Apple Patents Reveal Activity Sensor System

Apple Patents Reveal Activity Sensor System

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) appears to be getting heavily into sensors with the iPhone 6 and possibly with the rumored iWatch. Now it looks like the rumors we’ve heard may only be the tip of the iceberg. Apple Insider spotted three patents published today that describe a system of remote sensors that all report data to a central hub inside a connected iPhone.

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iPhone attaches to sensors: patents

The new patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office show how an iPhone connects with a number of remote wearable sensors. The sensors collect the data and send it to the iPhone, which then processes the data. The sensors track the wearer’s activities and control some scheduling functions, like alarms.

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One of the patents is called “Method and apparatus for personal characterization data collection using sensors.” It explains how a smartphone or other portable device would automatically respond to the data sent by the sensors. Whenever the sensors pick up any sort of motion, they send a signal to the smartphone or other portable device so that the data can be processed.

How Apple’s sensor system would work

The patents use the iPhone 5 as an example for the hub device. They use a number of standard sensors like a gyroscope, proximity sensor, location sensors, light sensor, accelerometer and other sensors. In the method Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) describes, the iPhone collects data from both onboard components and at least one remote wearable sensor.

After the iPhone processes the data, the system is able to detect what the user is actually doing, whether it’s sleeping, walking or anything else. The system then does a few tasks with all of the information. One is to create a scorecard for the person that tells about their lifestyle. The system can then use the scorecard to recommend vacation activities, monitor health or find other people to connect with who have interests that are similar to those of the user.

How motion data can set alarms

A second patent is called “Method and apparatus for automatically setting alarms and notifications.” It explains In that method, the sensor system leverages motion data and correlates them to a series of alarms. For example, the system could learn that the user goes to sleep at around 11 p.m. every day. Then if the user leaves the device set on “Do Not Disturb,” the system can decide to still sound an alarm because it has recorded the user’s usual schedule.

In another example, a biometric device worn around the wrist can sense that the user stayed up later than usual. After looking at the calendar on the iPhone, it can see that there’s a note on the calendar to call someone at 10 a.m. If there’s an alarm set for 9 a.m., the system could delay the alarm until 9:45 to allow the user to get more sleep.

Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) also describes how two people can use the same system. For example, it could change an alarm to vibrate if it senses that anorher person is sleeping within close proximity.

Adjusting alarms based on sensor data

The third patent is called a “Method and apparatus for automatically repeating alarms and notifications in response to a device motion.” It describes how the sensor system can detect if someone has woken up before their alarm and then break the “Do Not Disturb” setting to deliver a call to the user’s phone.

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Michelle Jones is editor-in-chief for and has been with the site since 2012. Previously, she was a television news producer for eight years. She produced the morning news programs for the NBC affiliates in Evansville, Indiana and Huntsville, Alabama and spent a short time at the CBS affiliate in Huntsville. She has experience as a writer and public relations expert for a wide variety of businesses. Email her at
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