Apple’s new automated wake detection feature to help disable sleep alarms

Apple auto wake detection for alarm

We have all been in situations where we are up before the alarm on the iPhone or the Apple Watch goes off. It often makes you think “What’s the point of the alarm now?” as you fumble to switch it off. Well, Apple is exploring the automated wake detection feature to help users with this simple problem and solve the inflexibility issue with alarms on electronic devices.

The general idea of solving this challenge is through following a sequence of steps.

Your iPhone or Apple Watch first enters a wakefulness-monitoring state during a time period preceding a time of an alarm (e.g., four hours before the time of the alarm). 

Determining if the user is awake before disabling alarms

In the wakefulness-monitoring state, sensors on your watch and iPhone will monitor your activity data. Always on faces on apple watch

The built-in sensors on your Apple devices will actively examine some of the following conditions and check if a threshold is reached in terms of ‘activity level’ 

  • at least a predefined number of consecutive steps have been detected as estimated using sensor data from the accelerometer(s) and/or gyroscope,
  • a rotation of a device exceeds a predefined angle, 
  • a device is unlocked via entry of a pass code or biometric input, a device is in an unlocked state for at least a predefined time, 
  • a power source for a device has changed (e.g., a device is unplugged),
  • and/or data collected by an optical sensor detects that a wearable device indicates that it has transitioned from a state indicating that the device is not being worn to a state indicating that it is being worn by a user. 
  • Ambient light sensor measures the intensity of ambient light to detect an intensity of light in one or more spectrum (e.g., visible light and/or infrared light). 
  • Pose detector could establish if you are lying down or sitting up on your bed and reading.

Confirmation via User notification

If and when the sensors determine that there is enough information to infer that you are up and about, it will send you a notification.

For example, the notification can state: “Do you want to turn off your 7:00 am alarm?” and include an input option that, when selected via corresponding user input, corresponds to an instruction to disable the alarm. 

Upon receiving this instruction, the device can disable (e.g., turn off) the alarm. In instances when the device is configured to synchronize alarms across multiple devices (e.g., each associated with the same user or user profile), the device can transmit an instruction (e.g., to a coordinating remote server or to one or more of the multiple devices) that corresponds to an instruction to disable the alarm (e.g., and specifically identifying the alarm.

Thus, the device can intelligently infer when a user is awake by monitoring and assessing activity-indicative data (e.g., sensor measurement(s) and/or input data) and take actions based on user feedback to disable all alarms.

Its amazing how the simple built-in sensors on the Apple Watch and the iPhone can help with solving a common problem with alarms on your personal devices.

The processes described above were filed via a patent on Sept 4th, 2020, and approved today. Since the process does not require any incremental hardware updates to devices, we think that the automated wake detection feature could come to your Apple devices soon via an iOS and/or watchOS update.

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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