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REF NO.: 137

SUBJECT: Memorial University professor’s patented technology to put m-commerce on the map
DATE: Dec. 16, 2004

After countless hours of experimenting with logarithms and large numbers, Dr. Jim Wyse, a professor at Memorial’s Faculty of Business Administration, has a new favourite number: 6,792,421. That’s the number the United States Patent Office assigned to his “location-aware” method of retrieving location-qualified information.

For almost five years, he’s been working on software that addresses an important speed of service issue that arises in mobile commerce (m-commerce) and other applications that provide location-based services. Now, with the help of Memorial’s Genesis Group, his idea has been patented and is being marketed to large database providers like Oracle and Microsoft.

“Internet search engines are good at providing information that matches specific words and phrases,” explained Dr. Wyse, “but they’re not good at answering proximity questions like ‘what’s nearest’ or ‘what’s closest’ which are critically important in many m-commerce applications. For example, if you want to know where the nearest hospital is, it takes quite a long time to determine that with existing Internet-based search engines, even if the hospital is right around the corner.”

One of the challenges of mobile technology is finding a method to search large databases of information in a fast, effective manner. “If you’re mobile and you change position the old answer to what’s nearest to you isn’t valid anymore,” said Dr. Wyse.

“You need to have your computer or handheld device ask the question again. If you need to find the nearest medical facility then that question has to be asked every time you move. The query is being asked continuously so you can see how retrieval time is much more important in the mobile world than it is in a normal Internet search. When you have a lot of users changing positions, you place a tremendous burden on servers. Evaluation trials show that the technology that has been developed substantially reduces that burden.”

Dr. Wyse’s patented technology works with another system he created several years ago that presents users with fast, reliable information about what is around them. Using a radar-like screen called i-DAR, users can query what businesses, services, etc. are close to them and then link to their various Web pages. For example, travelers could ask their computers to display the nearest inns or hotels. From there, they could select a particular location, click on the Web link and find out more about the establishment. Web-based facilities like i­DAR have recently become available to Internet users and these facilities will be able to provide improved service to their users by incorporating the patented technology.

“Patent offices just don’t grant patents willy nilly,” said John Guzzwell, a technology commercialization officer at Memorial’s Genesis Group. “Only a small fraction of patent applications actually pass the examination process and finally result in a patent, so the issuance of a patent is a notable achievement.”

Now that the technology has been patented, Genesis Group is stepping-up its marketing efforts to find a partner that may be interested in licensing the software. The first step is to search Newfoundland and Labrador for interested companies, followed by Atlantic Canada, the entire country and finally the international marketplace. The technology may be licensed exclusively to one company, or if the invention has a large market, non-exclusive licenses may be provided to numerous companies.

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