Connected Technologies Pat-A-Thon

Collaborative event identifies Toyota’s emerging intellectual property and initiates the legal process to protect it

February 19, 2019
Mind Meld -- UX Design Engineer Emily Lerner and Connected Technologies General Manager Charan Lota were among approximately 60 team members who joined forces recently to shine a spotlight on innovative ideas developed by Connected Technologies and/or Toyota Connected.

Toyota is becoming a mobility company. That also means it’s becoming a full-on technology company.
 
The organization’s first-ever joint Pat-A-Thon, and the outpouring of intellectual property it generated, serves as tangible evidence of this transformation.
 
In the spirit of One Toyota, the all-day event — held recently at TMNA headquarters — was a collaboration of Connected Technologies, Toyota Connected and Toyota Legal One. At the core of their shared agenda were brainstorming sessions about potential innovations in such fields as blockchain, edge computing, big data and in-vehicle/voice recognition.
 
The net result? More than 300 cutting edge ideas, of which roughly 25 percent have a real shot at securing a patent.
 
“It was an amazing experience,” says Connected Technologies General Manager Charan Lota. “We hosted the Pat-A-Thon with the purpose of harnessing our collective thinking power to ensure Toyota stays on the cutting edge of technology and provides our customers with the best possible user experience.”
 
Future Focus -- "Knowing that I could be awarded a patent while planting the seed for the next generation of our products is extremely rewarding," says Lerner. 

What Are We Talking About Here?
 
Here are two examples:
 
  • Extending call ranges — In the big data category, the day is coming when many of the Toyota and Lexus vehicles on the road will be “smart cars” connected to one another via a network. That technology — known as Dedicated Short-Range Communications — could be leveraged to bridge gaps in cellular phone service, somewhat in the same way that Wi-Fi extenders boost the broadband signal within your home. Conceivably, our customers could take advantage of this improved service for free, while drivers of other vehicles could tap into it for a fee.
     
  • In-vehicle purchasing — Here’s an idea that could take the task of picking up fast food to a higher level. For instance, Toyota could design an in-vehicle system that not only makes it easy for you to, say, order a burger at the nearest drive through, but could also automatically navigate you to your meal. Meanwhile, the food preparers at the restaurant — with a lock on your GPS location – could time the frying of your fries so they’re fresh and hot when you arrive.
And there’s a lot more where these came from.
 
“It was an action-packed, fun-filled day,” says TMNA UX Design Engineer Emily Lerner. “Knowing that I could be awarded a patent while planting the seed for our next generation of products is extremely rewarding.”
 
Collaboration Elaboration -- Lota says the event sought to "harness our collective thinking power to ensure Toyota stays on the cutting edge of technology.

Partnership with Legal
 
Fred Mau — managing counsel on TMNA’s Intellectual Property team — says Legal is ready and willing to do its part
 
 “We’re here to facilitate the business. That’s why we exist,” he says. “We find ourselves in an incredibly competitive environment, not just with other car companies but increasingly with tech companies. So now, more than ever, we need to protect our intellectual property and stay ahead of the curve. That includes securing enough budget to make it happen; It costs about $10,000 to submit an idea for a patent.”
 
This commitment to intellectual property is nothing new. In 2017, Toyota led all automakers worldwide with 2,015 U.S. patents. That’s a jump up of 24 percent on an already strong showing in 2016.
 
Not surprisingly, planning for the next Pat-A-Thon is already in the works according to Steve Basra, vice president of Connected Technologies.
 
“Events like this are common at start-up companies and we need to be doing them, too,” he says. “We need to leverage new technologies to create new revenue opportunities for Toyota and take the necessary steps to protect these ideas for the future.”
 
By Dan Miller
 

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