This past week we performed a cursory patent search relating to the “Internet of Things.” As often happens in an online foray, it was easy to get distracted by the unending lists of patents and published applications, and the breadth of inventions being patented. So far, just over halfway through 2017,the USPTO lists 2019 published applications and 510 issued patents that contain the keyword “IoT.”
So once our online incursion was done, we browsed the search results to discover patents and apps on a whole host of inventions and products that we didn’t know we needed. We share some of our favorites, with a few comments, below.
We lead off with US Patent 9,661,827 to SZ DJI Technology Co.1 for “Systems and Methods for Walking Pets.” Fig. 1 is reproduced nearby. Yes, that’s right… it is a pet walking drone. This is a great invention that clearly satisfies an unmet need. We all get too much exercise, and need things that enable a more sedentary lifestyle.
And who wants to deal with what goes with pet walking when the drone can do it? The patent specification discloses that the UAV (drone) includes a waste removal unit that “can include a mechanism configured to extend from the UAV to remove the waste, for example a mechanical arm,” and then “recognize a disposable container and dispose of the waste.” It occurs to us that between the removal and disposal steps, the drone is in a sense, weaponized. But there was no mention as to whether the mechanical arm has a fling mode.
No Al Fresco – and No Cheesecake For You
Next up is US Patent Application Publication 2017/0176239 for a “Smart Weight Scale, Smart Weight Management System and Method of Measuring Weight Thereof.” This cloud and smartphone connected smart scale provides an exact weight of a user who is wearing garments that all have RFID tags, detecting each garment and subtracting its weight from the total.
We wonder – can we no longer weigh ourselves al fresco? (Perhaps after checking first to see that the neighbor’s drone is not outside the bathroom window.) And apparently we must be denied the delusion that, “Well the scale is up a little today, but this bulky sweater probably weighs at least five pounds.” And must our clothing have RFID tags? What’s next, our phones nagging us that our socks don’t match? Or Siri® saying, “That. Shirt. With. That. Tie. Seriously?” (On the other hand, we’d be all in for an app that could bark out a timely “Pull up your #@$&%^$@ pants!”)
“Here’s hoping that you are reading this while lying in your not-cloud-connected dumb hammock.”
We now move on to US Patent Application Publication 2016/0360907 for a “Beverage Sip Regulating Apparatus and Related Methods,” Fig. 2B shown nearby illustrates the “sip module” of this brilliant device. Of course, the sip module communicates with a sip application on your smartphone, which is connected through the cloud to a sip service system, including a beverage company web browser, a system domain web browser, and a data scientist terminal, among other things. Knowing that this apparatus is available to regulate and track our sipping, how can we ever again enjoy a cold beverage on a hot summer day without it?
Behaving Badly Solved
We all need some behavior modification at times, and to satisfy this unmet need, there is US Patent Application Publication 2016/0360907 of SmartSpark, Inc. for “System and Method for Determining and Providing Behavioural Modification Motivational Cues.” This is a self-directed system – you load the smartphone app with all of the improvements that you want to make in your life, and it provides timely motivational cues. (Of course you can share all of your daily victories with friends on social media.)
This ingenious system can communicate with your smart refrigerator and other smart devices. For example, in the fridge case, “[the] smart-fridge may receive the motivational spark and display it to the user, who wants to keep on track with her diet.” Indeed, a couple of the supporting drawings show screen shots of the fridge or phone saying “Push away the bad food,” and “Pick up the good food.” Claim 1 begins with, “A method for generating a motivational spark for a user…” Perhaps “motivational spark” might be better replaced with “homicidal rage” in that preamble.
But again, this is all self-directed – at least until your health care gatekeeper, be it an insurance company or the government, requires enrollment in their behavior modification version of the app as a condition of coverage. Nah, that’ll never happen.
and So Much More…
We could spend hours browsing the patent literature to see more of what’s coming in the smart future. Our space is limited here so we simply list a few more groundbreaking inventions2 that were on display at the 2017 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, which merit honorable mention:
- The smart toaster – “Dude, you can like totally control the darkness of your toast with your phone.”
- The smart tea brewer – load in all of your tea brewing parameters, and it will tell you “exactly when you’re supposed to turn the heat down.” After millennia of failure, finally tea can be properly brewed.
- The smart toothbrush, which will teach you “how to brush your teeth most efficiently.” We didn’t know efficiency mattered all that much with this task.
- The smart cat food dispenser, which “makes sure it provides equal rations to all felines.” We speculate that this dispenser didn’t beta test well for dogs.
- The smart wine dispenser, perfect for geek wine snobs.
- The smart mirror, which “in addition to whispering soft words of encouragement… will also be able to simulate your face in a wide variety of different environments.” Our smart mirror is going to have to flat-out lie.
- A dog fitness collar. Can probably be made to communicate with your dog-walking drone, so you can see the dog-calories that you avoided burning on those dog-hour long walks. Guaranteed to add dog-years to your life.
Smartphone Not Needed
At this point, you might be thinking that you and your smartphone are going to be overwhelmed having to load and run all of these apps to control all of your devices. Not to worry. You will soon be able to control all of them using a magic wand. US Patent 9,692,756 has recently issued, for “Magic Wand Methods, Apparatuses and Systems for Authenticating a User of a Wand.” At this point, seeing that title for the first time, you’re probably thinking, “This was invented by some employment challenged person living in his parent’s basement and panhandling on GoFundMe for startup cash.” Well guess again. The Assignee is Intel. Yes, Intel has patented a magic wand! From the Abstract, “Methods, apparatuses, systems, and storage media for creating, discovering, and/or resolving spells using a wand are provided.”
Seriously, though, a review of the patent spec and drawings quickly indicate that Intel’s magic wand is a highly sophisticated device loaded with all sorts of sensors, along with a communication antenna. It can learn from your wand gestures to control your video games and other electronic devices. So once you have taught all of your smart devices the gestures that they are to obey, your smartphone will be so yesterday. Feel like turning down the lights? You will only need to pull out your magic wand and wave it around, and the lights will dim accordingly, no doubt greatly impressing your guest(s).
Enjoy Your Summer
Here’s hoping that you are reading this, whether on paper or on your tablet or phone, while lying in your not-cloud-connected dumb hammock enjoying a cold beverage without a sip regulating apparatus. And if your neighbor’s drone strolls his dog into your yard, take solace knowing a solution for that is on its way – have a look at US Patent Application Publication 2017/0192089 of XiDrone Systems, Inc. for “Deterrent for Unmanned Aerial Systems.” It has a “detecting element” that “detects an unmanned aerial vehicle in flight in the region of, or approaching, a property, place, event or very important person.” Using a tracking element, it can then emit what amounts to a drone death ray.
This product may not have reached the marketplace yet, so in the meantime, you might have to go low-to-medium tech with Skynet™ Drone Defense shotgun shells3, which look pretty ingenious and effective4. Whichever way you choose, don’t hurt the dog.
- See https://www.androidheadlines.com/2017/01/top-20-wacky-weird-fun-bizarre-ces-2017-products.html for details.
To browse the entire searchable library of prior issues of The Limited Monopoly® from 2005 to present, visit http://www.thelimitedmonopoly.com/.
Authors John M. Hammond P.E. (Patent Innovations, LLC www.patent-innovations.com) and Robert D. Gunderman P.E. (Patent Technologies, LLC www.patentechnologies.com) are both registered patent agents and licensed professional engineers. Copyright 2017 John Hammond and Robert Gunderman, Jr.
Note: This short article is intended only to provide cursory background information, and is not intended to be legal advice. No client relationship with the authors is in any way established by this article.