Microsoft also chasing digital signage patents

March 12, 2007 by Dave Haynes

Steve Ballmer and the sorta cool kids at Microsoft have sniffed, wet their fingers and stuck them in the wind, rubbed soil between fingers, spun a dead cat at full moon, and determined digital signage is the next industry they should try to get into and, maybe, take over.

That makes 3M, Cisco, Google and Microsoft – not to mention a whack of display manufacturers.

I guess that makes this thing real.

Anyway, James Bickers of Digital Signage Today posted a piece about the dark warlords in Redmond having lawyers chasing a patent on what looks like a pretty straight-forward signage app – using fairly simple biometrics to trigger ads based on who is approaching.

If a couple of tax-lawyers-in love approach the digital sign, feed them BMW ads. If a family with a couple of little yelpers in tow walk within range, feed them a DisneyWorld ad.

Given that any number of smart propeller-heads could pull this off, if they are not already, I’m not sure how this gets patented. But I yield to people who earn $400 an hour reading these tedious things, with their eyes propped open with match sticks.

This one says:

The technology described herein facilitates the electronic presentation of information (e.g., information that is more traditionally associated with posters, brochures, and product signage) to one or more users within an environment. Electronic presentation makes it possible for the information to be presented interactively. The technology includes a display component (e.g., public display screen) that displays or otherwise presents content to users within its vicinity. In addition, aspects of the presented content or additional information related to the presented content can be streamed to a user’s personal device (e.g., PDA or smart cell phone). Aspects of the technology may include a user detection component that can be used to detect the presence of a user in a specified vicinity of the display and, optionally, a content selection component that can be used to identify targeted/customized content to present to users. 

Much of what’s described there is already out in the wild in various forms with things like motion sensors, RFID readers, Bluetooth servers, SMS short codes and on and on. I have stuff in liquor stores that responds to a motion sensor and then engages booze-craving shoppers using a touchscreen. I’m sure others do, as well.

The applicaltion also details how these screens will be wall-mounted in banks and retail, and use wireless.

This is evidently not the first Microsoft patent, as this claim notes: “This application claims priority to U.S. application No. 60/703,548, filed Jul. 29, 2005, entitled “Device/Human Interactions, such as in the Context-Aware Environments,” which is herein incorporated by reference.”

So if they are doing all this, that likely means Ballmer and his kids are either writing code for all the back-end scheduling, distribution and management, or they’ll make life a lot easier and just buy someone/something.

I’ll leave it to others who know Microsoft and its code to weigh the pros and cons of an MS digital signage suite. I’ll assume the handful of Linux shops like eK3, WireSpring and Digital View should not expect a call from M&A people in Redmond.

  1. fastman says:

    I recall that Bill Gates has been issuing wearable microchips for his guest when visiting his house. These chips automatically communicate user preferences such as desired temperature, fav. music and large format digital artwork on the walls. This goes back about 10 years ago. It is possible at the time that this technology was patented by MS.

    I recall that they had been purchasing the digital rights to many of the great masters works of art over the years.

    Perhaps their interest is not compete in the digital signage on an application level but to merely protect their early R&D efforts.

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