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Where Inc. awarded geofence patent covering mobile commerce

Where Inc. has been awarded Patent No. 7,848,765 by the United States Patent Office. The patent safeguards the company’s technology related to the use of geofences in the delivery of applications, content and mobile coupons.
The patent gives Where wide legal protection in the burgeoning space of location-based services. The technology will improve the relevancy of the company’s recommendation engine, ensuring that consumers receive content and coupons that are meaningful, and are delivered where and when they want them. It will also help advertisers on the Where Ads Network deliver ads and coupons to nearby consumers.

Mobile Commerce Daily’s Giselle Tsirulnik interviewed Dan Gilmartin, vice president of marketing at Where, Boston. Here is what he said.

What is the strategy behind the geofence patent?
First, our strategy with patents is to use them to protect our business. 

As a growing and successful company, we have become a target and have been on the wrong side of two settlements already.   

We look at our patents as a shield to protect against predatory trolls. 

With regards to the patent itself, the goal was to carve out protection in an area that we believe holds tremendous value. 

Geofencing will become a de facto element of targeting on mobile as the market continues to mature.     

Can you describe the abstract of the patent?
Simply put, the patent provides us with fairly broad protection in the use of geofences to deliver content and coupons to mobile devices. 

An important element of the patent is that a geofence can be determined on a specific point of interest, or can be a radius based on the user’s mobile device. 

Therefore, we can have a user opt-in to receive data on their device when they cross the threshold of a fixed geofence. 

Additionally, we can create a moving geofence around a user and alert them when they are in the proximity of a place of interest. 

A great example (coming in our next major release) is the ability to “friend/follow” places and be alerted on offers/specials when you are in the proximity of a place. 

With this, we hope to drive the “pre-checkin” experience, helping a consumer decide where to go.

Where do you see location-based mobile marketing going in 2011?
We anticipate that the market will grow exponentially in 2011. 

In September we announced 1 billion ad requests on our Where Ads Network. 

That number doubled in November. 

We think that more big brands will get in the game with real budget dollars, not just test dollars. 

How will 2011 be different than 2010 for location-based advertising?
For Where, 2010 was all about establishing our business in two of the three Rs, Reach and Relevance.

As mentioned above, we are now handling 2 billion hyper-local ad request with an addressable audience of 50 million-plus.

We have also refined our relevance engine and are currently churning terabytes of data to create connections between people and places. 

Based on relevance, we have the ability to deliver the right ad to the right user at the right time. 

2011 will be all about the third R, Redemption.  

Redemption is mobile commerce, and will be one of the biggest opportunities in 2011. 

With solid reach and relevance, we will focus our efforts on driving transactions between our users and our merchants. 

About Patent No. 7,848,765
The patent relates to a method of providing a location-based service, comprising:

• Providing a user interface that enables a user of a portable electronic device to define a geofence at a user-selected distance about a user-selected location, the geofence graphically indicated by an outline on a map displayed in the user interface.

• Determining a current location of the portable electronic device using a location facility of the portable electronic device.

• Passing the current location to an application server that monitors the current location of the portable electronic device with respect to the geofence.

• In response to the application server determining that the current location of the portable electronic device is within the geofence, transmitting instructions to the portable electronic device to cause said device to offer a service to the user that is not offered when the user is external to the geofence.