Vendors are vying to lock up rights to the social-enterprise. Here's a selective look at cool patent tech from Cisco, IBM, Microsoft, OpenText , and SAP, as well as two surprising newcomers.
As befits a filing from a communications powerhouse, inventors Carlos Guzman and Sanjay Agraharam note: "Individuals using social network systems can communicate synchronously or asynchronously, but these systems lack integration with real-time services such as telephony, video, and data sharing. In addition, these systems lack the means to communicate with individuals who are "offline" or to reach these individuals based on their current or last known digital presences (i.e., the communication devices currently or last known to be used by the individuals)."
"Method and Apparatus For Multimedia Collaboration Using a Social Network System" attempts to plug that gap.(click through to the slideshow to see an image from the AT&T patent application.)
5) SAP's Collaboration Environment
Well before the SAP released its StreamWork product in March 2010, SAP was attempting to patent collaborative technologies. Patent 7,676,542, "Establishing a Collaboration Environment," awarded in March, began as an application in 2002. Inventors Martin Moser, Stefan Mueller, Martin Kreyscher and Christian Nester are claiming a "computer-implemented method of establishing a collaboration area that facilitates collaboration on a project between members of an enterprise."
The patent acknowledges that there are many existing collaboration tools. What SAP is bringing to the party is the ability to establish virtual collaboration areas, and to manage the movement of users and content in and out of those sandboxes. The figure I've reproduced (click through to the slideshow) illustrates a mock-up of one user's overview, showing her ability to add co-workers into her collaboration space.
More recently, on June 24, 2010, SAP applied for a patent which extends collaboration into a multi-channel environment. (Patent application 20100162131 is entitled "Collaboration Interface For A Multi-Channel Collaboration Window With Context Support.") Another image I've grabbed (at right) shows a nice stab at a well-contained collaborative window, which includes contact information as well as navigation panes. A notation at the bottom about telephony gives a nod to the fact that most social enterprise apps live or die on the strength of their unified communications backbone.
6) IBM: Collaboration Goes Wireless
Can't get enough of enterprise sociability at your desk? Well, IBM wants to help you take the experience with you. Patent 7,734,691, issued June 8, 2010, is for "Providing collaboration services to a wireless device."