Apple Inc. (Cupertino, CA)
What is a Patent for Uniform communication protocols to facilitate communications between controllers as well as accessories
The present disclosure pertains in general to communication between electronic devices, and in particular to uniform communication protocols for communicating between controllers and accessories.
An array of electronic gadgets are becoming increasingly well-known. Tablet computers, mobile phones as well as home entertainment systems and so on are some of the electronic devices that people interact with regularly.
Another class of electronic devices that are becoming more sought-after includes various electronically controllable devices including thermostats, lighting devices, household appliances, etc.
It can be difficult for an individual to control multiple electronic equipment or systems. For instance, a user’s home might have a thermostat, an electronically controlled lighting system, or a security system for the home, and eventually. Every system is produced by a different brand, and each manufacturer may provide a dedicated controller device (e.g. the IR-based remote control device) or an app that the user can install and run on a general-purpose computingdevice like a mobile phone, tablet, or home computer system. Each controller device or app is typically customized for the specific system of the manufacturer. It might not work with other brands or even with other systemsfrom the same manufacturer. This kind of approach cannot be easily scaled. If a user wants to create a smart home or similar space then they’ll need to buy a large number of controller devices and/or software.
The present invention provides embodiments that provide a standard protocol for communicating between a controller device, or “controller” as well as all other electronic devices to be controlled (referred herein as accessorydevices or simply “accessories”) A controller could be implemented by, for instance, a general-purpose computing device such as a desktop tablet computer, laptop mobile phone, computer, or another wearable device or handheld device, by equipping the general-purpose computing device with executable code for programs; or, a controller can be a special-purpose computing device. A component can be any device that is controllable by a controller. The accessories can comprise light fixtures, thermostats and door locks. They can also be automated door openers such as garage doors openers. Accessories and controllers are able to communicate wirelessly or via wired channels using standard transport protocols like Wi-Fi or Bluetooth LE.
A uniform accessory protocol in some embodiments, can be used to establish an appropriate framework for the identification of an accessory as a collection or services. Each service is described as a set of characteristics with a certain value. These characteristics may represent different elements of an accessory’s current state. For example, in the case of thermostats, the characteristics could comprise power (whether the thermostat is on or off), current temperature (actualtemperature measured by the thermostat) and the an intended temperature (a settingtable temperature that the thermostat seeks to maintain). The protocol may also define messages that can be used by a controller to send commands and control messages (requests) to the accessory, and for the accessory to respond with messages. The requests may permit the controller to inquire about (e.g., read) characteristics of the accessory, and in certain cases to modify (e.g., write to) attributes of the accessory. For example, a controllercan read a power characteristic to determine whether the accessory is switched on or off, and can write to the power characteristic in order to turn off the accessory or turn it on. Regardless of its function the accessory is controlled by the appropriate request. An accessory can provide the accessory definition records to an controller. An accessory definition record can contain all details about the accessory. The accessorydefinition file may be used by a controller to decide the best way to communicate with an accessory. For instance, the information in the record on accessory definitions can be utilized by the controller to construct an interface for the user to operate the accessory as well as to construct requestmessages to the device.
The protocol may further specify notification mechanisms that an accessory can use to inform the controller of a particular change. The passive notification mechanism allows the controller to query the accessory to determine if characteristics have changed. The active or event-based notifications mechanisms permit the accessory to selectively communicate with one or several controllers whenever an attribute changes. Multiple notification mechanisms can be simultaneously supported, and a controller can choose a notification mechanism to be used for a particular accessory feature, service, or other.
In some embodiments the protocol could provide security measures that can be implemented to block unauthorised controllers from operating an accessory. An accessory could be set up to only accept requests from a controller that has already made a previous pairing with it and is recognized by the accessory. Pairing can be as simple as transferring keys that are long-term between the controller and accessory in a safe manner. Each device will retain the keys. To reduce the risk that an accessory’s owner/operator doesn’t like the creation of a pairing The protocol could outline the steps to set up the pairing. For example, during a pair setup process users may have to read a setupcode presented by one device (e.g., the accessory) and then input the setup code into the other device (e.g. the controller) or to place the two devices close to each other. Once a pairing is established it can be utilized to create end-to-end encryption for messages such that only the paired controller and accessory can read messages that they exchange between them. If an accessory or controller has previously established a pair and they are able to verify that the other is able to read messages. They also can generate specific encryption keys for each session.
In some embodiments the protocol could specify steps for a controller to identify and set up compatible accessories within its vicinity. This can make it easier for the task of adding new accessories to an automated control system that is managed by a controller.
The following detailed description together with the accompanying drawings will provide a better understanding of the nature and advantages of the present invention.Click here to view the patent on USPTO website.
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