AT&T Inc. of Dallas, TX, is a huge player in the mobile communications market, and is America’s largest provider of mobile telephony and line-landed telephony products as of 2012. AT&T’s consumer offerings for accessing wireless networks are becoming more varied, as is evidenced by the company’s recent announcement that it would sell $5 day passes for wireless data packages. AT&T will also support the development of an upcoming Samsung smart camera product, the Galaxy S4 Zoom.
Telecommunications has been a major growth field in intellectual property for a number of technological firms. Today on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, we’re taking a look at AT&T to see what developments we can expect from arguably the strongest American telecommunications corporation. As always, we have a great collection of patent applications and issued patents published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to show you what’s in store.
Our featured patent application today describes a system of preventing illegal and criminal activities on gaming networks by preventing predatory users from being able to come into contact with others who are susceptible. Also, this patent application indicates that the same gaming environments could be adjusted based on local user information to resemble that player’s local terrain. Other patent applications of note include a system of targeting emergency messages to an exact geographic location for affected mobile device owners, as well as a method for transmitting high-grade video data across a cellular network.
We’ve also noticed a wide range of intriguing additions to AT&T’s patent holdings in recent weeks. One issued patent protects a system of analyzing user voice activity to determine demographic data about that user, which could then be used for suggesting goods and services. Another issued patent protects a system of adding maps to address book entries, while another patent protects a method of creating a personalized television channel based on user preferences. Finally, we pulled up an issued patent that enables for closer law enforcement surveillance of mobile networks in response to criminal activity.
Adaptation of Gaming Applications to Participants
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130263005
Gaming applications for video game consoles and computers have evolved tremendously over the past few decades. From the rudimentary simulation-style of games like “Pong,” even more complex graphics and games features have been developed for players. The increased power of computer processors have allowed for these enhancements, even for games downloaded to and played on handheld mobile devices. With the ubiquity of the Internet throughout our society, now players are able to engage in games that can be played with or against others from geographically remote locations.
The interactions supported by Internet access may not always be the most beneficial for all parties, however, and some users may try to take malicious advantage of their anonymity. Some people engaging in virtual interactive in-game environments have been known in some cases to persuade others online to give away important personal information, like a credit card number, by stealing it or posing as a game administrator. Teenagers and children playing games in open environments are especially vulnerable to these kinds of violations of trust between game members.
This patent application, filed by AT&T with the USPTO, seeks to provide some safeguards against the ability of Internet gameplay to facilitate criminal activity. In this system, a gaming application receives virtual profiles of all game participants based on information given by participants when registering for the game. This information could include background history, such as past criminal activity.
Once this information has been collected, and user profiles at higher risk of criminal activity are identified, a game may restrict the access between members of a game environment. In this way, a person who has previously been convicted of predatory behavior towards children could be prevented from interacting with young players. User profiles are regularly updated to provide dynamic information on recent activity, such as behavior in other gaming environments, Internet viewing history and more. Additionally, this system could adjust game environments based on localized data as well; for example, a game environment could be altered for players on different continents so that the terrain and backdrop was more familiar to that part of the world.
Claim 1 of this AT&T patent application would provide legal protections for:
“A method, comprising: processing a gaming application by a computing device; generating a graphical user interface associated with the gaming application; receiving a selection of an icon presented in the user interface to establish a voice channel with another participant of the gaming application; retrieving from memory a profile associated with the another participant of the gaming application; indicating in the profile that the another participant is a child predator; and disabling the voice channel in response to an indication that the another participant is a child predator.”
Additional Patent Applications
Other patent applications filed by AT&T that are indicative of the company’s potential patent holdings indicate a focus on improving video communications, both in terms of video transmission and consumer access. Digital media broadcasters will be interested to note U.S. Patent Application No. 20130265446, entitled System and Method to Transmit Digital Broadcast Grade Video Via a Cellular Data Network. This application describes a system of video data transmission that can support broadcast-grade video feeds between devices. U.S. Patent Application No. 20130268992, which is titled Apparatus and Method for Detecting a Media Device, would protect a system of improving Internet Protocol Television (IPTV) connections among multiple televisions and devices within a home.
AT&T is also seeking legal protections for a couple of communications and software improvements that could have wide-reaching effects for consumers. For example, U.S. Patent Application No. 20130275136, entitled System and Method for Enhancing Speech Recognition Accuracy, would protect improvements to speech recognition systems in use by businesses for automated customer service. The system described in this application is better able to discern human responses with unusual grammar, even when the human user chooses an option that has been weighted lower based on probability of selection. U.S. Patent Application No. 20130267192, filed under the title Method for Geo-Targeting Wireless Emergency Alerts, describes a system of distributing emergency messages to mobile device owners based on precise location information.
Issued Patents of Note
AT&T has also recently been the recipient of a number of issued patents that highlight some interesting innovations created for telecommunications networks by the corporation. A few that piqued the interest of IPWatchdog protect improvements to personal mobile device services and functions. For example, U.S. Patent No. 8560370, issued under the title Methods, Systems, and Computer Products for Adding Map Component to Address Book, describes the addition of local map data for address book contact entries. Television and media fanatics may want to check out U.S. Patent No. 8561103, titled Method and Apparatus for Providing a Personalized Television Channel. This patent protects a subscription service that would allow users to create a personalized channel for television populated by shows from various broadcast channels.
A number of issued patents also highlight some telecommunications inventions that have some obvious benefits for business clients. Many marketing campaigns may potentially utilize the technology described in U.S. Patent No. 8554554, which is titled Automated Demographic Analysis by Analyzing Voice Activity. This patent protects a system of utilizing voice inputs on a computer system to monitor user voice activity and build a demographic profile based on keyword usage in speech. U.S. Patent No. 8554606, entitled System and Method for Managing Sponsorships, protects a system of handling sponsorship requests for corporations that reduces the time and energy that administrators expend when coordinating sponsorships for local events.
Law enforcement technologies are the aim of one final issued patent that we decided to explore. U.S. Patent No. 8554172, issued under the title Using Electronic Surveillance Data as Event Triggers for Lawful Location Tracking, protects a system of triggering lawful surveillance of a mobile network in response to an event trigger. With these methods, law enforcement officials would be better prepared to track cell phone activity by a criminal.