Today, we’re following up with our second part of our recent IBM coverage with a survey of the company’s recent patent grants from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. IBM is a patenting giant and in 2013 the company took the crown for the most U.S. patents obtained that year with 6,788, more than 2,000 patents greater than 2nd-place Samsung. That was the 21st year in a row that IBM held the lead for most U.S. patents issued within a year. That total also represents a record in terms of U.S. patents issued to a single entity in a one-year span, regardless in the slight discrepancies between the IPOA statistics listed above and the ones given by IBM on its website (6,809 patents).
Again, as per usual, our latest survey finds that IBM is involved in an incredibly diverse array of computing technologies, as is evidenced by its recently issued patents. Today, we share a trio of patents related to augmented realities and virtual universes like Second Life, especially technologies designed to make virtual interactions more useful for business professionals. A couple of patents we explore below are related to conducting transactions for charging electric vehicles. Protecting sensitive personal information in social media posts, monitoring water systems within buildings to find leaks and a system for identifying motion abnormalities in cardiac tissues are also discussed.
Augmented Realities and Virtual Universes
Anyone who has been following the Companies We Follow series in recent months will notice that we’ve been following a trend in the development of augmented and virtual reality technologies. Samsung, Qualcomm, Yahoo! and others have all pursued advancements in this sector and it’s not surprising that we’d find IBM embracing this tech sector as well. In December 2009, IBM’s Global Innovation Outlook (GIO) initiative held a roundtable discussion in the Second Life virtual world, in part to explore the effectiveness of using virtual spaces for external collaboration. More recently, IBM research activities in Israel have led to the development of a mobile app incorporating augmented reality for British grocery retailer Tesco which allows their employees to determine better product placement by capturing images of store shelving space and superimposing those with images of the products that should be placed on those shelves.
The use of augmented reality technologies to aid field technicians while inspecting computer systems is disclosed and protected by U.S. Patent No. 8918494, entitled Systems and Methods for Managing Computing Systems Utilizing Augmented Reality. The system for managing computing systems utilizing augmented reality claimed by the patent involves a processor that captures an environmental input through a sensor device, identifies a target device from that input, compares that target device to an environment model, recognizes a status condition of the device based on that comparison and, if an error condition is detected, obtains information about the error condition and troubleshooting techniques. This enables a field technician to effectively diagnose and fix issues in computing systems if they do not have access to the management network.
Virtual universes like Second Life are designed to offer immersive experiences in interacting with millions of people and computer resources through the use of avatars, and IBM has lately received a couple of patents to protect improvements to these systems. U.S. Patent No. 8914854, which is titled User Credential Verification Indication in a Virtual Universe, protects an innovation which ensures the real world credentials of parties interacting within a virtual universe. The patent claims a method of verifying a credential of a user of a first avatar in the virtual universe where the credential involves an occupational certification, education level, income, Social Security number, age or other information, establishing a zone wherein an indication of the user’s credential appears in response to an action made within the zone. This system encourages the use of virtual universes for professional business interactions. The protection of confidential information existing in a virtual universe which a user wants to keep private is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8918728, which is titled Rule-Based Content Filtering in a Virtual Universe. The method for filtering content in a virtual universe protected by the patent involves the receipt of a request for content exposure restrictions for an avatar in a virtual universe, the restrictions being based on the avatar’s employment data, and the establishment of a virtual shield around the content according to those restrictions. This invention allows a business entity to build a virtual space where proprietary information could be shared with employee avatars while blocking access to that information from people controlling other avatars.
More Effective Management of Networked Computing Resources
Beyond these improvements to virtual universes, IBM also pursues research & development in the field of virtual infrastructures which aid organizations by deploying applications and other computing resources to the members of an organization who need it when they need it. The IBM FlashSystem, for example, is one product that offers virtual infrastructure services to quickly and flexibly deliver computing resources to employees regardless of their physical location. Online transaction processing (OLTP), online analytical processing (OLAP) and other cloud services are made available to businesses through virtual infrastructures like this in such a way that is designed to lower their IT management and implementation costs.
Virtualized systems come with unique challenges in the control of computing resources, especially involving latency issues when trying to deliver parts of the virtual infrastructure to an authorized end user. Tools for speeding up this delivery are part of the invention protected by U.S. Patent No. 8918499, titled Method and System for End-to-End Quality of Service in Virtualized Desktop Systems. This patent claims a method of gathering network measurements related to the enforcement of an objective which is stored on a computer-readable medium, determining adjustments for back-end resources and front-end remoting protocol settings based on the network measurements as well as quality of service requirements for user sessions. This method of managing virtual infrastructure resources is intended to reduce the amount of time between a user-initiated action, like double-clicking an icon for a program, and the display of those resources for the user.
A similar networking technology to reduce wait times for those trying to download slideshows from a presentation to a local machine is discussed within U.S. Patent No. 8918483, titled Method and System for Synchronization and Management of System Activities With Locally Installed Applications. The patent claims a method for downloading presentation files from a system boat provider at a remote system location to a local user machine by accessing downloadable presentation files for viewing by a user, initiating a file download process while the file is being viewed and determining when a threshold percentage of the download has occurred. The innovation protected here is meant to allow those viewing slideshow presentations through a webinar to download those slides to a local computer in a more efficient manner.
Smarter Systems for Electric Vehicle Charging and Managing Charges
We noted a couple of patents issued to IBM in recent weeks which, interestingly, focus on the area of electric vehicles. A consumer survey conducted by the corporation found that poor consumer knowledge and lack of infrastructure to charge electric vehicles were some of the more major obstacles in the way of greater acceptance of electric vehicles by consumers. As IBM points out in other material found on its corporate site, the charging needs of electric vehicles will likely be closely linked to the development of smart electrical grids to accommodate the growing need for electricity in vehicles. In late November, IBM announced a partnership with ASELSAN, a Turkish electronics and defense manufacturer, to develop metal-air batteries for electric cars that can carry five times the charge of conventional batteries in the field.
A technology for supporting the use of off-vehicle charging stations, which derive energy directly from electrical grids, is at the center of U.S. Patent No. 8918376, entitled Energy Transaction Notification Service for Presenting Charging Information of an Electric Vehicle. The computer-implemented method of managing transaction notifications of an electric vehicle charging process which involves receiving charging process data associated with a user, generating a notification which includes a set of recommendations for achieving a set of optimization objectives and presenting that notification to a user. This invention is intended to create a more flexible and interoperable system for electric vehicle owners to charge vehicles at off-vehicle charging stations through management of the charging transaction. Off-vehicle charging for electric vehicles is also discussed within U.S. Patent No. 8918336, which is titled Energy Transaction Broker for Brokering Electric Vehicle Charging Transactions. This patent protects a method of managing a charging process of an electric vehicle by retrieving a set of trip data that identifies options for replenishing the electric charge of an on-vehicle electric storage mechanism for the trip, initiating a charging process when at a charging station, identifying a set of parties of a transaction, generating a set of terms and conditions for governing the transaction and identifying a set of payees participating in the charging process based on an energy transaction plan. This technology would allow electric car owners to benefit from certain behavioral incentives, such as lower electricity rates paid when charging a vehicle during off-peak hours for electricity usage.
Social Media Systems for Recognizing Individuals, Protecting Sensitive Information
We see social media inventions from companies of all kinds here on the Companies We Follow website and a computer technology developer like IBM would be expected to have at least a few patents in this field every few weeks. Products like the IBM Social Media Analytics system are designed to track social media to capture consumer data, predict customer behavior and create customized campaigns based on that data. The company has also developed a Social Media Analytics Software as a Service platform to provide its social analytics technologies to a wide range of business through cloud-based networks. IBM has also shown interest in developing more secure systems for social networks to address the current ease of hacking into social media accounts with only the use of a member’s e-mail address in LinkedIn, Amazon and other social media providers.
The creation of social media platforms with the ability to perform image searches to find members of a social network is offered by the technology explained within U.S. Patent No. 8917913, issued under the title Searching With Face Recognition and Social Networking Profiles. The patent protects a computer-implemented system for interacting with a social networking service with a mobile device which offers a search service which compares both search terms and source images to provide results identifying members who match the search term and the source image and sending those results to the mobile device. This search service utilizes facial recognition software to identify members of a group taken by a camera directly at a mobile device through social networks. Protecting the sensitive information that may be included in social media postings made by members is the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8914859, titled Managing the Progressive Legible Obfuscation and De-Obfuscation of Public and Quasi-Public Broadcast Messages. The method for obfuscating elements in a message claimed here detects sensitive information elements in a message to be broadcast, replaces those elements with a representation that preserves a general aspect of those elements and provides a user interface element enabling message recipients to request access to details of that information. This system would allow a social network member to post information about an emergency situation to inform authorities about an emergency without attracting attention from potential looters.
Other IBM Patents of Note
We’ll close this second part of our discussion of IBM’s latest inventions by looking at a trio of patents which may be of additional interest to our readers. Methods for programming electronic devices to prevent a phone call or app notifications from infringing on other programs being used on the device are described within U.S. Patent No. 8918543, issued under the title Changing Device Functionality Using Environment Conditions. The computer-implemented method for changing functionality for an electronic device involves receiving a set of signals from sensors within the device, identifying a section of possible actions associated with respective sensors and identifying a specific action from that section. This innovation allows a device user to set device functions to respond to certain environmental conditions, such as the device’s orientation, movement, location and even temperature.
Smarter water distribution systems which are capable of determining the cause of excessive water usage are the focus of U.S. Patent No. 8918294, issued under the title Monitoring Water Consumption. The method for monitoring water consumption claimed here involves monitoring a set of locations in a fluid transport system to identify sounds generated by fluid flowing at a system endpoint, generating current acoustic data for the detected sounds, comparing the current acoustic data to historic acoustic data and determining whether the difference exceeds a threshold. This invention aids those taking action to determine the cause of excessive water use within a fluid transport system without having to physically inspect every possible point of the system.
We were also struck by the innovation for identifying cardiac health issues in moving tissues covered by U.S. Patent No. 8917917, which is titled Cardiac View Recognition and Disease Recognition. The technology is intended to improve upon the use of echocardiography to diagnose cardiac disease; this medical procedure is poor at detecting cardiac issues manifested in motion abnormalities of tissues. The patent claims a method of determining a transducer position and a transducer viewpoint using spatial and temporal information in a cardiac echo video. The method involves the analysis of a new single heart-cycle echo sequence and comparing spatial features to a motion model of the cardiac echo cycle.