RIM Patent Concerns Billboards, Traffic Flow: Possible Link to ‘Traffic’ App

Research In Motion (RIM)—the maker of the BlackBerry smartphone—filed two patents related to advertising billboards and GPS measurements of traffic speed and density. First reported by Unwired View, the patents are titled “Adaptive roadside billboard system and related methods” and “Adaptive pedestrian billboard system and related methods.” When you combine the details of what they contain with RIM’s recent moves into GPS systems, car integration and mobile advertising markets, you start to form an interesting picture.

The patents describe a system which powers video billboards and change the message on it in response to the rate of pedestrian or automobile traffic passing by it. Traffic moving at high speeds past it would be shown shorter advertisements for products and services that are designed to grab the attention of passersby and increase brand recognition. Traffic moving past the billboards at slower speeds (traffic jams, congested streets, the exits of subway stations, etc.) would be treated to longer advertisements with more details and designed to facilitate a sale or at least sway potential customers. Interesting stuff.

RIM already has an app out called ‘Traffic’ that is still being worked on, but so far displays distance and estimated time of arrival (ETA) for people on the go.

The smartphone maker also recently purchased QNX Systems. This company makes of a variety of high end integrated operating systems and is quite familiar with automobile integration for GPS and other ‘smart’ car features. (Its software also powers the military’s ‘Crusher Tank’ and may even find its way onto the rumored BlackBerry ‘BlackPad’.)

How all of these jigsaw pieces fit into place is quite a mystery, but kind of makes sense when you think about it. Crowd sourcing location and travel information from all of the BlackBerrys out in the world is an interesting idea when combined with billboards and advertisements. No one knows yet if RIM will really stick with this patent idea, but it seems to me to be like the next evolution of static billboards. They are really due for an overhaul anyway. This also signals that RIM realizes that it might not win the smartphone wars. Settling for a good sized chunk of the smartphone market but making a hefty profit off of corporate IT solutions and this location powered side business could be a possible makeover strategy for RIM.

No matter what you think all of the pieces together mean, they are some food for thought. Smartphone companies are not just settling for smartphones anymore. Apple, Google, RIM and even Dell now are plunging ahead into new markets. These markets are tablets, mobile advertising, search, location based services, and every new niche market in between. It is a dog eat dog tech world out there.

Think these patents mean anything or does RIM really plan to keep all of its eggs in its BlackBerry basket?

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