December 14, 2017
Digital assistants, such as those in Amazon’s Echo devices and Google’s Home series, have become one of the major applications for AI tech in consumer electronics. The idea of a gadget that can control appliances and tell you information in response to simple, natural language voice commands, is certainly very appealing. However, Consumer Watchdog has recently made a study of the patented tech behind these personal assistants and found that the companies are making much more use of that information between commands than simply listening for their activation phrase. Revelations from the patent review include using the device to listen for conversational keywords to tailor advertising and web personalisation, inferring personal habits by sound to sell data about your sleeping, cooking, or entertainment preferences (to name but a few) to third parties to sell you products, and even detecting when children may be mischievous!
Why it matters
The patents, while not guaranteed to be in use even by the patent owner, will give insight into the likely use cases for the data harvested by the gadgets. In the same way that web services are largely funded by advertising and the relevant personal data that can be harvested, it appears that personal assistants are trying to tap into those revenue streams in new and interesting ways, even if many users may find it unsettling.
Ericsson caused a bit of a stir earlier this year when they published their SEP licensing rates for 5G tech. This is different to the usual secrecy that surrounds licensing rates, which traditionally was built around the idea that it allows for better deals for the patent owner through negotiation. This act of transparency is seen as a major move to disarm critics. Now Qualcomm appears to be following suit, having recently uploaded a document to their website (the document is now being made available by IAM) which outlines the price structure for licenses to their 5G SEPs:
“Under Qualcomm’s licensing program for cellular essential patents, the following royalty terms will apply on a worldwide basis to a license for Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) branded mobile handsets that implement the 5G NR standard, up to and including release 15 of the 3GPP specifications:
An effective running royalty rate of 2.275% of the selling price of branded single-mode 5G handsets; and
An effective running royalty rate of 3.25% of the selling price of branded multi-mode (3G/4G/5G) handsets.”
This differs to what Ericsson declared in that Ericsson declared fixed monetary values rather than fractional values for the royalties, but does provide a second indicator as to the kind of royalty rates smartphone makers can expect to have to pay for 5G tech.
Why it matters?
Transparency for mobile handset makers can help them plan, and accelerate deal making. It can also help other patent owners plan their rates accordingly. However, some are speculating that the main reason for the declaration was to keep Chinese companies on board. Another interesting point is that this only applies to mobile handsets, so IOT tech using 5G may be subject to different price points. It will be interesting to see how remaining 5G players will respond. With Qualcomm’s rates working out at around triple those of Ericsson, the industry will be poised to see where other firms pitch their prices.
Recent years have seen the automotive industry develop increasingly advanced software-enabled technologies and embrace connectivity. To help power their solutions, BMW has made the landmark move to be the first auto firm to take a license to Avanci’s patents covering some IOT industry verticals. The patents offered by Avanci cover 2,3 and 4G wireless technology and originate from Qualcomm, Interdigital, Ericsson and many other big names of IP, and are thought to contain around half of all SEPs for these technologies. The wording of the press release implies the main use for the tech will be Telematics and will be handled by BMW’s supplier.
Why it matters
There are some large benefits to the BMW group here. By accessing this large portfolio of technologies they can now make use of verticals for which they are licensed while paying a flat rate irrespective of how many patents get added to the pool. However, a possibly bigger deal is that BMW is the first licensee of the Avanci patents, a validation that could open the door to others. Indeed, with the auto sector increasingly overlapping with the mobile sector, this could mark the start of many more auto companies signing up to pools for mobile tech?