An iPhone 7 with Home for iOS launched and in use.Source: iMore

What you need to know

  • Apple has published a second patent pointing to improved smart home capabilities.
  • The system could automatically generate a floor plan of your home or businesses based on location, orientation and distance using technology including ultra-wide band.
  • It could, for instance, determine which room a light switch is placed in without you having to tell it.

Apple has published a second patent pointing to vastly improved smart home capabilities, based on modular technology that can determine where it is located in relation to other devices.

The patent is titled 'OBJECT TRACKING AND AUTHENTICATION USING MODULAR WALL UNIT'. It's very similar to a patent published back in September, which revealed how HomeKit could use wall outlets that can communicate between themselves, using orientation data to determine where they are placed in relation to other outlets.

This new patent is quite similar, the description states:

Despite the many advantages that smart home technology brings to society, there is a need for smart home systems that can allow lay-consumers to more easily customize, scale, and reconfigure their homes in a more effortless and user-friendly manner.

The overview of the patent shows how smart home devices could be used to auto-generate a plan of your home:

Continuing the general overview, a network of host units can be configured to communicate with one another using any suitable communication protocol (e.g., ultra-wide band (UWB), radar, ultrasound, RF, etc.) to determine a distance and location of each host unit relative to one another. Some embodiments include hardware elements (e.g., magnetometer, accelerometer, multiple antennas, etc.) to also determine an orientation of each host unit in three-dimensional space. The system can then determine and auto-generate a floor plan for the building based on the determined locations, orientations, and distances without any necessary user input or interaction

It could also enable you to make changes to your smart home on the fly without having to tinker with any settings:

For instance, in response to a control switch (e.g., light switch in a modular accessory) being installed in a particular host unit, the system may auto-configure the control switch to control the operation of a particular lighting element in a particular room after determining that the control switch is in the particular room and no other lighting elements or control switches are located in said room.

The system would use communication technology such as ultra wide-band, as present in the iPhone 11. Not only could the system communicate with itself, but with users who interact with it. As the previous patent revealed, it could, for instance, detect the movement of your iPhone as you carry it, turning lights on and off as you move through the house, or switching on the kettle when you walk into the kitchen in the morning.

You can check out the full patent here!