Apple has been granted a patent that, if it ever materializes in a product, would equip your Mac laptop, iPhone, and iPad with environmental sensors to better protect the speakers and microphones. Basically, the sensors would alert users when water, smoke, excessive heat, etc., is detected so they could protect their gadgets.
In the patent filing, Apple notes that electronic devices such as cell phones, portable computers, and tablet computers usually are equipped audio components such as microphones and speakers. They’re mounted behind open ports in the device that allow sound to pass through the ports to or from the audio components.
Apple says that in some situations it may be desirable to provide a device with environmental sensors such as thermometers for sensing the temperature of the environment in the vicinity of the device. Environmental sensors may require additional open ports in a device that allow interaction with the surrounding environment.
However, additional open portions in a device can increase the risk of unwanted environmental materials such as moisture entering the device. Apple says this means it would be desirable to be able to provide improved environmental sensors for electronic devices.
Here’s the summary of the invention: “Environmental sensors may include one or more environmental sensor components and one or more acoustic components. Acoustic components may include a speaker or a microphone. Environmental sensor components may include a temperature sensor, a pressure sensor, a humidity sensor, a gas sensor, or other sensors or combinations of sensors for sensing attributes of the environment surrounding the device. The environmental sensor may have an enclosure with an opening.
“The enclosure may be formed from a rigid support structure and a portion of a printed circuit. The opening may be formed in the rigid support structure or the printed circuit. The opening in the enclosure for the environmental sensor may be aligned with an opening in an outer structural member for the device. The outer structural member may be a housing structure or a cover layer for a device display.”
Of course, Apple files for — and is granted — lots of patents by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office. Many are for inventions that never see the light of day. However, you never can tell which ones will materialize in a real product.