Apple Gets Patent Grant For Wireless, Flexible Digital Signs

October 7, 2014 by Dave Haynes


Source: Patently Apple

Apple has received patent approval for a device and method that is effectively a flexible, networked digital sign that uses Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) media files.

US patent  8,855,727 is summarized this way:

The present invention relates to an apparatus and method to communicate multimedia documents or content to a mobile or fixed device over a wireless network. In particular, the mobile or fixed device may be configured as a digital periodical or advertising device to transmit and receive converted multimedia documents or content delivered using multimedia messaging service over a wireless network.


Wireless communications has enabled widespread easy access to mass media and multimedia information via mobile devices, cellular phones, personal digital assistants, smart phones, or the like. Although the availability of multimedia information is ubiquitous, proper viewing, display, and delivery of information for an enjoyable user experience is still lacking. This is especially the case for viewing periodicals such as online magazines or news content on a mobile device where a large display is desirable. Moreover, having complex software and hardware is required to receive and display multimedia periodical information on present mobile devices making them expensive, heavy, and power intensive.

Digital fixed advertising display systems are commonplace in urban environments. However, widespread use of these systems is not commonplace since they require a fixed power source and wired network connection. This is problematic for rural and remote locations such as highways and light or utility posts where access to power and communications infrastructure is limited. Moreover, digital advertising systems do not provide any interactivity, location awareness, or accessibility to Internet content making them poor for creating impressions on consumers and constraining their effectiveness.

Organic light emitting diode (OLED), liquid crystal display (LCD) flexible device technology, and other flexible substrate technologies have made advancements recently promising to provide an enhanced user experience, larger display sizes, portability, and low power consumption. However, commercialization of products having flexible displays has been slow due to a lack of viable and robust consumer applications. Moreover, another problem with devices having flexible displays is the ability to integrate other electronic circuitry due to form factor constraints and poor design.

Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) is a standardized technology being developed by the Third Generation Partnership Project (3GPP), the Third Generation Partnership Project 2 (3GPP2), and the Open Mobile Alliance (OMA). Although originally developed to send photos and simple video clips, recently added features to MMS have expanded its capabilities. The added features to MMS have made it into the preferable transport and presentation mechanism of mobile messaging that rivals electronic mail. However, the commercial applications and utilization of advanced MMS features has been limited. It is desirable to provide a digital periodical or advertising device preferably having a flexible display for receiving diverse mass media information, multimedia information, or Internet content in an efficient manner using MMS.


An apparatus and method for delivering mass media and multimedia information to a digital periodical or advertising device preferably using Multimedia Messaging Service (MMS) and having an electronic flexible screen or display is disclosed. A multimedia document, part of a multimedia document, web page, multimedia advertisement, or any other multimedia content on a server or a computer is extracted, parsed, and/or segmented into a plurality of video, audio, image, or text elements. The plurality of elements are each converted to an MMS message and transmitted optionally with an MMS assembler message or embedded information in each MMS message for proper reassembly of the original multimedia document or content. The MMS messages are received and reassembled back into the original multimedia document or content at a digital periodical or advertising device.

The Apple-centric patent blog Patently Apple has some illustrations of what this flexible display is all about, as well as a bit of reaction and analysis.

So is this a seismic event for the digital signage industry? Doubtful, but that’s based on not knowing a lot about it other than the filing. It should be noted Apple was granted 30 0ther patents just today. Getting one for this doesn’t mean even a single soul in Cupertino is working on something.

The other important thing to note, in digital signage terms, is that using wireless networking to move content around may be new in some circles, but not in this industry. MMS seems slightly weird given there is stuff like Media RSS out there.

The flexible display thing is also kinda sorta interesting, but again, hardly new. As has been noted by countless people, however, Apple doesn’t invent many things. It takes existing ideas and makes them really good.

We shale see if this amounts to anything.

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