#020 PATENT DROP

Ford's jump start drones, Mastercard's digital media blockchain, Apple's bendable devices

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Hi - happy Monday!

Let’s get straight into 3 new patent filings from last week. This week is a little different in terms of the types of companies I’ve selected, but still interesting:

1. Ford - multi drone vehicle jump start

Ford is thinking about using drones to perform vehicle jump starts when a vehicle’s battery falls flat.

Why drones? Usually with jump starts, you need another vehicle to provide an alternate power source. But there may be lots of instances when that other vehicle is not available, or it may take a long time for that other vehicle to appear (e.g. with rescue vehicles).

The advantage of using drones is speed and cost. Calling out a rescue vehicle means waiting for that vehicle to navigate through traffic. In some instances, when a vehicle breaks down, that in itself causes a traffic pileup. Moreover, rescue vehicles require a human to be sat in the car, driving and then performing the jump start. In theory, drones can appear extremely quickly and perform jump starts without human intervention.

The drones will each include ‘grippers’ that can connect to the vehicle’s battery. These drones will be connected to a drone power source, so that electricity can flow from the drone power source to the drones that are gripping onto the vehicle’s battery. This drone power source would provide electricity to the vehicle, as well as to the other drones (e.g. the propellors on the drones, as well as the robotic arms required to grip onto the vehicle’s battery). The drones would also use sensors to understand the real world environment - e.g. using LiDAR (light detection and ranging technology, the same that’s used in self-driving cars). In turn, the drones will be able to correctly find the car’s battery and connect to it.

Ford’s patent behaviour show that the company is actively thinking about how to leverage emerging technologies. In #015 PATENT DROP, I looked at how Ford are looking to leverage smart contracts and crypto to enable micro-transactions to take place in a self-driving network.

2. Mastercard - digital media rights on the blockchain

Mastercard is thinking about building a system for managing digital media rights on the blockchain.

Blockchain is one of those extremely polarising topics, where you are either excited by the possibilities of decentralised platforms with a single, unalterable source of truth, or you roll your eyes in boredom. So let’s try to break this down further.

Imagine there is a movie studio that has distribution rights to a bunch of movies. The studio may give a merchant the permission to sell to users the rights to view each of the movies. When a user makes a payment transaction for these rights, a digital token and a content identifier are stored to the blockchain. In turn, when a user logs onto a participating video platform with their authentication token, the platform will be able to show all the content that the user is legible to see based on the rights they own on the blockchain.

Why is this interesting?

In today’s world, there are competing video platforms that have different rights with respect to what content they can show consumers. This web of differing digital media rights ultimately creates a confusing experience for people.

With this filing, Mastercard want to build a blockchain that will allow for users to own digital media rights that are agnostic to video platforms.

In the long run, such a blockchain could allow for decentralised video streaming platforms where movie studios directly sell their digital media rights to consumers (without Netflix serving as an intermediary). Embedded into these transactions could be eligibility criteria that controls where a user can view the content - e.g. maybe a specific movie is only viewable in countries outside of China.

More interestingly, we could begin to see a lot of innovation in how money flows between studios and consumers. For instance, users could end up paying to watch content on a per-minute basis. The more interesting the piece of content, the more of a user’s subscription gets allocated to that specific movie studio.

We could see movies run tokenised offerings to raise capital. The people who own these media rights could then programatically start getting paid back once the movie is released and is being watched by people.

Generally, Mastercard have been active in patenting a lot of innovations in the crypto space. From their perspective, the rise of cryptocurrencies presents an existential threat to their business model as the ‘middle-man’ for payment processing. In this filing and many others, we can get a glimpse into how Mastercard is trying to forge a new path in a world where payment processing is no longer needed.

3. Apple - cameras for bendable devices

On January 4th, Mashable published an article saying that Apple is reportedly working on two foldable iPhone models. If you’ve been following Patent Drop, you would’ve seen this talked about on October 12th in #009 PATENT DROP.

This week, Apple filed a new patent application related to this, but specifically focused on how the cameras could work with bendable devices.

In essence, the filings reveal that Apple are looking to have multiple cameras on bendable devices, which can then capture multiple angles. These multiple images can then be used to either capture panoramic images, or three-dimensional images.

In the above example, Apple show a bendable device that has 3 cameras attached to the rear end. When the device bends, the exterior of the device ends up forming a convex shape. In this orientation, users will then be able to take a photo in 3 different directions, with a small area of overlap. By stitching these images together in real time, users will be able to capture panoramic images in real-time.

In this example, the device is bent so that the front face of the device forms a concave shape. In turn, the 3 cameras point inwardly and converge towards the circular object from 3 different angles. And so, users will be able to capture three-dimensional images.

The two key takeaways from this filing are that: a) Apple is definitely looking seriously at bendable devices; and b) these bendable devices will unlock new and improved user experience, particularly with what can be achieved with the camera.


Before you go…

  • Patent Drop reader Marie Dollé just released a 2021 Social Media Trends report and it’s a MUST read if you’re interested in the space. Check it out here.

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  • Want to see the full list of patents from last week? Click here.