Both the docking station and the portable electronic device would also include their own transceiver that both transmits and receives data.







"In one implementation, both data and power are transferred via the inductance-based system. For example, low frequency electrical current may be passed from the primary coil to the secondary coil in order to power or charge the portable electronic device and high frequency current may be passed from one coil to the other in order to send/receive data," Apple said. "The data and power inductors may be separate, integral or they may be superimposed on one another. In another implementation, power is transferred via an inductance-based system and data is transferred via a wireless system. The combination of inductance and wireless provides an efficient way to transfer both power and data while keeping both the docking station and portable electronic device fully enclosed."







Another part of the invention calls for interface mechanisms to be configured to communicate with one another in whatever position the portable electronic device is oriented in relative to the docking station. "That is, the orientation of the portable computing device is irrelevant to ensure communications between the portable computing device and the docking station," the iPod maker explained. "The interface mechanisms and operatively couple with one another when the portable computing device rests on the platform regardless of the orientation of the portable computing device."







For example, Apple added, the interface mechanisms are capable of interfacing with one another if the device is placed at various orientations between 0 and 360 degrees, more particularly at 0/360, 90, 180 or 270 degrees, and even more particularly at 0/360 and 90 degrees relative to the platform.



"In essence, the interface mechanisms are rotationally symmetric so that regardless of the orientation of the portable electronic device relative to the docking station the coupling therebetween still works correctly," the company said.



The August 9, 2005 filing is credited to Apple employees Steve Hotelling and Gus Pabon.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 39
    Fascinating!
  • Reply 2 of 39
    This sounds sci-fi cool. But if they eliminate connectors do we then have to carry around an induction dock if we want to sinc the "handheld consumer electronics gadgets" with a portable?

    I imagine they would be quite bulkier than regular connectors...
  • Reply 3 of 39
    So there you have it. All the speculation about an iMac/Tablet with a removable display is looking quite strong now.
  • Reply 4 of 39
    http://www.splashpower.com/



    they claim the field will not interfere with memory cards.
  • Reply 5 of 39
    I saw this a while back. Cool that it might be used widespread now that Apple is trying to use the idea.

    Quote:
    Originally Posted by greenwire View Post


    http://www.splashpower.com/



    they claim the field will not interfere with memory cards.



  • Reply 6 of 39
    This looks great! Wireless charging



    -tj
  • Reply 7 of 39
    A Layman's explanation of induction can be found here- It too sounded a bit too sci-fi for me but according to MIT it's perfectly feasible!



    http://web.mit.edu/newsoffice/2006/wireless.html



    BENj
  • Reply 8 of 39
    rhoqrhoq Posts: 190member
    I've got an Oral-B electric toothbrush which charges using this technology.
  • Reply 9 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rhoq View Post


    I've got an Oral-B electric toothbrush which charges using this technology.



    So have I, but I'd have thought in this day and age it's too wasteful of energy - the current flows through the charger all the time, I'd have thought (we only put the toothbrush charger on when it's flat, which probably spoils the point, but we like to do our bit for global warming and lower electricity bills...).
  • Reply 10 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by philb View Post


    So have I, but I'd have thought in this day and age it's too wasteful of energy - the current flows through the charger all the time, I'd have thought (we only put the toothbrush charger on when it's flat, which probably spoils the point, but we like to do our bit for global warming and lower electricity bills...).



    The iPod is not a toothbrush. The iPhone has a proximity sensor. An inductive dock could use any of a number of methods to sense the presence of an iPod and ramp up the power.
  • Reply 11 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Rhoq View Post


    I've got an Oral-B electric toothbrush which charges using this technology.



    Yes, it's not exactly ground-breaking technology, but I have had the exact complaint of why they didn't do this. About bloody time!
  • Reply 12 of 39
    Maybe they saw my post! http://forums.macrumors.com/showthre...on#post1196755



    Ffrom Jan 2005
  • Reply 13 of 39
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by greenwire View Post


    http://www.splashpower.com/



    they claim the field will not interfere with memory cards.



    It certainly shouldn't even be able interfere with memory cards. I'm not sure how a flash memory card could be erased unless the induction field is possibly thousands of times stronger than it really needs to be and heats up the wiring inside the chip.
  • Reply 14 of 39
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by philb View Post


    ... (we only put the toothbrush charger on when it's flat, which probably spoils the point, but we like to do our bit for global warming and lower electricity bills...).



    Yea lower bills! I've seen this (Splashpower) or something very similar a couple years or so ago too. Very interesting stuff indeed. Oh, and BTW, thank goodness for global warming; or we'd still be in the Ice Age.
  • Reply 15 of 39
    kolchakkolchak Posts: 1,398member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cavallo View Post


    The iPod is not a toothbrush. The iPhone has a proximity sensor. An inductive dock could use any of a number of methods to sense the presence of an iPod and ramp up the power.



    True enough, but inductive charging is intrinsically less efficient than conductive charging. Basically, you're creating a second transformer, in addition to the first one in the AC adapter. Transformers always introduce losses into a system. I would have preferred a conductive system with contacts that didn't care about orientation. For instance, maybe contacts in concentric rings on the iPod, with a line of contacts on the dock such that they always align as a radius on the rings.



    But energy efficiency is not a big concern for most people anyway. That's why we collectively waste lots of electricity broadcasting WiFi signals all over the place instead of using long Ethernet cables at home.
  • Reply 16 of 39
    irelandireland Posts: 17,493member
    Those pictures look like the Video iPod, now release the damn thing.
  • Reply 17 of 39
    Oh, fer cryin' in the sink. I just bought a car deck with an iPod connector. If they phase this out, then how will I connect to amplification systems that don't have the connector? Grr.
  • Reply 18 of 39
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,946member
    Quote:
    Originally Posted by Cavallo View Post


    The iPod is not a toothbrush. The iPhone has a proximity sensor. An inductive dock could use any of a number of methods to sense the presence of an iPod and ramp up the power.



    It's not the recieving side that needs a prox sensor.



    I'm not sure if this system would be as good as just using a cable. The charging system would add a little weight, and take space and not be as fast to sync as a straight connector, using a high speed wireless would take a fair amount of power.
  • Reply 19 of 39
    maestro64maestro64 Posts: 4,371member
    Come on people, this is not a new idea, this is exactly how a transformer works. You have two piece of metal separated by an insultator and you and transfer power, it can be 1 to 1 or you can step-up or down the power and current depending on the ratios.



    Ok, maybe some of you are not engineers here, but all they are doing is makeing the prodcut part of the transformer verses it be a separate device. The only way this can works if the product has some type of metal pick-up in it with wires wrapped around it. I would images that this could cause the phone or device to be larger than they are now since transformers are not really effiecent. You will have lots of lost energy.
  • Reply 20 of 39
    cosmonutcosmonut Posts: 4,872member
    I remember years ago when people joked about a "cordless extension cord." I always had a feeling that it might actually happen someday. This looks closer than anything else.
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