Facebook always seems to be at the forefront of the kinds of technological advances that integrate into our daily lives. And it’s no different with its newest patent. On 8 May 2018, Facebook was issued with a patent that outlines a system to allow users to control networked devices around their home through an app on their mobile device.
True to form, it will also enable the social network to offer up adverts based on the contents of the user’s home. This could be what’s in their fridge, or the décor in their living room.
The patent is titled “Controlling Devices Through Social Media” (US Patent #9,967,259). The filing lays out a number of different scenarios covering how and when a Facebook user might use their networked devices throughout their home.
It also outlines how Facebook would then take the data gathered from the sensors throughout the home to present targeted advertisements to the user. Despite the recent problems Facebook has had when it comes to data gathering and use of said data, the social networking giant is still forging ahead with more varied data gathering technology.
If this patent becomes a reality, then Facebook won’t just use a person’s profile to harvest data for advertising purposes, but also what they do, buy and use at home.
One example of this working in real life is laid out in the patent application. It involves Facebook accessing a camera within a user’s fridge, gathering information of the products in the fridge and serving up a meal suggestion.
A quote from the patent application says: “As an example and not by way of limitation, a refrigerator may include cameras to take pictures of items placed in the refrigerator and upload the images to the cloud, where image recognition may be performed upon the images, and an identification of the items may be provided to the refrigerator. As another example, a refrigerator may retrieve recipes from the cloud based on the items in the refrigerator and user-preference information from the user’s social network.”
The patent also talks about how Facebook would notify the user when a product is due to run out. For example, if they’re just about to run out of milk, Facebook will chime and remind them.
Most people would consider this rather intrusive, but Facebook further outline how they would send targeted advertising to people connected with the user. For example, if a user buys a certain brand of sauce, leading to a targeted group of people receiving a notification based on that brand or product.
If the timing of this patent is confusing, given the recent media and government attention on Facebook’s use of user data, it’s because it was filed a while ago. In fact the patent was filed back in July 2014, before the US election that highlighted suspect use of Facebook gathered data, and all that has ensued since.
Simply put, people just weren’t as worried about data privacy as they are today. It’s also worth noting that when Facebook filed this patent in 2014, it was part of its drive to turn the platform into an Internet of Things platform. It was only in 2016 that Facebook decided to remove its IoT platform, which was called Parse and had been under development for a few years.
However, it’s unlikely Facebook will turn its back on developing ever more ways to harvest data in order to use it for advertising purposes. It’s worth keeping a look out for any developments following this patent to figure out how and when Facebook will renew its push into the physical environment.
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