On October 27, 2011, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a new media tagging system that will be integrated into Apple's iCloud. In some respects portions of what is described in the patent is likely already in place. However, Apple is shown to already want to push iCloud services deeper into the sources of media like radio and TV. They also want to work closely with car and/or car stereo OEMs to integrate their new tagging standard to better tie content to iCloud for the benefit of iOS device customers. According to Apple's invention specs, iApp Developers will be given design specifications so that current and future apps on iTunes will be able to conform to Apple's new emerging tagging standard. Apple's patent even illustrates a new iTunes UI for iPhone that will integrate media tagging prominently as shown in our cover graphic.
The Problem to Solve
The playing of media items, such as songs, videos, audio books, etc. on various electronic devices has become commonplace. Now more than ever users have the opportunity to play these media items on many different devices. It is not unusual for an average user to own and operate multiple devices, such as portable media players, cell phones, laptop computers, and desktop computers. This is in addition to the multitude of electronic devices used to play media items for years, such as televisions, home stereos, and car radios.
Unfortunately, with the plethora of different devices and different mechanisms available for playing media items, it could be difficult to track the media items which the user has identified as being items of interest. This could quickly become overwhelming as the user adds more and more devices and more and more applications into the mix.
Therefore, what is desired is a system, method, and apparatus for providing a tagging solution that allows for a more user-friendly environment when dealing with multiple media devices and/or multiple media-related applications.
Apple's Inventive Tagging Solution
So what would that user-friendly environment, system, method and apparatus involve? Well according to Apple, in one embodiment, media items could be identified as being of interest (i.e., "tagged") as they are being played, and this information could then be sent to a tag aggregator, which aggregates tags from multiple types of devices. The tag aggregator could be located on the same device as a tagging application on which the media items are tagged, or alternatively it could be located on a different device.
Up until now, Apple has limited tagging to the iPod nano's radio feature. This patent gives us the impression that the floodgates are about to open on tagging used on all iOS devices present and future.
In another embodiment, Apple states that multiple tag aggregators could be used simultaneously to aid in the updating of information regarding media items of interest across a greater range of devices. This is especially useful in cases where a particular tagging application may not be able to directly interface with a particular tag aggregator.
In yet another embodiment, Apple states that the tag information could flow in a different direction. For example, rather than merely traveling from tagging application to tag aggregator, the tag aggregator may transmit the information to media sources. In this way, for example, a partner media source who has embedded particular metadata in transmitted media items, or who has configured a proprietary tagging application to be compatible with the tag aggregator, could receive tag information originally tagged by different tagging applications.
Apple Looking for Media Source Partners
In some cases, a tag aggregator and a media source could enter into a mutually beneficial relationship (referred to as partnering) that could provide benefits for both the tag aggregator and media source. For example, in some cases, a media source could be compensated for embedding or otherwise associating metadata with particular media items or for configuring an otherwise proprietary tagging application to be compatible with the tag aggregator. The compensation could take many forms, such as financial incentives along the lines of a bonus that could be received when, for example, a media item (or items) tagged using the proprietary tagging applications has been purchased.
The Three Categories of Device/Applications
Apple's patent FIG.1 shown below is a diagram illustrating a representative system of devices in accordance with one embodiment. Here, tag aggregator 100 could receive tag information from multiple devices/applications. For simplicity, the different devices/applications could be grouped into three categories.
The first category (noted as patent point # 102 on FIG. 1) includes devices/applications that receive direct broadcasts from one or more media sources. This includes applications/devices having integrated receivers, such as portable media device with integrated Hybrid Digital radio receiver (104), portable media device with integrated FM radio receiver (106), stand-alone satellite radio receiver (108), and stereo system with integrated DAB digital radio receiver (110).
The second category (112) includes devices/applications that receive streaming media items via an Internet or other networking stream. This could include, for example, software application 114 that receives an Internet radio broadcast. This could also include streaming video application 116. It should be noted that these applications could be located on the same device as tag aggregator, or could be located on separate devices.
The Third category (118) includes devices/applications that run as stand-alone applications on portable media devices and phones. This includes, for example, a music identification application, such as Shazam, but generally could include any stand-alone application receiving content data at a portable media device over a wireless network. These applications may be configured to interface with the tag aggregator via an API.
How iCloud Could Play a Role with Cable TV, Cell Phone Protocols & More
It should be noted that in Apple's patent FIG. 1, the cloud (124) is depicted between the tag aggregator and the applications in order to indicate that the exact communications medium could vary based on implementation and the type of tagging application. This cloud is intended to encompass all possible methods of transferring tag information from a tagging application to a tag aggregator including, but not limited to, direct cable connection, wireless communication such as Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, and cell phone protocols, direct communication when the tagging application and the tag aggregator are both running simultaneously on the same device, or passive communication such as the tagging application saving the information in a predesignated location for the tag aggregator to retrieve at a later time.
And to make sure that there's no confusion that "direct cable connection" means Television, Apple spell it out in patent point number 50 as follows: "For all types of media items, additional metadata may be tracked, such as an identification of the source of where it was transmitted from, such as the call sign and dominant market area (DMA) of a radio or television station, identification of a radio or television network with which the transmitter is affiliated, or the like."
A Future iTunes UI will include a Tags listing for iPhone, Cars & Beyond
Apple's patent FIG. 4 shown below is a diagram illustrating an example of a client application (e.g., an iTunes application) acting as a tag aggregator. Here, the client application is running on an iPhone. Here, a user interface could provide a separate "tags" tab (402). When the "tags" tab is selected, the user interface could switch from displaying a list of song albums (404) to displaying a list of tag information that has been aggregated at the client application.
It should be noted that, for purposes of this description, a tagged media item is any media item that has been identified in some way as being an item of interest. Without being limited to particular mechanisms for tagging, examples of mechanisms to tag media items include graphical buttons or menu selections in graphical user interfaces (GUIs), physical buttons on hardware devices utilized to play the media items (such as a dedicated "tag" button on a car radio), and keyboard or other general input devices.
In one embodiment, an integrated chipset may be provided in various electronic components to enable the tagging function. For example, a car radio could be manufactured to include an integrated tagging chipset.
iApp Developers to Receive Design Specifications for Implementing Tagging
In another example, various applications may be made available to a portable media device or cellular phone that includes tagging functionality. In one specific example, applications created for use on the iPhone and distributed through the AppStore may include added functionality designed to implement tagging. In some cases, application manufacturers may be provided with design specifications to conform their applications to a tagging standard. This may include providing information as to where on the device the application should store the tagged media item information and how it should communicate this information to a separate client application.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q2 2010 by inventors Michael Hailey and Peter Langenfeld.
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