Do you ever have trouble remembering when to replace your running shoes? Well, if Apple’s recent patent application goes through, you may be able to purchase athletic shoes that tell you when they need replacing.
That’s right. Apple seems interested in introducing an intelligent piece of footwear that will warn wearers of when a critical level of wear and tear has been reached. Worn out shoes don’t offer the correct amount of support to your feet and can cause injury to your feet, knees and even back, so Apple’s newest wearable technology venture is a health asset and not just something that looks cool.
The patent application — U.S. Patent Application No. 20130021152 — was filed in July 2012, with Curtis Vock, an Intellectual Property lawyer with Lathrop & Gage in Boulder, Colorado, and Perry Youngs listed as the inventors. The product is listed as a “shoe wear-out sensor, body-bar sensing system, unitless activity assessment and associated methods,” and has Apple Inc. as the assignee.
The patent covers three main components: a detector that will sense when the sole of the shoe has worn out, a processor that will measure the data from the processor and an alarm which will notify the wearer when the shoe needs to be replaced. They type of sensor has not been specified, but can be of any types including pressure sensors, accelerometers and piezoelectric flexing sensors. The data will be processed through an algorithm, which is set according to the specifications set by the manufacturer of the shoe, who determines at which point the shoe is deemed no longer good.
You may be wondering how the shoe will work. In their description, Apple suggested that the processor and other electronics would be embedded in the heel of the shoe. Sensors would be placed in the heel, as well as the sole and other points that tend to wear out quickest. The sensors may motion detectors what will read any type of motion and translate that into a timed unit which would tell the user how many hours they have on the shoe. A body bar may also be included so that weight and resistance can be detected in order to give the user a more qualitative measure.
The sensors will be powered by either built-in batteries or a generator that will be recharged by motion such as walking.
While Apple will not actually make the shoe, they are getting into the growing trend that is wearable technology. We have already seen wearable tech products such as augmented reality glasses from Google which enhances sports and other live events, and the Oculus Rift headset otherwise known as the Virtual Reality Gaming Headset.
The products that Apple seeks to create are a bit more subtle than other ventures in wearable technology have been. They seem to be seeking out devices that can work with their existing products rather than creating new devices to replace them.
This is also not the first time Apple has applied for a patent related to shoes or workout gear. They were recently granted a patent for sensors that are embedded in workout clothes.
The approved patent (8,099,258) covers system in which the clothing talks to the wearer’s iPhone to inform and create tailored workouts. The abstract on the patent application reads:
“A sensor authenticated to a garment transfers information, either wirelessly or wired, to an external data processing device. Such information includes location information, physiometric data of the individual wearing the garment, garment performance and wear data (when the garment is an athletic shoe, for example). The external data processing device can be portable digital media players that are, in turn, in wireless communication with a server computer or other wireless devices.”
This system builds off the technology that already exists in the Nike tracking system that syncs with iOS devices. Apple’s technology will take it a step further, however, due to additional sensors that will gather even more data than the Nike system, such as running stride which will track the lifetime of the garment. The idea behind the smart garments is that they are meant to design custom workouts for the users by monitoring their activity and habits.
Whether Apple’s smart garments and shoes will be a success with the fitness crowd, we have yet to find out. However, when it comes to the Apple super fans, the wearable technology may just take off.