Why the heck is RIM trying to patent improvements to roadside billboards?
When I skim through various patent applications, looking for interesting stuff to write about, I usually expect to see those patent applications to be at least in some remote way connected to the company business. After all, the time of the researcher in your R&D lab is pretty expensive, and the whole patent filing thingie ain’t very cheap too.
So I was pretty surprised to find these two patent applications, filed by RIM, among the roster of submissions aiming to patent various UI gimmicks, radio frequency controls and other stuff you’d expect to see from a mobile handset maker.
The patent applications are called “Adaptive roadside billboard system and related methods” and “Adaptive pedestrian billboard system and related methods”. And, yes, as the names indicate, RIM is trying to patent an improvement the dynamic LED billboards we are so used to by now.
Their invention/improvement? Measuring the traffic speed and density near the billboard, and adapting the message displayed according to it.
When traffic is moving fast and drivers have no time to pay attention to billboards, or there’s a dense crowd on the street so you are distracted and less likely to pay attention, the billboard may just blast a huge logo and slogan of the advertiser at you, to catch any peripheral attention it can get. When traffic slows down in a jam, and you are sitting bored at the wheel waiting for a car in front to move the next few meters, grateful for any distraction, the same billboard will give you a detailed information about the service, prices, benefits and stuff.
Any relation to the mobile communication/messaging business Research in Motion is in? Well, RIM mentions that one of the ways to measure traffic speed and density can be via GPS sensors in mobile devices people carry with them. But it’s only one of the mentioned methods, and there are easier and more reliable ways to do the same thing – like radar detectors, cameras, pressure sensors, etc;
So what do you think RIM is up to with these patent filings? Some side project by a researcher or intern in their R&D labs, filed just in case and because it was there? Or something more?