Apple has been granted permission to create a range of devices that detect smoke and fire, working together to sound the alarm, activate sprinklers and call the emergency services.
The iPhone maker applied for a patent covering this technology in late 2015, and now the US Patent & Trademark Office has granted it permission to make the innovation its own.
This isn't the first time Apple has shown interest in fitting smoke detectors to its products. In August 2015 it was granted a patent that covered a system whereby future iPhones, iPads, watches and other portable gadgets could detect smoke, alerting the user and relevant parties.
The newly granted patent, discovered by PatentlyApple, extends this concept to the home and could see smoke detectors appear in future Mac computers and laptops, as well as networking equipment like routers.
For example, an iMac could sense smoke and a fire nearby; it would then sound an alarm and alert the emergency services. It would also know who is in the house (and roughly where they are) thanks to the Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connection of iPhones and the Apple Watch. This information could be automatically passed onto the fire brigade before they arrive. Accelerometers in all devices would help fire fighters detect if the occupants were moving or not, and the Watch's heart rate monitor could assess a person's wellness.
Tapping into HomeKit
Through Apple's HomeKit, the iMac could activate further smoke alarms and a sprinkler system, if one is installed and hooked up to the Wi-Fi network. PatentlyApple adds: "Interestingly, Apple illustrates that the new system could actually be integrated into their upcoming Apple Watch, or at least a future generation of it."
By adding smoke detectors and alarms to devices – which are worn or carried almost everywhere, all day – Apple's system could be far more effective than fixed detectors and alarms which can be out of earshot or located away from a fire, giving it a chance to spread before it is noticed.
As always, just because a patent has been applied for and granted, it doesn't mean any of the technology they discuss will appear in retail products any time soon. Apple is likely working on this smoke detection system now, but it could be several years (if ever) before it goes on sale.