Patent Application Details Smart Sign Software

January 3, 2013

Eighteen months after introducing an advanced retail store product information display that uses an iPad, Apple has filed a patent application for the back-end software that provides complex administrative features. The combination of Smart Sign hardware and software allow centralized control of price and feature changes, standardized store layouts and time zone-based updates and changes. The patent application was published January 3rd and includes diagrams of the software’s menu flow and structure, and simulated screenshots of the administrative features. Apple rolled out the Smart Signs in May 2011, replacing traditional printed paper information sheets slipped behind acrylic plastic blocks. The iPad-based signs are interactive, customized by product and allow store visitors to summon a Specialist for help by pressing an on-screen button. The Smart Signs were ground-breaking for their appearance and features at the time, and several other retailers have adopted the iPad for product displays. Apple applied to patent the Smart Sign design in the U.S. last November, and obtained a design patent in China in March 2012. Download (pdf) the entire patent application for details.

This diagram accompanied the patent and shows the top-level organization of the computer system and software that manages the Smart Sign system. Apple’s master product database is accessed for specifications and other details. The numbers (312b, etc.) in all of the diagrams relate to paragraphs in the patent application.

This diagram shows the store-level organization of the Smart Sign system, including Wi-Fi connections.

This is a screen shot of the administrative Smart Sign system, showing how store display tables can be configured from a menu of choices (right).

Another screenshot of the administrative menu of the Smart Sign system shows how various table elements can be selected from the menu (right) to assemble an entire store.

This software flow chart for the Smart Sign software shows how the administrative menus interact.

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