The invention relates generally to mobile electronic devices.
More particularly, the invention relates to a method and apparatus for indicating
mobile electronic device status and/or state.
The use of mobile electronic, or communication devices
has increased dramatically over recent years as users wish to be able to be stay
connected when they are away from a landline telephone or desktop computer. Some
mobile communication devices also serve as a personal digital assistant for tracking
meetings and daily activities. For users who are on the go, ease of use and speed
are typical priorities. As speed is important, users typically start to use their
device without verifying the status of the device since they are so concentrated
on making a call, checking email or their calendar, among other things.
There are times when users attempt to use their mobile
communication device while the device is in a locked mode. Frustration sets in once
the user realizes that their mobile electronic device is in the locked mode and
has to be unlocked for the user to use the device.
Typically, users are required to look at their display
screen in order to determine the status, or state, of their device. This is, however,
not an easy task since the user has to focus on what is being displayed on the display
screen and divert their attention away from other tasks at hand. With the size of
the screens in mobile communication devices, this information may not be immediately
available to the user without having to stare intently at the screen for a few seconds.
Furthermore, information concerning the device state, or status, is not readily
available to the user.
It would be beneficial to have a means for indicating mobile
communication device status or state whereby the user is provided an audible or
visual, and tactile indication the mobile communication device in order to determine
mobile communication device status.
lt is, therefore, desirable to provide a novel method and
apparatus for indicating mobile communication device status.
Preferably embodiments of the invention obviate or mitigate
at least one disadvantage of previous methods of indicating device status on a mobile
In one aspect, there is preferably provided a method of
indicating mobile electronic device status comprising the steps of retrieving colour
information associated with a mobile electronic device status; and displaying a
colour, representative of the colour information, on the mobile electronic device
to provide an indication of the mobile electronic device status.
In another aspect, the trackball area of the mobile electronic
device is preferably illuminated.
In another aspect, there is preferably provided apparatus
for indicating mobile electronic device status comprising a database for storing
mobile electronic device status information and associated colour information; a
set of light emitting diodes (LEDs); a processor for retrieving the colour information
based on the mobile electronic device status and transmitting a signal based on
the colour information to the set of LEDs; wherein the set of LEDs provide a light
corresponding to the colour information to illuminate an area of the mobile communication
device to indicate the mobile electronic device status.
Other aspects and features will become apparent to those
ordinarily skilled in the art upon review of the following description of specific
embodiments of the invention in conjunction with the accompanying figures.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Embodiments will now be described, by way of example only,
with reference to the attached Figures, wherein:
DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
- Fig. 1 is a front view of a mobile electronic device;
- Fig. 2 is a schematic view of apparatus for indicating mobile electronic device
- Fig. 3 is a flowchart outlining a method of indicating mobile electronic device
Generally, a method and system for indicating mobile electronic
device status is provided.
Turning to Figure 1, a schematic diagram of an embodiment
of a mobile communication device is shown. The mobile communication device 10 includes
a display 12 along with a keyboard/keypad area 14 having a keyboard 16 installed.
Between the display 12 and the keyboard 16 is a set of keys, or buttons, 18 and
a trackball 20.
In one embodiment, a set of LEDs is located underneath
the trackball of the mobile electronic device. As will be disclosed, the set of
LEDs provide a visual indication to a user relating to a status of the mobile communication
device. The LEDs may be a single colour LED or may be multi-coloured to provide
a spectrum of colours. Other methods of providing visual or colour indicators to
a user are also contemplated.
It will be appreciated that "colour" can be defined in
many ways, for example in terms of human perception, pigments used in paint, collections
of wavelengths of light, or "colour spaces". Arguably the most famous colour space
for the purposes of video displays is RGB space, so named because each displayable
colour is represented by the red, green and blue components (each often, but not
necessarily, specified as having integer values in a range from 0 to 255) that,
when added together, create a colour. However, the RGB colour space does not always
conform to human expectations for a colour system. For example, adding pure red
and pure green yields yellow, and the "midpoint" between pure red and green is a
very dingy shade of yellow.
Many other colour spaces are known for defining colours,
typically by means of three coordinates, and formulas for mapping one space to another.
A system known to many who use popular graphics programs such as Photoshop
™ is HSL space, in which the coordinates represent hue, saturation
and luminance. Hue is measured on a circular scale corresponding to the additive
colour wheel (red, yellow, green, cyan, blue, magenta). Saturation is zero for grey
tones (i.e. colours having all RGB components equal) and reaches the maximum value
for colours having at least one RGB component equal zero. Luminance is related to
the perceived brightness of the colour, but in an inconsistent manner; for example,
yellow and blue have the same luminance. There are related systems such Hue-Saturation-Value
A more faithful representation of perceived brightness
is found in the Y coordinate (also called luminance) of YUV space, one version of
which is used in the JPEG image compression scheme. In the absence of the two chrominance
coordinates U and V, pixel-by-pixel luminance information alone is all that is needed
to form a blank-and-white, o.e. grey-tone, version of an image.
In varying colours to represent changes in the state of
a dynamic characteristic, it is frequently advantageous - both conceptually and
from a programming standpoint - to represent and transform the colours in HSL or
YUV space, even though a conversion of colour coordinates to RGB values will ultimately
be needed to drive a video display. As one example, a simple rotation of a hue from
one value to another may involve first increasing one of the primary additive colours
(red, blue and green) and then decreasing a different one. As another example, "greying-out"
a graphic image by decreasing the saturation of each of its pixels typically requires
simultaneously changing all three RGB values for each pixel. It will be understood
that the discussion relating to the colours in the follow description may also be
enhanced by these other colour characteristics or spaces.
Turning to Figure 2, apparatus for implementing a method
of indicating mobile electronic device status is shown. The apparatus 50, located
within the mobile electronic, or communication, device 10, includes a processor
52, which may be a mobile electronic device processor or a separate processor, a
database 54 and a set of LEDs 56.
The database 54 stores information, preferably in the form
of a table, which includes a list of mobile communication device statuses and a
colour (or intensity of a colour) associated with each of the device statuses. The
processor 52 monitors the status, or state, of the device 10 and communicates with
the database 54 to retrieve the information stored in the database 54. The processor
52 also communicates with the set of LEDs 56 to transmits signals to produce a colour
to illuminate the trackball. It will be understood that the area surrounding the
trackball may also be illuminated by the set of LEDs as well as the area surrounding
the set of buttons 18. In the following description, whenever there is mention of
the trackball being illuminated, it will be understood that the area surrounding
the trackball and/or the set of buttons may also be illuminated.
In one embodiment, the apparatus 50 is designed to indicate
when the trackball 20 can be used to initiate an action. In other words, the user
can simply glance at the mobile electronic device to look at the colour of the light
illuminating the trackball 20 to determine the state of the electronic device. In
this embodiment, the set of LEDs 56 are preferably red, yellow and green with red
representing a locked mode whereby use of the device is password protected, yellow
representing a password mode whereby a user is entering a password in order to exit
the locked mode and green representing an unlocked mode whereby the device may be
used. The colours have been arbitrarily selected for this example and it will be
understood that other colours may be used. The selection of red, yellow and green
in the current embodiment represents traffic light colours with which a user will
be more familiar. The database 54 stores the information relating to the various
device statuses and the corresponding colour representing the status.
In this example, it is assumed that the mobile communication
device 10 is initially in a locked mode whereby a red LED illuminates the trackball
In operation, the processor 52 monitors the status of the
mobile electronic, or communication, device 10 and determines that the device is
in the locked mode (step 100). The processor 52 continues to monitor the mobile
electronic device to determine if the status has changed (step 102). If no change
is sensed, the processor 52 continues to monitor the status (step 100). When the
user decides to use the device, the processor 52 senses a change in the status from
the locked, or password protected, mode to the password mode. The processor 52 then
accesses the database 54 (step 104) to retrieve the colour (Yellow) associated with
the password mode and transmits a signal to the set of LEDs 56 (step 106) causing
the LEDs to provide a yellow light to illuminate the trackball 20. The set of LEDs
56 then provide the necessary illumination to the trackball (step 108). The yellow-illuminated
trackball provides a visual to the user that the mobile communication device is
in the password mode. The processor 52 then returns to monitoring the status of
the mobile communication device (step 100).
After the user has logged in correctly, by entering the
correct password, the mobile communication device 10 is in the unlocked mode. Once
the device 10 is in the unlocked mode, the user may freely access the applications
within the mobile electronic device and to use the trackball. When the processor
52 senses this status change (step 102), the processor 52 accesses the database
54 (step 104) to determine the colour (Green) corresponding to the unlocked mode.
The processor 52 then transmits a signal to the set of LEDs 56 (step 106) to provide
a green colour to the trackball 20, indicating the unlocked mode. The green LED
or LEDs are turned on (step 108) and the processor 52 then returns to monitoring
and determining the mobile communication device status (step 100).
By illuminating the trackball 20 from underneath the trackball,
a user is able to quickly glance at their mobile communication device 10 to determine
its status which in this case is the mode in which the mobile communication device
In another embodiment, the set of LEDs 56 are used to indicate
different user profiles associated with the ring volume of the mobile communication
device 10. In this embodiment, a single coloured LED may be used to indicate the
status, however, the intensity of the illumination provides the indicator status
to the user. The table below provides an example of the information stored in the
database 54 for this embodiment.
In operation, assuming that the mobile communication device
10 is in the default user profile, the set of LEDs 56 provides illumination at an
intensity of 50% to the trackball 20. When the processor 52 senses that the user
has changed their user profile (step 102), the processor 52 accesses the database
54 (step 104) to retrieve the intensity level corresponding to the new user profile.
If the user profile is changed to Loud, the processor 52 retrieves the intensity
level (100%) corresponding to the loud user profile and transmits a signal to the
set of LEDs 56 (step 106) to provide light at an intensity of 100%. Similarly, if
the new user profile is the Vibrate user profile, the LEDs receive a signal from
the processor 52 to provide a flashing light to illuminate the trackball 20 and
if the new user profile is Quiet, the set of LEDs is turned off so that no light
is provided to illuminate the trackball 20 (step 108).
The intensities which have been selected above are for
example only and are not meant to be restrictive to the implementation of the method
or system. It will be understood that for this embodiment, the selected intensities
must be distinguishable to the human eye such that the user can simply glance at
the mobile communication device to determine the current user profile.
In yet a further embodiment, the method and apparatus are
provided for indicating a status of an application on the mobile communication device.
For instance, if a user has a meeting set up in a calendar application, the colour
green may indicate that the user has a meeting coming up within the next hour, more
specifically that there are between 10 and 60 minutes before the meeting. The colour
yellow may be used to indicate that there is between 5 and 10 minutes left before
the meeting. The colour red may be used to indicate that there is less than five
minutes before the meeting. A flashing red light may be used to indicate that the
scheduled meeting time has passed. Therefore, when the user sees a red light illuminating
the trackball 20, the user knows that the meeting is starting within 5 minutes and
therefore needs to proceed to the meeting in order to ensure they are not late.
Although solid colours are preferred, the colours may be mixed to indicate different
time frames within the ranges provided. Furthermore, different light characteristics
such as saturation or intensity may be used to provide the necessary visual indication
to the user.
As with the examples above, the processor 52 continuously
monitors the time frame status of the meeting and accesses the database 54 whenever
the time frame status has changed to retrieve the colour corresponding with the
new time frame status. The new colour (or colour intensity) is then used to illuminate
the trackball 20. This provides the user with a visual indicator on the face of
the mobile communication device allowing the user to quickly glance at their device
to determine the amount of time before their meeting or appointment or more broadly,
the time frame status. There is no need for the user to look at the display to find
out the exact time of day to determine the amount of time before the meeting as
the colour illuminating the trackball provides a general visual indicator with the
necessary information to the user in a quicker manner.
In yet a further embodiment, the method and apparatus may
be used to indicate a status of the mobile communication device battery. In one
example, a possible colour representation may be if the battery has a battery life
of 50% or more, the set of LEDs provides a green light, if the battery has a battery
life of between 15 and 50%, the set of LEDs provides a yellow light and if the battery
has a battery life of less than 15% (indicating a need for recharging), the set
of LEDs provides a red light.
It will be understood that other mobile communication device
statuses and states such as connectivity or email status may also be displayed using
the methods and apparatuses described in this specification.
Along with visual indications, the mobile electronic device
may also provide audible or tactile indicators to enhance the method and system.
For example, tactile indicators such as altering the temperature of the device to
indicate device state, or status to a user. Also, vibration of the mobile communication
device or the provision of a message on the display may be provided to enhance the
In an alternative embodiment, the illumination of the trackball
20 may be used to indicate one mobile communication device status, or state, such
as the device state, the illumination of the area surrounding the trackball 20 may
be used to indicate a second mobile communication device status, or stat, such as
user profile information while the illumination of the area surrounding the set
of buttons 18 may be used to indicate a third mobile communication device status,
or state, such as the battery level. Depending on the number of areas available
for illumination, any number of different mobile communication device statuses may
be displayed for the user.
In a further embodiment, instead of constantly monitoring
the mobile communication device status, each time a status changes, a signal may
be transmitted to the processor 52 indicating the change thereby causing the processor
52 to access the database 54 for the colour information, or indicator information.
In this manner, the processor does not have to constantly monitor the status of
the mobile communication device.
In yet a further embodiment, the indicators may be associated
with any type of user input apparatus and is not restricted to simply a trackball.
For instance, the button area or under the keys of the keypad/keyboard.
The above-described embodiments are intended to be examples
only. Alterations, modifications and variations may be effected to the particular
embodiments by those of skill in the art without departing from the scope, which
is defined solely by the claims appended hereto.