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This patent application filed by Apple claims to invent a power management system that includes a system microcontroller (SMC) and a charger. During operation, the power management system accepts power from power adapters and/or solar panels. It then supplies power to components in electronic devices without a converter circuit between the solar panel and the power management system. Letting this patent issue in its current form could allow Apple to prevent anyone else from using power management systems with the claimed features and harm the adoption of solar power for mobile devices.

BASIC APPLICATION DATA:

• Title: “Power management systems for accepting adapter and solar power in electronic devices”

• Application Number: 13/597452

• Publication Number: US20130290743 A1

• Assignee: Apple Inc.

• Priority Date: April 27, 2012 (prior art must predate this)

• Availability for Challenge: Open until at least April 30, 2014.

APPLICATION OVERVIEW: This patent application from Apple seeks to patent a power management system in electronic devices using solar power without using a converter circuit between the solar panel and the power management system. Specifically, the application claims to invent a power management system that supplies power using maximum power point tracking (MPPT) for the solar panel.

Claims are 1-4 and 7 are illustrative:

Claim 1. A method for supplying power to components in an electronic device, comprising:

providing a power management system in the electronic device for accepting power from at least one of a power adapter and a solar panel; and

using the power management system to supply the power to the components without using a converter circuit between the solar panel and the power management system.

Claim 2. The method of claim 1, wherein using the power management system to supply the power to the components involves:

tracking a maximum power point of the solar panel.

Claim 3. The method of claim 2, wherein tracking the maximum power point of the solar panel involves:

measuring one or more output powers associated with at least one of the solar panel and the power management system; and

adjusting an input voltage of the power management system based on the one or more output powers.

Claim 4. The method of claim 3, wherein measuring the one or more output powers involves at least one of:

calculating a first output power of the solar panel based on the input voltage and an input current to the power management system; and

tracking a second output power of the power management system by measuring an inductor current of an inductor in the power management system.

Claim 7. The method of claim 4, wherein adjusting the output voltage of the power management system based on the one or more output powers involves at least one of:

adjusting the input voltage at a first rate and a first step size based on the first output power; and

adjusting the input voltage at a second rate that is higher than the first rate and a second step size that is smaller than the first step size based on the second output power.

WHY IT MATTERS: This is a very broad patent application with the potential to exclude people from doing what they are already doing with solar power in mobile electronics. It appears that claimed techniques have been in use for years, for example in the One Laptop Per Child Project (http://wiki.laptop.org/go/Mppt and http://wiki.laptop.org/images/3/33/Mppt.pdf) Please help us PROVE with documentation that this technology was known for solar powered devices before April 27, 2012.

QUESTION: Have you seen anything that was published before April 27, 2012, that discusses:

• A power management system in electronic devices that accepts and supplies adapter and/or solar power by way of tracking the maximum power point of the solar panel?

• In which the tracking of the maximum power point of the solar panel involves a hill climber algorithm and/or adaptive incremental conductance algorithm?

• In which gross adjustments are made based on the output of the power management system and fine-tuning is done based on the input to the power management system (e.g. the output of the solar panel)?

If so, please submit the documents describing this technology as an answer to this question. Please submit only one piece of prior art per answer below. We welcome multiple answers from the same individual.

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9 Answers 9

Regarding your first point, consider this document; seems state of the art: http://www.ti.com/lit/ds/symlink/bq24650.pdf

There are other Controllers that should accept both adapter and solar power. The combination of two different ways of power transmission in one chip for electronic devices isn't new, it's integrated in most charge-controllers for inductive power transfer.

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Kodak has a camera that comes with a case using a solar cell to charge from via USB http://resources.kodak.com/support/pdf/en/manuals/accessories/ks100/KS100_EN.pdf

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I believe the One Laptop Per Child system used this: http://one.laptop.org/about/specs

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College solar car race teams used maximum power tracking back in the nineties. I don't know too much about it since the team disbanded as joined in 2001-2002, but the website has been preserved. http://www.rose-hulman.edu/SolarPhantom/ And the EE Faculty Adviser, Marc Herniter, who taught maximum power tracking is still there. http://www.rose-hulman.edu/academics/academic-departments/electrical-computer-engineering/faculty-staff.aspx

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So is something like this... (SMC, two sources, no inverter) http://www.steca.com/index.php?DC_solar_home_systems

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This kickstarter project seems prior art:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wakawakalight/wakawaka-is-the-coolest-solar-led-light?ref=users

It was funded on Jan 7, 2012, so way before the April 2012 of the patent application.

The sequel project (which is a solar charger itself) is interesting too:

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/wakawakalight/wakawaka-power-the-best-compact-solar-power-statio

For the details of the algorithm that could reject the patent I think the project creator could answer more clearly.

(I've contacted him already)

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There is quite a few military products using this form of MPPT with the single input path for hard source(adapter) or source for a few years.

http://www.protonex.com/products/spm-611 This is a common device in the field. http://www.protonex.com/wp/wp-content/uploads/Protonex-SPM-611-SpecSheet1.pdf It's been around since at least 2009.

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Wind and light complementary household electric power unit CN 2859897 FROM 2005

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