Apple patent application describes a networked smoke detector

The United States patent office published a patent application from Apple on Thursday describing a system where a smoke detector connected to a network can push notifications to a mobile device, like an iPhone.

Apple’s HomeKit platform for connected smart home products hasn’t officially launched yet, but official partners are preparing to roll out their products early next year. One of the logical first HomeKit products could be a connected smoke detector.

Generally, the patent application describes a smoke detector embedded in a connected electronic device. When it detects the presence of smoke, it sends a message to a wireless network that can automatically alert emergency authorities, activate equipment like sprinklers and send alerts to other electronic devices. Those alerts can be interactive: An example would be that the smoke sensed is from something burning in the oven, so you can tell the HomeKit notification on your phone not to notify the fire department.

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The patent application also indicates how motion detection sensors and GPS can be incorporated into the system. For instance, an alert pushed to your phone in the event of a fire could include information about whether anybody’s in the house. For multi-unit buildings, the system could push notifications to people in other apartments depending on whether they’re currently in the building.

An example of a notification from the patent application

An example of a notification from the patent application

Interestingly, the patent appears to indicate that smoke detecting sensors could be built into laptop computers, smartphones or tablets or even an Apple Watch. It also describes ways to use image sensors, like cameras, as smoke detectors.

This doesn’t mean that [company]Apple[/company] is going to start making smoke detectors like Nest or that it’s going to stick carbon monoxide sensors in iPhones and iPads. The functions described in the patent fit in pretty well with what we know about HomeKit: Sensors made by third-parties will be able to be wirelessly controlled through Apple devices and frameworks.

Patents don’t guarantee products, and there are countless Apple patents that never made it into final products. The network and systems described in this patent, filed in 2013, are also relatively obvious, and if the patent is ultimately granted — it is currently only an application — it could end up the focus of future disputes, just like Apple’s swipe-to-unlock patent.

A few of Apple’s announced HomeKit partners, like Honeywell, already make smoke detectors. It’s very possible we will see a connected smoke alarm among the HomeKit products launching early next year at CES.

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Images from U.S. Patent Application #US20140340216