On-line marketplace

Uncategorized

12-23-2013

On-line marketplace is an entirely new phenomenon only mere two decades old on the outside. When a new culture such as this rises suddenly, technologists who design and execute the system configurations get to control the every aspects of the system. Unlike the storefront where sales clerks deal with customers in person, on-line system must deal with customers through the step-by-step method to guide them to purchase what they want. The User Experience (UX) that I have been writing about exists in both cases: in- store and on-line. In general if any customer encounters less than satisfactory experience in store, usually it is limited to clerk’s attitude problem. Either, rudeness, inattentiveness, lack of knowledge, too aggressive salesmanship and/or all of the above, customers seldom leave the store frustrated. UX in case of on-line, the types and magnitude of customer frustration are much more complex in multitude ways.

 

Let us look at the process of purchase at a store. Let us discuss two cases. Case 1 the customer knows what to buy – say, a book. Case 2 the customer wants to buy a color printer, so-called, all in one model.

 

In Case 1, the customer wants to buy a specific book. The customer walks into the store, and finds the book and takes it to the cashier. He/she pays for it with a credit card, and that ends the process.

 

It is also similar in case of on-line purchase. He/she opens the website, and goes to the specific area of books (it isn’t that easy, though. The websites are usually very crowded with all sorts of merchandise and various offers, and he/she must work in the so-called high visual noise environment.)  Then the customer is led to “shopping cart” where clicking it would tally the purchase.

 

Here the customer must carefully look for the shipping/handling cost item, which is often added to the cost when he/she originally thought that was free. This is because places like Amazon are acting as agent for the third party vendors, and the actual shipping/handling expenses are often tacked on to the item price if you don’t carefully examine the itemized breakdown. Many consumers end up paying more than what he/she thought would pay because these hidden items are printed in a microscopic font.

 

However, one way or the other, the consumer would end up successfully purchasing the book.   He/she would see the package in a few days.  The main reason is that buyng a book is a simple process.

 

Now Case 2 Buying a Printer.

The entire process of purchase is shown in the diagram FIG 1. The main difference between Case 1 and 2 is that the printer is a complex product with multitude of specification items. The major and lengthy step in the decision process is to find out if the printer meets the customer’s desire, or specifications. In store one can ask sales clerk any question regarding the product, and even see the actual demonstration. You can touch and feel the product, and see the various details of the features to your satisfaction.

 

This entire process is missing from the on-line purchase. In the on-line purchase process, any consumer thinking of buying a complex product such as an all-in-one printer would have strong anxiety about correctness of his/her decision. If one makes an error in choosing, the product needs to be shipped back with restocking charges, return freight charges and other inconveniences. So, massive number of consumers have moved on to avoid this inconvenience by first visiting stores carrying the merchandise, and then after determining that the product fits their needs, they would look for bargain through on-line merchandisers.

 

Obviously the stores, now that they are quickly becoming s show place for the on-line consumers, are now fighting back. Best Buy, Staples, other Department Stores are all urging consumers to go and buy from their own on-line sites. This is simply because the current on-line process of choosing merchandise just can’t match the accuracy and comfort of visiting stores and looking over the products in person. Isn’t this a grand waste? In order to sell on-line, we have to have stores as showcase?

 

So, my readers must now be wondering why I am writing about this issue, known to everyone shopping on-line. My point is that the standard way of describing products on-line is so crude, primitive and one-dimensional that really demonstrates the lack of attention to that area of UX. On-line UX must be drastically improved – a quantum jump to respond to the needs of 21st Century. If you have better ideas about significantly improving the on-line experience, please get in touch with me. The whole nation would benefit.

The User Experience

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12-15-2013

The User Experience

While we are discussing the deplorable state of User Experience (UX) with today’s websites especially those of on-line catalog vendors, cellphone apps, new digital device user manuals and thousand other devices and booklets, I would like to show you the top of my coffee table being taken over by ten (yes 10!) remote controls just to watch a few TV programs.

 

It is my humble opinion that the state of user interface designs of all consumer electronic / electrical devices have declined significantly in their quality in the past decades.  I suspect that one of the real reasons for this sorry state might have been caused by the fact we (USA) no longer manufacture consumer products, and hegemony of the product design has been taken over by the people where the product is manufactured. Second reason is that programmers in those countries, be of hardware or software, are very young with little experience in actually using their own product and have little knowledge of American language, culture and the way we use these devices.

 

Thus our houses get filled with an enormous pile of user hostile (yes, I said “hostile”) control devices, each one of which is very unique and has its own idiosyncrasy to operate, and of course we have to remember it. The two photos show my coffee table top. The TV display gets fed from various video sources, DVD player, direct feed from the Internet such as Netflix, some private channels and a feed from my own video camera.

 

Frustrated with so many “remotes”, I went looking for a solution to reduce the number of remotes – ideally to only one. I had thought there might be a remote to cover all the remotes in this world. There are some remote control that says “universal”. I bought one, and the problem simply became more confounding. Back to the store to return the gadget.

 

My cable company sent me a ominous looking package, which they said I must install in order to continue the subscription. It turned out that the remote control they provided is a gateway to the cable channels, and it needed to communicate with my TV set. A large multiply-folded sheet of paper printed in many languages, which they call the instruction manual, had a long list of TV set models and manufacturers listed. I had to find the ID number of my TV set in the multiple language list printed in a tiniest print font, enter it to the remote and wait till the hand-shake process is done. I regretted that I didn’t have a powerful magnifying glass to read the chart.

 

You may call me stupid, but the whole process took at least 30 minutes if not more, and during that time I was anxious, confused and probably sweating. There are two questions. One is that “why should I, the customer, go through this process while it should have been done by either the manufacturer or the cable provider?” The 2nd question is “Why can’t the whole process be automated?” Meaning, the TV set and the remote would communicate with each other and establish a reliable link automatically?

 

I had thought that the amount of electronic parts and labor required to automate the process both in the TV set as well as in the remote control may amount to less than $1.00 in the large production. I feel that the way the TV set and the remote control operate to communicate first to establish the link is so senselessly bureaucratic. This is what happens when we Americans at the pinnacle of the world-class engineering level cannot influence the group of TV set and remote control engineers in the lower labor nations. I fully know our American engineers can do the automatic “mating” solution. But, we have little influence over the engineers in the country where products are manufactured. The result is that American consumers (customers) are now burdened to work on their home TV systems so they can see the picture.

 

I predict that the ultimate solution is in the form of a sophisticated app for smartphones. This is a problem that an amateur inventor could tackle easily, and could develop solution(s). The end result will eliminate the 10 remotes from my coffee table, and my smartphone will replace them neatly. Anyone, challenged? Contact me with your solution.

 

In this installment I tried to indicate the hidden peril of our giving up manufacturing to the lower labor cost countries.   What we would end up buying from them is probably less expensive for a short term, but the products are totally designed by them. Thus we will end up paying substantial cost in being inconvenienced in different methodology as well as sloppy and bureaucratic UX.

UX Continued

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12-8-2013

UX Continued

This week we are discussing about websites’ User Experiences – as it is called “UX”. In the last week’s column I mentioned about a reader who wanted to create scheduling software in the event industry. The reader wanted to know if that concept could be patented, and the $50,000 fee a software developer requested to create the software was excessive. My answer without knowing the details was NO to both questions. It rally isn’t patentable, and $50,000 fee for perfecting the software isn’t that excessive.

 

However, I would like to ask some questions to this reader from New York. One questions is “Have you looked at all software available in the marketplace for your industry, and have you found that none would do what you plan for your product to do? If you think your concept is unique and offers features that no competitions offer, then you MUST verify if such a feature is positively beneficial to users. (I hate to pour water on this reader’s head, but I am compelled to do it as my standard practice – please do’t take it personal.) Or is this feature you think the market needs is just your imagination? It would be tragic to spend $50,000 of your saving just to find that your product isn’t so special that people in the market place wouldn’t bang your door down to buy it. In fact they’d yawn.

 

In the world of invention, whether it is hardware or software, functionality supersedes everything. That has always been unfortunate phenomenon. That is because in the space of inventions engineers and programmers dominate the product development. The people who develop products know inherently how to use it, yeah after all they came up with the idea. They can use the product blind-folded. Because it is their own concept, they tend to ignore the difficulty the future inexperienced users would face in using the product – be it hardware or software. When an innocent and inexperienced user gets lost in the software and gets frustrated, developers would deal with it with a mild derision. “Oh well, poor thing. This is how to use it. See? “ Then they would go away in triumph.

 

In the world of product development (Yes, that’s the world you 99% inventors are in. Do not think you are an amateur, whose performance couldn’t equal that of professional. If you are an inventor, you must perform as good as or better than pro.) Most amateur developed software either totally by-pass the phase of UX trial or gross it over. It is quite obvious to experienced computer software evaluation experts that the product hadn’t undergone serious UX testing with many generations of Operating Software (OS).

Thus a simple scheduling software development could rack up a serious expenditure in the UX trial phase.

 

Basically a UX trial consists of two rough phases. One is to try the software with various generations of OS expected to find in the customer’s computers. Second is to try all sort of data entries by people unfamiliar with the software to see where and how they fail to proceed. The reader in New York had thought $50,000 excessive. In my opinion the UX trial phase may become a significant portion of the total expenditure if the software is to succeed in the marketplace, and in the end the amount may not be sufficient.

 

Software developers either in their haste to finish the project or their simplified view of the world that customers must follow their dictums often create bizarre layers of redundant and unnecessary user interface. A good example is the so-called Airport Code. All of us airline travellers must enter the airport codes of the departing airport and the destination airport. Last week I flew from Manchester NH to Chicago Midway airport. That meant I had to first find the airport codes before I can search convenient flight schedule. Don’t tell me computers cannot be programmed to understand names of airport in the plain English. This is just another piece of inconvenience we user must overcome or suffer because programmers weren’t considerate for what users have to go through.

 

There will be more articles in this column on software as more people start learning to program and develop apps for various smartphones. Don’t think the app space is an exclusive domain of young professional programmers. As far as I am concerned they don’t do that great a job. Some apps’ UX are horrible. You 99% inventors can do it.

Paragraphs on software development

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12-1-2013

The last week’s installment had paragraphs on software development, which was cut short in some papers due to my bungling of submission deadline. Funny thing is my cartoon like graphics made it to print, but readers must have been puzzled for not having any text related to the picture.

 

So I will repeat the missed section with some changes and embellishment. A reader from New York had inquired back some months ago as follows: I’m looking to automate a sales process for the event industry. It gives instant custom service proposals to customers and helps build strong sales leads for the software’s user. What I really am looking for is someone who can help me understand if a patent is valuable for my idea, and if so- how it can be done without the $50,000 quotes I’ve been given. The software is already in development. Can you help?

This reader wishes to develop a scheduling software for his industry, which handles “event”. There is no device more suitable for scheduling than computers, so many scheduling software had been developed for various purposes since personal computers have become everyday thing. From what he sent, it isn’t clear just what he meant by “event” (another example of Paragrela – inventor’s habit of secrecy), but in terms of general concept, an even occurs on a spot on the time line. But, once the event starts, the scale of time measurement must be much more detailed or expanded. Take a wedding, for an example. It takes place, say, on a specific Saturday afternoon. However, within the wedding event, time measure must be much more amplified to detail the proceeding. In many cases there are parallel events in synchronism with the main event such as the band or DJ’s activity. Moreover, the placement of dinner ware, various accessories on the table, seating arrangement in conjunction with table numbers etc etc. They all have to be done without any flaw.

 

This reader is interested in the “sales” process, which means it involves scheduling, bill of material (or BOM) including engaging various entertainment personnel, venue selection, limousine engagement, mailing of invitation, and all that associated with the wedding. And that all culminates to “expense and some profit”, which becomes a quotation to the marrying couple. In the foregoing paragraph I presented this case as a scheduling software for weddings. But that is just one specific case for this scheduling software, I assume. The reader is interested in developing a software that covers all possible events,

 

Most scheduling software can be developed from combination of database software such as Microsoft Access or FileMaker, two basic popular software in the market. There are many scheduling programs now available so the reader MUST check if what he wants to write is unique and isn’t covered by any existing software.

 

The most important feature of any software is “User Experience” or simply UX. If the user faces confusing display, or difficulty in getting things done, and/or the screen freezes up and restarting is necessary, the software is a failure even if it does what it was supposed to do. Majority of software developers newly coming into this space doesn’t appreciate the importance of testing the software by having as many people as possible trying to use it. Thus, UX test is as important or more important than the actual programing of the basic codes of the software. Ideally an user for the first time in his/her life could use and accomplish the purpose of the software, that is the ultimate success. Believe me that just doesn’t happen very often. Software code writers often want to quit programming right after he/she finishes programming. To them testing the software is a tedious and boring process they’d rather not do.

 

Any software program MUST be tested by a fairly large focus group so that there are no bugs, and data entry is easily done by the people with litt who know little about the software. The reader felt that his vendor quoted $50,000 for development, and he felt that excessive.   In my opinion the amount is not excessive high, and it could be lowered but not by much. The reason is that the reader didn’t account for the heavy UX testing, that must be done before the software could be marketed.

 

The last question, and probably the most important question the reader is wondering is that of patentability. Can this software be patent protected. My guess is negative. A software is like writing a novel in English. A small change in the text could change the whole direction of the novel. Anyone could circumvent this novel, and go on to another novel that does similar thing by slightly different way. Therefore, attempting to apply for a patent isn’t advisable. See FIG 2 of Sunday November 24th.

Anti-TWD patent application

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11-24-2013

While Anti-TWD patent application is carefully worked out, we deviate to subjects of general interest of us 99% inventors. There are two subjects I wish to discuss today. One is about growth potential of a market one should choose. Other is a suggestion from a reader about an app for schedule.

 

Most inventors start inventing because it solves a problem, and by doing it the inventor hopes to make profit. In order to increase probability of making profit from an invention, one of necessary (but not sufficient) conditions is the size and growth potential of the market. The larger the size and faster the growth of the market, the more chance the inventor would be rewarded with good income.

 

One of the most attractive markets us 99% inventors need to carefully observe is that of healthcare, or so-called medical industry. Its total expenditure has reached $2.8 Trillion per year in 2012 and its growth beyond 2014 is expected at 6.1%. This translates to approximately $9,000 per person in the health related expenditure. By simply calculating the growth beyond 2014 alone, it amounts to $170 Billion per year. This compared to the auto industry, whose personal expenditure amounts to mere $350 per year and its total expenditure comes to approximately $110 Billion per year – a mere drop in the bucket compared to the gigantic health industry. See FIG 1.

 

In fact the yearly growth portion of the health industry is larger than the total automotive industry – a staggering fact that you shouldn’t ignore. Every year starting from 2014 on, the health industry grows by $170 Billion. Inventors, imprint this in your brain.

 

Now, fellows, you’d ask: “OK, I see that. What shall I do to share the huge wealth of the health industry?” The fundamentals of successful inventing (Inventics® 12 steps) is same for any industry. Step 1: Find a problem. Step 2: Solve it. Etc.

 

Since the health industry is a huge world, you must know someone or two who work in that space. If the person knows no problem to solve, then ask if there are others who know of a problem or two. Networking is the way to reach the problem. I strongly recommend our amateur inventors/readers to look into the healthcare industry.

________________________________________________________________________

A Software Problem: A reader in New York writes this (excerpt):

I’m looking to automate a sales process for the event industry. It gives instant custom service proposals to customers and helps build strong sales leads for the software’s user. What I really am looking for is someone who can help me understand if a patent is valuable for my idea, and if so- how it can be done without the $50,000 quotes I’ve been given. The software is already in development. Can you help?

The reader states that his field is the event industry, and he wishes to develop a software that simplifies and automate the proposal/quotation process. The software industry offers a large assortment of scheduling, calendar, even planning and cost calculation software in the form of desktop type as well as app in numerous variations. My first question is “Did you really search and study various software available in the market before you started developing your own? My 2nd question is: just what problem you wish to solve is, that available software in the market do not? Amateur inventors often start “reinventing wheels” without first studying the answer to the above two questions, and waste large sum of money as well as time.

Regarding your question of patentability, I strongly suggest you do not try to waste any of your fund in that direction. Software is like writing a novel using the English language, and slight change in the code would come out in the vastly different versions and results. Your type of software, namely of scheduling, cost estimate and time-line event line-ups are written with the smart combination of database software such as Microsoft Access® or Filemaker®.

Regarding the cost estimate of $50,000 you received from a code writing vendor, I do not believe that is outrageously expensive, although it could be less if you do it yourself. Depending on just what the expense quoted includes, the User Experience (UX) portion of the software, the display, ease of data entry, smooth and easy learning capability, elimination of bugs, writing and printing the operations manual would take approximately 400 hours – or roughly 10 man weeks. Many software fail in the market place simply from excessive skimping of the development cost that results in unpredictable bugs that annoy and disturb customers. If your vendor has a stellar and well-established reputation, you might be far better off letting the vendor do the development. In the trade of code writing, there is a term “spaghetti code” to express hopelessly poorly written software. Once the foundation of the program is poorly written, there is no end to the recurring troubles. A castle built on the soft mud would continue to settle and crumble, and this applies to software as well. See FIG 2.

Q&A

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11-17-2013

Q&A

Next two weeks, we will answer some inquiries from readers to clear up the backlog, while we continue to write and complete the patent application of the automatic TWD prevention system.

 

This column receives anywhere between a few to several inquiries a week from readers mostly on their inventions. Receiving two inquiries per week would add up to 104 inquiries in a year with most of them requesting for answers. There is one big problem with these readers’ inquiries. I stress that any communication we receive from you might be openly discussed in this column for the benefit of our readers. My mission is to promulgate the concept of invention in general.  However, here is one problem.

 

A typical question usually goes like this: “I have an idea for an invention, and I would like to patent it. But, I don’t know if it is worth trying to get a patent, and if I succeed in getting a patent, I don’t know just what to do to put it in use. Please advise.”

 

This standard inquiry stems from the disease called Paragrela. It is short for paranoid, greed and laziness. People who thought about an idea think this idea would have a huge profit potential. Therefore, the inventor doesn’t want to talk about the idea in detail from the fear of someone stealing the idea. Greed overwhelms the inventor, who then gets to be extremely secretive. Most inquiries tell us nothing about their idea and details. Therefore, we cannot possibly make any advice to lead the inventor into the right direction. If you tell us nothing, we cannot tell you anything useful.

 

We will carefully read and try to understand the described concept, which is often scantily expressed. However, we are NOT intellectual property lawyers. Although our column will maintain reasonable privacy on your inquiry, what you tell us is equivalent of public disclosure.

 

With that in mind, let’s pick one inquiry: An inventor Sherry St. Pierre from Greenland, NH asks the following:

“Hello Sam, I have been reading your columns on inventions and patents.  I did purchase a patent book and have only skimmed through it.  I can’t seem to find a chapter that applies to my situation. I have a recipe but I thought it would be easier to approach Betty Crocker with my idea instead of trying to reinvent the wheel, so to speak.  I use one of their prepackaged cookie mixes and add my own ingredients.  I have even come up with a package design, using their original package.  My question is, can you patent an existing item with your own twist and how would I bring this idea to Betty Crocker and have it protected so they can’t take my idea and market it themselves? Any help would be appreciated.

 

There are two questions. Can the inventor try to apply and take a patent? The answer is yes. A ready-made cookie mix can be considered as an existing material, and the inventor is now adding some other material to change the final product.  However, beyond that point I felt I knew so little about cooking, I decided to learn from our village post office. In the village I live, the post office doesn’t deliver door to door. Each resident is given a post box where mail is dropped around 10~11AM. Usually one could find a housewife or two chatting amicably after they pick their mail up. This is really my Google of a sort. I asked one of those ladies if the inventor’s idea made sense. Gee, she said, everyone I know tweaks “ready mix”. Two other ladies chimed in. Yes, I tweak too. Using sugar, butter, oil and other common ingredients, cookie mix is tweaked to deviate from the standard taste and texture for their liking. That’s what I found out.

 

So, there are two possibilities that this inventor is claiming. One is that she developed an entire different product out of using the ready mix and her own ingredient. It is no longer in the same category as the cookie mix was intended, and it was just used as one of the component of her invention. If that is the case, she could apply for a patent, although her invention would be 100% dependent on the cookie mix’s ingredient, and she better hope they would not change.

 

2nd case is that she simply thought of one way to tweak the mix to arrive at a unique or pleasant taste that she likes. This is not patentable as millions of housewives have been doing the same for longer than a century.

 

One another problem this inventor would face is how to deal with this gigantic corporation having annual revenue of $15 Billion, more than 3 times the fiscal budget of State of New Hampshire.   Given the fact that everyone tweaks cookie mix to his/her liking, the marketing people of Betty Crocker must have an enormous knowledge and experience over this matter to the point nothing is new to them. My immediate conclusion is not to proceed with the idea. The inventor would save at least some $5,000 ~ $15,000 of her savings.

 

If the inventor wishes to further consult with my organization American Invention Institute, please contact 603-531-0004. A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) will be mailed to you before we proceed.

 

Next week, a software inventor’s inquiry.

Case 1310: Automatic Prevention of TWD

Uncategorized

11-11-2013

Case 1310: Automatic Prevention of TWD

Now that we have developed a basic concept of the system that is supposed to prevent texting while driving, we must think of details as to how users can disable the system and could text while driving.

 

Amateur inventors often skip the question “What can go wrong?” That is simply because they are so enamored in their idea that they have invented something extremely valuable and believe that nothing could go wrong.   I receive many inquiries from those amateur inventors regarding their finally obtained and expensive patents. In the real world they often find that these patents are useless because they had overlooked some serious blind spots either in the basic concept or its execution, which made the patent pretty much useless.

 

I have often wondered why amateur inventors overlook the question of “What can go wrong” thoroughly. It seems that psychologically they do not want to find out that their scheme ultimately would fail. Finding a solution that seems to solve an existing problem is a wonderful feeling at first. My observation has been that amateur inventors then close their mind for observation, and start next step of speaking with intellectual property lawyers or writing up application.

 

So let’s examine the currently proposed scheme of preventing texting while driving. Our basic system of Automatic Prevention of TWD consists of two major elements. An infrared lighting system showers the driver sitting in the driver’s seat. The infrared lights are buried inside the ceiling panel, and the driver cannot see where these elements are located.

 

However, a flat ceiling inlay sheet made out of infrared opaque material would most definitely block the infrared shower, and can easily disable the system.  The probability of some driver doing to his car may be negligibly small, however, the answer to the question “What can go wrong” is found.

 

Secondly, a person with reasonable automotive electronic knowledge could severe the power cable supplying the power to the infrared shower LED’s, and disable the system. That’s “what can go wrong” NO.2.

 

Let’s look at the cell phone part of the system. This scheme calls for modification of the cell phone to be sensitive to the infrared lighting. Since the driver would hold his/her cell phone with its face up, the phone must be equipped with infrared sensitive receptor to detect the infrared shower. When the cell phone detects the infrared shower, it disables the texting function. As an option, perhaps we should maintain cellphone’s capability to receive and transmit conversation. Here is another weak point against “what can go wrong” question. Some opaque material can be placed to block the infrared sensitive sensor on the front of the cell phone. This will most definitely disable the Automatic Prevention System of TWD.

 

Therefore, after requesting all automobile manufactures to modify the ceiling area above driver, and all cell phone manufacturers to install distributed infrared sensors on the front of the phone, we have found three weakness of the system.   That is 1) a possible addition of the ceiling panel to block the infrared shower, 2) possible severing of the power supply for the infrared shower, and 3) disabling the infrared sensors on the cell phone.

 

Assuming that this system is the most reasonable and fool-proof way to prevent TWD, our next HUGE question is “who is going to ask those all mighty car makers and cell phone makers to change their design. Unfortunately, only the US Government can do that, and probably sufficient number of people would die on the highway from TWD before the government would consider taking action.

 

Good examples are installation of seat belts and subsequent installation of airbags in cars.  The government with the help from the insurance industry pushed the issue and mandated despite the strong objection from the auto industry.

 

One way or the other I plan to pursue taking patent on this invention even though the possibility of causing the action by the government to change design of cars and cellphones is slim. What I plan to demonstrate is the fact that the concept probably is workable, but there are many other reasons that patent couldn’t be put into practice.

Case 1310 TWD Prevention

Uncategorized

11-4-2013

Case 1310 TWD Prevention

The concept to automatically prevent texting while driving has been in discussion for some time among the engineering community, and I proposed to submit a patent application according to my own idea. Readers will witness the proceedings of the application from the birth of the concept to application, argument and finally getting a patent.

 

The patent application will be written and shown in the next few columns. However, we are going to show you the thinking steps before the patent application can be written.  First is the question “Is there a market for the system?”

 

The case of automatic prevention of TWD is a peculiar one. So let’s do the first step correctly. Define the problem in a practical English.

 

Problem:

When attempting to text while driving, driver’s attention is diverted to texting from paying attention to driving safely. This produces a very high probability of accident. These accidents could cause serious injuries or death to the driver and passengers in the car. The casualty is extended to those other innocent cars that get involved in the accident.

 

A car driven at the speed of 60 mph hits an oncoming car in the opposite direction in the same speed range would have the impact force of 120 mph, and this will certainly result in a high probability of death if not very serious injury. Now let’s try to find out why do people try texting while driving. The best explanation is “addiction”.

 

Cause:

An inventor working or attempt to work on a problem such as above, MUST first understand the cause as well. The cause may be a physical issues: limitation of a mechanism, poorly designed section of working, heat problem etc. What causes TWD? The best guess is, and we are quite right on this, addiction. Be it alcohol, drug, cigarette and other serious issues as domestic violence, addicts get minor pleasure from the substance or whatever he/she is addicted.  The minor pleasure the addict receives is of very little value when analyzed, but then addiction is no based on logics. TWD is another addiction. And just like any other addiction, the users will do almost anything to use the substance in this case TWD.

 

As you know, all text messages you receive while driving car is NOT urgent or important. Text messages are just another social link, and the best we can describe is “what’s up?” or “howdy?” Since nobody drives continuously from dawn to dusk with no stops in between, all messages can be answered well within a few hours when pulling into a rest area. The fact that these drivers cannot wait to park the cars, and rather keep driving to text is due to addiction. All addicts ignore the inherent danger of driving while intoxicated, high on drugs and/or texting. I am sure some of them do all at the same time.

 

Our readers then would ask me, why I keep talking about addiction being the cause of the problem. What’s so special? Well, addictions are very abnormal cause, which transcends normal reasoning. Addicts would exert everything possible to try to enable the habit. They will steal, destroy properties, threaten others, disable or modify a mechanism, bypass alarm, you name it.

 

Design Criteria for Solution:

Once it is clear that TWD is caused by addiction, a normal mean to automatically prevent just wouldn’t work reliably. Addicts will always find out the method to disable the prevention mechanism. There are other design restrictions that need to be observed. What we need to automatically prevent TWD is only for the driver. The disabling system shouldn’t affect passengers. They should be able to text as they please. This restriction makes the system one notch more complex to design. The other factor is speed. If the car is parked, whether the engine is on or off, the text prevention system should be disabled for both drivers and passengers. Only when the car starts moving at, say, 2 mph, the disabling should function, and the driver can no longer text. The concept I proposed was to shower the driver with infrared light (invisible) emitted from the ceiling area, but not the passenger seating areas, both front and rear. The infrared shower sources (LED) are distributed inside the ceiling panel, and the driver cannot easily shield with adhesive black tape.  The coverage of infrared shower extends partially into the front passenger seat as well as outside of the front driver’s window so that the driver cannot text with his/her left hand sticking out of the window.

 

This means that auto manufacturers need to add the infrared shower system as well as the signal input circuitry that connects the shower to the electronic speedometer.

 

The infrared shower is activated when the car’s speed reaches 2mph. When the smart phone receives infrared shower, it answers all text massages with “DRIVING, CANNOT REPLY” statement. This requires that the design change must be incorporated into all cell phones, and this means all cell phone manufactures have to comply with the recommendation by the government.

 

What about reception? Should the driver be able to receive text while driving? I would say NO! That’s a strong enticement to violate the prevention system. Either he would stop the car to text back all the time, or develop a system to disable the prevention mechanism permanently. So the design decision is for the driver in motion not to be able to receive or transmit text messages.

 

Another question is “What about the phone calls?” Should the driver, while the car is in motion, be able to receive or make phone calls? What do you think? The regulations are different by state to state. However, I see drivers on the road talking on the phone all the time.   If we ban it that will have some strongly negative social response. I will just leave this point undecided as they system is capable of either way.

 

In conclusion, this system requires a strong governmental intervention such as that happened in installing the airbag that forced all manufacturers to install airbag accommodation.

 

Law Enforcement:

Addicts get scared of violating laws and found by the police. Law Enforcement is essential in eliminating the high accident risk of TWD. Regardless how well the prevention system is designed, there’d be some addicts who would short-circuit the system. Beyond that point, we need to rely on the law enforcement people.

 

So far this is the design criterion that resulted in the TWD prevention system for cars.

Inventors

Uncategorized

10-28-2013

Inventors

There are two types of inventors. One works for an organization such as manufacturer, public utility, branch of the government. During the course of conducting their duties, either it is a part of their work or just happens to come up with an idea, the concept will be reported to the management, and decision to file for a patent will be made. Concepts born under this circumstances tend to be a part of a large scale product/system, and they tend to be related to other patent applications supporting the product. If anything, concepts born out of this type of circumstances tend to be more refined, precise and often well-described. They are called defensive patents.

 

Second group are so-called amateurs. There are large number of people who are curious, inventive and wish very much to own a patent or two. They dream of various solutions real or imaginary and work hard to develop conceptual solutions. In my career of inventing, I have witnessed and advised many inventors of this type, who have either spent a large sum of money to patent counsels (IP lawyers) and finally received a patent or two. The only problem is that nobody shows up at the door wanting to either buy, license or be a partner to that patents. Namely, the inventor after all that effort and expenses, cannot monetize the accomplishment.

 

During this coming series of this column, in which a technology to automatically prevent texting while driving (TWD) will be submitted to apply for a patent, those amateur inventors will be able to witness the Inventics® process through which his/her idea will be scrutinized first, written up and applied for provisional patent as well as a patent. The process will be called Inventics® , methodology developed at American Invention Institute. Inventics® is a common-sense approach in methodology to make sure that the concept is appropriate to solve a problem, and there is a certain commercial market for the product/service once patent is granted.

 

First of all, let us make sure the problem is real. I mean “real”. This is the most important step in the Inventics. Is there large enough number of people actually suffering from this problem? Are these people suffering with so much inconvenience that they are willing to pay some money to obtain the solution?

 

Many new products we encounter in our daily life is not based upon genuine problems. There are so many hi-tech products that get announced daily that literally bewilders you if you go to www.gizmag.com, a site that reports such products. Most of the products shown in the site either disappear shortly from the market or never make it to the market. Most of them are based on either a perceived need by the people who developed it, or false premise that market would develop once the product appear in the market. That is wishful thinking. One prominent example is a car that also can fly. Do you actually know someone who is suffering painfully because he/she can’t have a car that could also fly? A car that can be driven in such places as Boston, New York and LA downtown traffic, and can take off given a runway as an airplane? Some people might have a fleeting thought that such a product might be nice and convenient to have around, but I doubt that anyone would seriously consider plunking down several hundred thousand dollars to buy it. Such a product probably is not a good car, and not a good airplane as well, let alone various problems rising out of complex regulatory governance for airplanes as well as automobiles.

 

I have noticed in the past that amateur inventors often are attracted to pseudo problem like this, and would respond to the challenge to solve the problem.   That is the death wish of amateur inventors, and often they end up bankrupting themselves.

Manufacturing in America

Uncategorized

10-20-2013

Manufacturing in America

It has been my strong and ever constant belief that manufacturing creates wealth of a nation most reliably. Sure, agriculture and mining are important sources of wealth creation, however, nothing beats manufacturing in employee numbers and their pay, ecological sustainability and stability of revenue. Back during 50’s through 70’s, every town of our country had some manufacturing businesses humming, and our middle class was happy, prosperous and stable. I don’t wish to sound like a broken record player. But the prejudice against manufacturing as dirty, dead-end jobs compared to the white-collar workers in the air-conditioned offices neatly shuffling papers worked to un-popularize manufacturing.

 

Fast forward 50 years in time: Now America imports almost all manufactured goods including even such strategically and societally important items as aircrafts, trains, automobiles, construction machineries, factory machine tools and a long list of other necessities. The result is that we have an $18 Trillion in debt, 17% under-employment and near 7% unemployment, and we are about to default in debt payment. In 50 years, America fell from the undisputed top of the world manufacturers’ rank to just about nothing. What a decline!

 

Writing a column of inventions now wouldn’t cure this situation overnight. However, somebody has to do it. Civilization is about invention. The person who invented spear made out stone 3.4 million years ago literally started this human civilization. So, why can’t we get our people to invent more? Inventions start factories, and factories start more factories, and thus wealth of this nation is created faster.

 

So far so good? Well, there is this little nasty problem before people can freely invent. That is the fact that amateur inventors do not know the mechanism of how to get his/her concept to workable system/product, and even get them to patent.

 

I noticed one thing. Almost nobody has gone through from the original concept to patent application, patent argument with examiner, and finally the claim receives a patent. I receive many inquiries through email, and these inventors seem to have plunged into getting patents by spending their life savings on IP lawyers. Furthermore, after they receive patents, they do not know how to monetize the patent, let alone let the world know about it.

 

On Sunday October 13th, 2013 I announced my own concept of a system that prevents texting while driving (TWD) on Portsmouth Herald and on Monday 14th on Union Leader. This is called “publishing” or “public announcement”, and that date is very important. Why? Because now according to the current US patent law, I have only one year to apply for a patent(s) – with due date of October 12th, 2014.  If I hadn’t announced the concept like I did, I would be applying for a provisional patent. The provisional patent would allow me to apply for the US Patent upon being allowed for a provisional patent, and this could be as long as one year. I thought that would be just too long a process for the purpose of this column.

 

Now readers can watch as we progress through the patent office system to finally arrive at a patent or two about the automatic prevention of TWD. This concept requires both modification to automobiles as well as writing an app for smart phones. This drama would be very interesting and beneficial for would-be inventors, as they don’t have to spend any money of their own to see the process unfold in front of their very eyes.

 

Soon after my column appeared on the Internet or print, I received this email from a man calling himself Charles Kelly as shown below.

 

Sam

FYI (stoptxing.com)

Charles Kelly, Kelly & Smith PC

Houston, TX

 

I have some idea what this man is looking for or telling me, but obviously this sender doesn’t wish to clarify. Now you are glimpsing the murky world of patents for the first time. You are witnessing this exciting patent world from the first class seats.