Apple eyes wearable computing platforms

Posted by Shane McGlaun

Apple is constantly filing detailed patents to cover various products and safeguard advanced technology. 

Some of those patent applications will result in products that will eventually come to market while others are for technology that may never see the light of day. For example, earlier this week we reported that Cupertino might be working on a watch of sorts for the masses. And now a new Apple patent application has turned up, describing what appears to be an entire platform designed for wearable computing.

The patent application is titled "Personal items network, and associated methods" and references dozens of earlier Apple filings, including more than a few dating all the way back to 2001. Some of the more interesting hardware devices the patent application details includes a movement monitor device, or MMD.

The artwork goes along with the patent application shows what appear to be sensors resembling band-aids. Indeed, according to the filing, these little sensors would be adhesive and include a processor, a detector, a communications port, and an internal battery. The application also describes sensors in the form of a credit card that could have a magnetic element.

"In one aspect, the MMD continuously relays a movement metric by continuous transmission of data from the detector to a RR. In this way, a MMD attached to a person may beneficially track movement, in real time, of that person by recombination of the movement metrics at a remote computer. In one aspect, multiple MMDs attached to a person quantify movement of a plurality of body parts or movements, for example to assist in athletic training (e.g., for boxing or karate),"  reads the patent application.

"In another aspect, multiple MMDs attached to an object quantify movement of a plurality of object parts or movements, for example to monitor or assess different components or sensitive parts of an object. For example, multiple MMDs can be attached to an expensive medical device to monitor various critical components during shipment; when the device arrives at the customer, these MMDs are interrogated to determine whether any of the critical components experienced undesirable conditions--e.g., a high impact or temperature or humidity."

Frankly, it sounds as if the MMDs are something like a souped-up version of the Nike+ system or any of the other wearable exercise products that track motion, calories burned, and other metrics. The artwork in the patent application also indicates that the magnetic sensors can be attached to various locations on equipment such as bicycles. Of course, the system can likely be used by professional athletes to stream data in real time to a scoreboard, TV or the Internet.