Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Google's Radio Patent Blitz

Not content to be the undisputed overdog of Internet advertising, Google appears poised to take on radio advertising (yes, radio) as its next major target of opportunity.

If you go to the US Patent and Trademark Office's site and do a quick search of "AN/Google AND ABST/radio" (meaning, look for patents where the Assignee Name is Google and the Abstract contains the word "radio"), you come back with no less than nine hits (as of today, at least). Five of the nine are actually continuations of a single patent that was filed on March 8, 2005. Two others are likewise extensions of one and the same patent. So in all, there are really just four radio-related patents. But that's surely enough to show the beginnings of a bizarre trend.

The most recent patent (granted March 2, 2010), No. 7,672,337, is called System and method for providing a digital watermark. What's bizarre about this one is that although it purports to be about digital watermarks, the word "watermark" occurs only once in the patent (other than in the title), and nowhere in the abstract. The abstract, in fact, says:
A method for capturing a broadcast is disclosed. The method for capturing a broadcast includes detecting an approximate start time of the broadcast, wherein said detecting includes monitoring for a broadcast trigger, identifying the broadcast and a timed length thereof, such that, based on the timed length and the approximate start time, an approximate end time may be calculated, and recording the broadcast from the trigger to the approximate end time, wherein said recording has captured the broadcast of radio advertising.
What does this have to do with digital watermarks? Good question.

"The present invention enables the monetizing of unsold inventory," Google's inventors (Chad and Ryan Steelberg) explain, adding that the invention "provides a system and method for accurately and timely identifying where and when a radio advertisement or radio program is broadcast. The present invention may provide a communication environment configured to monitor, track, and report on radio verification of broadcast information related to a specific advertisement or program. This broadcast information may be transmitted via a network-accessible server and formatted for retrieval over a network. The present invention may be designed to permit a reporting-service subscriber to connect, such as via a network, to a server and request a report, which may be based on the verification of broadcast information, for a selected advertising campaign or radio program."

If that's clear as mud, you may want to try grokking U.S. Patent No. 7,660,557, Dynamic selection and scheduling of radio frequency communications, granted February 9, 2010. The abstract says:
A manager for playing of broadcast specific information is disclosed. The manager for playing of broadcast specific information includes a managing node that is at least partially resident at a radio broadcast point, wherein the managing node includes a plurality of inputs for receipt of the broadcast specific information from at least two sources, wherein the hub records the broadcast specific information entering at least two of the plurality of inputs for eventual broadcast from the radio broadcast point, and at least one broadcast non-specific information input associated with the managing node, wherein at least one of a format, play time, and play type of the broadcast specific information are varied in accordance with the broadcast non-specific information, and wherein the varied broadcast specific information is broadcast from the radio broadcast point.
And then there's U.S. Patent No. 7,460,863, Method and apparatus using geographical position to provide authenticated, secure, radio frequency communication between a gaming host and a remote gaming device, which is concerned with "the field of radio frequency communications in, more particularly, to a management and distribution network connecting radio frequency broadcast centers for the purpose of delivering data to RF enabled remote devices and an RF enabled remote device with GPS capability for secure off-site gaming applications."

Finally, there's U.S. Patent No. 7,363,001, Dynamic data delivery apparatus and method for same, which describes "a system for providing enhanced radio content to a remote user." According to the abstract:
The system includes at least one input that receives non-radio input; and, at least one output interconnected to the at least one input via a hub, wherein the at least one output receives the enhanced radio content via the hub after at least one manipulation of the non-radio input by the hub to form the enhanced radio content, wherein the at least one manipulation is in accordance with the at least one non-radio input.
The patent goes on to explain:
The present invention may enable small and mid-sized radio groups to aggregate advertising inventory with other stations to create a national advertising network. This technology may enable an intelligent cost effective national ad network. Entities who join a network may be able to capture a greater portion of the national radio advertising market that currently is not captured at all or by the entity. Incremental revenue gain, by capturing national ad buys more efficiently, may permit radio stations to offer additional barter inventory to a company. According to an aspect of the present invention, and based on the installed base, the option may exist to provide national advertisers with access to 3,500 stations to run national radio advertising campaigns.
Preferred embodiments utilize AM and FM sub-carrier bands, TV, Satellite, and Cellular bands.
So there you have it. In case you're not getting enough Google-tailored ad content in the margins of your Gmail, start expecting it in the remnant slots of your AM and FM radio stations -- and maybe your favorite cable channels as well.