The patent, titled "titled "Integrated inductive charging in protective cover" was published today by the USPTO (United States Patent and Trademark Office). Patent number US 2013/0063873 A1 can be read here at FreePatentsOnline.
Inductive charging is a relatively new technology that proposes to replace wires and cables with electricity that bounces from a flat plate straight into a compatible device. Compatible devices are capable of being charged simply by being placed on flat charging surfaces.The electricity then moves from the surface into the device via induction.
Most inductive charging plates are designed to move electricity from a dedicated charging pad (which is plugged into the mains) into compatible devices. You could keep a charging plate by your desk and charge an iPhone, for example, by just dropping it down on your desk rather than plugging it into the mains.
See also: Mobee Magic Charger review
Apple seems to have a more original idea for the technology, however, by integrating the charging pad into the Smart Cover of the iPad. One way that this could work is that the Smart Cover takes power wirelessly from an plugged-in iPad and stores it in an internal battery, it then sends it wirelessly in the other direction when you use the device.
It could also be that you plug the Smart Cover into the mains via Apple's new Lightning connector and it transfers power to the iPad.
Either way, because it contains a battery the Smart Cover would keep on charging up the iPad as you carry it around. The patent even describes how the device can carry on providing power when the Smart Cover is folded up and acting as a stand.
The patent abstract reads: "Accurate and reliable techniques for wirelessly powering a tablet device are disclosed".
This alone is a great idea for extending the battery life of the iPad. The Smart Cover technology ensures a neat fit between the Smart cover and the iPad.
Where it gets interesting is if Apple chooses to extend the inductive charging technology to the iPhone, and other devices. Rumours suggest that Apple is looking to extend inductive charging to the iPhone, and it'd be a great addition to the iWatch if Apple does decide to create it. Although the patent makes no mention of other devices, it could easily morph into a multi-purpose charge point.
Charging up multiple Apple devices is already something of a pain, requiring multiple input cables. Many people have to charge up an iPad and iPhone at night, and adding an iWatch into the list would only complicate matters.
However, the iPad Smart cover could act as a single charge point. You plug in the iPad with an Inductive Smart Cover, pop the iPhone and iWatch on top of it, and when you wake up in the morning all three are good to go. How much better is that than plugging all three devices into the wall at night? We'd buy it...
Apple would need to solve the alignment problem (the devices have to be placed at specific points) but Apple already has magnetic technology in the iPad, it could theoretically roll it out the iPhone and, perhaps, iWatch so they snap into place on the Smart Cover surface.
Just the iPad charging Smart Cover is clever enough, and the iPad Smart Cover is a great way for Apple to introduce inductive charging to its product line. But we hope Apple takes this technology a step further and integrates it to all its mobile products.
The patent also provides a handy flowchart reference of how it shoud operate.