Cisco Systems, Inc. (NASDAQ: CSCO), of San Jose, CA, is a dominant force in the market of developing and commercializing computer networking solutions for many types of organizations. The month of December marks the 30th anniversary of the establishment of this company first founded in San Francisco, from which Cisco derives its name. Cisco offers plenty of evidence that intellectual property protection is not mutually exclusive with open source ideals, such as its recent decision to expand the resources freely available through its OpenSOC (Security Operation Center) project, which utilizes Big Data techniques to enhance security analytics. Cisco has faced plenty of competition over the past few months from Microsoft in the area of enterprise collaboration infrastructure, although third quarter data available from both companies showed that Cisco has lately widened its lead in this market.
We often feature Cisco here on the Companies We Follow series and our latest search of patent applications filed by this company showed us a great amount of research into video communications. One patent application we feature discusses a method for automatically recognizing videoconferencing callers. Improved collaboration systems, including those which can alert online collaborators to an emergency situation being experienced by a person on the other end of a communication link, are discussed in a couple of other applications. We also discuss one filing for a technology that provides local content of interest in response to global searches for information.
The patenting activities of Cisco are very strong and the past few weeks saw the addition of many valuable patents to this company’s portfolio. Videoconferencing technologies, including technologies for better eye contact or subject mobility during video calls, are discussed in a collection of patents we’ve shared below. Methods of providing callers with a default language of their choice while visiting foreign countries, as well as security features to be implemented by smart electrical grids, are also explored in more detail.
Cisco’s Patent Applications: Videoconferencing, Emergency Collaboration and Local Shopping Searches
Cisco is a very innovative developer of networking equipment and computing services and its research & development has been able to ride the growing wave of what Cisco calls the Internet of Everything; other publications and our own website have used “the Internet of Things” to refer to the topic of Internet connectivity of all items. In November, the corporation received recognition at the Techworld Awards for its integrated services router, selected as the Network Product of the Year. Many of the company’s larger development projects are completed in partnership with other companies. For instance, Cisco is working together with lighting innovator Philips to develop connected system infrastructures for public lighting in cities.
Personal interactions between those who are connected through network resources to complete a phone call or video conference from remote locations are the focus of a couple of patent applications which caught our eyes today. Automated methods of identifying participants in a video conferencing call are featured within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140340467, which is titled Method and System for Facial Recognition for a Videoconference. The method claimed by this patent involves associating a unique identifier with both video and audio data and storing that unique identifier in a database. This invention is intended to enable the enhanced use of data conferencing into video conferencing applications operating across networks. Enhanced data management for video and audio conferencing is also the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20140325335, entitled System for Generating Meaningful Topic Labels and Improving Automatic Topic Segmentation. This system is configured to enable the segmentation of a video or audio call into meaningful topics when creating a transcript from the call for easier referencing later. The patent application would protect a method of obtaining a text representation, identifying a current topic structure for the representation and introducing topic labels into the representation based on the determined topic structure.
Cisco has also developed an array of technologies designed to support many forms of interpersonal collaboration among users of organizational or building networks. A system for improving employee management relative to their skills and abilities is described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20140310037, which is titled Skills, Expertise, Abilities and Interests Tagging in a Software Environment. The computer-implemented method that would be protected monitors the interactions of users in a software environment and collects information about user activities to generate skill tags. This innovation is intended to support greater efficiency in workforce management, especially when attempting to solve novel problems without the added expense of hiring outside help. Collaboration is often thought of in terms of work activities, but we noticed an intriguing innovation for collaboration in response to medical emergencies discussed in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140342685, titled System for Using a Presence Status Indication to Inform a Collaboration Environment of an Emergency. This patent application would protect a method of initiating contact between parties that involves regularly monitoring the presence status of a party and presenting presence status to either party. This invention enables a user of a communications link to more quickly contact emergency services if the user at the other end of a communications link encounters an emergency situation.
Communication between devices is a major aspect of the Internet of Things and we wanted to share a novel technology involving the use of accessory devices with televisions to improve a user’s entertainment experience. U.S. Patent Application No. 20140301715, filed under the title Map Your Movie, claims a method of displaying an interactive geographical representation associated with video content comprised of a plurality of scenes, requesting relevant metadata associated with the video and using the metadata to display a plurality of visual indicators on the interactive geographical representation. This system enables a user to access additional information about video content which they’re viewing through a companion device while allowing the content to continue playing at full screen on the television display.
We’re always intrigued to uncover retail technologies implemented on computer networks to improve sales at brick and mortar stores, and during our survey of Cisco filings we found U.S. Patent Application No. 20140358732, which is titled Real-Time Return of Local Search Content Based on Global Search Key. The method claimed by this patent application includes receiving a search key generated by a global search, performing a search of local content at a network device and transmitting that content to a mobile device. This system is designed so that users browsing an online shopping context through a smartphone or a different mobile device is also presented with information on goods available through local retailers.
Data security continues to be an area of focus for tech developers around the world. We found a recent innovation from Cisco in the arena of data privacy expressed in U.S. Patent Application No. 20140344930, filed under the title Network Eavesdropping Detection. The method claimed by the patent application calculates a baseline impedance for a communication line, calculating differences in measured impedance and baseline impedance and generating a warning message if the measured difference crosses a specified threshold. This innovation is intended to improve the ability of located network probes physically installed on a network for the unauthorized collection of data, which is difficult when attempting to identify passive-type probe devices which don’t require a network address.
Issued Patents of Note: Much More Videoconferencing, plus Smart Grid Security
On its official website, Cisco Systems states that it is a strong supporter of patent rights and the U.S. patent system and takes an official position on the topic of patent reform regarding potential areas of reform. Having filed for its first patent in February 1988, the company was issued its 10,000th U.S. patent from the USPTO during July 2013. During that same year, the latest for which the Intellectual Property Owners Association has published corporate rankings based on numbers of U.S. patent grants issued, Cisco was 40th among all companies with 910 patents. That total was still about seven percent less than the number of patents Cisco earned the previous year, all evidence of a long tradition of strong intellectual property protection activities.
As we saw in our survey of Cisco’s patent applications, the use of network resources to support videoconferencing activities has been a major area of focus for the corporation’s research and development resources. Our look into Cisco’s recently issued patents showed us more of the same and we’re sharing at trio of those with our readers today. Enhanced methods for optimizing the field of view of a videoconferencing participant in light of deficient camera arrangements are disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8896655, which is titled System and Method for Providing Depth Adaptive Video Conferencing. The method claimed by this patent captures panoramic image data of an environment including background imagery and utilizes a camera cluster for capturing close-up image data of a subject when they enter the close-up region of a given camera within the cluster. This innovation is intended to improve videoconferencing architectures by supporting scenarios in which a person is allowed to walk around freely while participating in the videoconference. This patent is jointly issued to Cisco and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, which may be a sign that this technology is developed for digital classrooms.
A technology to support more natural face-to-face communication in videoconferencing contexts is described within U.S. Patent No. 8890919, which is titled Video Conferencing Display and Method to Facilitate Enhanced Eye Contact. This invention is designed to improve upon conventional methods of providing cameras within a display screen to facilitate eye contact, which tends to obstruct at least part of the screen. This patent claims a display apparatus with an illumination source that provides light across a surface LCD and a local region on the front panel which corresponds to a partial mirror. The corporation has also added techniques for graphics processing on videoconferencing platforms to its intellectual property portfolio through the issue of U.S. Patent No. 8902244, entitled System and Method for Providing Enhanced Graphics in a Video Environment. The patent protects a method of receiving a video input from a video source, evaluating a plurality of pixels from the video input and using a chroma-key to determine if the color of individual pixels match associated values. This system provides tools for color correction and edge smoothing while processing graphics for live video calls.
Telephone calls without video enhancements are also still being developed by this company and we stumbled across a unique technology in this field that could provide great benefits to organizations that interact with a wide spectrum of customers speaking foreign languages. U.S. Patent No. 8897423, entitled Calling Party’s Language Selection Based on Called Party’s Phone Number, protects a method of making a call that involves identifying the geographical location of a calling party and any default languages associated with that location, then selecting a first prompt language from the default languages identified. According to the patent’s background description, this system is supposed to be configured so that a person making a phone call while visiting a foreign country is presented with the option to speak in a language of his or her choosing.
Greater communication in organizational networks, especially where the availability of computing resources are concerned, were in focus when we explored U.S. Patent No. 8903960, issued under the title Activate Attribute for Service Profiles in Unified Computing System. This patent protects a method of storing data associated with the activation status of service profiles at a management server, where each service profile comprises data defining hardware, connectivity and operational attributes of a server computer. This technology improves availability in computing systems by monitoring the active status of a server blade and switching to another server blade in the event of a blade failure.
Finally, we were intrigued to note a technology developed by Cisco to improve safety and security measures in regards to the use of smart electrical grids in public infrastructures. U.S. Patent No. 8893216, issued under the title Security Measures for the Smart Grid, claims a method for enabling security in an electrical system which involves examining the configuration file of an electrical substation, which includes both an electrical device and a network device, and applying a security policy to the substation based on a rule generated for allowable communication patterns for the electrical device. This invention increases security measures for smart electrical grids directly at electrical substations, which are connected to external public and non-public networks and are a target for unauthorized network access.