Picture these. You are on one of your adventure trips and desperately need to quench your thirst. Instead of breaking a sweat and asking around for a nice restaurant you simply speak to your watch “Find a restaurant nearby”; and your watch presents you with feasible options and a map with directions to get to them. You are working out in a gym and after the session your watch gives you an overview of the calories you have burnt. You have the license to feel smug at having lost all those calories. You are driving and urgently need to text your colleague. Don’t bother picking up your phone. Just speak to your watch and it will send the message for you.
Imagine a scenario where you feel overwhelmed by the beauty of a scene and just use your watch to capture it. How cool is that! Gone are the days when you looked at your wrist to simply take note of the time. Now your watch will assist you in a way that once caught your imagination as part of fancy Hollywood sci-fi flicks.
Behold the modern day smart watch – a wearable device all set to keep you updated on the move. Coupled with a smart phone or not, a smart watch may incorporate a whole spectrum of functionalities such as GPS navigation, heart-rate monitoring, media player, texting, calling or even clicking pictures. In short, it lets you do almost everything that a smart phone does without you having a need to fish into your pocket. According to Google on an average a smart phone user checks his or her phone 125 times a day. This number is surely going to come down as users start getting updates on a device they can wear on their wrists.
Smart watch suddenly appears to be a pool of wealth in which every company wants to swim. Be it Samsung, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Sony, LG, Motorola or Asus, more and more companies have either announced or started rolling out smart watches in a bid to get a stronghold on this (potentially) billion dollar market. Samsung Gear, Moto 360, Sony SmartWatch, LG G watch, the recently unveiled Apple iWatch, Pebble Smart Watch series and Google Android Wear, all indicate a paradigm shift on how an individual will use mobile devices to ease his life.
However, novel though they may seem, Smart Watches aren’t something invented over the past decade. They did exist in much less sophisticated form, offering calculation and paging functionalities. Seiko offered a watch that could store digits and compute data. Casio offered a series of “game watches”. IBM came up with a smart watch operating on Linux and even owns a patent related to smart watch (US 6477117). However, imbibing more features in these watches meant a larger size which was why they weren’t fancied by the public. Only recently, with the advent of technology that can make miniature devices possible, the development of smart watches has gained momentum. Apple and Samsung, two companies involved in probably the most high profile global tussle related to patents, have already started fortifying their portfolio of patents related to smart watches. Apple filed for US patent 8787006 in 2011, which discloses a wrist-worn electronic device with all its unique functions. Samsung also obtained a design patent US D709873 S1 which discloses a circular smart watch, unlike its Gear devices which are all rectangular in shape. Dominating a market needs innovation which is why it is highly likely that the patent count related to smart watches will increase in future.
Development of smart wearable devices is still at a nascent stage. There are various doubts as to the commercial success of smart watches due to factors such as limited battery life. However, as was seen in the case of tabs, it doesn’t take time for the market to explode once the device and its usage becomes apparent to users. Smart watch is an emerging domain of portable devices and may go on to claim a huge pie of the revenue in the mobile devices market. What remains to be seen is who emerges as the leading market player and what sorts of innovations can companies bring to alleviate the present concerns related to smart watches.
The four-year raging patent battle between Apple and Samsung seems to be calming down at a very quick pace. Besides closing all non-legal cases in the US, the rivals have foreclosed all their battles in eight other countries including South Korea, Japan, Netherlands, Germany, France, Italy, UK and Australia. The only two battles remaining are being waged in California where, until now, Apple has been awarded favorable jury verdicts of $929.7 million and $120 million, while Samsung earned a comparatively minor settlement of $158,400 for its infringement claims.
But does this sudden closure of all battles point towards Apple reconsidering the value of the design of an electronic gadget made of plastic and a few computer chips with some software codes? For one, this could be a strong possibility especially after a jury verdict dissed Apple’s plea to ban Samsung from selling its infringing products in the US market stating that the California-based company wouldn’t suffer “irreparable harm” or get its “innovative tag” maligned by Samsung’s products. This verdict rings the bells of truth when a market survey shows that Samsung’s range of allegedly infringing Admire, Galaxy and Stratosphere products have been overshadowed by Apple’s iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus that have recorded new highs in mobile handset sales in the US. As a result, Samsung has begun witnessing a drop in its market share not just in the US but in India and China as well over the last quarter. Statistics state that the Korean company witnessed a 7.4% drop in its market share between April and June.
Now, Apple is not the only reason for Samsung’s poor performance. A growing demand for low-end Smartphones has found brands such as Micromax and Xiaomi penetrating the market with ease, offering nearly everything that Samsung offers at a much lesser price. This goes to show that it’s time for Samsung to reinvent itself.
In a way, the ceasefire over its battle with Apple can plug the financial drain of Samsung, what with the company having spent billions of dollars, both as settlement and legal fee.
With the peace flag raised, the two telecom giants have had ample to lose and little to win in comparison. However, this landmark war has definitely catapulted the importance of IP and the dire need to protect R&D activities of masterminds.
From convex to flat to concave television screens; from just two to three telecasts a week to a multitude of 24/7 channels, television viewing has come a long way since its inception. Gone are the days when people crowded around the idiot box to listen to the news in pin drop silence or enjoy weekend movie telecasts. Today, the television has penetrated to the most parochial dwellings, replete with its offerings of dish TV services and a multitude of channels that spoil the audience for choice. But this is just the beginning of a new era of television viewing.
Television is no more restricted to a gadget with a screen and picture tube inside it. Many television channel viewing service providers today are teaming up with construction companies to create walls that make for perfect screens to project TV channels through a projector. This means that one can stop investing in a TV set altogether and instead install a projector connected to a dish antenna and browse through programs that are projected on a wall. If this is an interesting option that’s making headway, then there’s more to this future story of television.
We are now heading towards an era when channels will soon be grouped not by their overall thematic offering, but by real time classification of the programs being played. This means that if a news channel is telecasting a lifestyle program, it will be classified under the lifestyle section for the duration of that telecast. While this is a technology that is ready to step into the market couple of years down the line, there’s something more interesting waiting to happen.
Imagine this. You’ve had a hectic work schedule at your home office and you decide to take a break. So you swivel around in your chair towards a wall and command the drone to telecast a program of your choice. Zap… the drone comes to life and your favored program is playing on the wall, while you recline in your chair. Midway through the program you decide to grab a bite. As you walk towards the kitchen to fix a snack, the drone follows you, telecasting the program on the wall ahead or the tile below depending on where you turn your head. And while you chop up the veggies that go into your snack, the program continues to play on your kitchen counter.
A look at the program viewing trend suggests that formats such as YouTube and Netflix are going to take over the future in a big way. This means that there is no more waiting for a program to play at a particular time. Rather, you decide when you want to see it and it streams for you.
The trend suggests that television users are no longer going to wait for programs to be telecast at a particular time slot, but would rather view them at their convenience. This means that traditional television channels will cease to exist and program producers and telecasters will have to reinvent themselves to stream programs as and when individual viewers wish to view them.
Tileable, interactive TV “wallpaper” is poised to dominate the room, with wrap-around screens that recruit peripheral vision to create a truly immersive experience. What’s more, users will be able to use part of the entire screen for different shows, movies, web pages or Twitter timelines. This is the kind of question that News Digital Systems (NDS), a maker of pay-TV transmission technology, says broadcasters ought to be asking over the next decade as wall-covering TVs become a practical reality that goes beyond dim, low-resolution projectors or giant, power-hungry single flat screens.
But what about advertisements of not just products but upcoming programs? Well, the experience could be similar to that viewed on video websites, wherein ads are displayed on the fringes of the screen.
All in all, there is a mammoth change set to affect the television industry, integrating it with the internet seamlessly and revolutionizing the way users watch TV.
In the second of our two-part series on the construction industry, we showcase the top five patents and patent-pending buildings and their unique designs that make them stand apart.
If you thought Apple only patented its technology, then here’s food for thought. Apple has at least two patented architectural splendours to its credit – the Apple Store in Broadway (which has Steve Jobs as one of its designers), and another store in Shanghai.
So what makes the Apple store in Broadway, NY, so special? For one, the Architect’s Newspaper described it as “meticulous and seamless as its clients”. The building is designed to portray Apple’s merchandise, evoking a sense of consistency with its sleek look, clean and streamlined design, and user-friendly working. The building has been designed with materials and lights to allow it to resemble a three-dimensional version of the iMac or iPhone display. The patent owners include Karl Backus, Peter Bohlin and George Bradley who are architects at Bohlin Cywinski Jackson, and Robert Bridger, Benjamin L. Fay, Steve Jobs and Bruce Johnson for the design.
Apple’s Shanghai store is an absolute jaw-dropper. The design includes a massive glass cylinder that serves as an entrance to its magnificent store. Granted patent number 8,544,217, Apple holds the rights not just for the design of the cylindrical structure but also the type of glass that was used and the construction method.
A common aspect about both these buildings is that they are fashioned out of monolithic glass slabs with only the connecting joints fashioned out of metal. However, the execution of the Shanghai store’s building is bound to have been more challenging, what with the arcs and curves to form the cylinder.
Changing with the times
Proto Homes is a construction company based out of Los Angeles, CA, that believes wholly and solely that the structure of the home should change as seamlessly as designs of mobile phones and computers. The company describes the old fashion way of constructing houses as insane and has gone ahead to apply for patents for three of its construction methods and material.
The heart of all Proto homes lies in its patent pending ProtoCore design. This is a prefabricated centralized infrastructural silo that not only acts as the support frame of every house that the company builds, but also houses all the electrical, plumbing and mechanical elements. It is practically the infrastructural juggernaut of a Proto home.
An interesting aspect of all Proto homes is that they have a centralized control room the size of a shipping container that contains all the home systems. The entire house is covered by a wireless mesh and from these emanate music, temperature, gas for the fireplace, etc., which are manned from the control room. What’s more, you can even project movies on the walls for a perfect viewing experience.
Truly redefining the art of living, Proto Homes also own the patent pending technology and design of a FlexZone. This idea allows users to create private spaces by moving cabinets, inner walls, kitchen counters and the like.
Nomadic comfort, truly
Nomadic Comfort LLC is an Australian company that specializes in manufacturing tents for camping activities. In a bid to create strong structures that can face the vagaries of weather with ease, Nomadic Comfort went ahead to earn patents on its two products – the RingPole tensioned fabric structures and the Trussring support system. With a unique design of a circular frame, Nomadic Comfort’s RingPole patented structure helps create ample space within the tent using minimal components of durable fabric, while its Trussring support system have semi-rigid hoops within the fabric to make it stretch taut and light over the skeletal structure.
Structuring the stor(e)y
Colorado-based Prescient Co. is a technology and manufacturing company that has two construction patents to its credit. The first is a patent for its light gauge structural system, wherein the company has done away with bearing walls, concrete and hot-rolled steel for its engineering purposes Instead, it uses standardized light gauge steel panels and cold-rolled steel elements to create framing systems for upto 12 stories in a faster, greener and economically viable manner.
In a more recent event, the company received its second patent to protect its CAD to CAM manufacturing process and for its use of URL codes like bar codes and QR codes to identify the location of its structures with precision within a bulding.
Hurricane swirls in a new building style
Jovan Nikolic of Belgrade created a revolution in the construction industry with his patented technology that allows one to build quality, eco-friendly buildings with high resistance – and all this at an extremely low cost that can pull down the cost of real estate drastically. Dismayed by the havoc being caused by Hurricane Andrew back in 1992, Nikolic set about finding a solution to protect residents from such natural disasters. He created a continuous insulation system within concrete panels that ensure the premises stays warm irrespective of the weather outside. This not only cuts down on the electricity bills for insulation by 80%, but also reduces the emission of harmful gases caused by heating.
In a recent development, his €1.25 billion company (a major part of the value goes to the patent) constructed a seven story building with his technology in a record 60 days. With patents beginning to bring about a revolution in construction technology and methodology, there’s little doubt that many more marvels are set to stand high and mighty in the coming years.
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