A whopping 23 patent applications of Apple's were published today by the US Patent and Trademark Office and while many of them were sleepers, there were a few that were especially notable. One that might be of interest to you this day involves a future iPhone service that would actually allow you to play games or even work while being put on hold at a call center without ever losing your position in the queue. Who knew that being put on hold could be so much fun?
Today, many businesses provide customer service departments and other call centers so that their customers can speak with them via a telephone call. These call centers allow customers to discuss any of a variety of goods or services provided by the business. However, because numerous customers often contact a call center at approximately the same time, callers are commonly placed on hold for substantial periods of time before a live operator is available to speak with them. This can be extremely frustrating and inconvenient for the callers.
Moreover, users often contact call centers from their personal electronic devices, such as from a cellular telephone. Modern cellular telephones, such as the iPhone are becoming more and more advanced and provide features other than telephone capabilities. For example, many modern cellular telephones allow users to play games, watch videos, or listen to music. These additional features may be inhibited or become difficult to use when the user is on a telephone call that has been placed on hold.
Well, until now, that is. Apple's patent presents us with some very interesting options that will allow us to play games, email or even work while being put on hold … on your iPhone! Who knew being put on hold could be so much fun – ha!
Call Center On-Hold Monitoring App – Screen Prompt Examples
Apple's patent FIG. 5 shown below presents us with an illustrative display screen of a new prompt that's related to this new service. Prompt 500 will appear on your iPhone to inform you that a substantial wait-time is expected for this call center (e.g., 15 minutes in this example), and may allow you to enable or not enable "on-hold monitoring."
If you decide to tap on "yes" (502) on-hold monitoring may be enabled for the telephone call. That is, at step 316 of FIG. 3, the iPhone could free up its user interface (e.g., display, audio output, and user input) so that you could perform non-phone-related tasks, such as play games, movies, or music. On-hold monitoring and any non-phone-related task could therefore occur concurrently.
Using the new thread or process, the iPhone could monitor the telephone line at step 318. For example, the iPhone could monitor incoming telephone data using a speech processor (e.g., speech processor 210 of FIG. 2) to detect any indicators that a live operator is or will soon be present. The indicators may be keywords, such as phrases typically spoken by live operators when greeting a caller (e.g., "Hello, my name is . . . "). The indicators (e.g., keywords) may include hold status information indicating the caller's place in a hold queue or the estimated minutes until a live operator could be expected (e.g., that you're in the first or second place in the queue or that the wait will be less than two minutes). In patent FIG. 6 above we an illustrative visual alert that the iPhone could provide.
On-Hold Call Center Scenario
Apple's patent FIGS. 14A through to 14G present us with an illustrative sequence of display screens that you might find on a future iPhone or iPad (with telephony) that is able to locate a call center in the call center database.
First, your iPhone may start the process of engaging on-hold monitoring in any of a variety of ways, such as manually from selecting option 1402 from display screen 1400 or automatically based on user preferences. While your iPhone accesses the call center database, the iPhone could provide display screen 1410 of FIG. 14B informing you of this task.
Responsive to determining the estimated on-hold wait time associated with the call center, your iPhone may provide display screen 1420 of FIG. 14C informing you of the estimated time. If the estimated time is below a predetermined threshold (e.g., five minutes), the iPhone may provide display screen 1430 of FIG. 14D so that you could decide whether to engage on-hold monitoring even though there will probably be a short wait time. If the estimated time is not below the predetermined threshold, or if you select to engage in on-hold monitoring from display screen 1430, the iPhone could enable on-hold monitoring and provide display screen 1440 of FIG. 14E as a confirmation to you.
However, if you choose to perform a non-phone-related task while the on-hold monitoring is engaged, your iPhone may first provide display screen 1450 of FIG. 14F. Display screen 1450 could include home screen 1454 and hold status area 1452. Hold status area 1452 could keep you updated with the estimated wait time for the telephone call while you perform any non-phone-related tasks.
Responsive to determining that the live operator is or will soon be present on the telephone call, your iPhone could provide either display screen 1460 of FIG. 14G or display screen 1470 of FIG. 14H. In particular, the iPhone may provide display screen 1460 when the live operator is expected soon (e.g., in less than two minutes), while the iPhone may provide display screen 1470 when the live operator has already returned to the call and has been put on hold.
Hmm, the last one is a bit iffy. Any operator today that thinks they're on hold usually hangs up. So this may work with Apple's call center, but I wouldn't hold my breath on other call centers living up to that standard. Then again, it's the Apple Call Center that really matters here, right?
Apple credits Kshitij Gupta as the sole inventor of patent application 20100303227, originally filed in Q2 2009.
Other Noteworthy Patent Applications Published Today
New Security Patents: Last month we posted a security patent report titled "Apple Working on New Ways to Thwart Revserse Engineering." Today, another such patent sufaced under application 20100306497. Apple's patent describes a way to mask, hide or obfuscate computer data and code against reverse engineering attacks. While on the topic of security, it should be noted that Apple published four additional patents relating to computers, computer data security and hash functions (Hashing), under applications 20100304826, 20100304807, 20100304805 and 20100306541.
Programming Related: There were two published patents of Apple's today dealing with Apple's Quartz Composer, which is a part of Xcode. The focus of the patents revolve around the use of physics based user interfaces which provide a more fluid and natual way for users to interact with computer systems. You could review the patents under applications 20100306680 and 20100306651.
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