Smart Apple Watch bands described in Apple patents, including ‘Wrist ID’

We’ve seen quite a number of patent applications and other ideas for smart Apple Watch bands, and a trio of patents granted today points to some interesting possibilities.

One of them could provide a neat way for your Apple Watch to recognize you, without the need to type in a passcode or unlock a paired iPhone…

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Biometric authentication sensor

The patent describes a biometric sensor built in a smart Apple Watch band which would recognize you by texture patterns in your wrist — a kind of ‘Wrist ID.’

A wearable electronic device may include a device body and a device band coupled to the device body for securing the device to a wrist of a user. The wearable electronic device may also include a wrist biometric sensor carried by one of the device body and the device band. The wrist biometric sensor may include biometric sensing pixels. The wearable electronic device may also include a processor coupled to the wrist biometric sensor and configured to cooperate with the biometric sensing pixels to acquire skin texture pattern images from adjacent portions of the user’s wrist, and perform at least one authentication function based upon the skin texture pattern images.

The patent says that a thermal sensor could be used to detect both patterns in the skin, and in wrist-hair. In that way, the Watch could be unlocked as soon as you put it on.

Smart Apple Watch band with indicators

A second patent describes the possibility of including visual indicators in the band, to indicate things like the type of activity being tracked by the Watch, and your current progress toward your daily goal.

For example, if you are seeking to complete X minutes of exercise, or burn Y calories, this could be indicated on the band.

The patent says this could be a more discreet way to convey information you might not want others to see when you check it.

An electronic device can include an indicator to convey information to a user. Example indicators include an analog display, a digital display, or a status light. An indicator is typically viewable from a top side or a front face of the electronic device.

However, in many cases, the information conveyed to a user by an indicator is confidential or private information that the user may not prefer to be readily viewable or understandable to persons nearby. Further, certain electronic devices such as wearable electronic devices may be generally more readily viewable to persons nearby while also incorporating indicators intended to convey especially private health, medical, or fitness information.

I can’t see anyone worrying about someone happening to catch a glance of their Activity progress rings in the brief second or so between turning their wrist away and the screen switching off, but I could see this as potentially helpful for a future Apple Watch which might be displaying more sensitive health-related information.

Self-tightening band

Finally, with a snug fit needed for reliable use of the heart-rate monitor, a third patent describes a way for the watch band to automatically adjust its fit, especially during workouts. And no, that’s not just an elasticated band, rather a motorized one.

In many cases, watch bands may have limited fit adjustment increments available. For example, some bands have an incrementally user-adjustable size (e.g., a buckling clasp, pin and eyelet, etc.) whereas other bands have a substantially fixed size, adjustable only with specialized tools and/or expertise (e.g., folding clasp, deployment clasp, snap-fit clasp, etc.). Still other bands may be elasticated expansion-type bands that stretch to fit around a user’s wrist.

In many cases, conventional watch bands may catch, pinch, or pull a user’s hair or skin during use if the band is overly tight. In other cases, watch bands may slide along a user’s wrist, turn about a user’s wrist, or may be otherwise uncomfortable or bothersome to a user if the band is overly loose. These problems can be exacerbated during periods of heightened activity, such as while running or playing sports […]

Systems and methods for dynamically adjusting the fit of a wearable electronic device are disclosed. In many embodiments, a tensioner associated with a wearable electronic device can control one or more actuators that are mechanically coupled to either the housing or to a band attached to the wearable electronic device. In one example, in response to a signal to increase the tightness of the band, the tensioner can cause the actuator(s) to increase the tension within the band.

It’s not the first Apple patent to propose incorporating motors into the band: we’ve also seen the idea of haptic motors to deliver taps to the wrist from the band as well as the Watch.

All three patents were spotted by Patently Apple.

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Avatar for Ben Lovejoy Ben Lovejoy

Ben Lovejoy is a British technology writer and EU Editor for 9to5Mac. He’s known for his op-eds and diary pieces, exploring his experience of Apple products over time, for a more rounded review. He also writes fiction, with two technothriller novels, a couple of SF shorts and a rom-com!

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