Apple this week was awarded a new patent by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), filed back in 2011, that details a new docking peripheral capable of changing a device depending on how that device is placed on the dock. The illustrations provided show off a mat accessory, which would perform different functions based on how an iPad or iPhone is placed. The supposed smart dock would feature a processor, integrated power supply and other hardware, corroborating a previous patent filed by Apple in December of last year.
According to the document, a device’s orientation on the peripheral will determine what function needs to be performed. For example, if an iPhone is placed face-down, the system would know to provide inductive charging to the device. Place the device face-up on the mat, and users would be able to perform wireless data syncing. Different orientations are included in the patent, including rotational position, whether the device is face-up or face-down, relative position to other devices, and more.
While the technology would be perfectly suited for a separate accessory from Apple, the patent also mentions the possibility of the charging surface being built into a host device—maybe an iMac’s stand, or in a MacBook. A recent report from The New York Times intimated that Apple was pursuing inductive charging methods, specifically for use with an iWatch, so this patent might add more weight to that claim.
In addition to being able to wirelessly sync between a device and computer, the patent also highlights the possibility of how multiple devices—perhaps two iPhones, or an iPhone and iWatch—can communicate with each other while on the mat. The ability to perform a specific function by a device’s orientation would be hugely convenient for users, and eliminate the need for multiple wires and complicated desktop software.
Apple’s previous “smart dock” patent described a device that would include an integrated microphone and processor, and include an always-listening mode powered through Siri for a hands-free experience.