Product research

Apple wants to offer instant product search through iPhone

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Using near-field communications or a simple barcode scan, future iPhones could instantly gain information on a range of products, be it an electronic device for sale at a local store or foods on a restaurant menu.

A massive and far-reaching patent application released this week, titled “System and Method of Delivering Content Associated with a Product or Service,” describes how a number of activities, such as making a purchase in a store or finding an instruction manual for a device – could be simplified. The 83-page document covers a number of opportunities that companies and manufacturers could capitalize on, allowing iPhone users to quickly and easily access a wealth of information from their phones.

The document shows an iPhone application called “Products +” that could be used to accomplish all of these tasks, which range from product information to potential promotional opportunities. The technology could allow users to learn more about an AV receiver before purchasing it, or quickly access the product manual, or even watch YouTube help videos.

Users can also buy better prices from local stores or find sellers online who could sell it for less. In one example, a customer can purchase through Apple’s own iTunes store or another online product provider. The app could even allow customers to authorize a transaction while in store.

Adding a product to the phone’s database and authenticating it could allow users to register it with the manufacturer, verify warranty information, or be notified of potential product recalls. Adding a product can be accomplished through near-field communications, such as RFID, or by scanning a barcode through the iPhone’s camera.

Selecting a product from the database would allow users to “View Extras”. In the example found in the app, Apple’s iTunes service offers free downloads of digital manuals for the products.

The technology could also be used to provide consumers with information on the go or to give businesses the opportunity to promote products. An example shows a barcode and NFC included in a restaurant menu. Users could quickly access dinner specials and nutritional information through their iPhone.

Scanning the restaurant menu can also display a list of upcoming events at that location. In one example, the Mi Luna restaurant has salsa dancing and a live band scheduled for July 12. The user can then instantly add this event to their phone’s calendar.

Barcodes and near-field communication technology could also be used to replace game pieces often found on items like soft drinks in fast food restaurants. They might also offer free music downloads or advertisements related to the product. In one representation, scanning a cup of Starbucks coffee offers the user the option of purchasing a muffin at a reduced price.

Patent 3

Another example shows the ability to scan a manual to access additional issues not included in the print edition, or to find answers to issues found in a book. Users can also download an instructional video, find other recommended reading, or purchase additional materials. For a novel or non-fiction book, readers can access an author interview, find the press discussing the book, or purchase related titles.

The application was filed on January 5, 2009. It is attributed to Michael Rosenblatt, program director at Apple, and Gloria Lin.

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