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Apple developing 'smart shoe', patent application suggests

Unless your toes are poking through the front of your shoes, it can be a tough call deciding when to discard your favourite pair of footwear and lace up a new set. But Apple wants to make that choice a little easier.

Last summer, the tech giant filed a patent application for a 'smart shoe' with sensors that track usage and alert the wearer when it's time to replace them.

As first reported by AppleInsider, the patent described three main components: a detector for sensing how worn-out the shoe becomes, a processor to measure the shoe's use and an alarm to inform the owner when the shoe's time is up. The chosen sensor could be anything from an accelerometer or pressure sensor to a pedometer or piezoelectric flexing sensor.

The patent tips the processor, alarm and other electronics to likely be housed in the shoe's spacious heel or outsole.

Shoes provide comfort, protection and physical support for feet, the patent said. "As a shoe wears, physical support provided by the shoe decreases, thereby reducing associated protection from injury," Apple explained. "When a critical wear level is reached, even if the shoe looks like it is not particularly worn, the shoe may not provide adequate support and may, in fact, cause damage to feet."

Each participating shoe's manufacturer would set algorithmic specifications through which data would be processed to determine when the shoe has reached its breaking point. At that time, an alarm in the form of an LED light, speaker, or display, will let owners know it's time to go shopping.

This isn't Apple's first foray into wearable tech. The US Patent and Trademark Office granted the company a smart garment patent in January 2012, which described technology that could be built into running shoes to coexist with the Nike + iPod product line, Patently Apple reported last year.

The sensors, it said, could also be integrated into clothing, like shirts and sweat pants, or even other sporting goods like skates and ski boots.

Earlier this month, an analyst suggested that Apple would branch out into wearable tech in the future. Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster suggested that wearable computers could replace the iPhone and smartphones in general within 10 years.