Good Afternoon from FedInvent,
We hope you had a festive Fourth of July. Here’s what happened in the Federal Innovation Ecosphere on Tuesday July 6, 2021.
In the midst of writing this week’s newsletter there was a communique from DOD. It reminded us that doing big innovation in the federal government is never simple.
JEDI is Dead. Long Live JWCC.
The Federal government’s plans to deploy new and innovative technology can get messy. DOD planned to buy cloud services to provide the infrastructure for DOD to modernize, and for implementation of a 21st-century architecture to enable them to build advanced technology. Even when the plans are solid things get in the way. In those situations, DOD is left with no choice but to say, "Enough already." That’s what the Department of Defense (DOD) said today when it canceled its $10 billion, 10 year Joint Enterprise Defense Infrastructure (JEDI) cloud services contract. To move things forward sometimes you have to start over.
JEDI started in 2017. Over the last twenty months, DOD awarded the contract to Microsoft twice. Amazon protested the award twice. DOD went to court a lot of times to object to the protest and support their source selection decision. Amazon pressed its case that the evaluation of its proposal was unfair because of then-President Trump’s bias toward both Amazon and its then-CEO Jeff Bezos. The courts let things move ahead. DOD was faced with high drama depositions of senior DOD leadership and former Trump administration officials which would lead to even more court battles over executive privilege, confidentiality on how DOD evaluates bids, and more. No deployment of technology was not seen anytime soon. So DOD said, "Enough already."
This time around the plan is to give the program a new name, Joint Warfighter Cloud Capability (JWCC), no time for a fancy acronym. DOD is switching to five year a multiple award business model, multiple companies that meet DOD’s requirements who compete for work on the contract. This is the path DOD should have taken in the first place. The goal of JEDI was to give DOD a state of the art secure cloud platform to innovate on. DOD was locking themselves into ten years with one vendor. Good move.
Then it took an interesting turn. The Pentagon made clear that only Microsoft Azure and Amazon Web Services have the capacity to build the new architecture. DOD will be negotiating new contracts with both.
When the JEDI program started, only two cloud platforms on the Earth met DOD’s requirements — Amazon’s AWS and Microsoft’s Azure. The smart money expected Amazon to win. Then the fun started with the awards, the protests, and the lawyers. While Microsoft and Amazon worked on their protests, the rest of hyperscale cloud service providers — Google, Oracle, and IBM — were busy innovating and getting their new platforms certified to meet DOD and federal government standards. To appease these firms, DOD said it would do market research to see if these firms meet its new requirements. If they do, DOD will negotiate with those companies. There’s no guarantee that these firms won’t balk at DOD not running a new full and open competition. On the other hand, big proposals cost a lot of money. It’s better to just get a contract and duke it out in the marketplace for the orders. Stay tuned.
Andy Jassy, Amazon’s new CEO is having a good first week on the job. This is a win for Amazon. They are now guaranteed a piece of the DOD (and IC) cloud infrastructure. Not such a good week for Microsoft.
Keeping with this week’s DOD theme, here is the latest on the DOD patent front.
DRONE CATCHERS — READ THIS PATENT
DOD and the Air Force mean business when dealing with national security threats in the sky. Their latest invention is 11,054,224, System for physically capturing and signal-defeating unmanned aerial vehicles.
The invention is, "a system for defeating a threat unmanned aerial vehicle that includes a friendly unmanned aerial vehicle and a containment system. The containment system is deployable from the friendly unmanned aerial vehicle and includes a signal blocking enclosure and a capturing device. The signal blocking enclosure is formed of a conductive material for shielding radio frequency signals from propagating in or out of the signal blocking enclosure. The capturing device is configured for arresting the threat unmanned aerial vehicle and positioning an arrested threat unmanned aerial vehicle within the signal blocking enclosure."
It works like this, the drone operator chases a threat drown. It traps that drone in an enclosure on the friendly drone. Then it blocks the threat drones signaling capability. The friendly drone then flies it back to a friendly location where it releases the threat drone and heads back out for another enemy drone capturing encounter. Very cleaver.
The Background of the Invention says, "…the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria ("ISIS") commonly use home-modified and commercial, off-the-shelf UASs (typically Group 1 UAVs) to monitor troop movements and for propaganda purposes in the Middle East. More recently, there has been a push by ISIS to weaponize these systems to cause direct harm and loss of life to allied forces." DOD has had enough of that too.
DOD has limited who can have the drone catcher. The patent says, "The invention described herein may be manufactured, used, and licensed by or for the U.S. Government."
FedInvent encourages DOD to engage in conversations with the FAA to help them develop the capability to capture the knucklehead drones that fly over US airports. The five federal agencies that are responsible for wildfire management, USDA's Forest Service and the Department of the Interior's Bureau of Indian Affairs, Bureau of Land Management, Fish and Wildlife Service, and National Park Service might also be a good target market for getting drones out of the way in restricted spaces near wildfires. (Can the drone catcher handle the heat?)
The Navy received US patent 11,054,230, Flexible anti-personnel mine. "An anti-personnel mine that is flexible for manipulation in the field to accommodate missions by changing the shape of the C-4." Another exclusive invention with limited commercialization potential, "The invention described herein may be manufactured and used by or for the Government of the United States of America for Governmental purposes without the payment of any royalties thereon or therefor."
Hide In Plain Sight
Each week our analysis turns up some patents and patent applications we categorized as "Government Rights Acknowledged".
The entries on this list come in several flavors:
FedInvent Can’t Tell — Patents where we can’t make a definitive decision on which federal agency funded the inventions yet.
They Didn’t Have To Tell — These patents have government interest statements reporting support from government entities that are not federal government entities.
The Assignee Won’t Tell — The other group of "Government Rights Acknowledged" patents are those where the assignees simply acknowledges that they had federal funding and acknowledged that the government has certain rights to the invention but doesn’t identify the agency and the contract that funded the work.
Inside FedInvent, researching these patents are our most interesting patent intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) and open-source intelligence (OSINT) work. We make our own prognostications on who paid for these invention.
This week there are four “Government Rights Acknowledged” patents.
Number 1: Raytheon
Raytheon, number one on the “Not Telling Leaderboard”, was granted 11,053,858, Low leakage seal for tower shaft. This is a patent for more gas turbine engine technology. The oddsmakers at FedInvent say this one is probably Air Force or Navy (or both.)
Number 2: HRL Laboratories
Next, we looked at HRL Laboratories, LLC's 11,055,872, Real-time object recognition using cascaded features, deep learning, and multi-target tracking. HRL Laboratories is a research center in Malibu, California, owned by General Motors Corporation and Boeing. The invention uses a convolutional neural network, a class of deep neural networks, most commonly applied to analyze visual imagery, unmanned aerial and ground vehicles (drones) and EO (electro-optical) or IR (infrared) vision-based object/target recognition.
The patent notes, "The invention described herein allows EO (electro-optical) or IR (infrared) vision-based object/target recognition in real-time even on small, low power, low cost platform (such UAVs and UGVs). This approach is also amendable for implementation on emerging spiking neuromorphic hardware, for example, a neuromorphic chip. Neuromorphic chips mimic the human brain’s neural pathways.
The HRL Laboratories invention can be used in intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) operations, border security, and mission safety, such as for UAV-based surveillance, human activity detection, threat detection, and distributed mobile operations. For example, for a military application, the classified object output can be used to alert the driver/team that there is a high-confidence "MAN" target and its location. The vehicle can then take evasive action or attack that target after manual confirmation of its danger. For a remotely operated vehicle, it can also provide a similar alert.
The same technology has non-military use. "For instance, in a self-driving vehicle, the system can be used for collision avoidance. In this example, if the system detects an object in its path (e.g., a pedestrian, another vehicle), an alert may be sent to the vehicle operating system to cause the vehicle to perform a braking operation. Alternatively, the alert may signal that the vehicle operating system should perform a swerving motion around the object, involving steering and accelerating operations or any other operations as required to provide for collision avoidance. Further, the object detected may be a road sign, such as a stop sign. After classification of the stop sign, an alert can be sent to the vehicle operating system causing the vehicle to brake or otherwise adhere to the message as conveyed by the road sign. The system may also be configured to perform a vehicle operation through direct control of steering, braking, or throttle controls rather than providing an alert to a human or another mechanical system."
The first-named inventor on this patent worked on NEMESIS, a bio-inspired system of fast, accurate video processing that emulates the human vision system. With NEMESIS, small drones can extract, recognize and track human movement, behaviors, and overall scenes from multi-modal sensor data, providing high-quality tactical decisions and actionable intelligence to warfighters on the ground as action is happening. This work was supported by the Office of Naval Research (ONR).
The acronym: Netted Emulation of Multi-Element Signature against Integrated Sensors, or NEMESIS. You can read about NEMESIS here. In case you’re wondering they did their live field demonstrations on November 14, 2019, at Camp Snyder in Prince William County Virginia, Camp Snyder is a Boy Scout camp.
There’s also HRL Laboratories, LLC, project to develop a machine learning system that leverages knowledge of a set of labeled data onto a new unlabeled data set the way a child can recognize a zebra while only having ever seen a horse, but being told that zebras look like striped horses. This area of research, zero-shot learning, motivates the program Automated Multisource Adaptation via Zero-shot Information Generation or AMAZING. The AMAZING project is being funded under the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency (DARPA)’s Learning with Less Labels (LwLL) program.
One of the other inventors worked on HRL’s Adversarial Game-based Iterative Learning Engine or AGILE program. HRL will develop advanced reinforcement learning (RL) algorithms, a type of machine learning that does not require any human-labeled data to train an AI agent. The AGILE project is part of Serial Interactions in Imperfect Information Games Applied to Complex Military Decision Making (SI3-CMD), a program of the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency, or DARPA, focused on applying recent developments in artificial intelligence and game theory to complex military decision making in changing multi-agent environments. You can read about AGILE here.
We’re up to three program acronyms — NEMISIS, AMAZING and AGILE. The FedInvent oddsmakers are going with 50/50 odds on ONR or DARPA on this one. One patent two agencies.
Number 3: ProbiusDx
Patent number 11054380, All-electronic high-throughput analyte detection system granted to ProbiusDx, Inc. was funded by DARPA.
Number 4: Eagle Technology, LLC
Eagle Technology, LLC in Melbourne, FL received US 11056797, Articles comprising a mesh formed of carbon nanotube yarn. NASA has an ongoing program to develop high-strength carbon nanotube material and yarn. Eagle Technology's office in Melbourne is 1025 W. NASA BOULEVARD. We'll go with NASA as the funding agency for this invention.
Wait, There’s More — 39 Million Users
The US Postal Service was granted a patent for its Informed Delivery service that sends you images of the mail you can expect in your mailbox that day, US Patent 11,055,653, System and method for providing informed delivery items using a hybrid-digital mailbox.
As Ron Popeil, the great American inventor and marketer used to say, "Wait, there’s more." The patent presents a method for, "Enabling digital advertising to mail item recipients, as well as other objects, may be achieved by systems and methods for creating, managing, and distributing supplement content, in addition to distributing physical mail items, according to embodiments of the disclosure as described herein." The supplemental content is, "supplemental content can refer to digital coupons, graphics, videos, emails, webpages, hyperlinks, text messages, instant messages, social media messages, text, augmented reality interfaces, and the like." USPS will coordinate the delivery of physical advertising material with "supplemental digital content". You’ll get the digital content in your digital mailbox with the catalog or other physical catalogs and other material in your physical mailbox. Digital marketing content, aka supplemental content, goes with the physical marketing material.
The Invention On the Kitchen Counter
The first reaction was geez, just what I need, more email spam and more junk mail but wait… I started looking for an image to add to the FedInvent newsletter, I didn’t have to go further than to the kitchen. I remembered that I saw this ad in my email and that the catalog was sitting on the counter. (Isn't that how marketing is supposed to work?) The taxpayer-funded invention was on my phone, in my email, and on my kitchen counter.
The recycling bin is on the trajectory from the mailbox to the house. I am an avid junk mail tosser. But here’s the deal, I love a good catalog. I like the tactile experience of turning the pages. I still dog-ear the pages of the things I want to buy. I had a little intellectual vertigo. Did I remember the email because of the catalog? Did I remember the advertisement because I opened the email? Did I bring the catalog into the house because of the email? What’s going on here?
Marketing gurus tell you that it takes seven views of an online ad before someone engages with a brand. How does this new paradigm work? Does walking past the counter where the catalog sits count as an ad encounter? Does picking up the catalog count? The direct mail marketing companies, the ones who actually run the marketing campaigns that result in the catalogs and coupons ending up in your mailbox market their products by pointing out that we all have email marketing fatigue, that we still love the tactile experience of holding a well done piece of direct mail. If they get you to bring it into the house, how long will it lay on the counter or on the coffee table calling out, "read me," to each passerby by? You can't do that with an email.
We did an informal survey of friends and family and found that most of them use Informed Delivery. It seems to run more female than male in our unscientific survey. Even the millennials are using it. When we asked why they said they don’t check their mailboxes regularly but use Informed Delivery to see if it’s worth the trip. There is USPS user enthusiasm about the ability to see what packages are going to be delivered that day to give the USPS customer an edge in the never-ending battle against the Porch Pirates who are stealing their stuff.
A Compelling Value Proposition
When you look at government patents you usually need to ponder licensing, university technology transfer, and a whole bunch of other rubric of complex stuff to analyze whether the invention will make it to the marketplace. Here we have a patent for a functioning product that is generating revenue. And we have public budget and performance information we can analyze.
USPS has the address of every mailbox in the United States and goes to each one daily. According to USPS’s datasheet on Informed Delivery, more than 39 million customers have enrolled since the service launched in 2017. How many brands have a 39 million customer mailing list?
According to the USPS, Informed Delivery emails have a 64.7% open rate. That’s a lot of impressions that create brand awareness. The average open rate for marketing email around 18%. So 64.7% is amazing. Most digital ads have about a 2-3% click-through rate. It’s unclear from the USPS material what their click-through rate is. Some internet prognosticators claim it’s less than 1%. Half to the 2-3% numbers reported by Campaign Monitor. But here the question is do you need a user to click-through when later the same day the physical mailing piece is in the hands of the customer.
USPS sends the email to its Informed Delivery customers early in the morning, mine arrives like clockwork each day at 7:30 AM EDT. Our two New Jersey correspondents get theirs between 8:30 and 9:00 AM EDT. Eighty-two percent (82%) open and scroll through the email when it arrives in the morning; 16% in the afternoon; and 2% in the evening.
Brands have the email addresses of their customers as well as a trove of data on your internet search and website visit habits as it relates to their products, and those of their competitors. Brands have the demographics of their customers, USPS has the mailing and emailing addresses for its customers, a lot of them.
Brands are already engaging with direct physical marketing based on your internet search and website visits. I have been getting direct mail pieces that seem to correlate to my internet browsing. (I had been looking at chairs and then the Ballard Design catalog showed up.) I got a direct mail marketing piece with a discount from Wayfair while I was looking at chairs, too. Adding a digital ad for Informed Delivery customers may be a force multiplier. The brand’s customers will see the ad in the morning and know that later that day something coming to their mailbox today.
The program is an interesting vehicle for traditional mailers to enhance the digital components of their products and services. Mail Service Providers (MSPs) that support mail owners with mail printing, addressing, barcoding, sorting, distribution; and Advertising Agencies that support mail owners with media decisions, campaign creative, mailpiece design, as well as digital marketing creative can now deliver a new type of integrated campaign.
I asked the FedInvent digital marketing correspondents for their reaction. A very ho-hum response. "I get banner ads on the emails when I get delivery notices from FedEx and UPS." I asked if they use Informed Delivery themselves. Yes, they are opening those emails every day. USPS gets six opportunities a week to get in front of its Informed Delivery users and another six when the direct mail marketing piece arrives in the mailbox. They only engage with FedEx and UPS delivery email when the chairs from Wayfair are on their way.
In closing, a little patent geekery. USPS filed two provisional patent applications — No. 62/467,679 and 62/508,931, filed March 6, 2017 and May 19, 2017, respectively. The non-provisional patent application was filed March 5, 2018. (That's cutting it close.) Direct mail marketers who collaborated with USPS have published their own marketing material saying that the advertising part of the Informed Delivery program started on September 1, 2019. The nationwide roll out of the Informed Delivery program without ads looks like it started April 1, 2017. (Also cutting it close.) The priority dates may be tight but then who is going to try to invalidate their patent? They have a monopoly on the in-mailbox market.
The taxpayers can expect a return on this investment.
Patents By The Numbers This Tuesday
This week there were 146 patents taxpayer-funded patents; 132 patents that have government interest statements, and 33 patents that have government agencies as an assignee or applicant. There were 181 references to federal government departments and agencies in the 146 taxpayer-funded patents granted this week.
These 132 patents are the work of 512 inventors 499 from the US and 13 foreign inventors from ten countries. This week US inventors came from 37 states with the top five states, California, Massachusetts, New York, Ohio, New Jersey accounting for 253 of the inventors. This week’s FedInvent Patents page has the complete list of inventor and assignee geography.
The Technology Centers
Here is this week’s breakdown on the Technology Center where these patents were examined. There is a detailed information about the Art Unit for each patent on the FedInvent Patents Detail page.
(You can find information about how Technology Centers are organized here.)
The Health Complex
The Health Complex includes patents funded by The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) organized by National Institutes of Health (NIH) institute; and HHS subagencies including the Food and Drug Admimistration (FDA), the Center for Disease Control (CDC), and others.
This week the Health Complex at NIH received 50 of the 59 patents funded by Health and Human Services this week. The top five institutes this week are National Cancer Institute (NCI) — 13; National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases (NIAID) — 8; National Institute of General Medical Sciences (NIGMS) — 8; National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI)— 6; and National Institute of Biomedical Imaging and Bioengineering (NIBIB) — 6.
What’s Happening At the Y
Emerging Climate Change Technology
The Y classification in a patent’s CPC data helps identify elements of the inventions that may be useful in addressing climate change. This week there are three patent applications identified as having climate change inventions.
Y02A Technologies for Adaptation to Climate Change:
11052090 Use of TREM-1 inhibitors for treatment, elimination and eradication of HIV-1 infection; and 11052149 Methods and compositions for inducing an immune response. Both of these patents deal with treating infectious diseases.
Y02E Reduction of Greenhouse Gas [GHG] Emissions, Related to Energy Generation, Transmission or Distribution:
11056705 Organic anolyte materials for flow batteries — This invention is for materials to build Redox-flow batteries (RFBs) represent a promising technology for grid-scale energy storage.
USPTO Knows What It Does. Innovators Know What to Do With It
There are other inventions granted this week that have the potential to addressing climate change. Here are a few.
11053512, Methods of engineered tissue succulence in plants, funded by the Department of Energy.
There is a pressing need to increase global food production worldwide and to improve plant water-use efficiency and drought tolerance. The invention presents methods that can be used to “improve the ability of plants to attenuate, resist, or tolerate drought, such as in plants in arid environments, ... to increase plant cell size, increase leaf size, increase leaf number, increase leaf biomass, increase plant water content, increase leaf chlorophyll content, increase leaf protein content.” Ok…that’s a lot of plant engineering. The plants will have improved carbon assimilation, aka carbon collection, beneficial in addressing climate change.
Reduced Stress for Plants
11,053,513, Enhanced oil production and stress tolerance in plants, funded by USDA and assigned to Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis invented a biotechnological tool to dramatically increase stress tolerance and plant yield, including oil, in agricultural and horticultural crops. Increased plant yield with the same resources is beneficial in addressing climate change.
That’s this week’s rundown.
Thanks for stopping by. See you Friday.
About FedInvent: FedInvent is Wayfinder Digital's new project that takes a comprehensive look at the federal innovation ecosphere and the inventions and innovation it creates.
Paid Subscribers get full access to this week’s FedInvent Patents data. Please subscribe.