Patent Monkey: Cingular Cell Phone Geo-Finder Services

. While there are many other players with location based technologies in this field, the fact that a carrier like Cingular has some innovations and is looking to add value to its new Apple relationship holds a bit of promise.

With the growing geography + mobile, IM, blogging field developing with Twitter and, these technologies are also feeling quite timely for launch.

Cingular’s three location-based cell phone patents all stemmed from a single theme of inventive thinking back in 2002.

US Patent 7181227 – Cellular System to Track Where Friends (Phones) Are

Highlight: From claim 1: “…a wireless system that provides communication between a wireless device and multiple network access points…comprising: at least one location-based services data structure…representing a table of friends who may receive, via the system, a current location of the user’s wireless device; and a second data structure representing a table of friends who have permitted the user to receive, via the system, a location of wireless devices associated with them; wherein the first and second data structures are configured for display on a visual display of the wireless device as respective first and second lists of friends, and wherein the wireless device may receive input from the user to modify at least one of the first and second data structures representing tables of friends to thereby modify the at least one of the first and second lists of friends.”

Analysis: User status on VoIP and now cell services like Skype have elevated people’s awareness of the growing use of dynamic ‘friend lists’ including getting frequent updates of what they are up to and now, where they are at. This technology could remove the first 20 seconds of most cell calls, namely, “Hello, where are you?”

US Patent 7190960 – Cellular Meeting at Location Between Users

Highlight: From Description: “…[a] method that allows users to locate friends or other contacts, businesses, points of interest (POI’s) or other locations, and manage this information in a user-friendly environment. A user with a wireless device, such as a cellular phone, may identify the locations of select individuals (via their wireless devices). Likewise, the user may receive directions to a desired location, and even coordinate a meeting place with a friend.”

Analysis: Building off of the previous invention’s ability to track where friends are, this concept is a clear value add, granted the smart use of mobile mapping software and phone display.

US Patent 7116985 – Paid Cellular Location-Based Search Results for Business Advertising

Highlight: The main highlight of the two independent claims cover using a person’s GPS when requesting to find a location, being paid by a business to deliver an answer to that request, with the payment by the business being a part of revenues for the location-based services as a result of the contact.

Analysis: Paid search has had its challenges and with a number of search options, this kind of paid response would require a layer of marketing in the form of a benefit, such as a bar offering deals on a slow night. Perhaps less leveraging of social elements than the first two.

In Conclusion
Cingular has a great opportunity to launch a number of features in conjunction with Apple, and other phones that focus on higher quality displays. While not every location-based service will pan out, it is promising to see carrier plans for the use of GPS beyond just simple mapping and directions.