On October 21, 2010, the US Patent & Trademark Office published three patent applications from Apple relating to various areas of a cloud based radio broadcasting system. One of Apple's patents generally relates to accessing the media content provided by a broadcast media source using a non-broadcast source. An interesting example relates to listening to a tune or talk show guest on your car radio (or passengers watching a future TV show). When you're driving into a tunnel with a traditional radio system, you simply lose your signal and any part of a tune or conversation that occurred while you were in the tunnel. With a cloud based radio system, the tune, talk show conversation, or podcast (or future TV show) is flagged as you go into a tunnel and then technically resume exactly where it stopped when you exit the tunnel.
Apple's patent summary describes a communications device that could receive media broadcasts from several content providers. For example, a communications device could include a radio operative to receive radio broadcasts from different radio stations (e.g., a car radio). The communications device could provide information identifying one or more of the broadcast source, particular media items or segments of the media broadcast, or other information identifying the broadcast to a cloud (e.g., a remote server) or electronic device in communication with the communications device. The cloud or electronic device could monitor one or both of the received information and information provided as part of the broadcast (e.g., and accessed by the cloud or electronic device) to determine the particular position or portion of the broadcast media item or segment received and played back by the communications device.
When the communications device is turned off or tunes away from a broadcast, the cloud or electronic device in communication with the communications device could receive a corresponding indication. For example, the communications device could broadcast a flag to the cloud or electronic device in response to receiving the instruction to turn off or tune away from a broadcast. As another example, the absence of a regular communication to the cloud or electronic device (e.g., a status signal transmitted every 15 seconds) can indicate that the communications device no longer receives a broadcast. In response to determining that the communications device is no longer receiving a broadcast, the cloud or electronic device could mark or tag the playback position of the broadcast media item or segment when the communications device stopped receiving the broadcast.
A user, however, may have wished to continue to listen to the media item or segment broadcast when the broadcast was lost. An electronic device could then be used to find an alternate, non-broadcast source for the broadcast media item or segment, and play back the media item or segment from the alternate source. For example, an electronic device could identify a podcast of the media item or segment. As another example, an electronic device can identify a unicast stream of the media item or segment, for example available from an Internet website associated with the content source (e.g., associated with the radio station).
As still another example, an electronic device could identify the media item or segment in a locally stored or remotely available library (e.g., a library available in a cloud). Once the electronic device identifies the segment or media item, the electronic device could play back the identified segment or media item from the marked or tagged playback position. This could allow a user to resume listening to the broadcast segment or media item from substantially the same playback position as when the user stopped receiving the broadcast. If a user later switches back to a communications device that has access to a buffered media stream, the communications device could play back the buffered media from a playback position after the portions of the media stream that were played back by the electronic device (e.g., to ensure that the user does not repeatedly listen to the same segment or media item as the user switches between devices).
Radio Broadcast System
Apple's patent FIG. 3 is a schematic view of an illustrative system for providing and receiving radio broadcasts System (300) could include one or more electronic devices (320) or server clouds. (330). Apple's patent FIG. 6 is a flowchart of an illustrative process for identifying a partially played back media stream segment.
Apple credits Michael Ingrassia; Michael and Jeffery Lee as the inventors of patent application 20100269145, originally filed in Q2 2009.
Other radio related patents today include: "Seamless Switching between Radio and Local Media" under patent 20100268360 (Temp link 1); Identifying Radio Stations of Interest based on Preference Information," under patent 20100267331 (Temp link 2). Note: Temp links may only last a few days. When the temp links no longer direct you to the right patents, simply feed the interested patent numbers into this search engine to find links to the related patents.
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