Apple's "smart shoes" notify users when they need replacing

Posted:
in General Discussion edited January 2014
An interesting Apple patent application discovered on Thursday describes a sensor and alarm system that can be embedded into footwear, granting users a more empirical method on which to rely when deciding to replace worn-out shoes.

Shoe
Apple's worn-out shoe alert system. | Source: USPTO


First filed with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office in July 2012, Apple's application for a "Shoe wear-out sensor, body-bar sensing system, unitless activity assessment and associated methods" looks to make "smart shoes" that can alert owners when they need replacing.

As Apple describes it, shoes not only provide comfort and protection, but also stability for feet during physical activities such as sports or training. Over time and continued use, a shoe's support decreases, thereby reducing the effectiveness of its protection. There comes a point when a "critical wear level" is reached where a shoe may not provide enough support and can in some cases actually cause foot damage. Because this level of wear may not be apparent to the user, a sensor and alarm system could be a solution to preventing injury.

System
Illustration of system with external display.


The patent basically involves three main components: a detector for sensing when the shoe wears out; a processor to measure the detector's data; and an alarm for alerting the user when a shoe is no longer stable. Sensors can be of any type, including accelerometers, pressure sensors and piezoelectric flexing sensors, among others. Data is processed through an algorithm, which can be set according to a shoe manufacturer's specifications, that determines at what point a shoe is at the threshold of failure.

In one embodiment, a "unitless" activity number may be assigned to the sensed motions by the processor, which in turn generates an "activity value" based on a predetermined maximum number. The unitless system can also be applied over time by taking samples at periodic intervals. For example, if a shoe is rated for 500 hours of use, the alarm would sound after the system recorded that amount of activity.

Other physical metrics not directly associated with one's shoes are also accounted for as another embodiment involves a body bar sensing component that is used to quantify the repeated movements of lifting weights. These repetitions can be processed and ultimately represented graphically on a display device.

Sensor
Illustration of body bar sensing detector with bar weight.


Powering the system is either a built-in battery or a mechanical electric generation device, while the alarm can take the form of an LED light, speaker or display. Also incorporated in some embodiments is a wireless interface, suggesting compatibility with portable devices like the iPhone or iPad.

Apple envisions the processor, alarm and other necessary electronics to reside in a shoe's heel or any other location where there is ample room for the circuitry. The sensor, or sensors, can be placed in the outsole, heel and other various locations ripe for wear-out detection.

Package
Complex system with periodic sampling processor.


While an Apple-branded pair of basketball shoes may be far off, similar technology is already being used by major brands like Nike to track athletes' performance.

The patent application credits Curtis A. Vock; Curtis and Perry Youngs as its inventors.
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Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71


    Sounds like a pisstake. 

  • Reply 2 of 71
    marvfoxmarvfox Posts: 2,275member


    More bullshit from Apple.

     

  • Reply 3 of 71
    I didn't realise it was 1 April!
  • Reply 4 of 71


    If you can't go by looks and feel of when your shoes are worn out, you are a Neanderthal and don't need shoes anyway.

  • Reply 5 of 71
    dreyfus2dreyfus2 Posts: 1,071member


    A clever approach to address the growth expectations of the analysts. People only use one phone, but most have two feet. Boom.

  • Reply 6 of 71
    jragostajragosta Posts: 10,473member
    jamesmcd wrote: »
    Sounds like a pisstake. 

    marvfox wrote: »
    More bullshit from Apple.

    If you can't go by looks and feel of when your shoes are worn out, you are a Neanderthal and don't need shoes anyway.

    As I expected, the uninformed Apple haters are out in force.

    You can't always tell when a shoe is worn out from simply looking at it. A shoe can lose its support and still look OK from the outside. For most people, that's not an issue, but it could be a serious issue for some people.

    That said, I really doubt if it's a big enough market to justify development.
  • Reply 7 of 71
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,949member
    Great, more e-waste. I don't see the value outside of prescription shoes.
  • Reply 8 of 71
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,102member


    It sounds like one of those odd "outside-their-market" Google projects rather than something Apple would spend any time, effort, or money on. Not exactly in tune with Apple's "laser focus".

  • Reply 9 of 71
    macxpressmacxpress Posts: 4,973member


    My feet and wallet tell me when I need to replace my shoes. Why is this necessary????


     


    Whats next, sensors built in to tell me when I need to wash my clothes or take a shower?

  • Reply 10 of 71


    Probably just intended as another weapon for Steve's patent war chest in case Nike/Gucci/Ugg/etc ever pissed him off and he decided to go thermonuclear on them...

  • Reply 11 of 71


    Isn't today International Belly Laugh Day?

  • Reply 12 of 71


    Apple is acting like IBM, making new inventions but most of these inventions never going to be release as a product. It is just to create more patents to their portfolio.

  • Reply 13 of 71
    pjapkpjapk Posts: 23member


    Are shoe shops now suddenly filling with Samsung employees?

  • Reply 14 of 71
    asciiascii Posts: 5,941member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by marvfox View Post


    More bullshit from Apple.

     



    Speaking of which, shoes that warn you when you're about to step in poop would be good.

  • Reply 15 of 71


    using Apple Maps?

     

  • Reply 16 of 71
    jeffdmjeffdm Posts: 12,949member
    gatorguy wrote: »
    It sounds like one of those odd "outside-their-market" Google projects rather than something Apple would spend any time, effort, or money on. Not exactly in tune with Apple's "laser focus".

    Not totally without precedence: Nike+

    It might not even need extra hardware.
  • Reply 17 of 71
    gatorguygatorguy Posts: 21,102member

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by JeffDM View Post





    Not totally without precedence: Nike+



    It might not even need extra hardware.


    Thanks, I had forgotten about that one.

  • Reply 18 of 71
    I think the concept is great. How about for my tooth brush or a pacemaker battery or any other device that needs to be replaced when worn out!
  • Reply 19 of 71

    Quote:

    Originally Posted by macxpress View Post


    My feet and wallet tell me when I need to replace my shoes. Why is this necessary????


     


    Whats next, sensors built in to tell me when I need to wash my clothes or take a shower?



     


    Probably more helpful than the shoes for some!


     


    Back to the shoes, I can see when a pro athlete (or wannabe) might find these helpful and it doesn't seem like too much of stretch to extend the Nike+ functionality to include this data. I would also like to have accelerometers to give me an idea of the relative impact of some excersises to avoid unnecessary fatigue on the skeleton (e.g., or for the morbidly obese). These things being said it may be too much of a niche today but prices go down and in a very few years people might be willing to pay the premium (e.g., look at $200 or more for Air Jordans and they are just a style thing -- but apparently they make enough of those to justify the expense of a smaller run than some of their less expensive shoes).

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