Amazon.com, Inc. (NASDAQ:AMZN) of Seattle, WA, is a tech company mainly focused in the fields of e-commerce and cloud computing, although it has made significant forays into consumer electronics, on-demand content streaming services and more. In late November, San Diego became the 23rd city where consumers can subscribe to Amazon Prime Now, a service offering subscribers two-hour delivery of items purchased online, from electronics to household needs like toilet paper. Amazon’s same-day delivery services are causing other retailers like Macy’s, Inc. (NYSE:M) and Kohl’s Corporation (NYSE:KSS) to expand upon their own same-day delivery services in order to keep pace.
Amazon’s cloud computing business has also been a success in recent months, claiming more than one-quarter of the market share for Infrastructure as a Service (IaaS) cloud computing products through the first half of 2015, ahead of such cloud computing rivals as Microsoft Corporation (NASDAQ:MSFT) and IBM (NYSE:IBM). We took note of the impact of Amazon’s cloud computing division on the company’s overall earnings in a recent tech earnings round-up published here on IPWatchdog. Amazon’s latest cloud offering appears to be Amazon Storywriter, a cloud-based service designed as a screenwriting platform for feature-length motion pictures as well as television series.
The research and development activities at Amazon have been strong in recent years and in 2014, the company placed 59th among all companies earning patents from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, receiving 741 in that year; this was nearly 40 percent greater than the number of U.S. patents earned by Amazon in the previous year. During the third quarter of 2015, Amazon earned 321 U.S. patents, a quarterly pace of innovation that would far outstrip its 2014 totals. The text cluster here, provided by Innography, shows that device technology has been a major focus for the corporation, whether related to electronic devices, mobile devices, client devices or computing devices.
Amazon’s Issued Patents: From 3D Printing On-Demand to Touch-Sensitive Projected Interfaces
Many people consider Amazon to be a retailer but we noted an intriguing technology for additive manufacturing, also known as 3D printing, at the center of U.S. Patent No. 9159106, titled Systems and Methods for Fabricating Products on Demand. It protects a method of fabricating a product on demand by receiving a manufacturable model for the product to be fabricated by a 3D printer, validating the manufacturable model to verify its three-dimensional representation, generating a first display page containing product information for presentation to users of an electronic catalog service, generating a second display page containing product information viewable only by a first user, receiving a request to obtain the product from a second user, fabricating the product for the second user through 3D printing and causing a payment to be made to a first user in response to the second user’s purchase. This system allows Amazon to offer 3D printing services to product developers who want to sell their products on Amazon’s online e-commerce platform. A technology for the better retrieval of grocery items from refrigeration systems is detailed within U.S. Patent No. 9185998, which is titled Inventory System with Climate-Controlled Inventory. It discloses a system for transporting refrigerated inventory which includes a refrigerated inventory holder containing an electric refrigeration unit, a plurality of legs, shelves configured to store inventory items and a mobile drive unit configured to move beneath the refrigerated inventory holder, lift the holder and transport it; at least one leg includes an electrical contact routing power to the electric refrigeration unit. This innovation is intended to enable grocers storing food inventory in refrigerated units to fulfill orders in a timely manner by automating the retrieval of refrigerated items.
Amazon’s early foundations as a bookseller continues to inform at least some of its R&D activities, as is reflected by U.S. Patent No. 9183172, titled Author Interactions Using Online Social Networks. The method claimed here involves displaying a first electronic book comprising electronic or digital representations of textual works, accepting a social media post from a user having a generic reserved keyword intended for a creator of the electronic book, identifying the creator of the electronic book, determining a specific user identifier associated with the identified creator, substituting the specific user identifier for the generic reserved keyword in the social media post and posting the social media post to the social media network using the substituted specific user identifier. This invention is designed to take advantage of the communication capabilities of personal electronic devices to enhance the traditional content consumption experience.
A novel electronic device technology for providing a user interface is discussed within U.S. Patent No. 9152277, which is titled Touchable Projection Surface System. It protects a system including a computing device with a processor, an image output interface providing data to a projector for projecting an image onto a projection surface having surface calibration points, a touch sensor interface coupled to a touch sensor coupled to the projection surface to detect touches and generate touch signals, and then a touch control module executable by the processor to detect surface calibration points and adjust the projected image for alignment with the surface calibration points. This touch-sensitive projection system addresses shortcomings in conventional projectors to minimize shadows in the projected image.
Amazon’s IP portfolio also includes patents assigned to its audio book subsidiary Audible, as users can see in U.S. Patent No. 9165144, entitled Detecting a Person Who Does Not Satisfy a Threshold Age Within a Predetermined Area. It protects a computer-implemented method which involves detecting that a person who does not satisfy a threshold age is within a first predetermined area of the media presentation device, using content rules to monitor the presentation of digital media content, causing presentation of an indication that the person not satisfying a threshold age is within the first predetermined area, identifying an age-inappropriate portion of the digital media content and interrupting presentation of the digital media content at the age-inappropriate portion. This technology is intended for parents or guardians of children who want to enjoy adult content while protecting a child from consuming content which is not age-appropriate.
Online matching services are another area of Amazon R&D focus to judge by the issue of U.S. Patent No. 9160548, titled Mining of User Event Data to Identify Users with Common Interests. It claims a computer-implemented method of matching users to user communities by storing event data representing user-generated events reflecting user affinities for particular items represented in an electronic catalog, storing information about a plurality of user communities corresponding to a respective subset of users, identifying a first plurality of items that characterize item preferences of a first user community, calculating a degree to which the plurality of items are related to a set of items in the electronic catalog identified by a first user and determining whether to suggest the first user community to the first user. This technology is designed to enable people to use online matching services without dealing with inaccurate personal descriptions or the need to manually build a personal profile.
Patent Applications of Note: From Sense and Avoid Vehicle Tech to Social Media Contests
It seems like every developer of high tech has their hands on some form of automotive tech innovation and Amazon is no different as readers can see within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150269521, titled Route Scheduling of Multi-Class Transport Vehicles. The computer-implemented method claimed here involves determining a first transport route including a pick-up location and a transfer of a perishable item for a first transport vehicle governed by a set of first transport rules identifying a geographical region accessible by the vehicle, determining a second transport route for a second transport vehicle, receiving the updated item exchange location based on a second transportation factor and delivery location, updating both transport routes to include the updated item exchange location and providing instructions for the transfer of the perishable item at the exchange location. This system is designed to enable the transport of perishable items to locations off of dirt roads or other pathways where specialized vehicles are required.
Amazon has also jumped into the world of autonomous vehicle R&D with the filing of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150277440, entitled Sense and Avoid for Automated Mobile Vehicles. The automated mobile vehicle claimed here has a body and a plurality of motors coupled to the body and a propellor to rotate a propellor, each motor having an exterior component, an interior component and a laser based rangefinder within the interior component to emit a laser signal and receive the reflection to determine a distance to the object. This system, which could be incorporated on air, water or ground-based vehicles, is meant to keep unmanned vehicles from colliding with each other, a technology which has been heavily sought by the drone community in response to concerns by federal regulators.
The streaming of digital content which is tailored to individual users is the focus of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150312613, which is titled Personalized Smart-List Video Channels. It claims a non-transitory computer-readable medium having code which is executable to access a request for the designation of a first media channel which is received by a client device to initiate a personalized media session in a client application, determine a plurality of media titles based on data corresponding to a client application user and the first media channel designation, encode a preview corresponding to one of the media titles, cause a transmission of the first media stream to the client device and cause a transition from the transmission of the first media stream to a transmission of a second media stream associated with a second media channel in response to a change request received from the client device. This system encodes suggested content into a digital content stream presented to a user in a way that lessens the interaction required from the user. An intriguing technology for social media is also being targeted by Amazon, evidenced by the filing of U.S. Patent Application No. 20150302446, which is titled Implementing Contests in Social Networks. It would protect a system having a server accessible by a plurality of clients and an application configured to stage a contest between a plurality of teams which must achieve a predefined goal, restrict a membership of each team to a plurality of individuals associated with a respective social network, enable an individual of the plurality of individuals to create the contest by specifying social networks to be associated with the contest, present an invitation to join the contest to the plurality of individuals in associated social networks, offer a virtual tool for sale that can be employed by individuals to achieve the predefined goal and issue a virtual currency to the plurality of individuals who join a team. This technology is designed to create a contest where teams can be more easily built based on friendships or close associations.
A novel question-and-answer system which offers revenue streams to respondents has been developed by Amazon and is discussed in U.S. Patent Application No. 20150213471, which is titled Content Generation Revenue Sharing. The computer-implemented method claimed here involves receiving indications of multiple questions supplied by multiple requester users, providing an answer to each question by obtaining responses to the question by one or more response provider users, selecting at least one of the obtained responses to be used as the answer to the question, determining current experience scores representing levels of experience with the answer’s associated category for the response provider users associated with the selected response, initiating compensating the associated response provider user for the selected response based in part on the determined current experience scores and determining an enhanced incentive level status for the associated response provider user to provide benefits unavailable to those without the enhanced incentive level status. This system is designed to incentivize the response of experienced respondents in a question-and-answer system to elicit the most accurate responses to user questions.
We took some time to explore an innovation pursued to improve operations at order fulfillment centers, detailed within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150274338, which is titled Functional Trays for Handling Products in a Materials Handling Facility. It would protect a functional tray to be removably attached to a conveyor having a plate with first and second dimensions that are orthogonal to each other and the second dimension being parallel to a moving direction of the conveyor, a pair of arms extending along the first dimension and slidably coupled to the plate, a first linear actuator configured to move the pair of arms along the first dimension, a second linear actuator configured to move the arms along a third dimension which is orthogonal to the plate, a pusher slidably coupled to the plate and a third linear actuator that moves the pusher relative to the plate along the first dimension. The ability to exchange functional trays on a conveyor belt gives an operator the ability to modify the overall function of the conveyor for different kinds of product processing or handling.
Finally, we thought readers might enjoy taking a closer look at an Amazon technology to improve security in cloud applications, explained within U.S. Patent Application No. 20150304310, entitled Revocable Shredding of Security Credentials. It discloses a computer-implemented method for managing a cryptographic key by storing in a key management service a cryptographic key for use in encrypting data for a customer of a service provider associated with the cryptographic key, receiving a suspend request to suspend storage of the cryptographic key by the key management service, generating a restore key to be associated with the customer, encrypting the cryptographic key with the restore key, sending the cryptographic key to the customer as encrypted under the restore key, destroying any copy of the cryptographic key stored by the key management service, receiving a restore request to cause a key management service to store a copy of the cryptographic key, decrypting the copy of the cryptographic key using the restore key and storing the key in the key management service. This innovation is designed to prevent the unauthorized access of data in cloud computing schemes where multi-tenant key management services are involved.
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