Yesterday, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office website posted a new Patent application by BlackBerry-maker Research In Motion that would ease transfer of content between a BlackBerry and another portable device in a vehicle.
In other words, if and when this technology comes to market, you might be able to smoothly transfer, say, a photo from your iPod to your BlackBerry while in your car.
Pictured above in combination with an operational sketch, this solution is generally described by an Abstract. The Abstract reads:
But that's only the start of it. If you want to understand what all those numerical references mean as well as drill down deep into how this solution would work- well, just follow along...
One embodiment of the present invention, diagrammatically shown in FIG. 1 includes a handheld electronic device 10, which may be, for example, an MP3 player, a cellular telephone, a GPS receiver, or the like. Additional handheld electronic devices that are different from handheld electronic device 10 are illustrated at 12 and 14, respectively. A separate docking station 11, 13, and 15 is provided for each of the handheld electronic devices 10, 12, 14. Each of the handheld electronic devices requires a different docking station by reason of having differing physical dimensions and electronic signal formats. The docking station 11 for handheld electronic device 10 is indicated at 11. Docking station 11 is associated with docking member 16. Likewise, docking station 13 is adapted to accommodate handheld electronic device 12 and interface with docking member 17, which is specially configured to receive it. Handheld electronic device 14 is similarly accommodated by specially configured docking station 15. Docking station 15 is associated with docking member 19.
Each of the docking members 16, 17, and 19 includes electronic circuitry, for example, docking member circuits 18, 20, and 21, respectively. Docket member circuits are specially adapted to receive unique electronic signal input from the respective associated handheld electronic devices 10, 12, and 14. Each handheld electronic device 10, 12, and 14 generates electronic signals in a particular device format that is unique to that particular handheld electronic device. These formats are conveyed via proprietary interfaces. For the first handheld electronic device 10, the handheld electronic device interface 24 is compatible with the interface 25 in the docking station 11. Similarly, for handheld electronic devices 12 and 14, the interfaces 26 and 28 are compatible with the interfaces 27 and 29 respectively. The inventor recognized that converting these unique device format electronic signals to a standard format that is independent of the particular handheld electronic device from which they originated together with other features of the present invention would greatly facilitate the integration of handheld electronic devices into other electronic systems. Such a standard electronic output can be transmitted through a standard docking member connection 22. The standard docking member connection 22 is compatible with any of the standard head connectors 26, 30, and 34. Electronic signals to and from the respective handheld electronic devices are converted by electronic circuitry 18, 20, and 21 from a standard format to the specific device formats that are required by the respective devices and vice versa. The docking member connection 22 is the same regardless of the docking member with which it is associated. As indicated by the arrows any connector 40 may be operatively mated with docking member connection 22.
Each of the docking members 16, 17, and 19 is adapted to being physically mounted to a base element 46. The base elements 46 is adapted to be mounted to a vehicle, optionally on a dashboard or other substrate (not shown). In the embodiment of FIG. 1, each docking member 16, 17, and 19 is configured for mounting on the base element 46. For a given installation, only one base element 46 is needed, although additional base elements 46 may be installed on a substrate, if desired. All of the docking members 16, 17, and 19 in the system are adapted to being interchangeably mounted to the same base element. Typically, one base element 38 is installed in a vehicle at a fixed location, and different docking members 16, 17, and 19 are removably mounted and dismounted from the base element 46 as desired. One embodiment of the system will optionally include a security chip, which will preclude the accidental use of a non-authentic or non-authorized product or component from being used with the system. The security chip may also be employed to add an extra level of security and protection against theft. The security chip could be made to be removable and once removed the system would cease to be functional. The replacement of the chip restores functionality. The chips may also be selected to control what types of content are delivered, as for example blocking certain video games, or blocking certain other content. The security chip also will help ensure that a consumer will be able to determine if a product is genuine or a counterfeit.
Control units are typically mounted in vehicles and on other substrates for purposes of controlling at least the audio and/or video systems in a vehicle or elsewhere. The heads may be integrated into other systems such as vehicle operating systems, alarms, warnings, and the like, so that they are controlled by or at least integrated with the head. Each vehicle manufacturer, for example, usually produces its own heads. Typical head units are shown, for example at 24, 28, and 32. One end of the head, for example, head end 52, is usually presented to the operator of the system and may include, for example, controls for turning on and off, controlling, and tuning radios, DVD players, and the like. Such heads frequently include within them DVD players, tape decks, and the like. The head end 52 is typically finished and detailed to be visually pleasing. The rest of the head is usually mounted within the substrate so that it is hidden from view. Each brand of head typically includes its own uniquely configured head connector, for example, 26, 30, and 34. The head connector 26 requires an especially configured cable head connector 27. Head 28 has a differently configured head connector 30, which requires specially configured cable head connector 31. Similarly, head connector 34 of head 32 requires its own specially configured cable head connector 35. Cable head connectors 27, 31, and 35 are not interchangeable. Thus, cable 36, with connector 27 must be provided for the circumstance where it is desired to connect a handheld electronic device to the system in which head 24 is mounted. Likewise, cable 42 with cable head connector 31 must be provided for connection to head 28, and cable 48 with cable head connector 35 must be provided if it is desired to connect to head 32. Cables 36, 42, and 48 serve to carry electronic signals formatted for a specific head between the heads 24, 28, and 32, respectively, and cable circuits 38, 44, and 50, respectively. Standard cable 41 is typical of the cables that carry electronic signals in a standard format between the cable circuits (for example, 38, 44, and 50) and the docking member circuits (for example, 18, 20, and 21).
A cable circuit 38 is provided in operative association with cable 36. The purpose of a cable circuit is to convert electronic signals between a standard format and a head format. Signals going to a head are converted by a cable circuit from a standard format that is the output from a docking member circuit into a specific head format that the specific head can accept and work with. Electronic signals coming out of the head are converted by the cable circuit from the head format for that particular head into a standard format that a docking member circuit can accept and work with. Cable circuit 38 is an electronic circuit (mounted on a circuit board, a chip, or the like) that is designed to convert the electronic output of head 24 into a standard format. The standard format is compatible with cable connectors 40 and standard docking member connections 22. The standard format is the required format for input from all heads (for example, 24, 28, and 32) to all docking member circuits (for example, 16, 17, and 19). Cable circuit 38 also serves to convert the electronic output from any docking member into the special format that is required by the specific head 24. Likewise, cable circuits 44 and 50 serve to convert electronic input and output to and from heads 28 and 32, respectively.
For those situations where more than one base element is mounted on a substrate, the standard cables on the base element side of the cable circuit may be branched to provide two or more standard cable connectors 40. See, for example, the typical branched standard cable that extends between cable circuit 50 and base elements 46 where two standard cable connectors are attached to two branches of this reach of the standard cable. If desired for a particular installation, more than two branches may be provided on a standard cable. For ease of installation the cables and standard cables are typically several inches to several feet long, but they may be of any length desired. The cables may, for example, be so short that they only extend within an adapter that houses both a head connector and a cable head connector. The standard cable 41 and cables 36, 42, and 48 may be flexible or rigid as may be desired. So long as they contain conductive elements, the cables may be of any desired form, even including conductive traces painted on or otherwise applied to a substrate. An ancillary component 51, which accepts the head specific signal may be fed from the same cable 48, via cable 49 to the device 51.
For purposes of reliability, performance, capacity, and security it is generally preferred that there be a physical conductor connected between the cable circuit and the base element. See, for example, standard cable 41. For remote or difficult installation, however, it may be desirable to use a wireless connection (not shown) in place of standard cable 41. In such an installation standard cable connector 40 and standard docking member connection 22 become antennas (not shown) and there is no solid phase physical conductor attached between them. For purposes of this specification and the claims appended hereto, unless otherwise indicated the phrase "standard connection" is intended to and shall include all connections between docket member circuits and cable circuits, including antennas, standard cable connectors and standard docking member connections. In addition, in a wireless installation base element 46 may become primarily a holder for the docking member, which may be permanently or temporarily mounted wherever desired so long as it is within wireless range. The antenna that is associated with the docking member circuit in a wireless installation may be associated with the base element, the docking member, or elsewhere, as may be desired. The cable circuits and docking member circuits include the capability to transmit signals in a wireless installation.
Preferably, both the electronic input and output signals that flow through connectors 22 and 40 are all standardized. The electronic input and output that flows through connector 26 is unique to head 24. The electronic input and output that flows through connector 30 unique to heads 28 and 32, respectively. The electronic input and output that flows through docking connectors 11, 13, and 15 is unique to each device-docking member pair. That is, the electronic input and output that flows through docking connector 11 is unique to the device 10. Similarly, the electronic input and output through docking connector 13 is unique to handheld electronic device 12.
The inventor realized that conversion of input and output electronic signals to a predetermined standard, which applies between cable circuits 38, 44, and 50, and docking member circuits 18, 20, and 21, however matched, substantially minimizes the number of docking members that are required. Without such standardization, each individual handheld electronic device would require a docking member for each individual head style. That is, to accommodate handheld electronic device 10 there would have to be a separate docking member for each of heads 24, 28, and 32. According to the present invention, the cables and associated cable circuits must be changed to accommodate each different head, but this is considerably less expensive than providing a docking member for each head style.
The electronic circuits that are employed as cable circuits 38, 44, and 50, and docking member circuits 18, 20, and 21, may be placed on circuit boards or chips, or the like, and may include both hardware and software. The software may reside, for example, partially or entirely in volatile or non-volatile read only memory (ROM). The ROM may, for example, be reprogrammed from time to time as desired to accommodate changes in the system. Production costs may be minimized by incorporating all of the cable circuits into one chip, printed circuit board, or the like. The cable circuit is then configured for the particular head to which it is attached. Such configuration may be accomplished, for example, manually by changing dip-switch settings, through software, or even automatically by software within the cable circuit that detects the head to which the cable circuit is connected.
The present invention is suited, for example, to aftermarket installations where kits are designed to accommodate many different heads in different preexisting vehicles or other substrates. A kit may, for example, be intended to be employed with one of four different heads and two different handheld electronic devices. Such a kit would include four different cables, each of which has a different cable head connector and cable circuit associated therewith. It would also include two different docking members, each of which has a docking member circuit that is unique to a particular handheld electronic device. The kit would also include at least one base element. Typically, the base element would be mounted to a vehicle or other substrate in which there is already a head. The appropriate cable would be selected from the kit to match the head. The selected cable and associated cable circuit would be attached between the head and the base element. The docking member that is unique to the first handheld electronic device would be selected from the kit and mounted on the base element. The first handheld electronic device may then be docked in the docking member to integrate such device with the audio, visual, control, or other systems, or the like, that are associated with the preexisting head. Integrating the second handheld electronic device with such existing systems would require replacing the docking member with one that is unique to such second device. As will be understood by those skilled in the art, other arrangements are possible once the teachings of the present invention are understood. For example, it may be desired to dock two or more handheld electronic devices at the same time. To accomplish this, multiple docking members would be mounted to the substrate through two or more base elements. The cable between the cable circuit and the multiple base elements would be branched to provide for the mounting of two or more standard cable connectors to the same cable. Enough cable connectors would be provided to afford connections to all of the base elements. Two or more handheld electronic devices could thus be docked at the same time, if desired. Also, even if not simultaneously docked, such multiple base elements would permit different handheld electronic devices to be docked without changing docking members. Kits may be assembled at the point of sale. For example, one kit, comprising a cable, a cable circuit, and a standard cable, may be stocked for each head style. Other kits, comprising a may be stocked for each handheld electronic device.