Vera: Patents to Track, November 2018


Vera: Patents to Track, November 2018

Michael Thomson

The First-Party Data Edition

Each month, Digitas connects brands with insights on where marketing, media, and search products are headed next, based on approved public patents from media and tech companies. These are the patents brands should be tracking to future proof their business.

This month, we explore how Facebook and Google are leveraging first-party data, how their actions may transform the relationships consumers have with their services, and why brands should care about these recent publicly approved patents.  


COMPANY: Facebook

You’re at work and you receive a notification on Facebook saying “John’s at the door; let him in?” Just one example of how Facebook plans to draw on your 1st-party data connections and its social graph to make IOT social.

Through the social network, you can create different permissions for different people; John can access the fridge, while Lisa can watch television. Not only that, you’ll receive a notification when your milk and eggs are running low, reminding you to re-order.

“So what?”

Facebook is looking to act as the connective “tissue” between your social circle and your belongings, surely adding another layer of complexity for brands as they have to consider not only IoT, but social access and commerce across different sets of people.



In a trio of patents (ONE, TWO & THREE), Google shares how it’s able to connect multiple people together at an event; present or past; physical or virtual. Using 1st-party data from you and your friend’s smartphone, it can reveal that you are connected as well as what the context of the event is (having dinner, watching sports, etc.)

Knowingly connected together at an ‘event’, it will give the group of people suggestions for experiences: read a digital version of the restaurant’s menu, push weather updates when at a sports match, etc. In essence, the party engages as one unit.

“So what?”

Experiences are about uniting people, but equally utility; sharing the cost of a dinner, a ride home as well as a recommendation on where to eat after the big game. Brands may quickly have the ability to unite people and experiences further into the digital world, giving new meaning to the word connected.



Google plans to block Google when driving. Using data about your car’s speed as an indicator for how safe it is to use your smartphone when driving (never!), it plans to pause your ability to search Google when driving. Like the Romex app that shuts off your phone while driving, but without the need to have an app – it will do it automatically. 

“So what?”

Empathy and humanity are strong at Google. Brands who play a key role in people’s lives need to consider how they are used for bad, as well as good. Empathy is a good start.



We’re expected to live more in virtual worlds. For example, a system monitoring what we see is not particularly private if you want to check your bank balance. Each virtual keystroke could be mimicked by a copycat, infringing on your privacy.

Google’s enabling a solution to scramble or hide certain parts of virtual experiences upon command. It’s difficult to understand “how” they plan to do this, but the drawings give an indication as to what the user will experience.

“So what?”

Technology needs to be stress-tested from a positive and negative point of view, and privacy is essential to that. Brands will increasingly need to educate people on how to use their digital products safely, much like banks are doing now with privacy and facial recognition. 

Three Bottom Lines:

1). DATA DRIVES CONTROL IN THE SOCIAL IOT: Giants like Facebook, Apple, Microsoft, Google and Amazon are deeply invested in convincing users to select their ‘systems’ as their connected “tissue” across devices. Beyond ease-of-use or personal preference, there are no attributes that really stand out as to why, other than “you use us for everything else, why not this too?” Enter Facebook and data from your social circles and you’ve got an interesting take; control who, and who cannot, access your IoT.

2). DATA BRINGS VALUE TO VIRTUAL AND PHSYICAL EXPERIENCES: Digital experiences have shifted from an individual sit-in-front-of static machine, to smartphones endlessly connecting people wherever they are. Social networking helps further connect individuals together, but it has always been a solo experience; an individual receiving an individual experience. 

Being able to connect and engage with multiple individuals amongst a shared experience, like an event, echoes “real” behavior, not digital. Shared experiences aren’t new; what is new is how a brand provides utility or “value” to connected individuals sharing the same experience at the same time.

3). DATA USED TO BOOST HUMANITY: Empathy is rising in interest as people further submerge their lives in digital. As people discover how digital enriches their lives, brands need to take responsibility for how people use their services – good or bad. Empathy is strong at Google; they even have a department dedicated to it.