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Apple Patents System for Tagging Broadcasts

Thursday the U.S. Patent Office published Patent Application 20080183757: Tagging Media Assets, Locations and Advertisements from six inventors at Apple, Inc. The application covers a method for applying tags to content from many sources, including broadcast radio and TV.

Apple’s abstract summarizes the patent application:

“An accessory communicates with a PMD to store tags associated with broadcasts in a file maintained in a storage medium of the accessory. In one embodiment, the accessory sends a command to the PMD to create or open a tag file that resides on the PMD. Once opened, the tag file is held open by the PMD until the accessory closes it (or disconnects), allowing multiple tags to be written to one file. Each time the user requests a new tag, the accessory generates a tag containing information descriptive of the broadcast material (e.g., song title, artist, radio station identifier, time of tagging, etc.) and writes the tag to the tag file using a write command to the PMD.”

Television broadcasts are mentioned in the application:

“As used herein, a ‘broadcast’ refers generally to real-time distribution of content (e.g., audio and/or visual data, location data, product information, etc.) via a wired or wireless medium to an arbitrary number of receivers that may be tuned in to receive it. Broadcast media can include, e.g., over-the-air radio or television (TV), satellite radio or TV, cable TV or music services, Internet streaming broadcasts, podcasts, satellite broadcasts, fiber optic distribution, and the like. Broadcast data may be transmitted in analog, digital and/or hybrid forms as is known in the art.”

The patent focuses on a system where the receiver is external to the portable media device (PMD), but it includes an option for the broadcast receiver to be installed in the PMD.

While there have been many articles pointing out how the Internet and portable media players are taking eyes and ears away from broadcast programs, this patent shows that Apple, a major technology innovator, is looking at ways to bring broadcasts into devices such as the iPod or iPhone and to create advertising, information and marketing opportunities that should benefit broadcasters.

Broadcast mobile TV fits Apple’s vision. Could this patent be a glimpse at what could become, to use a cliché, Broadcasting 2.0?

For another take on Apple’s patent, see the MacNN article, Apple Patent Reveals iTunes TV Broadcast Services Coming to the iPod/iPhone.

Doug Lung is one of America's foremost authorities on broadcast RF technology. He has been with NBC since 1985 and is currently vice president of broadcast technology for NBC/Telemundo stations.