Consumer electronic hardware and Internet services provider Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) of Cupertino, CA, is one of America’s most inventive companies in the high tech sector. On April 1st, the company celebrated the 40th anniversary of its founding by releasing a playlist on Apple Music full of songs from celebrated advertisements in Apple’s past. Apple is trying to drum up a better readership for its Apple News content publication platform by recently starting a Twitter handle to publicize articles, indicating some struggles in growing a membership for the service. Reports on adjustments to Apple first party app code indicates that iPhone and iPad owners may get some added ability to hide default apps from Apple which they don’t want to use.
Business headwinds have been tough for Apple in recent weeks and especially in China, where the tech giant saw its share of that country’s urban smartphone market dip for the first time since August 2014, dropping by 3.2 percent between February 2015 and February 2016. In Europe, Apple is under some scrutiny for offshore tax arrangements in Ireland which could force the company to pay billions to the Irish government depending on an upcoming ruling from the European Union’s Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager. Carrier deal clauses which help Apple products earn prominent placement in European catalogs has been targeted by the French government which is looking to fine Apple more than $55 million over the situation.
In 2015, Apple was the 11th most active patenting organization at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, earning 1,938 U.S. patents in that year. Apple finished ahead of its 2014 finish, which saw it in 13th place among patenting organizations, although it actually took in more patents that year with 2,003 U.S. patents. Through the first quarter of 2016, Apple took in 569 U.S. patents, a quarterly pace which would put it ahead of the company’s 2014 patent totals if it plays out all year. The text cluster provided by Innography’s patent analysis tools shows us that the great majority of the company’s recent research and development focused on electronic devices and user interfaces.
Patent Applications of Note: From Head-Mounted VR to Wireless Smoke Detector Networks
Apple often competes with South Korean electronics developer Samsung Electronics (KRX:005930) and it looks like the American tech giant is looking to edge into the mobile virtual reality market dominated by Samsung’s Gear VR with the technology outlined by U.S. Patent Application No. 20160085076, entitled Head-Mounted Display Apparatus for Retaining a Portable Electronic Device with Display. It would protect a head-mounted device worn on a user’s head and configured to integrate with a cellular telephone, the device having a frame configured to physically receive and carry the cellular telephone and place the telephone’s display screen in front of a user’s eyes, and then an optical subassembly interposed between the display screen and the user’s eyes which receives at least one image frame from the cellular telephone’s display screen. This innovation is designed to eliminate wired connections in head-mounted displays which may be cumbersome to users.
Fitness tracker technologies are another area of focus for Apple’s R&D, as is evidenced by the filing of U.S. Patent Application No. 20160058372, titled Terrain Type Inference from Wearable with Motion Sensing. It discloses a method of obtaining motion data of a fitness tracking device user, separating the motion data into at least a first frequency signature attributable to movement of the user and a second frequency signature attributable to a type of terrain on which a user is moving, determining the type of terrain on which the user is moving by analyzing both frequency signatures and estimating a rate of energy expenditure of the user by applying a calorimetry model comprising a parameter or coefficient associated with the terrain. This invention is designed to provide more accurate reports of calorie expenditures during aerobic exercise, which can vary based on the type of terrain being traversed. Improved models for more accurate assessments of caloric expenditures during exercise are at focus in U.S. Patent Application No. 20160058332, filed under the title Local Model for Calorimetry. It claims a method of obtaining a plurality of physical characteristics including age and sex of a fitness tracking device user, mapping each physical characteristic of the user to a corresponding sex or age index, selecting a first calorimetry model associated with each corresponding index and estimating an energy expenditure rate using the first calorimetry model at the fitness tracking device. This system of analyzing physical characteristics helps a fitness tracking device to determine a more accurate calorimetry model for determining how much energy an individual expends during exercise.
We were also intrigued to note some novel uses of wireless networks, especially Apple’s innovation laid out within U.S. Patent Application No. 20160072935, entitled Wireless Device Networks with Smoke Detection Capabilities. It would protect a cellular telephone having a housing, a display within the housing, a port and a detector configured to monitor for particles through the port. This invention intends on improving upon the scope of current smoke detector technologies, which are limited in their ability to provide information to building residents and first responders. Heat control in wireless networks designed to transmit energy are discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20160064948, titled Temperature Management in a Wireless Energy Transfer System. It discloses a method for operating an inductive energy transfer system including a transmitter device and a receiver device, the method involving determining if a temperature of the transmitter or receiver device is equal to or greater than a first temperature threshold during energy transfer, turning off the transmitter device if the temperature is greater than the threshold, determining if the temperature of the transmitter device is equal to or less than a threshold and turning on the transmitter device if the temperature is less than the threshold. This system is designed to provide better heat management during inductive charging of electronic devices which may be resting against a user’s skin and can become uncomfortable if the temperature of charging elements reaches too high.
Better recognition of trending terms in speech recognition technologies are discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20160078860, which is titled Method and Apparatus for Discovering Trending Terms in Speech Requests. It claims a method for discovering trending terms in automatic speech recognition by identifying a candidate term based on a frequency of occurrence of the term in an electronic data source at an electronic device, searching for the candidate term in an archive of speech traffic of an automatic speech recognizer using phonetic matching and generating a notification comprising the candidate term. This technology is designed to improve the accuracy of automatic speech recognizers by accommodating changes in relevant names and phrases.
Finally, we took some time to explore Apple’s continuing development of its mobile wallet service, as is evidenced by U.S. Patent Application No. 20160063490, entitled Mobile-Merchant Proximity Solution for Financial Transactions. It claims an electronic device having an antenna, an interface circuit coupled to the antenna and a secure element and communicating with another electronic device, the secure element configured to receive a transaction amount associated with a financial transaction, generate a signal blob using an encryption key based on the transaction amount and a merchant identifier, communicate connection information between both electronic devices, establish a connection between the electronic devices based on the communication information, provide the signal blob via the interface circuit to the second electronic device, receive a signed transaction blob including merchant identifier and financial account information from the second electronic device and provide information associated with the signed transaction blob to a server to conduct the financial transaction. This innovation is designed to provide a more simple and flexible platform for wireless financial transactions, which may increase commercial activity.
Apple’s Issued Patents: More Durable Display Glass and 3D Mapping Applications
Enhanced durability in the electronic devices designed by Apple is the focus of the innovation protected by U.S. Patent No. 9282653, which is titled Enhanced Glass Impact Durability through Application of Thin Films. It claims an electronic device having a housing with a glass member that has a user facing outer surface and provided over a display device in the housing, a portion of the glass member not including the portion provided over the display device having an amorphous carbon coating. This invention intends to improve the durability of a portable electronic device’s glass screen while maintaining a thin screen. A tool to help identify when an electronic device has been damaged because of water is at the center of U.S. Patent No. 9300773, which is titled Portable Electronic Device with Moisture Infiltration Indication System. The portable electronic device disclosed here includes a housing with a dock connector with a viewing hole and a moisture indication structure attached to the dock connector and viewable through the dock connector’s viewing hole. This system provides a quick way to evaluate moisture exposure in electronic devices, which could affect troubleshooting techniques or warranty claims.
Three dimensional representations of digital content were featured in a couple of patents recently issued to Apple, including U.S. Patent No. 9269178, issued under the title Virtual Camera for 3D Maps. It protects a mobile device having a set of processing units for executing sets of instructions, a non-transitory machine-readable medium storing a mapping application which is executed on the mobile device to provide an animated navigation presentation showing the mobile device navigating a 3D map of a region the device is traversing; the mapping application includes instructions for defining a virtual camera that identifies a view of the 3D map to render at different instances in time, generating a navigation presentation by moving the virtual camera along the navigation route on a 3D map to identify different views to render, moving the camera upwards from a 3D perspective view to a top-down 2D view of the map at a first threshold distance of a turn along the navigated route and moving the camera downwards from a 2D view to a 3D perspective view of the map. This invention was pursued to provide 3D mapping applications which aren’t burdened by processing-intensive demands. The generation of 3D content on a mobile device is also discussed within U.S. Patent No. 9275475, titled Generating a Simulated Three Dimensional Scene by Producing Reflections in a Two Dimensional Scene. It protects a method of displaying an image by receiving an image for display in an image window on a display, estimating reflection properties of an object in the display neighboring the image window, generating reflection content from the image according to a technique determined from the estimated reflection properties of the neighboring object, adding the reflection content to content of the neighboring object and displaying the image and the neighboring object with the added reflection content in the display. This technology address shortcomings in displaying 3D content when the presentation of that content on a mobile device isn’t tied to the environment in which the device operates.
More robust systems of managing personal image content on mobile devices is outlined within U.S. Patent No. 9294634, which is titled Application for Designing Photo Albums. It discloses a non-transitory readable storage medium storing a program for execution by a processing unit, the program comprising instructions for displaying a plurality of different selectable photo book themes specifying photo book layouts for publishing a set of images to different physical photo books, displaying a preview of a selected photo book theme, displaying a photo book layout in response to the section of a second photo book theme where the photo book contains at least one page for displaying a set of picture fields in a first orientation, replacing a first image displayed by a particular picture field in the first orientation with a second image in a second orientation, editing the photo book layout by switching the orientation of all picture fields in the set of picture fields from the first orientation to the second orientation to accommodate the second image and transmitting data regarding the photo book layout through the Internet in order to publish a physical photo book based on the photo book layout. This invention seeks to provide a novel way to mobile device users for managing their image files and create unique physical content from those digital files.
The generation of synthesized music which sounds more natural is sought by the technology protected through the issue of U.S. Patent No. 9263018, which is titled System and Method for Modifying Musical Data. This discloses a computer-implemented method of receiving musical data including reference timing data including a plurality of positions forming a musical bar and a succession of notes arranged in respect to the reference timing data, receiving input corresponding to a selection of a groove template corresponding to a shuffle rhythm and altering the arrangement of the notes based on the selected groove template by determining only a positive offset associated with each position of a plurality of positions, determining a position for the musical notes along the musical bar and applying the positive offset to each of the musical notes. This system enables users to select a genre that would change accompaniment parameters and characteristics to better suit specific genres, like rock or smooth jazz.