Alphabet’s Google continues innovation, from autonomous vehicles to wind turbines

By Steve Brachmann
April 12, 2016

640px-Sundar_Pichai_-_SVP,_Android,_Chrome_and_Apps,_Google

“Sundar Pichai Speaking at the 2015 Mobile World Congress” by Maurizio Pesce. Licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Alphabet Inc. (NASDAQ:GOOG) of Mountain View, CA, is an American multinational tech conglomerate, which is probably best known as the parent company of Internet services company Google. The corporation has made waves in recent months with the development of its autonomous car division, which recently began testing the company’s self-driving cars in Phoenix, AZ, the fourth American city where Google has tested its autonomous vehicles. The goal of this project is to record driving conditions in the area to improve navigation for future generations of self-driving cars.

Google’s online search engine continues to be a major cash cow for the corporation and in India, users can now search for healthcare information including conditions, symptoms and treatment options. In America, Google is expanding its consumer survey division to include political surveys which could create data useful to both political candidates and journalists alike. Elsewhere, the corporation’s alternative energy arm is launching a program in Taiwan to roll out an effective energy certification program across the Asian continent. In the Internet of Things, Alphabet has upset some customers Alphabet Q1 2016through its Nest division by ending support for the Revolv smart home hub which it acquired in October 2014.

Years of innovative prowess have helped Google climb near the top of the standings in the U.S. patent world and in 2015 the company placed 5th overall by obtaining 2,835 patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, trailing 4th placed Qualcomm Inc. (NASDAQ:QCOM) by only 65 U.S. patents. Despite Google’s move up the patent standings from its sixth-place showing in 2014, the company actually earned 46 fewer U.S. patents last year. Through the first quarter of 2016, Innography’s patent portfolio analysis tools are showing us that Alphabet earned 883 U.S. patents, a quarterly pace of innovation which would see the corporation blow past 3,500 patents if it held up all year. The text cluster provided here shows us a heavy recent research and development focus on computing devices and user interfaces.

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Patent Applications of Note: From Autonomous Vehicles Wind Turbines 

hazard detectorAlphabet’s smart home technologies extend beyond thermostats as is evidenced by the hazard detection device that would be protected by U.S. Patent Application No. 20160078751, entitled Smart-Home Hazard Detector Providing Sensor-Based Device Positioning Guidance. It claims a method for guiding installation of a monitoring device which involves receiving an input command during installation of the monitoring device to test whether an instant placement of the device would prevent the device from operating within specification to detect one or more conditions, implementing a test sequence by the monitoring device to determine whether an instant placement of the device would prevent the device from detecting conditions and outputting a particular notification that the instant placement of the device would prevent it from detecting conditions. This invention is designed for the creation of more intelligent hazard detection networks for smoke, carbon monoxide and other hazards by providing a guide for placing a hazard monitoring device in the best possible location. Greater control over home HVAC systems to improve comfort in individual rooms is described within U.S. Patent Application No. 20160091220, which is titled Wireless Zone Control via Mechanically Adjustable Airflow Elements. It discloses a system for facilitating control of a zone temperature in a building and having a remote unit comprising an input element receiving a user-defined set point temperature, a first wireless communication interface that sends information via wireless signals to an electronically-controllable register vent (ECRV), and the ECRV comprising airflow elements to restrict or ease airflow through the ECRV, a mechanical actuator coupled to the airflow elements to adjust the restriction or easement of the airflow through the ECRV, a second wireless communication interface receiving information from the remote unit and a processor that instructs the mechanical actuator to adjust the airflow elements based on a comparison of the set point temperature to a sensed temperature. This innovation reduces the cost of implementing a zoned HVAC system which gives occupants more control over the temperature of individual rooms.

Safety in autonomous vehicles has been addressed by Google in the technology outlined within U.S. Patent Application No. 20160082953, which is titled Consideration of Risks in Active Sensing for an Autonomous Vehicle. It would protect a computer-implemented method which involves receiving information from sensors of an autonomous vehicle which provide the basis for control operations, determining an information-improvement expectation that corresponds to an active-sensing action performable by the vehicle, determining a risk cost corresponding to the active-sensing action, determining whether or not the risk cost is less than a threshold risk cost corresponding to the information-improvement expectation, initiating the active-sensing action if the risk cost is less than a threshold risk cost and adjusting the active-sensing action if the risk cost is equal to or greater than the threshold risk cost. This system is designed to provide more input to the processing components of an autonomous vehicle for avoiding obstacles while driving.

wiring harnessAlphabet is also seeking to send energy generation devices into the air and we caught a couple of relevant technologies in our latest survey of the corporation’s patent applications, including U.S. Patent Application No. 20160052629, entitled Wiring Harness for an Aerial Vehicle. It discloses a method for manufacturing a wiring harness by stripping an insulating layer from a segment of one or more wires, attaching the stripped segment of the wires to a connector, forming a protective layer over a portion of the connector, molding a harness body around the wires and the connector and then removing the protective layer to leave the portion of the connector exposed. This wiring harness for wind energy turbines is designed to take advantage of stronger winds which occur at higher altitudes. Keeping on of those floating wind turbines attached to the Earth is the job of the technology detailed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20160056621, which is titled Tethers for Airborne Wind Turbines. The tether claimed here is comprised of a core, a plurality of electrical conductors wound around the core and comprising two groups of electrical conductors each defining a respective electrical path and located around a respective portion of the core such that a cross-section of each group of electrical conductors define a respective arc around the core, and then a jacket surrounding the plurality of electrical conductors. This tether for an airborne wind turbine allows the turbine to fly at a range of elevations and transmit electrical energy to a ground station.

satellite constellationAlphabet hopes to send its innovations even higher into the air with the system detailed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20160094288, entitled Satellite Constellation. It claims a communication system having a constellation of communication devices orbiting the Earth each having a corresponding orbital path or trajectory with an inclination angle less than 90 degrees but greater than zero degrees with respect to the Earth’s equator, the constellation having a first group of communication devices having multiple orbital paths or trajectories at a first altitude and at a first inclination angle and a second group of communication devices having multiple orbital paths or trajectories at a second altitude lower than the first altitude and at a second inclination angle, and then a linking-gateway ground station relaying communications between two communication devices each in a different group and/or a different orbital path. Like the hot air balloon described in Alphabet’s ‘258 patent above, the orbiting communication devices of this invention would be used to increase the percentage of the global community that can connect to the Internet.

Finally, we were intrigued to see a Google innovation in the area of digitized pop-up books discussed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20160059146, filed under the title Media Enhanced Pop-Up Book. The pop-up book claimed here includes physical pages, one or more pop-up pages attached to the physical pages and a pop-up system that causes the pop-up pages to pop up in front of a display of a computing device as the physical pages are turned. This invention is designed to result in a pop-up book with enhanced media through the use of a computing device.

 

Alphabet’s Recent Patents: From Detecting Tailgaters to Hot Air Balloons for Internet Connectivity

Alphabet and its Google division have been gaining a lot of notoriety through its autonomous vehicle development program, some of which has led to the issue of U.S. Patent No. 9290181, which is titled Detecting and Responding to Tailgaters. It protects a method of detecting a second vehicle driving behind and in the same lane as a first vehicle, detecting a third vehicle driving in front and in the same lane as a first vehicle, determining a threshold tailgating value according to a threshold function having a first term dependent on the speed of the first vehicle and a second term independent of that speed, determining whether the second vehicle is within the threshold tailgating distance of the first vehicle, determining a distance value between the threshold tailgating distance and a difference between the locations of the first and second vehicles and adjusting a difference between the first vehicle and the third vehicle based on the difference in distance. This technology improves safety and comfort in autonomous vehicles which may be disrupted for passengers by tailgaters following too close behind a vehicle. Methods for directing drivers to parking facility entrances navigational assistanceclosest to available parking space are at the center of U.S. Patent No. 9299258, entitled Systems and Methods for Providing Navigational Assistance to a Parking Facility. It claims a method for providing navigational information related to a section of parking determined to a have suitable parking availability, the method involving receiving a request for navigational assistance identifying a geographic location based on the location of a remote computing device user, identifying a plurality of sections of parking based on the geographic location, identifying a first section of available parking among the plurality of sections of parking and sending navigational information to the remote computing device that directs a vehicle to a first entrance corresponding to the first section of parking. This innovation addresses a shortcoming in navigational assistance systems which don’t direct users to parking facilities in a way that provides convenient access to available parking.

Alphabet continues to increase development of its Nest connected home technologies and was recently issued U.S. Patent No. 9298196, entitled Energy Efficiency Promoting Schedule Learning Algorithms for Intelligent Thermostat. It claims a thermostat having a housing, a ring-shaped user interface component that tracks a rotational input motion from a user, a controller coupled to the ring-shaped user interface and programmed to be in operative communication with temperature sensors to detect ambient air temperature and an HVAC system to control the HVAC system; the controller is programmed to identify immediate control inputs from a user to immediately change the setpoint temperature, identify whether heating or cooling is required to maintain the setpoint temperature, form a schedule including a set of setpoint temperatures that become effective at predetermined times and automatically reset a setpoint temperature of the schedule to a less energy-consuming temperature. This invention automates some aspects of setting an energy efficient schedule for a home thermostat by seeking patterns in manual changes to the thermostat.

multipurpose wearableAlphabet’s life science engineering subsidiary Verily has added intellectual property to the parent corporation’s wearables portfolio as is reflected within U.S. Patent No. 9295403, issued under the title Multipurpose Wearable Electrical Contact. It protects a wearable device having a housing, a rechargeable battery, a mount for mounting the housing to an external body surface, first and second electrical contacts protruding from the housing and contacting skin when mounted to the external body surface and electronics comprising a recharger for the rechargeable battery and powered through the electrical contacts, and then a Galvanic skin resistance (GSR) sensor that obtains a measurement relating to the GSR of the skin, the GSR sensor having a reference voltage source that provides a reference voltage relative to the second electrical contact, a resistor connected between the reference voltage source and the first electrical contact and having a reference resistance, and then a voltage sensor coupled to the first electrical contact for sensing a voltage between both electrical contacts. This technology can be incorporated into wearable devices for sensing a GSR of a person’s skin, which is affected by moisture levels and can indicate activation or inactivation of sweat glands.

Three-dimensional (3D) media content is becoming an R&D focus for major tech firms and Google has increased its position in that sector with the issue of U.S. Patent No. 9294757, which is titled 3-Dimensional Videos of Objects. The method claimed here involves identifying an object to be viewed in a video and associated with a three-dimensional mesh generated based on a plurality of arrays of images of the object which were captured by a plurality of cameras positioned in a semi-spherical layout around the object and stored in a 3D data structure using an arrangement that is based on positions of corresponding cameras of the plurality of cameras, receiving a request to view images of the object from a first viewpoint of multiple viewpoints at a first point in time during playback of the video presenting the object, identifying a first array of images from a first camera positioned in the first viewpoint, identifying a plurality of images with different timestamps which are later than or equal to the first point in time, causing presentation of the object to be continued from the first viewpoint during playback of the video and using the three-dimensional mesh associated with the object to hot air balloonallow a user of a client to interact with a virtual representation of the object during playback of the video. This innovation enables an immersive shopping or digital media experience via portable computing devices.

Hot air balloon area networks seem like a distant fantasy but that’s what Alphabet is working towards as readers can see in U.S. Patent No. 9290258, titled Hot Air Balloon with Solar Collector and Heat-Engine-Driven Fuel Cell. The balloon system protected here includes an optically transparent envelope configured for solar greenhouse heating of lift gas within the optically transparent envelope, a bladder inside the optically transparent envelope, a fuel cell system inside the bladder configured to generate electricity and including a supply of hydrogen gas, a supply of oxygen gas and a water reservoir in a bottom portion of the bladder, a reflective solar collector beneath the bladder that concentrates solar energy in a focal region inside the optically transparent envelope and below the bladder and a heat engine configured with a hot side in the focal region of the reflective solar collector and a cold side in the water reservoir and generating power by transferring heat from the hot side to the cold side. The background description section of this patent describes the need for additional infrastructure to improve the reliability of data connectivity for Internet-enabled devices.

 

 

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 1 Comment comments.

  1. Bruce Berman April 14, 2016 12:01 pm

    Steve,

    I enjoyed your well-researched piece on the breadth and nature of Alphabet (Google) patent filings. As Alphabet accumulates more and better rights their perspective on patent licensing is likely to evolve. They also are buying patents.

    Bruce Berman