The Toshiba Corporation is a multinational conglomerate corporation which is jointly headquartered in Tokyo, Japan, and Irvine, CA. This company is involved in a variety of electrical engineering fields, and is trying to make a stir in consumer electronics markets by offering a 2-in-1 tablet/laptop device running the Windows operating system with a retail price under $600. Toshiba is also a major developer of medical imaging systems, and it’s ultrasound radiology products outpaced the overall U.S. ultrasound market for the second year in a row. The corporation is also involved in developing nuclear and other energy systems, although it recently withdrew as an investor for construction of a Bulgarian nuclear power station.
In our Companies We Follow series here at IPWatchdog, we try cover the corporations receiving the greatest number of patent grants from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to get a good view of global technological development. For the first time, we’re profiling innovations from Toshiba, one of the most regular applicants for U.S. patents in the entire world. Our recent foray into this company’s areas of technological development will bring our readers to a greater understanding of its business focus.
We begin our look at Toshiba’s recent inventions with a thorough look at today’s featured patent application, which describes a system designed to increase the speed with which transactions via check can be reconciled with a financial institution. This system creates a digital image of a check which can be analyzed for quick financial reporting, reducing typical delays in processing checks. An apparatus for aiding people attempting to write in a foreign language and a system for scanning produce items without barcodes are also discussed.
Toshiba is issued a great amount of U.S. patents week after week from the USPTO, and we’ve found some recent patents which protect improvements for systems involving public utilities. A couple of patents are directed at technologies for energy generation and transmission, including a device that would allow home customers to more easily switch between forms of energy being used, such as solar or natural gas. Another patent protects a system for improving the ultraviolet treatment of water for public use. We also noticed an invention aimed at helping to identify counterfeit bank notes through detection of magnetic elements within the currency.
E-Check and E-Commerce
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140156429
Electronic commerce, also known by the shortened name of “e-commerce,” essentially refers to the use of electronic networks to facilitate financial transactions. Point-of-sale (POS) terminals at checkout lines, credit cards and debit cards are all part of this system. Swiping a credit or debit card at a POS terminal allows the merchant to communicate with the credit card company in order to see whether the credit card will finance the transaction. If it will, the merchant is given an approval code from the credit card company and completes the transaction.
Unlike credit cards, debit cards or cash, those paying for items by check must deal with a much longer delay period, known as a “float” period. The float period needed to process and clear a check can last from 36 hours to 72 hours between when the check was written and when funds are distributed, even if the purchaser has already received the good or service. As well, the processing of checks usually requires much more manual labor in the form of manual data entry into a POS terminal, printing merchant information on the back of the check and more.
In January 2014, the Toshiba subsidiary Toshiba Global Commerce Solutions Holdings Corporation filed the above patent application with the USPTO. If a patent grant is awarded for the filed application, it would protect a method of generating an electronic check, or an e-check, from a physical check presented by a customer to purchase an item. The e-check is created by scanning the physical check and creating an image of a check that can quickly be processed digitally.
The digital image of the check helps cut down on the amount of manual labor needed to process the check by enabling the check amount, bank routing numbers and other important financial information to be determined from the scanned check image. The e-check can allow a merchant to quickly contact a financial institution for a transaction approval in a similar way to credit or debit card transaction processing. Check fraud is also reduced through this system by notifying the merchant immediately as to whether the financial institution will honor the transaction.
Claim 1 of this Toshiba patent application would provide the company the right to protect:
“A method for generating an e-check, the method comprising: scanning a check to create an image of the check in response to receiving a check as payment for a transaction; entering an amount of currency represented by the check into a point of sale terminal; identifying check information that describes a bank and a bank account, wherein the check comprises the check information; and generating a negotiable instrument, wherein the negotiable instrument comprises a check object based upon the image, the amount, and the check information, wherein further the check object includes the image.”
Other Patent Applications
Improving communication through digital and electronic means is a major goal among a great many of the corporations we feature on IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series. For example, our recent profile of IBM showed our readers a couple of patented technologies in the fields of speech recognition and digital analysis of written documents. Today, we’re seeing a couple of Toshiba patent applications which follow in similar footsteps. For example, various improvements in voice and speech analysis may be realized because of the technology described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140156280, which is titled Speech Processing System. This digital system can analyze an audio signal recorded from a person’s speech to derive certain parameters in speech patterns that may help in determining a person’s mood or their identity for certain security measures. Bilingual writers, or even those who only have a beginner’s grasp on a foreign language, may benefit from the innovation discussed in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140156258, entitled Foreign Language Writing Support Apparatus and Method. The apparatus featured in this patent application can receive sentence inputs from a user and utilizes a dictionary search unit designed to lookup the translation of a word written in a first language. In this way, a writer could input writing mostly in a foreign language and allow the system to correct the few words the writer couldn’t translate alone.
Image analysis for identifying important objects in a couple of useful settings is the focus of another couple of patent applications which caught our eyes today. Methods of identifying food at a cashier’s lane without any barcode identification, often the case with fresh produce sold at grocery stores, is at the core of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140153786, titled Commodity Recognition Apparatus and Commodity Recognition Method. This object recognition technology captures an image of commodities without barcodes and searches for candidate commodities from an external database. Systems for better detection of vehicles passing through toll gates are described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140147008, filed under the title Vehicle Detection Apparatus and Vehicle Detection Method. This innovation involves a highly accurate system of identifying vehicles through stereoscopic imaging that can better determine a vehicle’s feature points, identifying the vehicle even when the car is not in the same position as other vehicles when photograph, which has caused image misalignment in previous systems.
Issued Patents of Note
Toshiba is another giant in the field of intellectual property. According to the 2013 statistics compiled by IFI Claims pertaining to U.S. patent grants issued to companies across the world, Toshiba’s 2,416 patents that year placed 7th overall. The company’s electrical engineering activities were a focus of many of the patents recently issued to Toshiba and its many subsidiaries from the USPTO. From improvements to power transmission and generation systems to innovations regarding public utility systems, Toshiba’s electronic components are being developed for a wide degree of industrial applications.
We took a closer look at a couple of interesting patents which protect inventions designed to benefit electrical generation and grid power operations. U.S. Patent No. 8744640, issued under the title Green Power Demand Management Device, protects a device that will give consumers of electrical power more control over the amount of power supplied to their home’s electrical system. This device would allow consumers to choose between green forms of energy which create fewer carbon emissions, and non-green forms of energy. Improving the operation rate of nuclear power plants is the goal of the technology protected by U.S. Patent No. 8744034, titled Boiling Water Reactor. The boiling water reactor described within the patent allows for an increased cooling rate of a nuclear reactor during shutdown, allowing for quicker removal of a reactor pressure vessel lid. We also noticed another interesting invention directed at improving public utility systems in U.S. Patent No. 8742365, issued under the title Ultraviolet Water Treatment Apparatus. This apparatus is designed to improve the ability of ultraviolet water treatment systems to properly sterilize water even when the level of waste or quantity of water changes quickly.
It’s always encouraging to see a major corporation like Toshiba contribute some of its resources to developing technologies aimed at reducing various sources of pollution in our world. That’s exactly what we found when we took an in-depth look at U.S. Patent No. 8741028, entitled Carbon Dioxide Separating and Recovery System and Method of Controlling the Same. This system is designed to help those using fossil-based fuels in Japan to absorb carbon from combustion gas emissions, a major goal of 1990’s Kyoto Protocol. Finally, we noticed one patent describing improved methods of identifying counterfeit bank notes in U.S. Patent No. 8733654, which is titled Magnetoresistive Detection System and Method for Detection of Magnetic Image of Bank Notes. This system utilizes a magnetoresistive detector to determine magnetic features of a bank note, such as a magnetic strip or magnetic ink.