A twittering toilet “flushed” my patent idea

During a recent automotive brainstorming session, I realized that automotive companies were really interested in the phenomenon that is social networking, but most of them were viewing the automobile as a renderer of content relating to social networking. That gave me an idea. What if the car, or any device for that matter, could be an active participant in a driver’s social network? Why wouldn’t we want to enable any device to be a “friend” and contributor?

After that “ah ha” moment I decided to create a patent application and pitch it to my management team. They agreed it sounded like a great idea (in fact one quote from our senior management was “well if I don’t understand it, it must be a good idea”) and asked our legal department to start the process for patent application. Well wouldn’t you know that they very next day my news feed produced the following headline: http://www.wired.com/gadgetlab/2009/08/twittering-toaster/

Not the use case I envisioned but prior art none-the-less. =(

I thought I would share my patent summary anyway:

Descriptive Summary:
With advancements in ubiquitous connectivity and computing power devices are now capable of “knowledge” of location, environment (site, sound and touch), etc. This invention describes leveraging this data to allow for a device to be an active participant in social networking as an artificially intelligent being capable of independent contributions.

While this invention applies to a variety of devices specifically I will focus on the implementation and use cases enabled in an automotive environment. This invention will enable a vehicle to become an active, artificially intelligent participant in social networking and communication. With the computing power and location aware sensors now being deployed in telematics, navigation, infotainment etc. coupled with ubiquitous connectivity to portable devices, between modules in the car, to infrastructure and to the internet, vehicles have the technology necessary to proactively communicate to owners and “friends” in a sentient way. An example of this would be the active participation of a blog or twitter account populated directly from the vehicle. Pre-programmed functions could be coupled with location and vehicle data to populate status updates, pictures and blogs. Take for instance the following example: Tom drives 40 miles to work each day, on average he exceeds the speed limit by 7 miles per hour. The vehicle could take information about route, speed, fuel economy and individual driver to populate content on a blog: “Tom drives me every day and if he would only drive me 4 miles per hour slower and take the express way more often he would save 4 gallons of gas per week. Based on the pricing from his favorite gas station that would be over $500 / year he could save.” Another example could be Andrew who takes his Jeep 4x4 driving. The Jeep could specifically post where they went and even upload pictures from an external camera (already included for lane departure warnings). The Jeep could even post what music was being played in the car during the drive possibly even uploading a small snippet from the internal microphone (already in the car for Handsfree communication) to complete the experience.

In each of these examples the vehicle could round out the updates to a owners life experiences with their vehicle building brand loyalty as well as enhancing safety. The vehicle could report “tweets” to traffic information to keep a drivers hands on the wheel. It could even read others posts / tweets relating to current location information.

Another example would be the vehicle posting to its owners facebook that it misses her driving. For example: “I miss you driving me Amanda, Tom only takes me back and forth to work with no new things to see”. Or to communicate specific information. Ex: Andrew, I wanted to let you know I found a problem and couldn’t figure it out on my own so I sent the information to the dealership and they will likely be in contact with you to help us figure it out.

All of the examples of capabilities exist in a vehicle today, the unique invention is the use of a device or vehicle as an active participant in collating and communicating information and experiences independently without specific interaction from the owner / end user.

The automotive market typically has been stagnant in the total number of vehicles sold / year. (an exception being this past year). In such a market to increase market share means to keep existing customers loyal to your brand and attract customers of your competitors to your models. This invention helps to aid in the personalization and connection established between a driver and “my car”. Additionally, by enabling tight interaction between a vehicle and its owner’s life / networks / friends / environment, it makes it difficult to decouple that connection in a parting. Just like a relationship it is difficult to “break up” so when it is time to purchase a new vehicle many of the settings and interactions can be transferred from one car to another of the same brand.