Wearable Tech World Feature Article
August 07, 2015

CrowdOptic Ushering in First Wave of Software Patents in Smart Glasses

It has a been an observation by several pundits in the tech business that most things that get classified initially as revolutions end up being evolutionary in terms of the timing of when their transformative value is fully realized.  It is in fact why so many of us love to refer to where companies and supposedly revolutionary technologies are on Gartner’s “hype curve”.  A case in point is Google Glass, which has experienced a slow gestation period for what was hailed at its launch as revolutionary technology.

Putting aside Google’s missteps in the launch of Glass which was supposed to ignite the passions of mass market users but ran into still headwinds based on concerns over price and privacy, as I and others observed at the time, including several companies that had been in the hands free information capture and dissemination business long before Google dipped its toes, the application for such products was and will be in a variety of commercial uses. In fact, the opportunities for what now goes under the dual mantles of “augmented reality” (AR) and “wearable tech” because of the platform on which AR capabilities are increasingly used in the commercial realm are already established.    

Indeed, some of those use cases are compelling. The ability to capture hands-free video in real time, stream, and record for processing, has found a home for such things as: enhanced experiences at sports venues, improved responsiveness by first responders, faster and more accurate insurance claims evaluations at disaster sites, etc.  In fact, a few weeks ago I wrote about a terrific use of Google Glass AR at the World Live Neurovascular Conference that featured five WLNC sites streaming live video of acute stroke patient care from their respective hospitals to the conference though Google Glass as enabled by CrowdOptic. Conference attendees saw live, first-person perspectives from caregivers and doctors as stroke patients move through the hospital and receive treatment. 

CrowdOptic is again a company of interest, as it continues to push the envelope on patenting some important intellectual property (IP) in this space. I bring this up because when looking at burgeoning/”disruptive” technologies, watching the early patents is always useful in understanding what will drive markets in the not-too-distant future. We may live in what I have called “The Age of Acceleration”, where the only constants are change and the speed at which it is increasing, but for most things acceleration and revolution are not synonymous as Gartner persistently points out.

Where CrowdOptic breaks from the mold a bit in the AR innovation and monetization race is that much of the accelerating interest in all aspects of AR—particularly by tech giants that include Sony, Samsung, IBM, Microsoft, Google, and LG just to name a few—has been focused on the hardware components applicable to AR systems. These include patents on such things as wireless networking and connectivity, lenses, cameras, optical systems, semiconductor and processors, frames, housings, casings (as well as ergonomics), sensors (motion, velocity, altitude, inertia, etc.), and battery technology. It is estimated that the hardware IP covers over 70 percent of what has been granted so far. For its part CrowdOptic has focused on the software side of things particularly in the area of object recognition.

On the occasion of CrowdOptic obtaining a Chinese patent and their second Japanese one, I caught up with CrowdOptic CEO Jon Fisher, for some insights one what this means. First he said: “It signals the second wave of international patents (e.g. Japan was first international country to award 2nd patent). Plus, it signals a very likely allowance of our 3rd U.S. Patent due to what's called the patent prosecution highway (one country awards, other follows) and so now will go the domino effect.” 

Fisher added that this brings to a total of eight issued patents (including two U.S.) with at least 10 more likely within 6-12 months. “This is more patents than Twitter had when they went public. This is more patents than Uber has now that is 0…Our 9 certified Google Glass competitors together have 0 issued patents.”

Image via Shutterstock

Finally, as a person named on 53 patents globally, he noted that: “I have never seen as capital efficient a patent approval process in any of my other ventures or angel investments than CrowdOptic meaning the patent system works very well when dealing with novelty.”  

The last statement endorsing the efficiency of the patent approval process might not be shared across the tech industry, but the point about novelty being good oil for the process makes sense. AR as the list of all the components alone shows encompasses a very wide umbrella of capabilities, and there are already thousands of patents that have been filed, with several granted, and there is a literal tsunami on the way.

That said, in terms of watching where not just U.S. but global markets are going to become meaningful, and with the full recognition that in an increasingly software-centric world where value creation and sustainability will not be in what ultimately becomes commoditized hardware, keeping an eye on companies that are creating utility for those hardware platforms is highly recommended and that includes watching their IP grants.

This is not a case of “through the looking glass.” We very much are on the on-ramp to the learning curve of what wearable technology with augmented reality is capable of doing. What we can reasonably predict is that while adoption may take some time the impact ultimately is likely to be profound. It is why Google has been smart to have patience with Google Glass and why companies like CrowdOptic have an interesting view of what the future can bring, particularly in commercial uses for things like telemedicine and field technician activities.   

Want to learn more about the latest in wearable technology? Be sure to attend Wearable Tech Expo, AUGUST 18 - 20, 2015 • Caesars Palace | Las Vegas, Nevada.  Stay in touch with everything happening at the event -- follow us on Twitter.

Edited by Dominick Sorrentino

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