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Inside the wacky world of patents

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Patents are a ubiquitous part of industry, but we bring to the fore some of the weirder ones that slipped under the radar.

Spotify

Spotify has received a patent for a technique that uses recordings of users’ speech and background noise to determine what kind of music to curate and recommend to them. The patent was applied for in 2018 and approved on January 12, 2021. Speech recognition technology could potentially be used to identify metadata such as emotional state, gender, age, accent, and even environment.

Spotify has applied for a patent for a system that would allow it to generate music recommendations. It’s unclear whether Spotify has set a timeline for integrating this technology into its desktop or mobile apps. It’s also unclear whether the technology is actually in use or if the patent is merely hypothetical. Keep in mind that patents are frequently issued by tech companies for technology that never makes it to market.

IBM

On August 7, 2018, IBM received a US patent for the invention, ‘Drone Delivery of Coffee Based on an Individual’s Cognitive State.’ The corporation filed the patent application in 2015, with a previous date of June 22, 2017. The invention is a method for delivering a drink to a human utilising an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) or drone by sensing a specified cognitive state of the individual.

IBM has filed a patent application for a coffee cup with a built-in heating system. According to the business, it will be able to evaluate whether a person’s performance is good enough to drink coffee based on the time of day, sleep quality, schedule, and other characteristics. A gimbal system and an in-built coffee cup warming are also included in the patent.

Drones might be used to serve coffee and drinks in a bar, according to a patent application. Although the concept is just that, it would be fascinating to watch drones in the skies pouring coffee alongside Amazon’s drones carrying deliveries. The privacy concerns are substantial because the UAV can scan a multitude of details when on the go.

Amazon 

Amazon has been granted a patent for a massive flying warehouse that serves as a drone launchpad. The e-commerce behemoth outlined ideas for an “airborne fulfilment centre” (AFC) resembling a blimp or an airship. A drone or unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will fly down and deliver the package when a consumer placed an order. Because the drone would be gliding down rather than taking off and landing, Amazon claims that it would use very little electricity.

The American Football Association AFC has filed a patent application for a warehouse blimp that could be used to store products before a game. Customers could order things and have them delivered throughout the game using the airship as a large advertising board. It would be able to communicate with drones via a mesh network to provide weather and route information.

Amazon has filed a patent application for a blimp that can stay in the air while being refuelled by a shuttle. If this proposal were to become a reality, Amazon would almost certainly need regulatory permission from aviation authorities, which might be a lengthy process. The patent was granted in April, but it was just recently made public after CB Insights analyst Zoe Leavitt discovered it and tweeted it.

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The story of Tiktok and beyond

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The story of Tiktok as social media apps

As social media apps like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter were staying strong in the digital age, TikTok seemed to appear out of nowhere to share the thunder with the social media giants mentioned earlier.

TikTok is an entertaining, addictive app that managed to win over the hearts of people, mainly the youth. It is a short-form video platform, has perhaps become the hottest app ever as it has over 2.3 billion all-time downloads. The growth of TikTok has been exponential.

Right after the collaboration with Musical.ly, ByteDance launched TikTok. It instantly got the reception that was expected to reach around 800 million active users. Not just the youth but people from all age groups made it on TikTok. It was also known for the creation of jobs, as “influencers” made huge profits online.

TikTok in India saw a huge rise in the number of users (over 200 million). But just when TikTok was expanding in India, India’s long-time dispute with China seemed to be ignited again. In a move that month befitting Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “Make in India” initiative, the Indian government removed 59 Chinese-made apps, TikTok among them, citing national security concerns.

Left reel-ing

Not only was Tiktok hit hard, but also the influencers lost a majority of their livelihood. There were petitions, protests to bring TikTok back but none of them worked. Suddenly, 200 million people had to live in a post-TikTok era. Many apps like MX TakaTak, Josh, Roposo, etc. tried to replace TikTok in India, but could not create the impact TikTok did. After that, social media giants like Instagram and Facebook decided to quickly take the stage and launch ‘reels’ which did have a significant impact on the TikTok audience but failed to connect with the ‘hinterland’ part of India like TikTok.

There is also the grisly undertone of ‘classism’, as TikTok succeeded not just because of the content on it, but who was on it. Even as Facebook, Instagram, and the likes were flooded with users from urban India, TikTok gave India’s hinterland creators a voice. Once it went dark, these erstwhile TikTok users faced a deluge of criticism, outright hate, and a much reduced fan following. Even as the Indian audience continues its search to find the right successor of TikTok, many look forward to TikTok’s return with bated breath.

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Credit cards for India’s unbanked, now a reality

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Galaxy-Cards-Marksmen-Daily

Credit cards are an excellent way to build credit and make important purchases when cash is a bit tight. However, not everyone has access to a credit card, and this is particularly true in India, where financial inclusion remains a challenge. Across India, approximately 400 million people cannot “afford” a credit card, leaving them out of the financial mainstream and without access to a critical financial instrument. One startup, named GalaxyCard, provides a digital credit card specifically to these low-income individuals overlooked by others. And they issue these cards within 3 minutes. 

This FinTech startup ties up with multiple channels like UPI, in-app services, and even offline. Around 1 lakh digital cards have been issued until now, with annual revenues touching Rs. 1 Crore.

Amit Kumar, who previously founded the mobile-based payment application firm Eashmart, which was eventually bought by PayUMoney in 2014, co-founded GalaxyCard with his friend Gunjeet Singh. The latter was closing down his own logistics firm Truckload at the time, after repeated stints as a product manager.

How does it work?

The income model of the firm is comparable to that of a traditional bank, but with smaller ticket sizes. The credit limit lies within a minimum of Rs. 1,000 and a maximum of Rs. 25,000. A user can begin with Rs. 1,000, and when the system collects additional information (such as how the money is spent, repayment time, overdue, other sources of income, dependency, and so on), the limit rises to Rs. 5,000, then Rs. 25,000, but remains below the user’s total steady income. The ‘bump up’ is based on the user’s financial situation, and it is thoroughly scrutinized by the platform to keep dangers of default to a minimum. 

As fintech rises exponentially, companies tend to change their business model as technology and requirements evolve. If India’s digital banking ecosystem is to grow, it must look beyond the pool of users in urban cities, and bring in those within India’s hinterland to its fold. GalaxyCard is an interesting solution to a long-time problem faced by the unbanked, and could well solve rural India’s credit conundrum. 

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CoinSwitch Kuber: The story of India’s largest crypto exchange

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The growth of Cryptocurrency over the years has been astronomical. People are now tempted to take their first steps into the world of crypto. To make trading, investing, and knowledge of crypto easier for people, three engineers, Ashish Singhal (CEO), Govind Soni (CTO), and Vimal Sagar (COO) launched ‘CoinSwitch Kuber’ in 2017. This began the journey of a platform that is now home to over 11 million users.

In early 2018, the Reserve Bank of India (RBI) issued a policy that did not allow the banks to support crypto transactions that forced the three founders to spread their idea outside India with the VC, Sequoia Capital funding them in the seed round. But soon in early 2020, their dream of shedding light on the digital currency in India came true as the Supreme Court of India overturned RBI’s policy. ‘CoinSwitch Kuber’ was then introduced to the people of India.

Ashish defines simplified User Experience (UX) and the decision to not provide the users with some trading features as the two factors that helped the platform overtake other coin exchanges.

CoinSwitch recently suspended crypto withdrawals for its users due to lack of clear rules concerning the currency. Clarifying the move, Ashish says, “This was perhaps the hardest call we had to take. But regulators are worried about crypto being used as legal tender and hurting the sovereignty of the Indian rupee. Further, they are worried crypto can be used for money laundering and other illicit activities. So far, no one has figured out how to stop it, but disabling crypto withdrawals in a stopgap measure till the right policies come in place.”

Talking about the future, the founders aim to transform this app into a full-time investment platform with crypto and traditional financial instruments available for everyone. Praising the investors such as a16z, the founders hope that the Indian government defines the rules around crypto better, and compartmentalize virtual currencies based on their use cases and not prohibit it in upcoming legislation.

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