Comcast details pharmacy, coupon, refrigerator apps in 'life management services' patent

Comcast (Nasdaq: CMCSA) engineers have developed a system that could allow the MSO to tell subscribers when food in refrigerators is about to go bad, prescription medications are up for renewal, or if an elderly relative has stopped moving, according to a recent patent application.

While Comcast executives have said that the cloud-based Xfinity X1 digital cable service that it has rolled out in dozens of cities could allow it to rapidly deploy new interactive applications, the nation's largest cable operator has only deployed a handful of apps that can be accessed on TVs and mobile devices, including Facebook and apps that deliver horoscopes, stock prices, news, sports and traffic information.

Comcast's patent application, titled Life Management Services, offers a glimpse at new cloud-based services it could offer through Xfinity, including telemedicine and enhancements for its Xfinity Home security and automation service.

Comcast's patent application offers a possible main screen menu.

Much of the patent application focuses on how Comcast could use mobile devices to deliver push notifications, and ways to deliver messages based on the location of subscribers, and data from motion detectors installed in customer homes.

"The motion detection service can be used to determine whether more occupants are present than expected, indicating burglary, and also to be used to determine mobility of persons in each room. Mobility determining is particularly advantageous where an elderly person lives alone," Comcast wrote in the application, which was published by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office on Dec. 26.

Comcast, which demonstrated telehealth applications in December at an event it hosted at its Silicon Valley Innovation Center, outlines in the patent how it could allow subscribers to renew prescription medications with a few clicks of a remote control, smartphone or tablet. It details additional medical devices that could be tied into its automation platform, including scales, blood pressure cuffs, glucose readers and medication monitors.

Comcast's patent includes a look at an interface for prescription renewals.

The MSO shows ways that it may be able to monetize new cloud-based services, such as a coupon application that "may deliver offers for discounted items and services from multiple coupon vendors."

Comcast also explains how it may be able to help subscribers manage the barrage of information delivered by Internet-connected devices. "Today, we are faced with a wide array of services to enhance our lifestyle. Email, text messaging, phone calls, home security information, television content and announcements, computer provided information and pop-ups, and a variety of other useful services often compete for our attention. Managing the array, however, can be difficult, as each service often requires input from the user, and the user sometimes misses important notifications. There is a constant need to improve the service experience such that the benefits to the consumer are maximized while the burden on the consumer is minimized," Comcast wrote in the patent application, which it filed at USPTO on June 20, 2012.

Comcast officials declined to comment on the patent application. Inventors named on the application include Comcast SVP of Strategic Planning Mark Coblitz, Business Development and Strategy Specialist Wendy Park, Distinguished Engineer Jim Poder and Julie Kim, former Comcast director of strategic planning.

For more:
- see the patent application

Special Report: Comcast leads cable's push for cut of $13B home security and automation market

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