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A Smart “landing” phone

Friday March 29, 2013 at 9:23pm

Apple has been busy applying for patents. On 26 March, the United States Patent and Trademark Office published 35 newly granted patents for the company. One patent in particular has prompted much discussion in the news as the technology it has trademarked could transform the smart phone world.

With Apple and its competitors continually striving to introduce new generations of smart phones that are sleeker, thinner and lighter than before, space for protection systems within devices is rapidly becoming obsolete. And, despite how careful users are with their devices, accidents do happen and damage does occur. With one particular patent, Apple aims to address this very issue. Apple’s “Protective Mechanism for an Electronic Device” aims to prevent or minimise damage to an electronic device that has a processor, with specific mention of the iPhone.

Apple proposed a type of sensor to be built into the device to detect not only when it is falling to the ground but also its orientation in relation to the ground as it fell. If that isn’t radical enough, the designs continue to explore various technologies which could re-orientate the device mid-air to make it land as flat as possible and minimise damage.

The patent application offers accelerometers, gyroscopes and position sensors as means to determine speed of falling and the position of the device. It also mentions imaging sensors and GPS as other technology to assist in protecting the device.

Re-orientation of the device is a whole other matter. Apple proposes a variety of potential solutions to address this core technology. Inclusion of a gas-propulsion device within the smart phone could provide a thrust mechanism to force the device to fall a particular way which is least damaging. A weighted mass within the device could also assist in ensuring the most sensitive areas of the device land face up. Alternatively, an aerofoil system could be deployed, shifting the phone’s centre of gravity and making it land a particular way.

In the same patent application, Apple mentions other technology which could minimise the dangers of damage to devices dropped while attached to cables. Auto-ejecting cables when a sensor detects rapid movement of the device may be the answer.

Regardless of which of these amazing solutions Apple will choose to explore in the pursuit of limiting accidental damage to smart phones, their granted patents ensure that Apple will be well ahead of the game for future generations of smart phones.

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