A lot of people thought Apple missed a trick when it failed to snap up Tony Fadell’s smart thermostat and smoke detector company Nest.
However, Apple may wind up having the last laugh, since a newly-granted patent describes how Apple hardware — including iPhones, iPads and other devices — could one day include sensors which allow them to function as smoke detectors in their own right.
The “Wireless device networks with smoke detection capabilities” patent was originally filed in May 2013. In one version of the patent, Apple explains how an installed sensor array positioned near a device’s speaker port or other opening could be used to sense smoke.
When it did so, the device could do anything from simply alert users, activate fire suppression systems, or even transmit information — including a house address and building layout — to local fire services.
A portable smoke alarm has one major advantage over the fixed solutions currently used in most houses. Because we carry around our iPhones wherever we go, it can be safely assumed that you’d have your smoke detector with you when it was most needed. It could also travel with you wherever you go, meaning that you’d be just as protected while staying in a hotel or at a friend’s house as you would be in your own home.
With Apple making more and more inroads into home automation thanks to HomeKit, today’s patent definitely makes sense for the company. Let’s just hope that, unlike many Apple patents, it does end up becoming a product and not just a bright idea patented to stop others copying it.