Apple has explored ways to save power and add convenience, by having devices that can meet network demands and perform tasks, all in sleep mode.
You have long been able to build home servers from spare Macs. These Macs also had a setting called “wake up for network access” for a long time, which meant they could stay in low power or sleep mode until they needed it.
However, when you reconnect to your Mac through a virtual network service and it has a display, that display also wakes up. Besides blowing up coworkers or family members, or presenting potential privacy concerns, it’s a waste of energy.
“Controlling a Power Off Computer System,” a newly granted US patent, suggests that you can make a remote Mac – or any device – perform tasks without wasting power. In some cases, this can be energy that the device simply does not have.
“Computer systems in use today typically have a network interface that allows wired or wireless communication with other devices or systems,” the patent states. “Such communication may be made in response to input received from a user physically operating the computer system, as well as input received remotely.”
“This latter feature can allow, for example, a remote user to be able to play a sound on the computer system, which can make it easier to locate the computer system,” he continues.
If a device is small enough to be lost, it will also have a relatively small battery. Apple’s idea could therefore cause a sleeping device to do something minimal with its remaining battery.
The goal goes further, however, with Apple’s plan to ensure that devices actually stay asleep, while performing important tasks.
“Exemplary tasks performed in the power-off state include downloading one or more files to a remote computer system,” the patent states, “downloading one or more files from a remote computer system , deleting one or more files from the computer system, accessing input / output devices, disabling the computer system and checking the memory of the computer system. ”
Detail of patent block diagrams showing a series of example steps that a system could use
This means that a device can function as a server that is able to respond constantly but is not constantly powered in standby mode. This would make it easier, for example, to run an Apple Mail server and take advantage of the Mac’s best email rules, without having to keep it constantly powered on.
Being able to perform “a memory check on the computer system” would help solve a long-standing problem with Macs. Apple’s OS X and now macOS have built-in maintenance scripts that run in the background, but they tend to run overnight. And many people shut down their Macs overnight.
So while you can’t stop people from wanting to shut down, if you can get them to leave the Mac asleep, this method will wake it up enough to perform those useful background maintenance tasks.
The patent is awarded to Timothy R. Paaske and Josh P. de Cesare. The many previous patents of the former include patents related to power management, while the latter is listed on those related to alarm clock devices.
While the patent appears to refer to potential future Apple devices, some current ones have implemented what could be a subset of the idea. Apple’s Power Nap feature allows select MacBook Air and MacBook Pro models to perform iCloud sync and Time Machine backups in low power mode.