Apple Patents Point to Future iMac Touch Display
Intel Hints of Atom - iPhone/iPod Touch Connection at IDF 2008

Apple Patent Reveals iTunes TV Broadcast Services Coming to the iPod/iPhone


On July 31, 2008, the US Patent & Trademark Office published an Apple patent application that generally relates to receiving broadcasts and in particular to systems and methods for communicating and storing information associated with data within a broadcast. Apple's patent discusses broadcast services that will be made available from iTunes that will work with a new add-on accessory for the iPod and iPhone.  The proposed accessory would also work with Yahoo and Microsoft subscription services - which make you wonder if Apple is contemplating such a service of their own in the not too distant future. This report also introduces another similar iPod accessory that will be available for the iPod later this year from a third party.    



Apple's Patent Background


Users listen to, watch or otherwise receive broadcasts in a variety of contexts. For example, it is common to listen to the radio broadcast while driving, riding public transit, exercising, hiking, doing chores, or the like. Additionally, users now are more often using Global Positioning and other broadcast-based location services for navigation and recreation.


In the case of radio, the user may hear a song he or she likes but might not hear or be able to remember the title of the song or the name of the artist. Or a user might see a portion of a television ("TV") broadcast that seems interesting but not catch the name of the program, or the store that sells a product in an advertisement. Or the user might be driving using a navigation system, and see a restaurant or store that looks interesting on route to another destination.


Often, even when identifying information is provided, the user might not have ready access to a pen or paper to write down the information (e.g., when driving) and might not be able to remember it later. This can make it difficult for users who want to acquire interesting content to locate the content later.


Accordingly, what is desired are improved methods and apparatus for solving these problems.  Additionally, what is desired are improved methods and apparatus for reducing some of the drawbacks discussed above. Thus, it would therefore be desirable to provide improved techniques to facilitate communication and storing of information about broadcasts.


Apple's Summary 


In accordance with some embodiments of the present invention, a portable media device and/or an accessory coupled thereto can be used to collect and store information about broadcasts received by the portable media device and/or accessory. The collected information, referred to herein as a "tag," can encompass any type of data that facilitates identification of a particular broadcast (e.g., a song in the case of music broadcasts, a podcast, an episode of a TV program, a location associated with a GPS signal, a store/product/good/service associated with an advertisement, and the like).


In some embodiments, the portable media device can be coupled to an accessory that is capable of receiving broadcasts. The broadcast can include broadcast content as well as metadata identifying the content (e.g., track title, location, and store/product) and/or the broadcaster. The accessory can capture the metadata (and/or a portion of the broadcast content itself) and provide the metadata (and/or content) as a tag to the portable media device, either in response to a user command or automatically.


The portable media device may accept input indicative of a user's desire to tag data associated with a broadcast. In response to the input, the media device may use the data to generate a tag. The tag may be stored either locally in the media device and/or uploaded to another device (such as, e.g., an accessory, a central server, personal computer, etc.). The tag may include various amounts of identifying information about the broadcast and any information or media content associated with the broadcast.


A tag associated with the data tag may be used to perform a number of different actions by a number of different systems. For example, a tag may be used to obtain additional information, advertisements, and/or access to (e.g., purchase, receive for free, etc.) media content. The media device may also use the tag to obtain additional information, advertisements, and/or access to (e.g., purchase, receive for free, etc.) non-media information. Media channels (such as radio stations and related data) can also be searched for and identified based on a tag. Lists of media associated with tags can also be compiled and displayed by the media device or any other device.


In some embodiments, the media device is electrically coupled to another device, such as a radio dock, radio adapter, host device, etc. The other device can then receive a broadcast signal and/or data associated with the signal, and provide signal and/or data to the media device. The other device may also be used to tag data and generate tags. The media device may then download the tags from the other device.


The media device may also receive a number of other signals from various other devices and sensors and generate data tags based on the other signals. For example, the media device can receive a location signal, such as, e.g., a GPS signal. The media device can generate a tag associated with the location signal in response to a user input to do so. The data tag can be stored and/or uploaded to another device.


Any tag discussed herein may be used to generate other types of information that can be presented to the user. For example, marketing and advertising information can be generated based on data tags. As another example, user profile and personalized information (e.g., personalized websites, etc.) can be generated using data tags.


In some embodiments, the user can connect the portable media device, e.g., via a network, to an asset delivery service, allowing stored tags to be communicated to the asset delivery service. The user can then interact with the asset delivery service to sample and/or acquire (e.g., download) media content, location information, maps, store information, restaurant menus, product information and reviews, and the like corresponding to the tags.


System Details


In accordance with some embodiments of the present invention, a portable media device and/or an accessory coupled thereto can be used to collect and store information about broadcasts received by the portable media device and/or accessory. The collected information, referred to herein as a "tag," can encompass any type of data that facilitates identification of a particular broadcasts (e.g., a song in the case of music broadcasts, a podcast, an episode of a TV program, a location associated with a GPS signal, a store/product/good/service associated with an advertisement, and the like).


As used herein, a "broadcast" refers generally to real-time distribution of content (e.g., audio and/or visual data, location data, product information, etc.) via a wired or wireless medium to an arbitrary number of receivers that may be tuned in to receive it. Broadcast media can include, e.g., over-the-air radio or television (TV), satellite radio or TV, cable TV or music services, Internet streaming broadcasts, podcasts, satellite broadcasts, fiber optic distribution, and the like. Broadcast data may be transmitted in analog, digital and/or hybrid forms as is known in the art. In general, a receiver does not control when a broadcast begins or ends, although some receivers (e.g., audio or video recorders) may be able to store broadcast content for later presentation to a user.


Broadcasts of music and television can generally be divided into "tracks," where a track is simply a subset of the broadcast content that is logically regarded as a unit. For example, each song played by a radio station can be a track. A broadcast advertisement could also be a track. An episode of a TV series can be a track, or different segments of the episode (separated, e.g., by commercial breaks) can each be a track. A program such as a talk show can be treated as a single track or divided into multiple tracks, e.g., based on the topics covered, the segmentation of the program due to advertisements, or the like.


The tag can be provided to a media asset management and/or delivery service that sells or otherwise distributes media assets including the tagged tracks; examples of such services include the iTunes service provided by Apple, Inc., the 'Y! Music Unlimited' service provided by Yahoo!, Inc., or the 'Zune Marketplace' provided by Microsoft Corp. The media asset management and/or delivery service can use the tag to identify and provide access to the track and/or related information. For example, the user of a portable PMD that has stored tags may connect to the service and thereupon be prompted to download a tagged track, experience a preview of a tagged track, or the like.


Systems for Tagging Broadcasts




Apple's patent FIG. 1A illustrates a Portable Media Device or PMD system 100 for tagging broadcast content according to an embodiment of the present invention. System 100 includes PMD (102) coupled to accessory (104), which is capable of receiving broadcasts. In one embodiment, PMD 102 can be, e.g., an iPod or iPhone PMD produced by Apple, Inc., and accessory 104 can be any device that is capable of receiving broadcasts and communicating with PMD 102, such as a suitably configured radio receiver (e.g., FM, AM or satellite radio in standard or hybrid digital ("HD" formats)), an HDTV-capable receiver or the like.


In FIG. 1B, portable radio adaptor 140 embodies aspects of accessory 104, and media player 142 embodies aspects of PMD 102. Portable radio adaptor 140 can connect to media player 142 via cable 144. In this embodiment, media player 142 includes connector 146 adapted to connect to one end 148 of cable 144 while portable radio adaptor 140 includes connector 150 adapted to connect to the other end 152 of cable 144. Connectors 146 and 150 might or might not have the same form factor, number of pins, etc. For example, connector 146 can be a 30-pin connector such as is used on iPod media players while connector 150 can be a USB (Universal Serial Bus) or FireWire connector or other standard or custom connector. In still other embodiments, media player 142 and portable radio adaptor 140 can each include a wireless interface (e.g., Bluetooth), allowing media player 142 and portable radio adaptor 140 to communicate with each other without a physical connection.



The Accessory


The Accessory can be any accessory capable of receiving broadcasts. The accessory shown above as 104 includes receiver component (122) coupled to antenna (124) and/or cable 126, a content extraction engine (128), a tag extraction engine (130), a user interface (132), a tag store (134), and a PMD interface (136).


The receiver component can be used to receive broadcasts via one or more media; any broadcast medium or combination of media can be supported. In this example, the receiver component can connect to antenna 124, which can be capable of detecting broadcasts via a wireless medium (e.g., FM or AM radio in standard and/or HD formats, over-the-air TV, satellite TV or radio, WiFi, cellular communication network, etc.). The receiver component can also connect to cable 126 and thus be capable of receiving broadcasts via a wired medium (e.g., cable TV service, wired Internet connection, or the like). The receiver component may include any hardware and/or software elements usable to extract broadcast data from wired and/or wireless media as desired; the particular components will depend on the medium (or media) supported. Any combination or sub-combination of wired and/or wireless media can be supported.


A Content Tagging Button


In one embodiment, user interface 124 of the accessory can include a control that a user can operate to tag broadcast content. For example, user interface 124 can include a "Tag" button that the user can press at any time while listening to or watching broadcast media to indicate that a currently playing track should be tagged. Alternatively, user input devices 118 of PMD 102 can include a "Tag" button or other control that a user can operate to tag broadcast content.


When the "Tag" button (or other control) is operated, the accessory captures (or collects) a tag associated with the broadcast content. In one embodiment, the tag can include metadata that is captured from the broadcast itself and/or from other information available to the accessory. For example, if the broadcast content is a song, identifying information transmitted in the broadcast might include, e.g., the title of the song, the name of the artist, the title of the album from which the song was extracted, a standard identification code associated with the song, or the like. If the broadcast content is a video program (e.g., an episode of a TV series), the identifying information might include, e.g., the title of the series, the title of the episode, an identification code for the series or episode, the original air date, the names of actors, directors, writers or producers involved in the episode, or the like. If the broadcast content is location information based (e.g., a GPS signal), then the identifying information might include the latitude, the longitude, an altitude or the time.  The metadata may also include information identifying the source of the broadcast, such as the call sign and dominant market area (DMA) of a radio or TV station, identification of a radio or TV network with which the broadcaster is affiliated, identification of a GPS satellite, cell tower, WiFi hotspot, billboard, shopping center, restaurant, or the like that identifies the source of a broadcast.


Devices and Applications


Apple's patent FIGS. 1C - 1G shown below illustrate a few of the many possible configurations of a PMD and accessory according to various embodiments of the present invention. In particular, Apple illustrates an iPod Classic, iPhone, an iPod Nano, albeit an older version, a clock radio configuration and lastly a network connected computer.





It should be noted that Apple's patent FIG.1G that is sporting the text 'RX', which simply relates to the device having a built-in "receiver" and isn't to be confused with the symbol which relates to prescriptions. In other words, don't read into this patent figure that a future media device will have a built-in receiver to a prescription service. The patent is not suggesting that in any way or manner.


The Communication System


Apple's patent FIG. 12 (below) is a diagram of information communication system 1200 incorporating tagging features according to an embodiment of the present invention. In the system, broadcast network 1202 can be an affiliate of online delivery service 1204 (which can be an Internet-based service such as iTunes). The delivery service can provide affiliated broadcast network with metadata that can be embedded in broadcast signals.




The metadata may include per-track metadata (e.g., an identifier of the track that maps to the internal identifiers used by delivery service 1200) and track-independent metadata, such as an identifier that identifies broadcast network as an affiliate of delivery service. Broadcast network 1202 can provide this metadata, along with content (e.g., music, movies, location information, advertisements, etc.) to its member broadcast stations 1206. In turn, member broadcast stations 1206 can broadcast the content along with the metadata, e.g., using FM/HD/Satellite radio technology, VHF/UHF/Cable/Fiber/Satellite TV technology, GPS technology, Cellular technology, WiFi/WiMAX/Bluetooth technology, and the like.


A user can operate receiver 1208 to receive the content and metadata from broadcast station. The receiver can be, e.g., an embodiment of accessory 104 or accessory 104 described above. Thus, the receiver can extract the metadata from a received broadcast and create tags for any or all of the music, movies, images, locations, advertisements, products, goods, and services indicated by the broadcast, e.g., in response to user operation of a control button 1210.


Apple lists the following engineers as the inventors of this patent which was filed in December 2007: Dorogusker; Jesse Lee; (Los Altos, CA) ; Schubert; Emily Clark; (San Jose, CA) ; Hailey; Michael Benjamin; (Campbell, CA) ; Gedikian; Steve Saro; (San Francisco, CA) ; Lydon; Gregory Thomas; (Santa Cruz, CA) ; Bolton; Lawrence G.; (Fremont, CA).


NOTICE: Patently Apple presents only a brief summary of patents with associated graphic(s) for journalistic news purposes as each such patent application and/or grant is revealed by the U.S. Patent & Trade Office. Readers are cautioned that the full text of any patent application and/or grant should be read in its entirety for further details. For additional information on today's patent(s), simply feed the individual patent number(s) noted above into this search engine 


The comments to this entry are closed.