smart-devices-patents-innovations

Top Innovations to Protect Our Smart Devices from Ourselves

InnovationQ, Intellectual Property

When opening an app on my smartphone, my thumb runs over the cracks in the screen, reminding me of how I accidentally managed to fling my phone about four feet, landing it on the one corner not covered by the super-thick protective case. Then, there is the phone call from the kid: “Yeah, so, I don’t know how, but… my phone fell out of my pocket and now the screen is, like, totally broken.”

I have been told that my family is not a group of gentle people; we break stuff. But, overall, the collective modern persona is too busy to be gentle. We are consumed by multiple tasks, dashing from home to car to airport, running between meetings with our phones precariously riding atop laptops – we don’t have time to coddle them. When we play, we play hard: flailing, bumping, and dropping our devices.

The first mobile phone call was made in 1973 [1] on a gorgeous beige brick of technology sporting push buttons and a proud antenna. The past 45 years have seen the mobile phone move from super-gadget to life-partner – an expensive, highly complex, and fragile partner. And here it is, in our bumbling mitts. We definitely need continued progress in smart device screens – and now glass backs and curved edges – to help us protect the vulnerable surface areas from ourselves.

Various levels of screen protectors, from thin film to tempered glass, are on the market. Some are designed to work with specific smartphone models; however, we must separately purchase these accessories and affix them to the device. Most protect our screens from scratching and glare, but performance and durability can be inconsistent.

Can we advance beyond supplemental protectors and trust the glass itself? What are the improvements in the glass that is used for mobile device designs and builds?

One of the prevalent knowns is Gorilla Glass® from Corning®. From its inception in 2005, Gorilla Glass has been present in the designs of market-dominating mobile phones. It is now on its sixth iteration. [2]

To discover other innovations in the direction of durable device displays, I searched a subset of the InnovationQ™ database (selected collections: US Patents, US Designs, US Applications). This was a just a keyword query*, but conceptual queries work with this tool, as well. Following is a list of the most relevant results published from 2016-2018 (which InnovationQ let me export to Excel):

Publication Number Title Publication Date URL
US9908811

 

Fusion formable glass-based articles including a metal oxide concentration gradient 2018-03-06 https://ip.com/pat/US9908811
US9840435 Display cover glass and display cover glass fabrication method 2017-12-12 https://ip.com/pat/US9840435
US20170001903 Glass for chemical strengthening, chemically strengthened glass, and method for manufacturing chemically strengthened glass 2017-01-05 https://ip.com/pat/US20170001903
US20170295657 Glass-based articles including a stress profile comprising two regions, and methods of making 2017-10-12 https://ip.com/pat/US20170295657
US20170183255 Coated chemically strengthened flexible thin glass 2017-06-29 https://ip.com/pat/US20170183255
US20160127002 Cover Glass for Mobile Terminals, Manufacturing Method of the Same and Mobile Terminal Device 2016-05-05 https://ip.com/pat/US20160127002
US20160357294 Glass substrate and method for manufacturing the same, cover glass and method for manufacturing the same, personal digital assistant, and display device 2016-12-08 https://ip.com/pat/US20160357294
US20160060161 Methods and apparatus for strength and/or strain loss mitigation in coated glass 2016-03-03 https://ip.com/pat/US20160060161
US20180079684 Chemically strengthened glass 2018-03-22 https://ip.com/pat/US20180079684
US9290407 Crack and scratch resistant glass and enclosures made therefrom 2016-03-22 https://ip.com/pat/US9290407

Companies in this group include Corning, Inc., Asahi Glass Co., Ltd. (now AGC Inc.), Schott® AG, and Hoya Corporation. According to a recent CNBC report: “Both Asahi Glass and Schott make display glass — Dragontrail and Xensation — that score almost as well as Gorilla on strength tests, and it’s rumored that Asahi will show off a flexible, 0.07-mm-thick glass — perhaps for foldable devices — this summer.” [4]

At a high level, an associated Term Cloud generated by InnovationQ indicates that inventors are working on chemical compositions to strengthen the glass using aluminum oxide, silicon dioxide, and sodium oxide.

Term Cloud

One of the key components here is the aluminum oxide. When aluminum oxide powder is heat treated, it becomes stronger. Then, it can be made into sheets. And placed on your phone. It’s sapphire glass. [5] Apple has been working for several years to perfect the technology and apply it to the iPhones and Apple watches. The main goals are to have a device surface that is unscratchable, unbreakable, and thin.

Inventors are even looking at ways to design self-healing glass. So, in the event that the dream of an unbreakable screen is not reached, at least it will be able to repair itself.

Either solution is fine with me. The only other option for my family is to scientifically improve our gentleness and grace, which is far more improbable. For the rest of this busy human race, as the fusion of smart devices with our daily lives has increased, so has the work to improve device durability – so there is hope for us yet.

*Query: method of fortifying glass, cover glass, drop resistant, durable display, drop survivability, applied stress, chemical compound, fusion manufacturing process, chemical strengthening process, mobile devices, display, smartphones

[1] http://www.knowyourmobile.com/nokia/nokia-3310/19848/history-mobile-phones-1973-2008-handsets-made-it-all-happen. Accessed 7/26/2018.

[2] www.androidpit.com/what-is-gorilla-glass. Accessed 7/26/2018.

[3] https://www.corning.com/gorillaglass/worldwide/en/a-look-behind-corning-gorilla-glass.html. Accessed 7/26/2018.

[4] https://www.cnbc.com/2018/04/26/the-race-is-on-to-make-iphone-screen-glass-unbreakable.html. Accessed 7/27/2018.

[5] https://gizmodo.com/whats-sapphire-glass-and-why-would-apple-want-it-in-yo-1603457905. Accessed 7/27/2018.