2014
04.03

Reading through Tuesday’s patent grants confirmed what I already knew: I am getting old! I’m a throwback to the latter half of the 20th Century, during which I came of age and got hooked on science fiction and technology. To me, the word “blob” really means “The Blob,” the 1958 film starring a young Steve McQueen that has attained status as a cult classic, complete with its annual Blobfest at the Colonial theatre (in which it was filmed), located in Phoenixville, Pa.

So when I came across Patent 8,688,666 (“Multi-blob Consistency for Atomic Data Transactions”) granted to Amazon Technologies, Inc.  I was stopped in my tracks. Here was a hybrid description fit for both horror and Sci-Fi fans alike! Alas, it had nothing to do with my Blob. It did, however, have everything to do for cloud computing.

Those wild and crazy information technology types come up with all sorts of new ways to classify and manipulate data, and with a nod to Wikipedia, I learned “a blob (alternately known as a binary large object…is a collection of binary data stored as a single entity in a database management system. Blobs are typically images, audio or other multimedia objects, though sometimes binary executable code is stored as a blob. Database support for blobs is not universal.”

The importance of the new patent is that “a blob storage system may provide data storage capability is inherently unlimited and scalable, as addition of data storage servers may be added to the cloud.” This is an improvement over “traditional internally coded database software, such as database systems based on the relational database management system (RDBMS) model… once the design of such traditional database software is implemented, the configuration of the database software cannot be easily changed. As a result, traditional database software may be inadequate to store certain types of data, large chunks of data, or large quantities of persistent data.”

So why is Amazon concerned about all of this? It so happens to be the largest cloud-hosting services provider, earning about $3.5 billion in revenue last year from this business segment. It is about to go head-to-head with Google which is trying to unseat Amazon’s position as top provider.

Speaking of Google, it was granted 50 patents this week, adding to the 8,863 it has received since February of 1988. What is significant is that almost half of the total (4,078) was granted in the past three years.

Visa U.S.A. Inc. was granted Patent 8,668,554 (“Bank Issued Contactless Payment Card Used in Transit Fare Collection”). What is interesting about this is the evolution of one of the two NFC (Near-Field Communication) standards, specifically ISO 14443, which at long last merges the separate functions of transit access and contactless payments requiring secure transaction processing. The methods covered in the patent work through the issues around secure payment processing requirements which are slower than the speed at which a person expects to move through a train turnstile, where speed trumps secure processing.

This patent represents a milestone in the long and winding road of the use of contactless technology is the United States. To set the table for you, consider that since 2001, Japan has successfully merged the original function of contactless, getting 60 people a minute through a train-station turnstile in Tokyo, with merchant payments. Sony, a founding member of NFC, deploys the second of the two NFC standards, ISO 18092, called FeliCa. In the United States, 14443 has been the dominant standard, and in the case of public transportation operators, the sole contactless standard since 2009. The American Public Transportation Assn. (APTA) controls what technologies and their specific standards that are used in member systems. Contactless transit cards using 14443 have been deployed in U.S. systems, but for the sole purpose of getting you through a turnstile.

Visa’s patent provides a set forward for the U.S. to catch up with Japan. The seamless transactional ecosystem that the Japanese enjoy using a single format for multiple functions is something we can hope to see here in the future.

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