The Xerox Corporation Ltd. (NYSE: XRX) of Norwalk, CT, is a major American multinational corporation which offers one of the world’s most extensive line of printing products, both for business and personal uses. According to industry analysis firms, this company has been the global market leader for managed print services for the past five years. Xerox has recently stepped up efforts to cut down on counterfeit products manufactured overseas, which by some estimates costs the company $3.5 billion to $5 billion each year. In late June, Xerox was awarded a $51-million contract by the South Carolina government to set up a government assistance program for food stamps and other benefits over seven years.
Here on IPWatchdog, we’ve recently covered some of the patents being auctioned by Xerox later on this month. In today’s edition of our Companies We Follow series, we’re returning once more to look at the recent innovations which have been developed by Xerox. Our foray into this company’s recently patented technologies, as well as the patent applications recently published by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, are giving us some great insights into the incredible scope of this company’s research and development goals.
We start today’s column with an exploration of our featured patent application, which would protect a method of better compensating remote workers who contribute to tasks assigned through project crowdsourcing programs. The system it describes would analyze the work returned by those contributing to the crowdsourced project, judging the quality of the work returned against certain thresholds to create a fairer system of compensation. Other patent applications would protect means for storing handwritten marks made by digital pens as well as a system for encouraging more efficient printing techniques among users of a printing network.
Xerox enjoys a very healthy portfolio of enforceable patents, and it’s lately added dozens which increase its intellectual property holdings in printing and image forming industries. A couple of patents we discuss today relate to better management of networked printers, including one method of suggesting more cost-effective printers to users for a specific print job. We also discovered an interesting patent related to more energy-efficient control of street lights in response to the time of day or the presence of sunlight.
Methods and Systems for Compensating Remote Workers
U.S. Patent Application No. 20140207870
Businesses are always looking for better ways to ensure that work-related tasks are completed in a timely fashion. With the proliferation of Internet technologies, companies now have many more methods than before to obtain useful work completed by geographically diverse employees. Crowdsourcing a project, which involves splitting a project up into many tasks which are assigned and completed by a multitude of workers through online channels, is one project management method which has become profitable for some companies.
There are shortcomings to the currently established methods for crowdsourcing work, however. Employers typically set a fee for work rendered, but the quality of the work they pay for may vary wildly from worker to worker. In most crowdsourcing systems, employers typically have few mechanisms at their disposal for ensuring that the work returned by crowdworkers is of a certain quality.
This patent application was filed by Xerox in January 2013 with the USPTO to protect a method, implemented by a computing device, of compensating a number of remote workers. Through this system, each member in a group of crowdworkers is given a list of tasks to complete for a given project. As the work is completed and returned, it is analyzed by the system to determine the performance of each individual worker during the course of the project.
When work is returned by crowdworkers through this system, it is processed by an analysis module during transmission. This analysis module is comprised of a checking module for checking work received, a reputation-scoring module for computing the reputation score of a worker based on past work, and a comparison module for comparing the work completed correctly by a worker against that worker’s reputation. This system allows for a compensation method that pays workers fairly based on the work recently completed and the reputation score they’ve accrued for completing work correctly in the past.
Claim 1 of this patent application would give Xerox the right to protect:
“A method implemented on a computing device for compensating one or more remote workers, the method comprising: publishing a first set of tasks, wherein the first set of tasks comprises a first subset of tasks and a second subset of tasks; receiving a set of responses for the first set of tasks from the one or more remote workers, wherein the set of responses comprises a first subset of responses for the first subset of tasks and a second subset of responses for the second subset of tasks; checking the first subset set of responses received from the one or more remote workers for the first subset of tasks; short-listing a first set of remote workers from the one or more remote workers on the basis of the checking, wherein the checking further corresponds to a comparison between number of tasks completed correctly by the one or more remote workers from the first subset of tasks with a first predefined threshold value; assigning a weight to the second subset of responses received from the shortlisted first set of remote workers for the second subset of tasks, wherein the weight is assigned on the basis of the frequency of occurrence of the second subset of responses in the received set of responses; and compensating the shortlisted first set of remote workers on the basis of at least one of the weight or a predefined scheme.”
Other Patent Applications
The Xerox Corporation is renowned for its years of development in printing technologies, and it offers a diverse array of printer, photocopier and printing press options. In our recent search of the USPTO’s published patent applications assigned to this company, we’re seeing a lot of innovation in this field. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140180651, which is titled User Profiling for Estimating Printing Performance, was filed to protect a method of computing user behaviors when using printers on a network. This system can identify users who are creating more print jobs than their work requires, which creates waste, and then encourages users to make more resource-efficient printing choices. Xerox is also very involved in the digitizing of communication, as is evidenced by the technology discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140176512, titled System and Method for Creating and Modifying Physically Transient Handwritten Digital Documents. This patent application would protect an information capture system for storing handwritten marks made by a digital pen on an erasable media, which can be used to transiently store images and text without the cost of printing paper.
We were very intrigued by the scope of Xerox’s innovation in many fields beyond printing, including one invention designed to help law enforcement officials identify cars who are violating driving laws. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140169633, filed under the title Emergency Rescue Vehicle Video Based Violation Enforcement Method and System, would protect a computer-implemented method of identifying a vehicle that does not yield to an emergency vehicle. This video-based system is meant to help police officers witness such a violation without being physically present and obtaining license plate and other identification information.
We also noticed a crowdsourcing technology similar to the one discussed in today’s featured patent application expressed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140188787, entitled Crowdsourcing Directory System. This patent application is directed at another computer-implemented method, this one which helps to create a repository of online crowdsourcing platforms complete with information about the kinds of tasks that can be accomplished.
Issued Patents of Note
In 2013, Xerox received just over 1,000 U.S. patent grants, earning it the 32nd-highest total of patents among all business entities from the USPTO for that year. We always make sure to give plenty of focus to a corporation’s recently issued patents here in our Companies We Follow series, and we’re seeing plenty which protect an array of improvements to Xerox’s printing technologies, including network printing systems utilized by many people. We also noticed some intriguing technologies which aren’t related to printing, although not as many as we found in our survey of the company’s patent applications.
Xerox’s low-cost organic electrophotographic printing systems which use toner should see improvements to their service life thanks to the innovation protected by U.S. Patent No. 8774696, issued under the title Delivery Apparatus. This patent protects an applicator device for use within an image forming apparatus which creates an electrostatic latent charge upon an electrophotographic printer’s photoreceptors to reduce wear. We noticed another couple of patents related to improving the ability of printing networks to handle many users effectively, especially during peak usage times. U.S. Patent No. 8773689, entitled Resubmission to Alternate Printers to Help Efficient Printing and Space Planning, protects a machine-implemented method of receiving a print job and identifying the best printer to handle the job based on printer availability, printer cost, a user’s printer rights and the physical proximity of the printer to a user. Better methods for predicting ebbs and flows in printing jobs submitted to a network are protected by U.S. Patent No. 8768745, which is titled System and Method of Forecasting Print Job Related Demand. The print demand forecasting method described improves upon the accuracy of previous methods of determining that network requests for print jobs will be higher.
We wanted to wrap up today’s focus on Xerox’s recently patented inventions with a look at a couple of patents protecting some novel data systems which have very little to do with printing, if anything. U.S. Patent No. 8768239, which is titled Methods and Systems for Clustering Students Based on Their Performance, protects method of organizing students based on their performance in a class. This system is meant to help teachers more accurately determine a student’s performance from the massive amount of information pertaining to student performance which is available. Finally, we were intrigued by the energy-efficient municipal lighting system protected by U.S. Patent No. 8766545, entitled Selective Street Light Control Apparatus, Systems, and Methods. The selective street light control module protected by this patent would be able to reduce power consumption in street lights by turning off a segment of lights in response to the time of day or the presence of sunlight at dawn.