New Microsoft patent: Walking directions that avoid crime-ridden neighborhoods

Microsoft was issued a patent today on a computer system for “pedestrian route production” — better known as walking directions — that automatically adjusts the route for the unique conditions encountered by a person going from place to place on foot.

One of the features would help pedestrians avoid an “unsafe neighborhood,” taking into account violent crime data.

According to the patent, the system could “construct a direction set that allows the user to take paths that take him to his home in a quickest amount of time while keeping the user relatively safe (e.g., taking the user through neighborhoods with violent crime statistics below a certain threshold).”

As part of that feature, the system could also take into account user tolerance for unsafe neighborhoods based on past behavior, such as whether the person has “historically cared about safe neighborhoods.”

Other features could include the ability to avoiding open areas that can subject users to harsh temperatures.

Data feeding into the overall walking-directions system could also demographic information, although the patent doesn’t say what type of demographic information would be used, or how.

Microsoft applied for the patent in December 2007. Google Maps released its walking directions feature in July 2008, and Microsoft Bing Maps added walking directions in March 2010.

For the record, I haven’t been able to find any indication that Microsoft has implemented or plans to roll out the crime-avoidance feature.

Photo by npzo, via Flickr.

  • Steve Banfield

    With all due respect to my friends working at Microsoft…Seriously?
    This is the kind of innovation you want to patent? First off that it’s
    patentable at all shows what’s wrong with the software patent system.
    Second don’t you guys have something better and more exciting to work
    on?

    • Guest

      I for one appreciate a company which explores a great variety of ideas. Do you really think that all 90,000 Microsoft employees work strictly on projects this banal all the time? Honestly, this patent application was probably filled out over burgers one day at lunchtime.

    • Guest

      I for one appreciate a company which explores a great variety of ideas. Do you really think that all 90,000 Microsoft employees work strictly on projects this banal all the time? Honestly, this patent application was probably filled out over burgers one day at lunchtime.

      • KidPhat

        The exploration of innovation is not the problem here, it is the patenablity of said “innovation”.

      • Guest

        filings cost $10k and up, so it’s not exactly a trivial thing.  While the idea may have been a burgers and fries thing, getting it to the finish line take some commitment and some cash.  So somebody with some pull thought it was a worthwhile expenditure of staff time.

        • Guest

          Microsoft made $54.37B in gross profit last year and has $55.94B of cash in the bank. $10,000 is pretty trivial.

          • Guest

            If you worked here you’d understand.  It’s all about approval and signing authority.  

            Not trivial.  Regardless of the bank balance.

          • Guest

            Tell me more. Or hire me. Whichever works for you.

    • Guest

      Well, Apple tried to patent the term “Multi-Touch”, so compared to that this is actually substantive.

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_ESQKKH5I2PQDZNKVLRIAD74X4Y Robert

      That’s the world we live in.  If microsoft doesn’t patent the idea some patent troll will then turn around and sue everyone who uses it.    Big companies like Microsoft have a huge target on their backs.
        
      Don’t blame Microsoft, blame the patent system.

  • Guest

    Congratulations to Microsoft! Walking directions on-line are generally poor. I’ve basically given up on Google Maps because they expect people to climb up extraordinarily steep streets in Seattle and cross roads where there is major cross traffic and no traffic light. I’m glad to see that Bing Maps is looking out for my well-being.

  • Guest

    It’ll be a busy news week with the Iowa stuff and all, otherwise this might generate a little negative PR for MS, but probably won’t get picked out outside of the tech blogs.

  • Guest

    It’ll be a busy news week with the Iowa stuff and all, otherwise this might generate a little negative PR for MS, but probably won’t get picked out outside of the tech blogs.

  • Anonymous

    ill be the judge of that. if it avoids the projects then i will claim it the greatest feature evrrrrrrr!

  • Anonymous

    This dude is like totally rocking. I mean like seriously dude. Wow.
    http://www.Total-Privacy dot US

  • AM
  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Gerd-Görtz/100000019464299 Gerd Görtz

    Good for you! That we have lacked. Child molesters are so widely circumvented.

  • Asb2164

    So this will basically route you around the ethnic areas.
    Sounds like a lawsuit.

  • B2395093

    Ehhh, wouldn’t it be better to get rid of these crime-ridden areas? If they are well known, why not do something against it?
    I want a patent for my idea!

  • PatentInvestigator

    On a serious note, neither the inventors, patent examiners, nor patent attorneys knew what this invention really is — http://searchthewayyouthink.blogspot.com/2012/01/taking-walk-around-business-methods.html

  • Robby Delaware

    Great news!  Hopefully they’ll make those jaunts through Woodinville safer.

    Every time I head to Chateau Ste. Michelle, the mean streets of Woodinville are exactly like this:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=btH4e0-WQAo

    • Robby Delaware

      Reminds me of El Dorado in Fresno.  I walked through one time, not knowing anything, and this woman was like, “what the f@#k you doin’ white boy, you crazy?”:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K3O78vxBNyg