Skip to main content

Apple patent shows potential for HomeKit expansion using Ultra Wideband

What you need to know

  • An Apple patent published Thursday has revealed HomeKit could take advantage of individual socket control .
  • Apple investigating building electrical outlets for granular control of devices.
  • Also potential for Ultra Wideband support.

A patent published today has revealed that Apple is exploring ways to revolutionize HomeKit by creating power outlets that would allow users to control individual socks in their homes. The patent, titled "Modular Wall Unit System" was picked up by AppleInsider, and it reveals how improved tech could mean that a home automation system such as HomeKit could decipher where exactly in a building a user might be, so as to activate certain appliances or systems on a room-by-room basis (e.g. You could start your kettle boiling just by walking into the kitchen).

The patent features designs for wall outlets that could be controlled remotely, but could also communicate with other similar modules in the same system, sending data between them.

The outlets would also have self-orientation, magnetometers to act as a compass and an accelerometer. All of this would mean that a central system could determine a plan, knowing where each outlet would be in relation to all of the other outlets.

By using Ultra Wideband as present in the new iPhone 11/11 Pro, the units would not only be able to communicate with each other, but could also communicate with iOS devices as they move around the home and interact with each of these units (back to the Kettle example).

Obviously, if we ever see this technology it will probably be a few years down the line, but the idea of a home automation system where all of the sockets are aware of each other and can interact independently with each other is certainly enticing.

Stephen Warwick
Stephen Warwick

Stephen Warwick has written about Apple for five years at iMore and previously elsewhere. He covers all of iMore's latest breaking news regarding all of Apple's products and services, both hardware and software. Stephen has interviewed industry experts in a range of fields including finance, litigation, security, and more. He also specializes in curating and reviewing audio hardware and has experience beyond journalism in sound engineering, production, and design.

Before becoming a writer Stephen studied Ancient History at University and also worked at Apple for more than two years. Stephen is also a host on the iMore show, a weekly podcast recorded live that discusses the latest in breaking Apple news, as well as featuring fun trivia about all things Apple.

1 Comment
  • The problem, or challenge, with such systems is that they clearly don't know what to do unless you tell them. What I mean is that interaction needs to be set up. The motion sensor can talk to the kettle, but it would have no idea that you want it to turn on when you walk into the room, until you set it up to do so. Many things available today already have such capabilities. Arlo's cameras and flood lights can be told to 'talk' to each other. You can have a camera start recording based on a flood light sensing motion somewhere else. Insteon modules can be set up to control other modules based on input. The possibilities are great, but it really takes some thought and effort to make them do what you want them to do. They are not actually 'intelligent'.