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9/12/2008
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Apple 'Smart Garment' Patent To Perk Up Nike+iPod

Sensing units placed at three points in the shoe -- heel, midsole, and toe -- could determine when soles are worn down and should be replaced, a Patent Office application reveals.


Apple-Nike Shoe Patent

Apple-Nike Shoe Patent
(click for larger image)

Apple is moving to improve its athletic monitoring products with Nike by preparing improved iPod-compatible footwear, according to a proposed U.S. patent revealed this week.

A so-called smart garment listing on the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site suggests the two companies are working on electronic sensors placed under the inner sole of Nike running shoes that would interoperate with Apple products like the iPod.

The submission suggests that runners can figuratively listen to their shoes and learn how to improve their running style and compare their times with other runners based on various physical traits, including weight, age, and gender.

"A user could gauge his or her own athletic prowess and abilities against an accepted reference and be able to determine, for example, the performance percentile he or she falls in relation to his or her particular cohort of runners," Apple said in the patent filing. "In addition, it would be beneficial to be able to correlate a user's performance to ... tracking shoe characteristics (such as wear) over time or distance used."

In the proposed Apple-Nike system, sensing units are placed at three points in shoe soles -- heel, midsole, and toe. In this way, a runner could replace shoes that are worn down before the shoes impair the runner's stride mechanics.

Apple also has suggested that a shoe sensor could be linked to a database through GPS technology. Other characteristics that could be determined include elevation gain, calories burned, and even a prediction of anticipated calories to be burned by a runner.

Currently, Nike offers a $29 sports kit that's compatible with some of its premium shoes. The footwear contains sensors that use wireless radio communications to relay information to receivers in iPod Nanos. Runners can review information on speed, distance, and calories burned. While the patent application does not specify the iPhone, it would not take much for the technology to be transferred to Apple's smartphone/music player.

Apple recently encountered competition in the form of a Samsung-Adidas partnership called the miCoach phone. Because the Samsung-Adidas partnership includes a cell phone, runners can get heart rate tests that compare immediately with medically safe standards.

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