On May 17, 2012, the US Patent & Trademark Office published a patent application from Apple that reveals a newly invented hybrid business card and gift card system. For any company principle or representative attending large events and tradeshows, Apple's unique hybrid calling card and promo gift card is something that could make exchanging cards with new contacts a little more inventive, if not interesting. Who wouldn't want to receive a few new tunes or other gift by taking a business card at an event? It's a way to at least ensure that your business card doesn't get chucked in the garbage by day's end. But there's more to the system and our report details it all.
Apple's Patent Background
A business card includes business information about a company or individual and is commonly shared during formal introductions. A business card typically includes the giver's name, company and contact information such as a street address, telephone number, fax number, e-mail address and website.
A gift card resembles a credit card and can be identified by a specific number or code, not usually with an individual name. Gift cards are often backed by an on-line electronic system for authorization. Some gift cards have a barcode or magnetic strip, which is read by an electronic credit card machine. Other gift cards can include a code that can be typed into an electronic device such as a computer or mobile phone for redemption of online content.
A Hybrid Business & Gift Card
Apple's invention generally relates to electronic marketing and content distribution.
A combined business card and gift card or "calling card" is a physical object that can be shared with others at business and social functions. The calling card can include a gift code that can be used to redeem a gift online (e.g., songs, ringtones, coupons, physical merchandise) using an electronic communications device (e.g., a personal computer, mobile phone, electronic tablet). When a user attempts to redeem the gift online, the user can be provided with a web page, email, text message or other electronic document that provides the user with information about the card provider and allows the user to perform certain actions for the benefit of the card provider or a third party. In some implementations, the information can be presented in a window or other display area generated locally by an operating system or application running on the electronic communications device.
In some implementations, the user is provided with information about the card provider or other third party and a means for optionally contacting the card provider or uploading personal information to the card provider, such as uploading a resume or entering information in a text field of a web page.
In some implementations, the card provider is electronically alerted during or after an attempt by the user to redeem the gift online. The alert message can include presenting the card provider with a web page, email, text message or other electronic document on an electronic communications device. In some implementations, the alert message can be presented in a window or other display area generated locally by an operating system or application running on the electronic communications device.
The notification can provide information about the gift redemption (e.g., time, date, gift code, calling card number, expiration date). To protect the privacy of the user, the user's identity or other personal information isn't shared with the card provider or a third party. In some implementations, however, the user may voluntarily provide personal information when redeeming the gift (e.g., resume) after receiving a privacy disclosure warning and voluntarily choosing to provide their personal information.
Combination Cards are Convenient for Tradeshow Events
In some implementations, the gift code is compared to a reference database of gift codes that are associated with other information. For example, a gift code can be associated with one of a consecutive series of numbered calling cards that were purchased by or allocated to the card provider. The series of calling cards can be related to a particular event or location (e.g., a job fair, tradeshow, business meeting). Thus when the gift code is redeemed, the gift code can be matched to a unique calling card number, identifying the calling card as part of a series of calling cards known to have been distributed by the card provider at a particular event and/or location and/or at a particular date and time.
The Advantages of Combination Cards
One or more implementations of a combined business/gift card with redemption notification can provide one or more of the following advantages: 1) a user is provided with incentive to use the system, 2) the user's identity and personal information are not shared with the card provider or any third party with authorization by the user, 3) the user is provided with a description of the card provider and the event where the card was received, 4) the user is provided with a convenient input mechanism to communicate with the card provider, 5) the card provider is provided with an automated alert message system which can be used as a reminder to follow-up with the user or other action items associated with an event, 6) the card provider is provided with a second opportunity to connect with the user through the optional input mechanism provided to the user, and 7) the card provider is provided with online administrative support services for managing the acquisition of calling cards and information generated by the gift redemption process.
Exemplary Use Scenario: University Recruiting
Beyond being a tool for sales and marketing, the combination business-gift card could be used in other scenarios. Apple provides us with a specific scenario relating to University recruiting as noted below:
Alice M. Smith is a college recruiter for Acme Inc. She is attending a job fair at MIT in Cambridge, Massachusetts on September 1, 2010. Before going to the event, Alice contacts Card Management Services (CMS – noted as patent point #116 above) and requests calling cards for the event. In some implementations, the request can be made through a web page of an online website operated by or on behalf of CMS. Alice receives a box of calling cards from CMS, the box is labeled with a code that identifies the box and a consecutively numbered or otherwise ordered series of calling cards in a defined range. For example, the box could include 100 calling cards consecutively numbered from 300-400.
Alice attends the job fair and starts handing out the calling cards to prospective students. In some cases, she may receive resumes from the students. She also takes notes about the students she meets. In this example, she meets a student named Bob Jones. Bob does not have a resume but expresses interest in working for Acme. Alice hands Bob calling card 101 noted above in patent figure 1B. The front side of the calling card (101a) includes her business information.
The backside of the calling card (101b) includes a gift code (120), expiration date and instructions for redeeming a free gift at a website of content provider (118 of FIG.1A). In this example, the content provider is the fictitious "MusicStore.com" and the free gift is a song download. Other types of content can be provided and may not be offered for free depending on the use scenario.
The Calling card is one example format for a calling card. Other formats are also possible, such as cards having a magnetic strip or barcode as a carrier for the gift code. Calling cards can be made of any desirable material, such as paper or plastic. In some implementations, objects other than cards can be used to carry gift codes, such as small toys, novelty items, pens or any other marketing item that is typically provided at social or business events.
Exemplary UI for User to Redeem Gift Card
After the event, Bob enters the gift code into his notebook. Per the instructions on the calling card, Bob uses his browser to access the homepage of the MusicStore.com website. Bob follows the instructions on a home page, which can include entering the gift code into an input field. Before the free song is downloaded, Bob is presented with a user interface (200) as noted in patent FIG. 2 above.
User Interface for Gift Redemption Alert Message
Apple's patent FIG. 3 noted above illustrates an exemplary user interface provided to card provider (Alice) associated with calling card for providing the card provider with a gift redemption alert message. The Gift code entered on a notebook (or any iDevice) can be transmitted to CMS 116 through AP 106 and network 110. CMS 116 can compare the code to record 114 in database 112 to identify calling card number 101 and the card provider. Below is an exemplary database record 114 of database 112 that can be used to associate a gift code with other relevant information.
Side Note: Apple Lists Internet Television Systems
It's interesting to note that when Apple describes the devices that this system could apply to, they introduce a new category simply noted as "internet television systems." Being that the sole inventor of this patent application is none other than the engineering manager of Apple TV, I think it's safe to say that this is a significant slip worth noting.
Apple's patent application was originally filed in Q4 2010 by inventor Andy Belk, Engineering Manager, Apple TV.
Other Apple Patents that were Published Today
Cell Reselection using Access Point Information: Apple's patent generally relates to location aware mobile devices (patent 20120120922).
Mobile Computing Device with Adaptive Response Based on Accessory Firmware: Apple's patent generally relates to mobile computing devices and in particular to techniques for predicting accessory behavior by a mobile computing device and responding to the accessory based on the prediction (patent 20120124244).
Intelligibility Control using Ambient Noise Detection: Apple's invention relates to improving a user's experience of downlink audio in a communications device. (patent 20120121096)
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