Apple working on new Environmental Sensors Suite, with a built-in thermometer, for Mobile Devices

Apple potentially wants your next iPhone (or maybe an iWatch) to be able to detect humidity, atmospheric pressure and temperature data, according to a pair of documents unearthed on Thursday by AppleInsider.

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Apple’s “Electronic devices with environmental sensors” filing covers a component that sports multiple sensors. Attached to an electrical interface like a flexible printed circuit, the environmental sensor could include separate sensors for temperature, pressure, humidity and sound.

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Apple wants to equip mobile devices with even more awareness about their surroundings. Current iPhones have mics of course, but these are tied mostly to picking up user input rather than to seeking environmental information. The sensor array described in the first patent could provide mobile devices with information about weather conditions in their immediate surroundings, but they could also be used to offer up info about their user, too. Plus, most Android devices now contain barometers in addition to their other sensors for detecting motion, acceleration, light and more, so it makes sense that Apple would be exploring similar tech.

In a second patent filing entitled “Electronic devices with temperature sensors,” Apple describes a separate type of sensor that can be incorporated into a device button.

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The temperature detector built into a button is perhaps more interesting, especially for those watching to see what Apple’s first move into wearables will offer. It could work with the iPhone, too, worked into something like the volume control button or power on/off switch, and offering the ability to take both air and body temperature readings, but in an iWatch it would probably work even better as something used to provide a consistent and ongoing reading of body temp.

Smartphones are bound to incorporate more sensors as they advance, and these environmental ones would hardly be a stretch to imagine even in the very next iterations of Apple’s mobile devices.

The printed circuit is mounted within a device chassis in such a way that the component is at least partially enclosed save for an opening that allows sound, air and other environmental materials to interact with system sensors. 

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While somewhat open to the elements, the sensor package is protected from damage through use of an integrated rigid support structure. As noted in the filing, adding these extra sensing packages to a mobile device would normally require more ports, which could lead to the collection of unwanted debris or harmful material. To solve this problem, Apple suggests the sensor array include a microphone or speaker so that it can be installed into an existing audio port. 

As for data, the information gathered by the proposed sensor package can be processed by the device’s on-board CPU and displayed onscreen for user consumption.

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Shaminder Pal Singh

I am a student by day and tech blogger by night. I try to bring to the public the latest and greatest news from the tech world!

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