Wearable Tech World Feature Article
January 24, 2013

Wearable Technology for Your Shoes

Have you ever wondered when it is time to purchase a new pair of dress shoes, sneakers or athletic shoes? If you question your ability to make that decision, fear not for Apple may be there to help you decide. Appleinsder discovered that Apple has applied for a series of patents designed to be used for a smart shoe.

In January 2012, Apple was granted a patent for sensors that could be placed in clothing, including shoes, to measure the amount of energy being expended when you are working out. So this is not something new that Apple is getting into. They have been working on wearable technology for some time.

The name of the device is, SHOE WEAR-OUT SENSOR, BODY-BAR SENSING SYSTEM, UNITLESS ACTIVITY ASSESSMENT AND ASSOCIATED METHODS. The device has three main components. There is a detector for sensing when the shoe wears out, a processor that measures data taken from the detector and an alarm that will alert the wearer when a shoe is no longer stable.

Image via appleinsider.com

The sensors can either be powered by a built-in battery, or from a generator that can use the actual motion of walking to recharge an energy store. It makes sense to try and harness kinetic energy when the whole point of the device is to track movement. According to Apple’s description, the sensors could include simple pedometers, activity or motion detectors that can translate any kind of motion into a timed unit of use. 500 hours is the recommended use for a walking shoe, a time sensor can let the wearer know when they have exceeded that. A body bar that can detect weight and resistance could be used to give more of a qualitative measure to use.

The intended use for this technology is to let the wearer know when they need a new pair. Of course that would require a senor in each shoe. A practical application would be to warn athletes when their shoes would no longer have the ability to properly support their foot. The information could be sent to a mobile device via a companion app.

Apple’s suggestion is that the processor should be placed in the heel of the shoe. There is plenty of space in the heel to house all of the electronics. The sensors or detectors can be placed in the sole, heel and anywhere on the shoe that normally gets worn out. Everyone walks differently and each individual shoe wears out at different rates in different spots. By placing the sensors at those locations you can basically customize each device to make a pair of shoes individuals.

As you can see, Apple has been working on wearable technology for a while. The difference is that they are not just creating smart watches or devices that can be seen. They are also developing more subtle technology that can be incorporated into your clothing. It will be interesting to see if their patent will be granted. For those who are old enough to remember or have seen the reruns of Get Smart, Max had the first mobile phone and how appropriate for Apple that it was a shoe phone.

Edited by Brooke Neuman

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