Patent report: next gen Apple stylus (oops, I mean Pencil), iOS/OS X smoke detectors

Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product, so here are today’s patent highlights:

Don’t call the Apple Pencil a “stylus,” but Apple has been issued a patent (number 9,329,703) for an “intelligent stylus” that hints at a next gen Apple Pencilwith interchangeable nibs (with built-in sensors, no less), Touch ID, a virtual eraser and more.

In the patent filing, Apple notes that when a stylus has been used as an input device, it’s traditionally provided simply a touch input to a touch sensitive device without additional information that can be helpful to operation of the touch sensitive device. The company plans to change that.

Here’s Apple’s summary of the invention: The stylus can provide a stylus condition in addition to a touch input. The stylus architecture can include multiple sensors to sense information indicative of the stylus condition, a microcontroller to determine the stylus condition based on the sensed information, and a transmitter to transmit the determined condition to a corresponding touch sensitive device so as to cause some action based on the condition.

Apple has also been granted a second patent (number 9,332,099) for “wireless device networks with smoke detection capabilities” — the first was number 9,123,221. According to the patent filing, an=d iOS or OS X device may use a built-in smoke detector may use the smoke detector to monitor for the presence of smoke. If it detects smoke, the iPhone, iPad or Mac could issue an alert or take other "suitable action.”

For example, the iOS or OS X device could transmit alerts to nearby electronic devices and to remote electronic devices such as electronic devices at emergency services facilities. Alerts could contain maps and graphical representations of buildings in which smoke has been detected. 

What's more, motion detectors and other sensors and circuitry could be used to determine whether electronic devices are being used by users and could be used in determining where the electronic devices are located. Alerts may contain information on the location of detected smoke and building occupants.

Apple says that smoke detectors are generally mounted at fixed locations within a building. A building occupant who is located in a portion of a building that is remote from fixed smoke detector locations may be out of range of smoke detector coverage and may have difficulty hearing audible alarms generated by the smoke detectors. Smoke detector alarms are typically limited in scope and don't include information of interest to first responders and neighbors such as information on current building occupants. 

In the patent filing, Apple says it "would therefore be desirable to be able to provide systems with improved smoke detection and alert capabilities." The company thinks the iPhone, iPad and Mac could fill that need.