IBM Seeks Patent for Social Gathering of Distributed Knowledge

UPDATED Friday, March 29, 2013 at 3:30pm ET (see comment #1)

International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) is an international business technology consultant and developer headquartered in Armonk, New York. As the top patenting company for the last 20 years, every week you can expect to see at patents on computer systems and other technologies where IBM is the assignee. This past week IBM received over 120 patents, which is a fairly typical week for the company. Below are a few of the patents and patent applications that caught our attention for one reason or another.

Social Gathering of Distributed Knowledge 
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130066944Click to see File History

Task management has increasingly become a digital job as it becomes more productive to employ remotely isolated workers on the same job or project. Media and data such as job instructions, video or even computer code for computer-controlled machines can keep business activities going without requiring all workers to be physically present.

IBM looks to improve the access to knowledge for task management applications by creating a system for identifying a task creator and likely task participants. Once these participants are identified, the computer system works to selectively delegate tasks and information to the members that the system deems most likely to participate in a specific activity.


[Patent-Watch]

Claim 1 of this patent application seeks protection for:

“A method for managing a task, the method comprising: retrieving, by a computer system, the task including an identification of a task creator and an identification of a set of activities of the task; identifying, by the computer system, a user who is likely to perform a portion of the set of activities, wherein the portion includes one or more activities of the set of activities; delegating selectively, by the computer system, at least the portion of the set of activities to an identified user; sending, by the computer system, the portion of the set of activities to the identified user; receiving, by the computer system, a set of responses related to the portion of the set of activities; determining, by the computer system, whether the task is complete based on a policy for establishing that the set of responses meet a configured confidence level; and reporting, by the computer system, the set of responses to the task creator responsible for superset of responses.”

Mirroring Virtual Machines from a Primary Host to a Secondary Host
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130073778Click to see File History
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130073823Click to see File History

Computer systems that require high availability and reliability, such as government or corporate offices, typically use a technique known as mirroring to provide a backup computer system in the event that the hardware on the primary computer fails. Mirroring involves the copy of data and software from one computer system to a secondary system on the same network. When a hardware failure occurs, a computer user can access the backup through a virtual machine running on the primary computer.

The system that IBM is seeking to protect through this patent application would track memory for any changes made by a user. Frequently modified data would be identified as writeable and would be frequently mirrored to a secondary system. This system would also monitor software from remote devices that connect to a network wirelessly, including smartphones and electronic devices.

Claim 7 (Claims 1 through 6 cancelled) of the ‘778 patent application describes:

“A data processing system comprising: at least one memory having a set of instructions located therein; one or more processors in communication with the memory, the processors operable to execute the set of instructions which cause the processor to: track changes for each of a plurality of memory pages for one or more primary host virtual machines; track changes to a plurality of processor states for one or more primary host virtual machines; responsive to an occurrence of a checkpoint, stop one or more of the primary host virtual machines; determine for the memory pages, if at least one particular memory page of the plurality of memory pages is a frequently changed memory page; in response to at least one particular memory page being a frequently changed memory page, mark the frequently changed memory page as writeable and copy the frequently changed memory page to a buffer; in response to a memory page being infrequently changed, mark the infrequently changed memory page as read only; resume the one or more primary host virtual machines; and transmit a copy of the memory pages, the buffer, and the changes to the processor states to the secondary host.”

Claim 1 of the ‘823 patent application seeks to protect:

“A computer implemented method of mirroring contents of a primary host computer system onto a secondary host computer system, the method comprising: tracking changes for each of a plurality of memory pages for one or more primary host virtual machines; tracking changes to a plurality of processor states for one or more primary host virtual machines; responsive to an occurrence of a checkpoint, stopping one or more of the primary host virtual machines; determining for the memory pages, if at least one particular memory page of the plurality of memory pages is a frequently changed memory page; in response to at least one particular memory page being a frequently changed memory page, marking the frequently changed memory page as writeable and copying the frequently changed memory page to a buffer; in response to a memory page being infrequently changed, marking the infrequently changed memory page as read only; resuming the one or more primary host virtual machines; and transmitting a copy of the memory pages, the buffer, and the changes to the processor states to the secondary host.”

Maintaining Consistency of Storage in a Mirrored Virtual Environment
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130074065Click to see File History

The third of four patent applications released for IBM this week also deals with the mirroring of data storage in computer networks requiring high reliability. This patent application deals more with the virtual machines processing the executable files and reading the memory stored through mirroring. In a mirroring environment, two identical virtual machines exist, one of which includes code that allows it to run the other virtual machine in the event of hardware failure.

The IBM invention involves utilizing checkpoints for data capture from one virtual machine. These checkpoints occur while the first virtual machine is processing computer code. The second virtual machine scans the first machine for changes to data storage and processes system backup updates. The system is designed to provide more consistency in data between the virtual machines.

As Claim 1 describes, IBM hopes to legally protect:

“A method of achieving data consistency in a shared storage accessible by a first machine and a second machine, the method comprising: receiving a notification that the first machine will overwrite existing data that is stored in the shared storage, wherein the notification is received following a first checkpoint at the first machine, and wherein the first machine and the second machine are configured to perform work that modifies data in the shared storage; and in response to receiving the notification that the first machine will overwrite the existing data that is stored in the shared storage: storing a copy of the existing data in a local storage of the second machine; and sending an acknowledgment to the first machine that the copy of the existing data has been successfully stored in the local storage, to trigger the first machine to proceed with overwriting the existing data in the shared storage with new data; in response to detecting that a failure has occurred in the first machine prior to a next checkpoint: retrieving the copy of the existing data from the local storage of the second machine, overwriting the new data in the shared storage with the copy of the existing data retrieved from the local storage of the second machine, and triggering, by the hypervisor, a processor of the second machine to take over and resume work that was previously being performed by the first machine at the first checkpoint.”

Smart Display
U.S. Patent Application No. 20130067370Click to see File History

Changes to the monitor display on computer systems over the years have included the use of new lighting technologies and changes to the display panel’s shape, but the user interface on the display has remained fairly similar: the user controls a cursor through an input device, like a mouse, to interact with computer programs. A user can run multiple programs at once, but the user interface is largely dictated by the application’s user interface.

IBM hopes to protect a system they’ve devised for altering the user interface to provide a more responsive display for users. The system allows a computer user to adjust the position of applications on the screen in a way that creates layout metadata that informs how new data from that application is shown in the future.

As Claim 1 of this patent application describes, IBM has created:

“A smart display comprising: a display screen; a processor and a memory; a display data input that receives display data with user interface blocks having an original layout from a computer; a customization mechanism that creates custom layout metadata for pixel blocks in response to user input; and layout customization logic that uses the custom layout metadata to reassign the received display data to a new location on the smart display to relocate the pixel blocks to a custom layout.” 

Adaptive Business Process Automation
U.S. Patent No. 8396815Click to see File History

This patent awarded to IBM is also indicative of the computer systems developer’s focus on improving business efficiency. Work processes, especially those involving manufacture, are increasingly controlled by computers today, but still require human operators to ensure that the machines are working properly. Often, however, the user interface for machine controlling software is not optimized for easy use among human operators, and different software installed on the same system may not be perfectly compatible.

IBM’s invention includes a system of creating facilitating computer script for process automation. Some of this script would be used to automate certain functions, such as a user login or machine monitoring, that are cumbersome for a human operator and require excessive time to complete.

Claim 1 of this IBM patent protects:

“A method for process automation, comprising: monitoring one or more workstations including monitoring screen contents and user actions at the workstations by executing a screen scraper module to obtain a dynamically updated current set of character and graphical information from screens of the workstations that includes user-entered data and retrieved screen data; analyzing the current set to identify monitored functional events; defining focal states as sequences of functional events, wherein the current set comprises time intervals associated with the user actions, respectively and the sequences of functional events of at least a portion of the focal states include the time intervals; generating one or more facilitating scripts associated with respective ones of the focal states, wherein the facilitating scripts each provide one or more automatic actions; matching a sequence of the monitored functional events to the sequence of functional events of one of the focal states; and applying the one or more automatic actions of the facilitating script associated with the one focal state; wherein said steps are implemented in either: computer hardware configured to perform said steps, or computer software embodied in a non-transitory, tangible, computer-readable storage medium.”

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One comment so far.

  • [Avatar for Gene Quinn]
    Gene Quinn
    March 29, 2013 03:34 pm

    CORRECTION:

    An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that IBM received only 4 patents this week. The search for IBM issued patents was unfortunately incomplete. Results from a search conducted on FreePatentsOnline.com for “IBM” resulted in far fewer patents than a search run earlier today for “International Business Machines.”

    We apologize for this error.

    -Gene