Home Theater

Apple’s ‘Centralized Home Controller’ Patent Suggests Apple TV as Automation Hub

Speculation mounts on Apple’s smart home announcement at WWDC; patent for home automation hub shows audio, video, voice and data in a single box, suggesting hub as next-gen Apple TV.


Detail from Apples home controller patent. For all of the illustrations from the patent, check out the slide show below.

Photos & Slideshow

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No sooner did I post some predictions on Apple’s smart home announcement at next week’s WWDC than a patent was revealed by Patently Apple describing a “centralized home controller.”

Thankfully, such a home automation hub was included in my predictions but I seemed to have been off on that one (see below).

Titled “Integrated home service network,” the patent (#8,593,995) includes this abstract:

The present invention provides a centralized home controller that is used to coordinate a plurality of associated packet communication clients. The home controller provides a centralized and unified control and messaging system for the various packet communication clients. The home controller also allows the packet communication clients to establish and control packet sessions among the associated packet communication clients, as well as between any one of the packet communication clients and remote clients. The packet communication clients are provided in consumer electronics devices, and the associated packet sessions support data, voice, audio, or video content. In one embodiment, the home controller acts as a proxy for the various communications between the packet communication clients.

Because this hub would support voice, audio and video (and not just small home automation packets), we wonder if the next generation of Apple TV could be that hub, which has been speculated.

The new box is rumored to be able to control “other devices” in the home.

If that is the case, there goes my prediction that Apple would acquire other up-and-coming automation-centric hubs such as Revolv or SmartThings. As those devices are more software than hardware, Apple really doesn’t need them anyway. Big prediction fail on my part.

RELATED: Apple Smart Home Predictions: Smart Watches & Home Automation Store

I had predicted that Apple will have its own if/then engine and device integration platform, and with help from Jim Hunter that a new smart watch would be a big part of Apple’s smart home initiative.

More from the patent:

Traditionally, consumer electronics devices have used proprietary control and communication interfaces, which significantly impair the ability of these devices to interact with one another. With such proprietary interfaces, the devices that may interact with one another must be from a common manufacturer or provide a highly related function. For example, certain stereo or home theater electronics components may be connected to facilitate common control and operation. However, such control rarely extends to cable boxes, televisions, computers, or telephony devices.

Given the rapid acceptance of the Internet and packet-based communications and the corresponding convergence of various types of media, including audio, video, voice, and data, there is an ever-increasing desire to provide multimedia capabilities through various devices in an integrated fashion. Unfortunately, the lack of effective integration techniques and the use of proprietary control and communication interfaces continue to provide a barrier to fully exploiting multimedia capabilities.

SEE PATENT IMAGES IN THE SLIDESHOW

To further complicate matters, many consumer electronics devices employ wireless interfaces that use a frequency spectrum used by other devices. For example, many cordless telephones operate in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz spectrum. Other wireless devices, such as wireless networking devices using wireless local area network protocols set forth in the IEEE’s 802.11 standards, also operate in the 2.4 GHz spectrum. As such, these devices often compete for the allocated spectrum and interfere with one another. Further, the use of different protocols prohibits these devices from being able to interact with one another.

Although networking and telephony applications are the predominant wireless technologies in the home, there is a movement to deliver audio and video to various speakers, controllers, receivers, and monitors or televisions. In addition to wirelessly delivering the media, the need to provide various types of media for multimedia sessions from the various devices in a coordinated fashion will require concerted control over the respective devices. As such, there is a need for a way to provide an efficient and effective integration and control of the various consumer electronics devices in an efficient and effective manner. …

The present invention provides a centralized home controller that is used to coordinate a plurality of associated packet communication clients. The home controller provides a centralized and unified control and messaging system for the various packet communication clients. The home controller also allows the packet communication clients to establish and control packet sessions among the associated packet communication clients, as well as between any one of the packet communication clients and remote clients. The packet communication clients are provided in consumer electronics devices, and the associated packet sessions support data, voice, audio, or video content. In one embodiment, the home controller acts as a proxy for the various communications between the packet communication clients.

The home controller may include various types of packet interfaces, including a local wireless interface for facilitating wireless communications with one or more of the packet communication clients, a wired interface for establishing ethernet or like connections with one or more of the packet communication devices, as well as an optional broadband interface for accessing a broadband network. The home controller may be integrated into one device or distributed over multiple devices. Further, a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) interface may be provided, wherein the interface provides a gateway that will facilitate the necessary interworking between a traditional telephony line or other circuit-switched connection and the packet-based interworkings of the home controller. In one embodiment, one of the packet communication clients forms a handset for a cordless telephone, wherein the home controller acts like a base of a cordless telephone. As such, telephony calls over the PSTN and coming in through the PSTN interface are relayed to the packet communication client acting as a handset to facilitate telephony operation. In addition to establishing and controlling sessions between and with the various packet communication clients, basic control instructions may be provided to or from the packet communication clients to effectively control the operation of other packet communication clients.

For the nerds in the audience, check out the slideshow for images from the Apple patent.



  About the Author

Julie Jacobson, recipient of the 2014 CEA TechHome Leadership Award, is co-founder of EH Publishing, producer of CE Pro, Electronic House, Commercial Integrator, Security Sales and other leading technology publications. She currently spends most of her time writing for CE Pro in the areas of home automation, security, networked A/V and the business of home systems integration. Julie majored in Economics at the University of Michigan, spent a year abroad at Cambridge University, earned an MBA from the University of Texas at Austin, and has never taken a journalism class in her life. She's a washed-up Ultimate Frisbee player currently residing in Carlsbad, Calif. Email Julie at [email protected]

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  Article Topics


Home Theater · Displays · News · Media · Slideshow · Apple · All Topics
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