Apple Inc. (NASDAQ:AAPL) was granted 58 new patents by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Tuesday, adding to the list of its growing patent library. Among the deluge of documents is a patent that covers a battery-free wireless communication system that can be used to allow devices such as an iPhone to interact with physical objects, such as medical wristbands.
The patent titled, “Autonomous Battery-free Microwave Frequency Communication System,” describes an invention that has the ability to collect and use microwave energy gathered through an antenna while also wirelessly communicating with other devices such as an iPhone. According to the patent, the technology could be implemented in other physical objects in a similar fashion comparable to radio-frequency identification, or RFID, tags which are used in office ID cards, passports and public transit passes. But instead of using separate wireless signals for the tags, the patent proposes using Bluetooth or wireless signals instead, similar to how Apple’s AirDrop wireless file transfer protocol works on the iPhone 5 and iPhone 5S.
Among the possible applications of the invention covered in the patent are wristbands, flyers and cards. In one of the implementations, Apple proposes the use of the disposable wireless wristband in a medical setting to store data such as “medical records, administered medications or procedures [like CT scans] that had been performed on a patient earlier during hospitalization.”
Such hardware could prove useful for third-party developers and hospitals creating health and fitness apps using HealthKit, a software development kit that allows apps to integrate with the Cupertino, California, tech titan’s Health dashboard, a centralized tool built into the upcoming iOS 8 mobile operating system. While iOS 8 has yet to be publicly released, Apple has already attracted a number of medical partners for HealthKit, including the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.
Another implementation calls for the use of the battery-free wireless technology in credit cards or loyalty cards, allowing a mobile device to communicate with the card. But Apple also poses another possible use for the technology, hinting at an upcoming iWallet, which has been rumored in the last couple of months:
“In this case, the card 701 enables localized promotions to be deployed and offers the possibility of ‘one card in the wallet’ for multiple purposes [identification [[ID]], payment, promotions],” the patent description reads.
Following the lead of iBeacon, a Bluetooth based wireless technology used to deliver information and content to an iOS device, Apple also proposes the use of its battery-free technology in flyers and ads to “enable localized promotions,” such as discounts at a nearby store.
This latest patent comes as Apple gears up for a busy Fall, with the highly rumored release of a 4.7-inch iPhone 6 and what could be its first wearable device, which many have called the iWatch.