I love covering technology. I love meeting new people. I love learning new things. So for me it has been an amazing ride to cover the M2M or what many are calling the IoT (Internet of Things) market. With all this emerging technology, it is changing the world of journalism. In some cases it has been for the better and in others not so much. What many people today consider to be news is purely what they hear on talk shows or have read social media. Opinions generated on these shows or in social media are thought of as “news” when in fact they are just opinion.

The lines of what is opinion and what is news or “real reporting” have been heavily blurred. What’s more, the way the message is presented is being manipulated by those powerful enough to do so. Controlling the message has been a big part of what politicians and businesses do. These companies have a real desire to come across in a very favorable light. But, this is where the rubber meets the road. Many of these corporate giants have a hard time understanding there is no reason why respectful questioning of the comments they make can’t be undertaken. That’s the job of any good journalist. We question things. We dig deeper into the statements made and we challenge the status quo.

We look at different angles to find out more information to get to the truth. However, it’s that questioning of what’s said that seems to be getting some technology firms all riled up. A perfect example is politicians and athletes. They certainly do not take too kindly to reporters who publish negative comments, and in most cases, they attempt to bar these reporters from further interviews, regardless of how true those statements may be.

Being objective and respectful are the traits any good reporter should possess. Personally, I take pride and due diligence and in all the content I produce prior to publication. So, it came as a shock to me once again that an editorial I wrote would cause a carrier to get all lathered up. This carrier was fired up about a recent editorial I wrote in our April/May edition of Connected World regarding the connected car and its efforts involving 4G.

In it, I had questions about its role and motivations behind what it was doing. I pointed out specific things the company has done which created curiosity on my part about what was going on. As a journalist, curiosity is the fuel that inspires our dogged desire to uncover truths to questions needing answers. This is the industry I write about and cover with a tremendous passion.

I pride myself on learning something about this field every day. And I like to think I’ve studied it enough to be somewhat of an expert on the subjects I report. I can hold conversations with everyone in the industry from analysts, to innovators, to CEOs. And in fact, it’s like I am watching a Shakespearean play. Some of the carriers’ partners fear that if they don’t act accordingly they too will be shunned and won’t get the deals they need to keep their business going. While I never publish the rumors or gossip, I hear it all. People call me on a daily basis. As they say, companies “talk.”  Ironically, it’s not my job to publish the hearsay. As a respected journalist, I only care about putting out well researched and informative pieces. That is why I immerse myself in reading up on the field, studying trends, and talking to lots of people.

It’s about gaining more insight and knowledge to do my job well. I am very tenuous about wanting to get to the bottom of every story and I give every company a chance to answer my questions. Whether they choose to do that is up to them. So, you could imagine my surprise when I received word from this powerhouse that a request my radio producer made to have a particular guest on the program was being rejected.

The rejection read, “Chip, we are still evaluating our participation given the recent editorial about AT&T in the print issue. I understand if you need to move ahead with other guests in the meantime. Thanks.” I could read between the lines.

The show wasn’t being rejected because of a scheduling conflict. Rather, I was rejected because this network provider took offense to my editorial.

After the article appeared and Chip received the email, I received a call from AT&T’s PR person asking me to explain myself. Much like I am doing in this blog, I explained to him I wasn’t trying to pick on any vendor. In fact, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am not about attacking people for the sake of attacking them. I question actions and behaviors because I am trying to seek out the truth. As I stated earlier I had questions and I was raising them. This behemoth’s PR person scolded me as if I was 10-years-old. He insisted he would get me whatever I needed in the future emphasizing management was very disappointed and essentially let me know in no uncertain terms that I need to get my act together or his company wasn’t going to work with us anymore.

Let’s be clear, disagreeing with me is fine…that’s what happens when people express an opinion. But to have an attitude of “I’m taking my ball and going home” seems a bit over the top. In this case, we have a large imposing vendor taking the posture that someone from their own company would not be a guest on the program was a bit childish, considering all I was doing was recognizing one of its own executives who had been named a Women of M2M and then to imply they wouldn’t work with me.

We have written pieces that have complimented this carrier on a job well done, and have honored people within its company. However, even the best of companies may do something that makes you scratch your head from time to time. And that’s when you have to ask certain questions.

When I hung up I knew I was being patronized. And as the saying goes actions speak louder than words. Our radio segment was scheduled earlier this week and AT&T never delivered their executive as promised. So I guess you could say AT&T evaluated the editorial opportunity and still didn’t want to work with us. So at the end of the day actions speak volumes.

So this vendor’s actions caused me to question how often do large corporations bully the media to get what they want? I pulled out an issue dating back to 2005. And one of our readers was quoted as saying, “They (the carriers) are today, and continue to be an obstruction to (the) M2M market…”  How ironic that was published almost 10 years ago. 

Businesses, especially large ones, are always on the lookout for the next big thing. They want that leg up on the competition and create significant revenue for the company and shareholders. That’s what business is. We understand it. They are in it to make money…there is no secret to that. However, for some companies, it’s all about controlling the message and, unfortunately, some news outlets and publications fall prey to it and don’t question things as they should.

Whether it’s out of fear of not being able to have access to certain people, I don’t know. But, what I do know is that I’m doing a disservice to my readers when I don’t look at things with a more critical eye.

Sure, I could become a mouthpiece for whoever wants to come in and give me money. I could just rewrite press releases all day and make companies happy. However, I wouldn’t be doing my job the way it needs to be done.

And as readers of the magazine I think you would be able to tell if I wasn’t being straightforward. And you know what you would be getting: the message only AT&T wants you to hear, be it good or bad.

So I would rather work to continue to provide you with the best information and commentary in the industry. I pride myself on doing my due diligence when writing an article, blog, or editorial. Along the way, some people might not like what’s written.

For the record, AT&T is not alone is wanting to take its bat and ball and go home. We have had GM, Vodafone, Tridium, and the list goes on telling me they will not work with me or my team if I don’t “quote” fall into line.

Maybe they should be less focused on threatening hard-working journalists and put more effort into working with us. In the end, perhaps they will respect the way my team and I go about doing our jobs and reporting the facts the way you need them.

Unless customers tell these companies this isn’t what you want they will continue to bully anyone they want, including media companies like mine. With your help maybe we can help them open their eyes that no one wins when they act like school yard bullies. Help corporate America see that by challenging what they do, we are serving the greater good of you and the industry and this is really just part of what comes with our job. Thus, as readers of our magazine we can work together to help them see they need to stop being bullies and intimidating the media industry. In the end, it will allow us to do a better job to serve all of you—our readers—and perhaps get a better technology message out to you as well.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #carriers AT&T #M2M, #data, #connectedcars, #journalism #smartphone, #IoT #Tridium #Vodafone #GM #bully


In the past two weeks, in addition to the grants of some intriguing patents highlighted below, I caught a thread of an argument about the relevance of patent protection. Instead of encouraging innovation, patents discourage it. More specifically, in the Internet age, IP (intellectual property) can be introduced into markets without patent protection because the historical reasons why patent protection was necessary have become irrelevant.

On May 12, I came across a blog in SAP’s online Business Innovation venue entitled “Patents Are Dead” written by Christopher Koch. He described how patents came into being to provide protection to inventors for a period of time that was considered necessary to allow for the costs of development and “go to market” be recouped. This protection fostered innovation because it incented the inventor to take on these costs knowing that he or she had the protection of law. The protection of law created an artificial condition of economic scarcity, meaning that if the patented product was desirable to consumers, the condition of scarcity (only one producer without competition) would allow pricing to be set as high as the market could bear, improving the likelihood that expenses could be recouped.

With the Internet Age, 3D printing, mass prototyping and production tools such as robotics, Koch’s argument is that the costs of development and “go to market” are approaching zero. He does clarify that some products such as new drugs will still require patent protection because of their massive development costs, the result of significant regulatory requirements.

His argument is based on a position paper published on March 24th of this year by Mark Lemley at the Stanford Law School. Entitled “IP in a World without Scarcity,” it covers in 55 pages considerable evidence to support his conclusion:

“The Internet is a harbinger of things to come–of a raft of new technologies that offer the promise of separating creativity from production and distribution, and reducing the cost of all three. Those technologies challenge the basis for our IP system, and indeed the basis for our economy as a whole. The lessons from the Internet experience are surprising and encouraging: people will create when given the opportunity to do so, even without effective IP protection. Those lessons will have relevance for patent and design patent as well as copyright as post-scarcity technologies remake more and more of our economy in the shape of the Internet.” (pg. 55)

I can see the merit in his argument, but, read the paper and draw your own conclusions. For what it is worth, IP’s value increasingly depends on speed to market, something that the present patent review process does not accommodate.

The blog we’ve just discussed was published in a “branded” venue, namely, SAP, which is a giant in the software application market. It goes head to head with the likes of Oracle, and is itself an aggressive patentee. It is also undergoing a change in leadership which is already shaking up the giant, forcing it to become cloud-focused, more agile, and especially more relevant to the infrastructure requirements, or ecosystem, of The Internet of Things. SAP was granted 35 patents in the past two weeks, mostly for software processes.

When you see a patent with just one name on it, most of the time you let it pass. There are still a lot of solitary inventors at work. But when the sole inventor’s name is Jeffrey P. Bezos and the assignee is Amazon Technologies, Inc., you sit up and take notice. Such is the case for Patent 8,725,838 (“Content Sharing,”) granted on May 13. The application was filed in late 2012, and covers content sharing across devices using audio signals. The first prior art citation stretches back to 1971 (Patent 3,609,752 “Simultaneous Data Encoder and Decoder,”) for a device that used frequency tones similar to touch tone phone tones. In the Background section of the new patent, there is a clear reference to finding a way to share ereader content when Wi-Fi and internet connectivity are not available.

WiTricity has been cited before, and week after week has at least one patent grant. I’d keep an eye on this company because it is working on bringing wireless energy transmission to market, and the grant it received on May 20 is particularly interesting. If you want a visual on what it is doing, here’s the CNN feature aired in March of this year. Have you considered capturing wireless energy for device recharging in a bag? Yes, a bag. Whether or not you have, you should at least look at the illustration of the charging bag in Patent 8,729,737 (“Wireless energy transfer using repeater resonators”). My mind flashed forward to luggage manufacturers that could offer an accessory bag designed for charging devices while you are sitting on a plane, or while enroute to the next appointment. And if this is not exciting enough for you, then consider that the first citation of prior art referenced in the new patent is Patent 645,576 (“System of Transmission of Electrical Energy,”) issued to the great Nicola Tesla on March 20 of 1900, just more 114 years ago. That it took more than a hundred years to turn his insight into marketable reality says much for the way winners preclude losers when competing technologies go to market. Edison and his concept of energy transmission beat out Tesla’s because Edison could get the financial backing to build the necessary infrastructure, and Tesla could not.

The minute I see a wireless charging bag appear on the market, I’ll report it to you. If you see it first, please drop me a line.

We talk about connected devices that offer wonderful new services, but rarely see the massive infrastructure that is needed to support that device and its applications. Here’s one that provides insight into the infrastructure that one device requires.

Patent 8,725,064 (“System and Method for Providing Event Spectators with Audio/Video Signals Pertaining to Remote Events”) was granted to Immersion Entertainment. On the company’s Website, click on “The Insider” under the “Concepts” button on the left side of the page and you will see a device which you can hold in your hands and slip around your neck to take along with you to a spectator event. The purpose of the device is to give you a means to view other content while at the event, perhaps a different baseball game when the one you are physically at gets boring.

Now, to understand just how this device can deliver this alternative content to you, look at the schematic in the patent for the infrastructure that the patent covers. You are looking at a significant number of connected devices that must exist to enable the connected device in your hands to work. When you see something of this magnitude of complexity, think of the iceberg analogy: What you see sticking up above the surface of the water is only 10% of the entire mass of the iceberg. Putting it another way, think of an ecosystem and its component parts. Every part of that ecosystem depends upon some other part, whether it be one or many, to exist and function according to its role. Pull one part out, and the system comes under stress, or collapses.

To be sure, what is covered in Immersion and WiTricity’s patents are costly to develop and deploy, which brings us back to where we started: the “Patent is Dead” argument. Would you undertake what these companies have developed and are deploying without patent protection?


Pure genius! I witnessed it. Live at the Security of Things Forum in Cambridge last week. The room was full of stunningly brilliant, experienced, kind, feisty security professionals. We were there moderating a panel on (IoT) Internet of Things security in the enterprise.

We learned a ton from these people. And it was more confirmation that time and trust matter as much or more than anything else in IoT. You can read all about it here, in organizer Paul Roberts’ excellent collection of media coverage in the days immediately following the event.

The cost (or affordability) of building security into your IoT solutions depends on a host of factors. There is no one size-fits all in securing IoT devices. Securing the IoT may have as much to do with supply-chain integrity as it does encryption, or authentication, or realtime remote control of connected, unattended devices.

My friend, and panelist Emil Sturniolo has been trying to teach me this for years … It might also have to do with what it is that you are securing—not only the intelligent device, but the physical asset it is instrumenting. It might also have to do with the economics of failing to secure that device of physical asset—not only the cost of downtime and remediation, but the loss or revenue and prestige and more.

And it might certainly have to do with elasticity of demand for the IoT solution under scrutiny—not only the cost implications of building the right level of security into that device, but the resulting impact on demand.

In my role as provocateur for the opening panel, I suggested that ‘we’ – developers, deployers, investors, security professionals—just deal with the fact that securing our IoT solutions we will need to absorb some overhead. Overhead in budget and schedule for some of our IoT projects.

And a couple of corners of the room would have censored me if they had a red button.

But one of the best inputs came from I Am The Calvary’s Josh Corman – endorsed by a handful of people in the room—went something like this (I am paraphrasing):

We got it all wrong when we position security as overhead, or friction. Security will actually ACCELERATE adoption of IoT in part by reducing the cost of deploying, operating and maintaining IoT.

They might be right. Especially if you take the long view. The 30-month horizon. They might be wrong. Especially if you take the now-term view. The 30-day view. The time horizon matters when we discuss the impact of elevating security requirements in our IoT solution development and commercialization.

It is a little bit like, pay me now for pay me later. Invest in security now, and reap the benefits over time with broader market acceptance and adoption, or pay later to redress damage done by real or perceived security flaws.

According to a couple of people with significant IoT startup experience in the room, too many IoT startups are not putting enough time, effort, energy, priority, scope, schedule or budget into securing their devices.

I agree with that. I see some of that. Why? Well, there could be several reasons:

  1. Pressure to launch their device is paramount. First to market is still a critical consideration in a number of these emerging markets.
  2. Pressure to reduce cost basis of the device is paramount. Monetization models in IoT are still evolving and everyone wants to lowest cost BOM possible.
  3. Security is hard. And risky. And fluid. And the gift that keeps on giving – developers headaches as they try to stay ahead of the black hats.
  4. Customers, especially consumers, do not care about, know about, or understand security.
  5. Caveat emptor is the rule of the day.

There is some truth in all of these. Especially if you take the 30-day view. They are all lies. Especially if you take the 30-month view.

Taking the 30-month view – or longer is the answer. For many IoT solutions will be designed and deployed with the need for the edge node to serve as a persistent socket – supporting its mission for 10 years or more in many applications. When we think about the physical assets on the planet that might be most worth instrumenting, we think about those assets that create or preserve water, food/ ag, energy, transportation, population health security.

We want, we need those assets in operation for a long time. We need our IoT edge nodes to be operational – and secure for at least that long. And if the physical assets that we are instrumenting are not long-duty cycle, then the argument shifts. As fast as the market is moving, that is how fast a secure, trusted device can scale. And how fast and far a brand can fall. Decisions made for a 30-day window, on a specific device, can have a 30-month impact on an entire brand.

Yeah, markets can be funny like that. Not funny, ha-ha, but, funny, what happened to our backlog? Taking the 30-month view and elevating security as a brand attribute is the answer to defending the attack on near-term budget requirements and schedule implications of security from those would care only about the next 30-days.

For evidence, see Duo Security’s Mark Stanislav, his teams at Duo and at www.builditsecure.ly are at the forefront of making this all feasible for startups.

Elevating security will accelerate, expand and deepen market penetration at margin for 30 months or more—right after we accept that the cost of defining, developing and deploying appropriate levels of security will not be free during the first 30 days of our development schedules.

If you want to explore this topic more, join me, Connected World’s Peggy Smedley and Aeris Communciations’  Syed Hosain as we explore a few options for developers and deployers to secure their Internet of Things.

You can register for that webinar here.  http://connectedworldmag.com/aeris_webinarSeries.aspx

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #M2M #security #Aeris #IoT #Inex


I have been covering the M2M arena for 15 years now and you could say I know where all the bodies are buried. I know all the movers, shakers, and even all the players, if you know what I mean. I know who is serious about the market and who just wants to make a buck. I know who wants to build an M2M community and who is just here for the moneymaking ride.

It’s no wonder many of today’s M2M company owners have dreamed of growing their own small business into larger ones. And we all know that getting from point A to point B is never an easy road to travel. But for as long as I can remember Stratton Nicolaides, CEO and chairman, of Atlanta-based Numerex, http://www.numerex.com/, has wanted to take that journey. He has always wanted to sit at the head of the largest table.

He has never been content to be second best and thus he has always strived to create a multi-million dollar company that would earn the respect of the M2M industry. But like anything there is still one fundamental truth in all of this, how would he jettison from small-town firm and grow his business? One way, of course, is to grow it organically. This would mean to build a strong revenue base and a strong bottomline through a healthy customer base. 

Nicolaides and Co., had to make some tough decisions. Do you grow organically or inorganically? Most businesses recognize the rate of a business expansion through a company’s own business activity can be tenuous at best considering today’s economic climate. On the other hand, inorganic growth can give a company great opportunities through mergers, acquisitions, or takeovers.

After much deliberation, Nicolaides made some very strategic decisions. Despite some steady organic growth, Numerex execs decided the path to travel would be through M&As (mergers and acquisitions). Even though there were other MVNOs that have been very successful in leading and even dominating the M2M services platform arena. From its perspective, there was still room for more MVNOs to enter the market and steal some marketshare. At the time, Nicolaides’ decision to expand and bolster the company’s M2M portfolio seemed to be a logical move if he was going to differentiate the company and still remain viable because there was no question other service providers saw the full potential of this rapidly growing landscape.

And it goes without saying anyone who has been around the block a few times with M2M knows, M&As have a formative effect on the industry landscape. Throughout the first quarter of 2014, the space has already seen a good deal of activity and it’s likely to heat up as the year unfolds. In fact, the industry as a whole has already witnessed more than 210 M&As since Connected World started tracking them dating back to 2003.

Following on its mission to grow, Numerex just announced it will acquire Omnilink Systems, http://www.omnilink.com/, expanding its product portfolio in its core and emerging markets. Omnilink Systems offers an M2M platform capable of monitoring the location, safety, and condition of all sorts of assets—from fleets and personal vehicles to employees, loved ones, and even criminal offenders. The agreement, which requires Numerex to pay $37.5 million in cash, is yet another stepping stone in the company’s long-term growth strategy, especially in key enterprise verticals.

According to the companies, Omnilink’s products, technologies, and strategic alliances will broaden Numerex’s position. However, this is where things get a little fuzzy for me. What is Numerex’s market objective and what will it be in the future? 

Let’s look back. With a vision in one hand and a pocket book in another, in January 2006, Numerex began its M&A campaign purchasing the assets of AirDesk. This was its first in a series of acquisitions. In August 2007, Numerex acquired satellite technology provider Orbit One Communications Inc.

At the time, this was the company’s second acquisition in 18 months. While growth was steady it still didn’t come fast enough, so the top brass turned their affections to software and service provider Ublip of Dallas, Texas, in October 2008. Numerex tried to scale some real stock heights, but it struggled from peaks to valleys through the next few years. So in February 2013, the company continued its M&A streak acquiring the assets and business of AVIDwireless, the next-generation M2M platforms and managed services.

Now when you look at all these companies what do they have in common and what will Numerex be able to deliver to market as a result? As a business, Numerex now has a lot more to manage and as a result, I have to wonder what is the direction the company is headed? Candidly, that means it has a learning curve while still managing the new debt from the current acquisition. Only time will tell, but it will surely be interesting to watch as Numerex’s competitors try to capitalize on any missteps it just might make along the way.

Want to tweet about this article? Use hashtags #Numerex #M&A #M2M #Omnilink


During the offseason we have spent considerable time looking at the M2M industry’s farm system. So there’s only one thing really left to do and that’s to look at the major league players to round out the Fall League for the CW 100. The CW 100 list represents the largest and most effective firms contributing nearly 85% of all the commitments made by the majority of M2M players in the marketplace.

Wouldn’t it be useful to have more information about each of these firms listed on the CW 100? Until now, the CW 100 outlined the top performing companies’ strength and number of customer references; strength of business model and product/service portfolio; establishment in the market: revenue, partnerships, employees; momentum/activity in last 12 months; growth potential; customer responses based on research in interviews; stability of M&As (mergers and acquisitions) or uncertainly due to M&A; active involvement in and support for the connected world community, including event participation and marketing; and other intangibles including input from market observers, customer research, and industry experts. But it stopped by not telling you how they compare to each other.

There’s a lot of talent, the players are increasing, and they are getting better than expected as the market grows. We have all-time stats. For more than a decade you have relied on the CW 100 to know what’s happening with the companies that are shaping M2M and now what is being termed the IoT (Internet of Things) or Internet of Everything.

These new rankings will be remarkably different than when it was launched 12 years ago. The ranking part of the list should keep you busy for a while sifting through such things as: Is your favorite company on this list? Is your company on this list? What company is missing? What are they ranked? Our team of editorial experts at Connected World magazine painstakingly compiles this list on a yearly basis and it takes a lot of diligence to conduct the research. 

The CW 100 is not just about listing the best companies. It is now about ranking companies that earn their revenues from the sale, installation, service, monitoring, and support of the M2M community. The primary objective of the CW 100 is to present an account of the size of the market served by the 100 providers and to rank the firms by their contribution to the marketplace. We take much pride in the fact we are the only firm that correlates business performance with quantified data to support our findings. We have proprietary analytic tools that measure the impact of each company on the marketplace including the effectiveness on the market, influence on financial performance.

The CW 100 prides itself on being a showcase for the companies that are shaping the connected world arena. As I stated earlier, we have been continuously collecting data for decades. The CW 100 provides a market-view evaluation of market strength regardless of affiliation. It allows us to use a single measure to compare the size and quality of corporate brands. We use a full calendar year of data to support our rankings, which includes phone interviews with business decision makers. Although we track hundreds of companies, the ones listed on the CW 100 and those that will eventually be ranked must meet several criteria to be considered for the newly designed rankings.

So why is all of this important? As the CW 100 name implies, we approach the connected devices market from its core. We understand that all of the CW 100 touch points can influence the performance of a brand and they must align with a vendors’ unique promise to the marketplace. When it comes to our ability to influence the market we must consider angles carefully, accurately, and objectively for our readers.

All of the companies that appear on the CW 100 are about creating a specific impression of their company in the minds of customers, employees, vendors, stockholders, the media—anyone who’s important to your continued success. It’s pretty clear that you can’t be effective if you are locked into a single approach, or if you have preconceived notions about any vendor’s ability to influence the market. The CW 100 is currently the biggest influencer since it is based on getting to know the companies through research, customers, and oncoming feedback.

The CW 100 is about ranking performance and measuring top companies based on quantitative factors and the feedback from Connected World magazine’s tech audience and successful business owners. The CW 100 is based on a special formula developed by Connected World magazine that calculates top companies.

It is for this very reason the CW 100 will help customers understand who are the key vendors and what they stand for and how that is essential in strengthening and their ongoing success. The CW 100 builds the awareness and strengthens communication processes.

During the nomination period M2M vendors have the option to fill out a survey to be listed in the CW 100 or to join as a member to participate in the newly formed Rankings. To be considered for the rankings you must follow the guidelines Connected World has now put in place, https://www.surveymonkey.com/s/15CW100. There is no obligation. However, if you want to see how a third-party analyzes independent data to rank your company then this cumulative score is just what you need to do in order to be an MVP in this emerging Internet of all things that is connected globally.

Want to tweet about this article? Use #M2M, #IoT, #CW100, #connecteddevices, #mergersandacquisitions #M&As


A good friend of mine recently asked me why I write about patents. Part of my answer was the ability to “connect the dots” between the present and the past. Developments in technology do not arise in a vacuum; today’s patented technologies build upon what is called “prior art” and the prior patents that are cited to show the contributions of this art are always part of the patent documentation. Reading prior art citations in a patent is like opening a time capsule; you find the earliest precursor in the past that helped make the new patent possible. Every patent document is its own unique history lesson, and for me, contributes to my broader understanding of the history of technology.

When the subject of a new patent touches on an industry in which I have worked, such as television, the exercise of reading it becomes a more personal and less academic exercise for me.

Television is one of the great mega-technologies of the 20th century, and from its commercial inception in the late 1940’s, has gone through a number of significant technical evolutions, such as the introduction of color TV in the 1950s. In the late 1990s, I had a first-hand view of another of the great technical transitions, from analog to digital formats including the introduction of HDTV (high-definition television).

Another example of a major technical evolution in television is buried within a new patent granted to Google, patent 8,719,277 (“Sentimental information associated with an object within a media.”) At the heart of Google’s technology is the use, on a mobile device, of either pressure or time to measure and report a sentimental reaction to content contained in a piece of media such as a video. The intent is to capture sentimental responses from many viewers of the content to develop a useable rating of its effectiveness.

The first citation of prior art made in this new patent is Patent 4,646,145 (“Television viewer reaction determining systems,”) granted 34 years ago to R. D. Percy & Co., Seattle, Wash. At that time, Percy & Co., was one of a number of companies offering television rating services to brands and their ad agencies as well as broadcasters. One of Percy’s competitors in 1980 was AC Nielsen Co.

It was a very pleasant surprise to see that in the Percy & Co., patent of 1980, it had as its first prior art citation patent 2,766,374 (“System and Apparatus for Determining Popularity Ratings of Different Transmitted Programs,”) granted in 1956 to the International Telemeter Corp. This is one of the foundation patents for viewer response measurement technology. Telemeter was an early entry into the pay-television business, begun in 1953, and was eventually acquired by Paramount.

The 1950s were the dawn of the development of devices and technology to measure audience reaction to television shows, and laid the foundation for much of the viewer reaction technology advancements that we have used in the ensuing 60+ years.

Although it was founded in 1923 to serve radio broadcasters and advertisers, Nielsen rose to real power beginning in the 1950’s with its television rating system, creating the standard by which broadcast networks like CBS and NBC competed. We have all heard of the Nielsen rating system, so long a power in the determination of advertising rates that television networks could charge based on the popularity of the programs carried by each network, and the networks’ popularity in the aggregate. By the way, here we are in May, one of the original four months broadcasters called “sweeps,” for sweepstakes. The most important sweep month, historically, was November, setting the rates for the all important Christmas holiday advertisements. The other three were February, May, and July. The most popular network in a sweep month could command the highest ad rates for the period forward until the next sweep month’s results were determined.

Google’s patent updates viewer reaction technology for use on mobile devices. This is exciting because it parallels the shift of content viewing from the home-based television set to mobile devices, a growing trend.

That there is continuity in the evolution of technological change can be seen in this history lesson from television, now carried forward by one of the most innovative companies on the planet, Google, into viewing venues well beyond the home TV set.

If you are like me, a visit to the doctor is not something I would rate as enjoyable or providing an opportunity to have some fun. Yet, turning healthcare into a fun and rewarding game is the objective of Accenture Global Services Ltd., which was granted Patent 8,714,983 (“Multi-player role-playing lifestyle-rewarded health game”). The $2 Trillion (yes, with a “T”) global healthcare market is a focus area for Accenture’s consulting practice. Combining hardware (wearable sensors), software and infrastructure, the technology described in the patent seeks to incorporate—and specifically cites as examples of prior art–a diverse range of sources including social networks, GPS-enabled smartphones and massively multi-player role—playing online (MMPRPO) games. Wryly noting in the Background section of the patent that “healthcare and fun typically do not go together,” Accenture cites the “strong market need to incorporate fun and excitement into gaming that promotes health and wellness to participants” as the motivation behind the patented technology. This is an example of the application of gamification techniques to create a new way to combine and monetize existing elements of the mHealth ecosystem, based on fun-based user participation and reward incentives.