New Apple Patent Describes Sleep Tracking System With Bedtime Ritual Sensing and Power Nap Function

A new patent filed by Apple in 2015, and published today by the United States Patent and Trademark Office, shines some light on what the company could be working on in regards to sleep tracking technology and its recent acquisition of Beddit. Called "Adjusting alarms based on sleep onset latency," the new patent describes in detail a system that could receive data from devices like an iPhone, Apple Watch, or a Beddit-like flat, flexible sensor, and intelligently track user behavior to help them get their best night sleep possible (via AppleInsider).

The patent explains that most people have typical bedtime habits recurring every night, such as going to the bathroom, shutting blinds, taking a shower, etc. These "sleep ritual activities" directly affect each person's "sleep onset latency," or the amount of time it takes you to fall asleep after first lying down and attempting to go to sleep. The problem with most modern alarm apps is that they can't understand a restless night's sleep, or a lengthy sleep onset latency period, and Apple's new patent tries to address these issues.


The first step is for the sensors to determine your sleep ritual activities, and Apple's patent has a few ways to go about doing that. One is by using sound data, so when the device detects someone brushing their teeth, taking a shower, "or any other activity that generates an identifiable or unique sound," the sleep tracking system can start accumulating data for that night's sleep because it knows you're about to try to rest. Other tips related to sleep rituals for Apple's sleep tracking system include user movement, light/dark levels in a room, and even app usage.
In some implementations, sleep logic can identify sleep ritual activities based on application usage. For example, the user may have a habit of using specific software applications installed on computing device immediately before going to bed. The user can check calendar application. The user can set a wake up alarm using alarm clock application.

The user can use social media applications, news applications, a game application, an e-book reader application, and/or other applications before going to sleep. Sleep logic can monitor application usage before the predicted sleep time (e.g., 1 hour before, 0.5 hour before, etc.) and determine which applications the user uses before the user's predicted sleep time. Sleep logic can store the detected application use activities as sleep ritual activities in sleep ritual database.
Taking this information into account, once you actually try to go to bed, the sleep tracking system will begin looking at how long it actually takes you to fall asleep (heartrate and breathing are mentioned), remembering your sleep ritual activities and calculating how they affected your sleep onset latency. Apple's theoretical system would also understand when you're obviously not asleep, like if you're currently on your iPhone on another connected device, and adjust tracking accordingly.

All of this data then feeds into how the system would be able to automatically adjust pre-set alarms because of a potentially inconsistent sleep pattern. The basic idea of the patent simply adds on sleep latency duration to the following morning, so if the system tracked that it took you 45 minutes to fall asleep, and you have an alarm for 7:00 AM, it would wake you up at 7:45 AM.

Of course, that risks some users getting a later start on their day than they are comfortable with, so Apple's patent has a wide range of features that can prevent you from not waking up later than you intend to. The system would recognize calendar data, so if you have an appointment at 7:30 AM, your 7:00 AM alarm wouldn't be adjusted. Likewise, travel time to your first appointment of the day would be taken into account.

Similar to nighttime rituals, the system is said to also track how long your morning rituals last over time. Using this data, it'll also be able to figure out the best wake up time, so if you have a long morning ritual, your alarm might go off earlier than someone whose morning ritual is faster. Over time, all of the data gathered by the sleep tracking system would help users "feel more rested" throughout their day, according to Apple's new patent.
Particular implementations provide at least the following advantages: the mobile device can help the user feel more rested by automatically adjusting an alarm or suggesting an earlier bedtime based on the determined sleep onset latency to ensure that the user gets enough sleep; the mobile device can automatically determine sleep onset latency using various sensors of the mobile device; the mobile device can automatically identify sleep patterns that may be adversely affecting the user.
Additionally, Apple's patent even discusses an in-depth "nap function" for sleep tracking. In the user interface (seen below, image right), you would set up a nap schedule, determine when you want to wake up, and press and hold on the iPhone's display to begin your nap. The system would know the sleep onset latency because of this applied pressure, so when you first apply your finger to the display, it'll know the period has begun, and when you begin to release pressure (i.e. doze off), it knows you've begun napping.


An alternative "power nap function" describes a way for a device -- here a "wearable device such as a watch" is specifically mentioned -- to wake you up when the system determines that you've entered and stayed in a deep sleep for a period of previously-determined time. After figuring out when your heart rate and breathing rate have reached the "deep sleep threshold" for a period of time, the system would begin waking you up, so you can "realize the benefit of sleep without the grogginess that is experienced when a user is awakened from a deep sleep."

The specific kinds of sensors referenced in the patent -- including light- and sound-based sensors -- are implemented in modern iPhones, but it's unclear whether a sleep tracking system described in today's patent would simply be an addition to an existing Apple device, a new iteration of a product like Beddit, or a combination of both. Apple slowly began expanding its sleep tracking support with "Bedtime" in the iOS 10 Alarm app, but that feature simply tracks the hours between when a user manually inputs a bedtime and when they silence the morning alarm, with no ability to understand how long the user is actually sleeping.

Of course, it's still unclear exactly what Apple intends to do with Beddit's technology, and today's patent comes with the usual warning to take everything detailed in it with a grain of salt. For a closer look at Beddit, check out the technology behind the flexible sensor, as well as our own review of Beddit's sleep monitor.

Tags: patent, Beddit

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Review: Apple’s Beddit Sleep Monitor Offers a Comprehensive Look at Sleep Quality

Earlier this month, Apple purchased its first company that develops health-related hardware, Beddit. Beddit makes an iPhone-connected Sleep Monitor that tracks a wide range of sleep-related metrics, from heart rate and sleep time to room temperature and respiration.

When Apple acquires a company, the company in question typically shuts down and stops selling whatever product it makes as Apple assimilates the technology into its own offerings, but that's not the case with Beddit. Apple is still selling the Beddit Sleep Monitor in its stores, and the Beddit privacy policy has been updated to note that Apple is collecting Beddit sleep data.


That raises some interesting questions about Apple's future plans. Will that sleep tracking data contribute to an upcoming Apple Watch with sleep tracking functionality? Does Apple have plans for some other kind of sleep tracking device? Will Beddit be one of several health-related companies Apple purchases so it can sell a range of hardware products?

Apple's plans for the Beddit technology may be a mystery right now, but we can take a closer look at the Sleep Monitor to see just what it can do, what kind of data Apple is gathering, and whether it's worth buying. I bought a Beddit Sleep Monitor shortly after Apple announced its acquisition, and I've been testing it for the past 10 days.

The Beddit Sleep Monitor belongs to a class of sleep tracking devices that aren't wearable. It's meant to be placed directly on the bed under the sheets rather than on the body. Design wise, it consists of a long strip of fabric that's about 2.5 feet in length and three inches wide. One side is a soft, pliable material, while the other side, which sits on the mattress, is backed with rubber so it stays in place. It's small enough that it's easy to pack up when traveling.
Continue reading Review: Apple’s Beddit Sleep Monitor Offers a Comprehensive Look at Sleep Quality

A Look at What Apple Could Do With Beddit’s Sleep Technology

Apple recently purchased Beddit, a sleep monitoring system that pairs a pliable under-sheet sleep sensor with an app, all of which is designed to help users analyze and improve their sleeping habits.

The acquisition is unusual because it appears Apple plans to keep selling the Beddit hardware while collecting sleep-related data from users. For that reason, we took a look at some of the things Apple might be planning to do with this data and how it might impact future products.

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Apple's Beddit purchase came to light because Beddit updated its privacy policy to both highlight the acquisition and implement Apple's privacy rules. "Your personal data will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Apple Privacy Policy," reads the site.

Apple appears to have purchased Beddit for its sleep sensing technology. Beddit uses a $150 sleep monitoring device that's placed under the bottom sheet of a mattress, collecting data on everything from sleep time and efficiency to heart rate and respiration. It also tracks movement, snoring, room temperature, and room humidity to determine factors that might disturb sleep.

Beddit's sensor uses ballistocardiography (BCG) to measure the mechanical activity of the heart, lungs, and other body functions, a non-invasive monitoring technology that's similar to the light-based photoplethysmography the Apple Watch uses to monitor heart rate.

With BCG, when the heart beats, it measures the mechanical impulse generated by the acceleration of the blood through the circulatory system, providing a wealth of data about the body.

Apple is likely interested in the sensor technology used in the Beddit device, and has indeed hired medical experts who have worked with ballistocardiography in the past, but the data collected also seems to be of interest due to the company's decision to keep selling the Beddit sensor.

Beddit's technology and data could be used for any number of things, from advancing sleep research for efforts like HealthKit and CareKit to implementing more advanced health-tracking technology and sleep monitoring functionality into the Apple Watch or other future wearable devices.

For the immediate future, it appears Apple will continue to sell the Beddit hardware as part of a standalone brand like Beats, but the company's longer-term plans for Beddit are unknown.


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Apple Acquires ‘Beddit’ iPhone-Connected Sleep Monitoring System

Apple recently acquired Beddit Sleep Monitor, an app and sleep system designed to monitor daily sleep habits through the iPhone, according to an updated privacy policy posted both on the Beddit website and in the Beddit app when creating an account. A link within the app also directs to the Apple Privacy Policy.

As of May 8, the Beddit privacy policy says the following:
Beddit has been acquired by Apple. Your personal data will be collected, used and disclosed in accordance with the Apple Privacy Policy.
The Beddit 3 Sleep Monitor, which can be purchased from Apple for $150, is a thin, flexible sensor that's designed to be placed under the sheet on the top of a mattress. It collects and analyzes sleep-related data like sleep time and efficiency, heart rate, respiration, movement, snoring, room temperature, and room humidity.

All of the data collected by the Beddit Sleep Monitor is then made available to iPhone users through an accompanying Beddit iPhone app, which provides "personalized insights" and "customizable sleep coaching" to help users improve their sleep habits.


According to the Beddit website, the device uses ballistocardiography (BCG) to measure the mechanical activity of the heart, lungs, and other body functions. When the heart beats, for example, the Beddit sensor can measure the mechanical impulse generated by the acceleration of the blood through the circulatory system.

Based on the changes to the Beddit privacy policy, it appears Apple may have plans to continue selling the device and collecting health-related data from it, which could potentially be used to enhance future versions of products like the Apple Watch.


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