Bank of America's wild patents on live-video analysis could reinvent mobile banking, shopping and more

A bunch of new patent applications from Bank of America reveal that the company's R&D lab has been working on new mobile technologies that would enable smartphone users to analyze their environment with their smartphone's video camera; recognize the objects around them, including those with embedded sensors; and generate automatic budgeting and wish lists.

The North Carolina banking powerhouse is known within the banking industry for its innovative research and development lab, headed by Matthew Calman. It appears from the patent filings that Calman and an alumni of MIT's Media Lab, Erik Ross, teamed up over the last couple years to develop technologies tied to augmented reality, object recognition and live video stream analysis.


The implications for the banking industry could be profound, as more and more banks are pushing into smartphone apps and Internet banking technologies.

The Bank of America patents show how the company sees a possible future in consumers using their mobile devices -- and particularly the device's camera -- to interact with the objects around them, to access information and even complete purchases.


Tara Burke, a Bank of America spokeswoman, declined to comment on the patents. Indeed, companies routinely explore new technologies and seek patents on them, so there is no guarantee that the BoA patents will ever be used commercially.

Many of the patents center around real-time video analysis, for reward offers, for sports movements (!), for medical savings plans and for real estate listings.

Bank of America also has a patent filing for determining, through object analysis, the "social impact" of the product you're about to buy.

From the filing: Consumers are also increasingly interested in the social impact of the products they purchase and the businesses they frequent. For example, many consumers are interested in the environmental impact created by the manufacture and sale of the products and services they purchase, some consumers are interested in purchasing goods and services produced locally or from a specific geographic location, others desire to purchase goods that have not been manufactured with child labor or that incorporate resources from a specific geographic location. It can be difficult for consumers to identify the social impact of specific products and businesses at the point where (and when) most purchasing decisions are made, such as when comparing products in a store or walking down a street and trying to determine which service provider's store to enter.

See some people in a crowd that you recognize, but can't remember their name? Bank of America's video analysis can help you identify them.

Indeed, Bank of America is very active in pursuing patents for its technologies. You can take a look at its filings yourself.