PATENT DROP: Apple, M.D.
Plus: Nvidia’s data center bandaids; Meta’s digital ad strategy
Happy Monday and welcome to Patent Drop!
Today, we’re looking at Apple’s plans to become your doctor, Nvidia’s self-regulating data centers, and Meta’s hyper-personalized advertising.
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Let's take a look.
#1. The Apple-branded doctor
Apple wants to be on your desk, in your pocket, and on your wrist. Now, it looks like it wants to be in your blood, too — or at least monitoring it up close.
The company is seeking to patent an “ambulatory blood pressure cuff” which would allow the user to move around while wearing it. Apple said in its filing this will allow the device to monitor a wearer for longer periods of time, “such that physiological measurements can be performed periodically or continuously.”
Separately, Apple filed a patent for methods to control this cuff “in response to one or more biophysical or environmental conditions.” Essentially, the cuff allows the wearer to monitor blood pressure without sitting entirely still by adjusting to the user’s movements.
“Determining an accurate blood pressure typically requires a person to assume a particular posture, position, or other conditions,” Apple said in its filing. “However, if a person's blood pressure is to be monitored periodically and continuously … instructing the person to repeatedly pause what they are doing and meet a set of conditions … can be very intrusive and disruptive.”
For context: This isn’t Apple’s first attempt at trying to patent a blood pressure monitor. The company has filed several patents for pulse oximeters in Apple Watches, and recently lost a legal battle with medical tech company Masimo for infringing on its patents for blood pressure devices.
Apple has had a pretty firm grip on the health and wellness sector for a while now, with everything from its Apple Watch to recent patent filings for health monitoring headphones and scales. These new patents seem to be Apple taking its health tech a step further, bringing physical monitoring capabilities to a more clinical arena.
The company’s move into medical devices seems like a “natural extension” of its current product offerings, John Engle, president at investment group Almington Capital, told me. The company already has the groundwork laid of high-quality biometric measuring capabilities, so applying that to medical monitoring “makes perfect sense,” he said.
However, Engle said he'd be surprised if this product ended up looking like a conventional blood pressure cuff. Rather, he said he expects this to look closer to a thinner arm cuff or wrist watch once it's actually developed, with the likely goal of getting around the legal patent issues that Apple has faced with Masimo. “That was their principal issue, that they lost their patents on that and have had to come up with a new one,” Engle said.
“The devices themselves are less important than the sensors and the data,” Engle added.
In the long term, Apple may be trying to capture the aging population with devices like this, Engle said. While the company is likely not diversifying into traditional medical tech in the short-term, These devices could be an entryway to at-home medical tech offerings for older folks that are more often in need of “ongoing medical monitoring … outside of a hospital or physiotherapy context.”
#2. Nvidia’s data center tourniquet
Nvidia wants to patch its own wounds.
The company wants to patent tech for data center “self-healing.” Essentially, this system will accurately diagnose failures and their causes within a data center. Using machine learning, this system can tell when “a change exceeded a threshold” of standard operations and send an alert that corrective action is needed, giving precise directions as to what and where.
Nvidia noted that these corrections can either be made by a human, or a “robotic unit” trained to make specific fixes and limit more human error. The goal is limiting the need for human intervention as much as possible as data centers get bigger and more complex, Nvidia wrote.
“As data center(s) increase in size and complexity, design-orientated failure analysis becomes more challenging,” Nvidia said in its filing. “Human intervention with data centers is more challenging as size and complexity increases, where collected data may increase exponentially as newer servers or nodes are added.”
Additionally, Nvidia also filed a patent application for a “data center load supervisor,” which determines the “grid capacity,” or the ability of its power grid to handle its workload. It works by tracking the fluctuations of the power grid throughout the day to determine whether or not it should use power from the grid or switch to other methods of power consumption, such as on-site batteries or generators. The filing also said this system may have the capability to “provide energy back to grids.”
To put it plainly, tech like this is incredibly important as the need for data centers grows to support the now endless demand for cloud services.
For starters, the “self-healing” tech eliminates two problems, according to Trevor Morgan, director of product marketing at data storage company OpenDrives. One, people entering potentially hazardous situations in order to fix an issue, and two, human error in fixing said issue. This tech can limit service outages and breakdowns by proactively identifying and precisely fixing them itself in times when it wouldn’t be safe or efficient for a worker to do so.
“It’s much more effective when a system is taking all of this data, processing it using advanced algorithms and making the adjustments on its own,” said Morgan. “You can have a very adaptive data center with very little human intervention, which reduces the chances of human error.”
Meanwhile, the company’s proposed “load supervisor” tech helps solve a major issue that currently plagues data centers: the massive amount of energy they suck up. This tech has the potential to help mitigate blackouts by giving back stored energy and relying on its own stored power during high energy-use times, like, for example, when everyone has their AC on during the hottest day of the summer… or mining Bitcoin.
All in, if Nvidia is able to implement tech like this, it may be able to help combat complete breakdowns during extreme weather caused by climate change, like we saw with Google and Oracle during the U.K.’s heat wave last summer.
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#3. Meta’s supercharged ads
Meta wants to know more about what makes you click.
The company filed a patent for tech that dynamically modifies how it displays ads based on the “target user.” This hyper-personalized digital ad tech will take in data about each user such as the type of device they’re using and the kinds of content you consume (i.e., whether you prefer photos, video or text). Then, this tech will modify the type of ad you’ll see, where it’s placed, and how many ads you’ll see.
Basically, different people would see different ads based on how they consume content, and the advertiser wouldn’t have to do as much leg work sending out a million different kinds of ads just to see what sticks.
“The disclosed system(s) address a problem in traditional content modification techniques tied to computer technology, namely, the technical problem of not all users being affected in the same way by the same ad,” Meta said in its filing.
The filing also mentioned that the system could include “automated ad creation” to simplify the process even further for advertisers. The application didn’t specify, however, which of Meta’s platforms this tech could be implemented in.
Meta’s main breadwinner is its digital advertising revenue: In the company’s most recent earnings report, ad revenue made up 97% of its total earnings, but Meta still fell 4% year-over-year, which CFO Susan Li blamed on “weak advertising demand” due to the “macroeconomic landscape.”
In recent years, Meta has largely been a trendhopper with the tech that it commits to, whether it be its loud obsession with the metaverse or Mark Zuckerberg’s current goal to “turbocharge” the company’s AI tools amid the ChatGPT hype. While many of Meta’s patent applications have had to do with building its metaverse or boosting its VR and AR offerings, this one shows that Meta understands that it is still very beholden to ad revenue, and wants to invest in innovating it.
This tech could help meta boost ad sales as a means to support its other grand plans – especially when they’re as pricey as the metaverse has been for the company.
Here are a few more odds and ends we thought you’d like.
Amazon is listening to all voices. The company is seeking to patent speech recognition tech which modifies its output “based on detecting a speech characteristic in the user input,” another sign that Big Tech really, really cares about personalized smart home devices.
Sony wants to be your fire alarm. The company filed a patent for a device and methods for “fire detection” that detects both present danger and risk of fire hazards.
Spotify wants to give you the best possible sound experience. The company filed a patent for a “wind noise suppressor” which, you guessed it, suppresses wind noise. It works by processing the wind noise through your microphone, then performing “audio reconstruction” to block out the noise.
What else is new?
Tesla cut prices of its Model S and Model X by 5% and 9%, respectively. This is the latest of several major price cuts by the company as it aims to up demand.
Apple may launch a mixed reality product as soon as this year, according to Cher Wang, CEO and co-founder of consumer electronics firm HTC.
Astranis Space Technology Corp., an aerospace company backed by a16z, is preparing for its first satellite launch out of Cape Canaveral, Florida.
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