The patent, titled "Integrated visual notification system in an accessory device," describes various ways in which these new Smart Covers would work to show notifications.
Basically, the Smart Covers would incorporate visual elements, such as LED lights, in certain patterns that could light up to display various notifications related to incoming messages, apps or even battery status.
The Smart Covers could connect to the iPad with help of electric contacts or a cable for energy and data transmission, or could feature wireless inductive charging powers and connect to the device via Wi-Fi or Bluetooth for data exchange.
A third, more passive, option describes a Smart Cover that has transparent portions which would allow light to pass through. In such a case, the display of the iPad will turn on in those portions, creating a light-based notification effect.
Notifications can be displayed in form of words, shapes and symbols, and can appear in different portions of the Smart Cover. In order to make notifications quickly go away, users could use the existing power and volume rockers of the iPad.
Finally, the illuminated elements of the Smart Cover could be used for different purposes while the iPad is in actual use.
It’s not clear when, and if, such a Smart Cover would actually be launched. Earlier this year, a different Applepatent described a different direction Apple is taking with Smart Cover development, showing a touch-friendly full keyboard packed inside a Smart Cover concept.
For what it’s worth, the patent also includes images that seem to indicate a Smart Cover with the hinge along its width rather than its height is being considered by Apple.
Meanwhile, the competition has cases that allow notifications to pass through, especially on bigger smartphones such as the LG G3 or Galaxy Note 3 which have cases with cutouts that let the user interact with the device. A more passive notification-friendly case has been recently launched by HTC, the Dot View cover for the One (M8) handset.