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Apple interested in wireless power to charge devices on store shelves

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Apple has shown interest in wirelessly powering and charging its portable devices, allowing products like the iPhone and iPad to be powered up while sealed in packaging and on display at a retail store.

The concept was detailed this week in a new patent application discovered by AppleInsider entitled "Active Electronic Media Packaging." It describes an active packaging system that would supply power and data to devices, allowing them to display content and show off features to customers while on display in a store.

The proposed invention aims to replace the typical labels and other advertising that is found on the outside of product packaging. Instead, Apple's method would let the product sell itself.

"Although typical packaging for an electronic media device may be designed to adequately protect the device from shock or damage, the packaging is extremely limited in other respects," the filing reads. "For example, the ability to fully view or interact with the electronic media device while still inside the packaging is severely limited in most packaging designs. Although unobtrusive packaging designs have been developed, these designs typically do not allow electronic media devices to be interacted with while inside the packaging."

In addition, most packages do not include some sort of external power source to make sure the device can be operational for the user to see and use.

Physically connecting a power supply to each package in a store could be a difficult task, and so one of Apple's proposed solutions is to use an RF power transmitter. The packaging itself could act as a receiver, and would provide power to a device like an iPhone or iPad.

The use of packaging to receive the wireless power would also negate the need for the device itself to be able to recharge wirelessly. This would avoid the need to increase the size of the device to add such technology.

The new packaging method with an external power supply would also allow Apple to conduct functionality like firmware or software upgrades directly in the store, while the product is still sealed.

The application, made public this week by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, was first filed in December of 2011. It is credited to Michael Rosenblatt, a former new technologies manager at Apple, where his team filed 42 patent applications related to the iPhone and iPod, and saw 70 percent of their innovations adopted into products over a two-year span.