This month, Apple filed three new efficiency patents, creating a new wave of speculation about the eco-friendly direction of the gadget behemoth. Here they are:
1. The first is a software patent that enables Apple devices to "register their power usage and communicate" using HomePlug Alliance, a set of universal standards showcased at this year's CES. The system would allow users to schedule and monitor the charging of all their "smart devices," ensuring that charging happens during off-peak hours and that devices are not overcharged, a problem which the Dept. of Energy estimates could be wasting as much as 10% of a home's typical electricity usage.
Watch a video about HomePlug Alliance on MNN.com.
2. According to Engadget, Apple also appears to be working on a proprietary "smart plug" that could internally perform a conversion from AC to DC (no more bulky white bricks) and regulate the flow of electricity to match the device, eliminating wear and tear on batteries by over-charging.
3. In 2008, Apple applied for the first of its solar gadget patents, solar-augmented glass that could be integrated into any device with a screen -- iPhones, Macbooks, etc. This week, Apple filed for a second solar-augmentation patent in which the entire device is covered by solar cells. The solar cells are networked to allow power to continue flowing to the device even if one's hand obstructs some of the cells. When the battery is fully charged, the user can change a setting that puts the solar cells in a "second operational state" and if the battery gets low, switch to the solar cells as the primary source (which one assumed would reduce the performance and brightness of the device).
It appears that Apple may lead the pack once again, this time in terms of product-integrated solar power and smart charging for personal electronics devices.
- Karl Burkart