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On May 7, 2009, the US Patent & Trademark Office published Apple's patent application relating to media distribution and, more particularly, to controlling media distribution to personal media devices using a media distribution kiosk. Although the concept of an iTunes Store Kiosk had been rumored since 2006, the proof of such a development is now in hand. Apple's iTunes Store Kiosks will introduce us to something that Apple calls a virtual physical connector. By establishing a virtual physical connection as opposed to using the media device's actual connector, the wear on the media device's connector is minimized. The virtual physical connection also reduces the likelihood of eavesdropping, hacking, and overloading of a wireless connection between the media distribution kiosk and a media device. The virtual physical connection further eliminates the need for a media device to connect with a possibly damaged, worn, or unreliable connector of a publicly or environmentally exposed media distribution device. Apple's kiosk will utilize a limited RF range connection to ensure security. The kiosks will also allow users the ability to access one or more of their own existing libraries of media content at a different location. The new kiosks may also include a web browser using a touch screen display much like the new HP tourist kiosks. The kiosks will work with Apple handhelds such as the iPod touch, iPhone and notebooks and allow burning content such as music and/or movies to CD, DVD's or Blu-ray Disk. Apple also introduces us to a new security feature called a presence sensor. This will assist users make secure and private wireless purchases.   



Overview: The Media Distribution System




Apple's patent FIG. 1 is a block diagram of a media distribution system (100). The media distribution and/or purchase system includes a media commerce server (102). In one embodiment, the media commerce server coordinates the review and/or purchase of media content through on-line transactions. On-line transactions to purchase media items may also be referred to as electronic commerce (e-commerce). The media purchase system may also include one or more media distribution kiosks (104). Each media distribution kiosk (MDK) may interface with one or more personal media devices (108). Each MDK may be coupled to the media commerce server via a data network (106). Hence, any of the MDKs can interact with the media commerce server to enable a user to review and/or purchase media content and/or items.


In one embodiment, the data network includes at least a portion any of the following: the Internet, Public switched telephone network (PSTN), a private network, mobile network, cellular network, mobile data network, satellite network, and/or any like communications network. One example of a media content storage and distribution system includes the Apple iTunes on-line media store, provided via the Internet by Apple, Inc. Customers would access a browser to access the iTunes store and preview media content such as, without limitation, media clips, video clips, movies, songs, pictures, ringtones, audio files, podcasts, electronic books, and the like – as you do in iTunes today.


The iTunes Store Kiosk: a Media Distribution Kiosk (MDK)


Apple's patent FIG. 2 shown below presents us with an overview of an exemplary media distribution kiosk (MDK 200) and its makeup which may include any of the following:  a display (202), a keypad (204), an access pad (206), a media device docking station (208), a credit/data card receptacle (210), a media device presence sensor (216), a wireless antenna (218), and a media dispenser (220). The dispenser may enable the dispensing of media content on certain media articles such as a CD-ROM, DVD, Blu-ray disk, data card, portable drive, and the like.



Although the exemplary media distribution kiosk (MDK) form factor is likened to that of a standalone Automatic Teller Machine (ATM), the MDK may take on other form factors such as a personal computer with an accessory docking station or a wall-mounted ATM form factor.


Security Features: Presence & Other Sensors, RF Shields


In one embodiment, the presence sensor generates a presence indicator only when the media device is properly positioned in relation to the MDK. The presence sensor may include an electromagnetic sensor, RF sensor, weight sensor, pressure sensor, magnetic sensor, inductive sensor, optical sensor, sonic sensor, video sensor, acoustic sensor, or other like proximity sensor.


For example, the presence sensor may include an optical sensor that sense when a media device is placed on the access pad. In one embodiment, the presence sensor includes a directional RF receiver for receiving a data signal from a media device only when the media device is positioned within the directional field of the RF receiver. The RF receiver may be directed toward an enclosed space, semi-enclosed space and/or a confined location such that detection of a particular RF and/or wireless signal indicates the physical presence of a media device with regard to the MDK. In one embodiment, a presence sensor may be integrated with a wireless transceiver in communications with the directional antenna.


The patent goes on to state that the MDK may include an access pad that receives a media device, like an iPod. The access pad may include a surface upon which the media device is placed. In one embodiment, the access pad is enclosed, at least partially, by an RF-shielded cover to limit the RF emissions from the antenna to only a media device positioned on the access pad.


Security Features: Limited RF Region


Apple's patent FIG. 3 shown below is a block diagram of an MDK (media distribution kiosk (300)) which employs a directed and limited radio frequency zone (302) for interaction with a particular media device (304), such as an Apple iPod or iPhone.


In one embodiment, the MDK advantageously addresses the overloading and eavesdropping problems by employing a directional antenna (310 below and/or 218 shown in FIG.2 above) that provides a limited RF region in which a media device can exchange data with the MDK.


In another embodiment, the power output and/or signal strength from the antenna and/or 218 is limited to further limit the size of the RF region in which a wireless device can interact with the MDK. Thus, while the media device is able to communicate with the MDK, the media devices shown as patent points 306 and 308, being outside of the RF region, are unable to receive sufficient signal strength to acquire and/or interface with the MDK.




Flow Chart: Establishing a Data Connection


Apple's patent FIG. 9 below includes a flow diagram of an exemplary process for establishing a data connection between a media device and MDK (media distribution kiosk) according to an illustrative embodiment of the invention.



Apple credits Thomas C. Mavrakakis as the sole inventor of patent 20090117846.


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 any patent reviewed here today, simply feed the individual patent number noted above into this search engine 



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