Apple granted comprehensive iTime wristwatch patent

Lots of interesting detail in the Apple Insider article and in the patent itself.

Notice the use of the word iTime, as opposed to iWatch. If you go to the patent’s image section, on page 4 (Figure 2) you’ll see the word iTime prominently displayed on the face of the watch. Might not mean anything or it might be the actual marketing term Apple has in mind.

From the linked article:

Operationally, the system is based on the idea of converting the square-shaped iPod nano into a smartwatch. Initial claims note the media player can be inserted into specially-made straps that integrate various electrical components to augment the device’s capabilities. The document mentions parts like accelerometers, GPS modules, wireless communication packages and haptic feedback mechanisms as potential candidates for inclusion in the advanced strap structure.

Things start to get interesting when Apple describes what it calls a “personal wireless environment.” In essence, the invention illustrates an ecosystem in which the electronic wristwatch can interact with nearby devices like an iPhone, laptop or desktop computer.

Apple goes on to detail how this “piconet” works. Through either wired or wireless communication protocols, the wristwatch can operatively connect to a cellular or Internet-connected device. In this way, information can be exchanged from iPhone to watch, or watch to iPhone, either automatically or at a user’s request.

The word piconet is actually used in the patent.

The patent goes further, noting the wristband can also be linked to an iPhone in order to alert the user when it is left behind, stolen or out of range. While not mentioned in the IP, an appropriate communications protocol for such functionality would be Bluetooth 4.0, which supports proximity-based operations.

A piconet is a Bluetooth network, by definition. Presumably, an iTime device would make use of whatever version of Bluetooth shipped with the most recent iPhone/iPad.

Another image shows the iTime connected to a mobile phone, portable computer, and desktop computer. Seems obvious, but the implication here is that you could own an iTime and a Mac and things would just work, no iOS device required.

Also in the article:

Finally, tacked on to the end of the document is a contingency for arm and wrist gestures. Instead of controlling the smartwatch via fingers, users would be able to shake, bounce, tap or otherwise interact with the device through physical movements. Gesture combinations can be assigned to certain device controls. For example, an incoming call may be answered by a single wrist shake, or declined with two shakes and a tap.

It’ll be interesting to watch this new class of gestures unfold. Clearly, the smart watch gesture domain will be different from that of existing iOS devices. While they might share some gestures (slide to unlock, perhaps), there’s a subtlety to the movement of your wrist that is different from that of your hand holding an iPhone or iPad.

Can’t wait.

  • Sharon Sharalike

    I notice that it was filed a little over three years ago, so I wouldn’t read much into the “iTime”. It would have been way too soon to settle on a product name.

    I’ll bet those arm gestures didn’t work out, in the same way they didn’t work out for the Nest smoke alarm. Too many unintended gestures.

    • collider

      Unless there’s a tap or voice “wakeup” ala Siri. One gesture I really hope they include is a swim stroke counter :)

    • Sigivald

      Also note that Nano wrist-cases came out more or less simultaneous with the Nano.

      IIRC someone – probably Gruber – was mentioning that Nano wrist-mounting was in the Nano announcement demo when it came out.

      This doesn’t even convince me Apple actually has a “watch” product in the pipeline, which I’d give at best even odds to, from what I’ve seen – it does convince me that they were interested in the space and willing to patent a novel thing, but that’s no guarantee of ever releasing anything, ever.

      (I share the dubious feeling around arm gestures – way too much effort compared to moving a finger around, and too easy to do accidentally or “wrong”.

      Multitouch is comparatively easy – you can tell exactly where every fingertip is. Guessing about a gesture from accelerometer data? Trickier.)

  • satcomer

    Am I the only one that thinks IF Apple makes this new smart watch it looks like it will be tied to the new 10.10?