Facebook was issued a new patent today outlining a system that would allow users to access and control networked devices in the home through their mobile app and enable the social network to serve up ads based on the contents of a person’s fridge or other data gathered from inside the home.
The patent, called “Controlling Devices Through Social Media” (US patent #9,967,259), explains a number of scenarios in which Facebook users may access and control networked devices in the home. They also outlined how the could provide recommendations for the user based on data gathered from in-home sensors and cameras, as well as information from the person’s Facebook profile.
One such example has Facebook accessing a camera within a refrigerator and providing a meal recommendation. From the patent:
As an example and not by way of limitation, a refrigerator may include cameras to take pictures of items placed in the refrigerator and upload the images to the cloud, where image recognition may be performed upon the images, and an identification of the items may be provided to the refrigerator. As another example, a refrigerator may retrieve recipes from the cloud based on the items in the refrigerator and user-preference information from the user’s social network.
Facebook’s patent also outlines how it could notify the user when their milk is about to expire or they’re out of eggs. If that isn’t weird or creepy enough, they also outline scenarios where they would send targeted advertising to people within the person’s social graph.
From the patent:
“…as an example and not by way of limitation, a user may purchase a particular brand of hot sauce, and a target group of users may receive a notification based on their affinity for that brand of hot sauce or for hot sauce in general.”
Now, it may seem a bit strange for Facebook to be pushing even further into our lives at a time when many of us (including the government) have a heightened concern about how much information we provide to the social network. But in its defense, the patent was filed back in a simpler time – July 2014 – when many of today’s privacy concerns weren’t as front and center.
It also should be noted that at the time Facebook filed its patent, it had grand designs on making Facebook an IoT platform. However, in 2016 the company decided to shelve Parse, the IoT platform it had spent a few years developing.
All that said, it’s worth keeping an eye on this patent in case Facebook decides to revive its push to connect itself to our physical world.