Mobile Devices and Wireless Innovations Dominate Qualcomm Patent Efforts

By Steve Brachmann
November 14, 2014

Qualcomm Research Center in San Diego, California.

The American semiconductor company Qualcomm Incorporated (NASDAQ: QCOM), which has its headquarters located in San Diego, CA, develops a wide array of telecommunications products and services which are sold globally. The company made a major investment into Bluetooth technologies in the middle of October, acquiring Bluetooth developer CSR of Britain for $2.5 billion. Qualcomm has also invested funds along with other companies, including Google, in the Florida-based virtual reality developer Magic Leap, which may signal the use of augmented reality in certain Qualcomm products. The company is also working with wireless power charging developer ConvenientPower to create the world’s first commercially available in-car wireless smartphone charger.

Qualcomm is a regular part of IPWatchdog’s Companies We Follow series, and the recently published patent applications that we surveyed taught us some intriguing things about this corporations research and development activities. Neighborhood-aware networks, which can provide digital services to many homes within the same neighborhood, are the focus of a few filings. Qualcomm is also seeking to protect both an electronic scale with conversion table software and a pair of headphones with a novel technique for overcoming popping and clicking noises when plugging the headphone connector into an audio port.

The strength of Qualcomm’s patent portfolio is a major reason why this company is so successful internationally. Most of the patents recently issued to this corporation protect various mobile device innovations, including the use of an inclinometer to detect the incline of a device display and adjusting the way an image is rendered to improve the view relative to the incline. Gesture-based financial transaction completed across mobile devices, as well as methods of providing location information on indoor environments, have also been protected for Qualcomm through patents issued over the past few weeks.

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Qualcomm’s Patent Applications: Neighborhood-Aware Networks, Push-To-Talk Communications and Consumer Devices

The semiconductor technologies developed by Qualcomm often lead innovation in the field of telecommunications worldwide. For example, the LTE Advanced network being developed by the company could result in the seamless integration of LTE networking with Wi-Fi and other methods of wireless data communications. Much of Qualcomm’s research and development activities are coordinated through the Qualcomm Innovation Center, a wholly-owned subsidiary with a focus on developing innovations in cooperation with the open source community. The company also sponsors the Qualcomm Innovation Fellowship, a program designed to recognize and mentor PhD-level students in engineering; the program has awarded $3.5 million to students since it began in 2009.

U.S. Patent Application No. 20140324591, entitled “Selectively Authenticating a Group of Devices as Being in a Shared Environment Based on Locally Captured Ambient Sound.”

Neighborhood-aware networking (NAN), which can be used to deploy web-based services to a geographical area comprising a number of residences, were featured in a couple of Qualcomm patent applications which we took note of today. Better methods of connecting mobile devices to neighborhood-aware networks are discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140313966, which is titled Systems and Methods for Identification in a Neighborhood Aware Network. The patent application would protect a method of communicating in a neighborhood aware network by generating an NAN frame, which is comprised of either a synchronization beacon or a discovery frame, and transmitting that frame. The frame has multiple address fields to indicate whether the data should be group-cast as well as provide a source address. This system would allow users of mobile devices to better exchange information and coordinate activities with others through an NAN. The prevention of data loss caused by communication errors in an NAN is the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140301295, entitled Systems and Methods for Collision Management in a Neighborhood Aware Network. The wireless communication method that would be protected determines the probability that multiple devices will simultaneously transmit information across a neighborhood-aware network sized for a maximum number of devices. This method could defer communications from some devices until the next transmission period to reduce data loss from network collisions.

Qualcomm has also been developing a couple of innovations meant to improve various forms of data communications between devices. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140293839, which is titled Uninterruptable Group Communication Sessions Within a Wireless Communications System, would protect a method of initiating and conducting a group communication session for transmitting data to multiple members of a group. This novel technology would improve the use of push-to-talk communications systems by enabling the transmission of data through these systems to a multitude of access terminals. Glitches in data transmission experienced in short-range communication networks are addressed by the technology described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140324591, entitled Selectively Authenticating a Group of Devices as Being in a Shared Environment Based on Locally Captured Ambient Sound. This patent application would protect a method for establishing a set of local peer-to-peer wireless communications between a first user equipment and other devices based on an authentication process using ambient sound. The innovation is designed to prevent a call from being transmitted from a phone to a Bluetooth receiver within the vehicle when a person unlocks their car while talking on the phone, for example.

From U.S. Patent Application No. 20140318874, titled “Configurable Electronic Kitchen Scale Accessory.”

A couple of intriguing hardware inventions have also been coming out of the research and development facilities of Qualcomm. Home chefs may find it easier to try out a new recipe with the product disclosed by U.S. Patent Application No. 20140318874, filed under the title Configurable Electronic Kitchen Scale Accessory. The configurable electronic scale that would be protected includes a measurement panel, at least one force sensor for measuring the weight of an item placed on the measurement panel and a processor converting the item’s weight for indicating an equivalent volume to a user. The invention improves on previous scales capable of measuring ingredients in a variety of units by providing conversion table information to cooks who are trying to follow a recipe. Qualcomm has also developed an improved headphone device, which we saw in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140314243, which is titled Click and Pop Noise Reduction in Headphones. The invention is designed to address clicking and popping noises created in headphones when a source to which headphones are connected applies a current to determine the impedance of the headphones. The patent application would protect a method for reducing noise in headphones that involves the generation of an analog waveform signal to check headphone impedance while reducing noise.

Augmented and virtual reality technologies are another area where Qualcomm is looking to increase its intellectual property holdings. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140321702, entitled Diminishing and Mediated Reality Effects from Reconstruction, would protect improvements to image processing in mixed reality environments which involve 3D reconstruction of actual objects and the environment. The patent application discloses a method of obtaining a plurality of live images and determining a relative camera pose from the images for determining a first mask region to which a synthetic image may be applied. This novel technique improves on previous image processing methods using inpainting techniques, which can create artifacts resulting in image errors.

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Issued Patents of Note: Many Mobile Device Innovations, from Inclinometers to Computing Resource Managers

Qualcomm always has one of the larger lists of new additions to its patent portfolio whenever we survey its most recent patents for our Companies We Follow series. The corporation was issued 2,182 U.S. patent grants from the USPTO in 2013, placing it 11th among all companies that year. This 2013 total is also almost 50 percent greater than the patent grants issued to the company in the previous year. Qualcomm’s patent holdings in the realm of 3G and 4G LTE wireless communications has helped the company build a strong and profitable wireless technology licensing division, although the company has lately dealt with issues in collecting royalties from unreported sales in China.

From U.S. Patent No. 8860765, titled “Mobile Device With an Inclinometer.”

Mobile device innovations were found among the many patents recently issued to Qualcomm, and we found a couple of intriguing patents to share with our readers today. U.S. Patent No. 8860765, issued under the title Mobile Device With an Inclinometer, discloses a mobile device which has been provided with electronic components which can detect whether the device is being held at an incline. The patent protects an electronic device with an inclinometer and a processor which is responsive to the inclinometer, automatically redrawing a displayed image from a landscape-type display to a portrait-type display. The technology is intended to improve the richness of user interaction with a device having a small display screen. Along with display technologies, Qualcomm is also continuing to pursue touchscreen technologies, as we saw evidenced in U.S. Patent No. 8872804, which is titled Touch Sensing Display Devices and Related Methods. The invention is designed to reduce electrical interference between a sensing device and an associated display device that can lead to errors in touchscreen operation. The patent protects a touch sensing display device that includes an addressing circuit which is configured to adjust the interference characteristic of the display device, as well as a sensing circuit configured to adjust a sensing characteristic of the touch sensor based on the interference characteristic.

Qualcomm has also increased its patent holdings related to wireless communication technologies in the past month. The use of low power base stations to support wireless connectivity among multiple devices within a home is protected by U.S. Patent No. 8862140, which is titled Methods and Apparatus for Deployment and Control of Small Cells. The invention is designed to overcome interference issues experienced when low power base stations are installed in close proximity to each other. The patent protects a method of performing power control for a femto node deployed in a wireless network that involves measuring the radio frequency environment parameters of multiple femto nodes and adjusting transmission parameters relative to the coverage area. Methods of providing location information to mobile devices within indoor environments where GPS and satellite signals are unreliable is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8874131, entitled Providing Location Related Information for a Structure to Mobile Stations. The patent protects a method of obtaining signals that represent location related information for a region of space within a structure and determining if a mobile device is missing a block of location data. The development is meant to address issues in mobile bandwidth and latency when transmitting large amounts of location related information. A novel technique for the conducting of financial transactions through mobile devices is discussed within U.S. Patent No. 8867991, which is titled Use of Proximity Sensors With Near-Field Communication. The patent protects a method of selecting data from a mobile device for transmission involving the determination of proximity data of near-field communication (NFC) devices and a triggering event, such as the sliding motion of a user’s hand over the display. This innovation aids in the processing of NFC transactions made through mobile devices by reducing the amount of data that a mobile device user must input manually.

Finally, we wanted to take a closer look at a patent issued to protect a technology that will greatly improve resource management in smartphone devices to address issues associated with a rapidly growing install base. U.S. Patent No. 8856798, issued under the title Mobile Computing Device Activity Manager, would protect a computer-implemented method for allocating resources of a mobile computing device to an activity that involves determining a priority level for the activity and a schedule for the activity based on the priority level and available resources. This system of applying priority levels to mobile device actions based on user interactions is designed to optimize the performance of high priority applications and provide a more favorable user experience.

The Author

Steve Brachmann

Steve Brachmann is a freelance journalist located in Buffalo, New York. He has worked professionally as a freelancer for more than a decade. He writes about technology and innovation. His work has been published by The Buffalo News, The Hamburg Sun, USAToday.com, Chron.com, Motley Fool and OpenLettersMonthly.com. Steve also provides website copy and documents for various business clients and is available for research projects and freelance work.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com. Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 4 Comments comments.

  1. Benny November 16, 2014 2:27 am

    From claim 1 of the ‘874 patent – ” …a processor configured to convert the measured weight of the item into an equivalent volume…” 5 inventors are listed for an invention which is nothing more than a processor which can calculate “V=W/Sg” – a high school programming exercise from the 80’s – connected to a kitchen scale from the 90’s. How much input was required from 5 inventors for this rocket science? This is not the sort of innovation he patent system is designed to promote.

  2. Glanced November 16, 2014 3:33 am

    Confused. How is Qualcomm’s US patent portfolio indicative of their international success? Shouldn’t their international portfolio be used to show that point? None of the publications/patents listed are, in some way, children of a PCT or international application.

  3. Benny November 16, 2014 3:50 am

    Glanced,
    Qualcomms’ competitors are aiming at a global market. Cutting off one continent from their market effectively puts them out of the game. US patents are cheaper. (Qualcomm have plenty of Taiwan and Korean applications).

  4. Gene Quinn November 16, 2014 11:20 am

    Glanced-

    The U.S. is the major market in the world, and everyone wants U.S. patents. These things really cannot be contested. It should be rather self evident why looking at U.S. patents and patent applications of a U.S. company that is located in the U.S. would speak to the company’s international success.

    I wonder if the comment were flipped and made about looking at German patents for a major German R&D company would give important clues to the strength of the company and portfolio on a global level?

    -Gene