iPad owners may one day be able to wirelessly charge their tablets without the need for a separate charging station.
Published today by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, Apple's patent application called "Integrated Inductive Charging In Protective Cover" describes a method of using the iPad's Smart Cover itself as the wireless charger.
The cover would be built with inductive power coils and possibly a battery, both of which could provide juice to the iPad. Charging the tablet this way would be a simple matter of closing the cover, which would then power the iPad directly or recharge its own battery. As the patent application describes it:
The protective cover can include an inductive power transmitter that can take many forms such as inductive coils. The inductive coils can, in turn, receive power from an external power supply. In some cases, however, the protective cover can include an internal source of power such as a battery that can be used to store power that can subsequently be passed to the tablet device by way of the inductive power transfer circuit.
The process would rely on the magnets already built into to the Smart Cover to ensure that the cover lines up directly with the iPad.
Of course, you'd still need to plug the iPad into an electrical outlet periodically to power or charge the cover itself.
But the patent application, which was originally filed in September 2011, also dangles the idea of solar power. The flap of the cover could contain solar cells that would collect and store energy from sunlight and then pass that along to the tablet.