News Column

"Smartphone Apps in a Cloud" in Patent Application Approval Process

August 7, 2014



By a News Reporter-Staff News Editor at Computer Weekly News -- A patent application by the inventor Kamp, Andre (Aachen, DE), filed on September 29, 2011, was made available online on July 24, 2014, according to news reporting originating from Washington, D.C., by VerticalNews correspondents.

This patent application is assigned to Telefonaktiebolaget L M Ericsson (publ).

The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Applications for mobile terminals and small low-power handheld devices such as personal digital assistants (PDAs), handheld computers, enterprise digital assistants (EDAs), Tablet Personal Computers (Tablet PCs), notebooks or mobile phones like smartphones are becoming increasingly important. These applications are either pre-installed on mobile phones (or other mobile terminals) during manufacture or downloaded by customers from various mobile software distribution platforms (digital distribution platforms). These applications are often only referred to as 'apps'. Likewise, the distribution platforms are often generally referred to as 'app stores'. Normally, each platform contains applications of one operating system running on the mobile terminal which connects to the platform. That is, a user of a mobile terminal on which operating system X is running, will connect to the platform having applications suitable for the operating system X. A different or the same user will, however, connect to the platform having applications suitable for the operating system Y when using a mobile terminal on which operating system Y is running.

"The so called 'app stores' like Google's Android Market.TM. or Apple's.RTM. iPhone App Store.sup.SM are growing rapidly. These stores are basically a big software storage and offer some hundred thousand downloadable applications for mobile phones. The amount of available applications--also known as 'apps'--is increasing constantly. Right now, end users download these apps to their clients which are in most cases mobile phones or Tablet PCs. In order to use an app, the client usually establishes an internet connection and connects to the service provider to retrieve the contents for a specific app.

"After the download of applications from the respective platform, the downloaded applications can be installed on the client and can then be executed on the client. This approach can be considered a client-centric approach.

"The current client-centric approach which requires the download of an app to the client comes along with some problems and disadvantages. These disadvantages are sketched in the following.

"Assume that an end user owns several clients, e.g. one Tablet PC and one smartphone. On both clients, the end user wants to use one and the same app. This app then has to be downloaded to each of the clients. In order to use that app with the same configurations, the configuration procedure also has to be performed twice in this case--one time per each device. This is very inconvenient for the users.

"When there is an update or a new version available for a specific app, the end user then again has to download the app to all of the end user's devices and configure the apps in the same way. That means, in order to always have the latest version of an app available, the end user has to take care of this manually by downloading the newest version to the client.

"The current client based approach becomes even more inconvenient if the clients are running different operating systems like Google's Android (e.g. on the Sony Ericsson Xperia 10) or Apple's iOs (e.g. on iPhone or iPad). The end user then has to access different app stores for the same app depending on the clients' operating systems.

"Another disadvantage shows up when one client is used by different end users. For example, a Tablet PC is used by two end users A and B. End user A wants to use another set of apps than end user B. The only solution right now is to install all apps--the ones for end user A and B--onto the Tablet PC to have all apps available on the client and to serve both users' needs. In other words, the resources of the client like memory and CPU are not efficiently used.

"Finally, if one end user wants to use different sets of apps e.g. depending on the daytime or if the user is at work or home, right now the user always has to have the whole set of apps available on the client, although many of the installed apps might not be used at that moment. Also here, memory resources could be used more efficient.

"These disadvantages, which are sketched above, can be avoided with the invention described in the present document. The present invention described in the following sections solves the above problems. The present invention may further not require to always have all apps installed but may obtain/provide access only to the ones needed at a specified point in time."

In addition to the background information obtained for this patent application, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventor's summary information for this patent application: "Accordingly, there is a need for an improved and more efficient technique for obtaining/providing access to applications.

"The basic concept of the present disclosure is to host and execute the apps in the network rather than on the client side (e.g., on a mobile terminal) and to make the apps available as Software as a Service (SaaS) in a cloud environment. SaaS is a software delivery model in which software and its associated data are hosted centrally (typically in the cloud) and are accessed by users using a client, normally using a web browser over the Internet. On the client, only one operating system native master app (master application) needs to be installed which connects to the network and accesses and displays the contents of the apps.

"According to a first aspect, a method of providing remote access from a mobile terminal to a plurality of applications hosted in a network is provided. The method comprises the steps of: determining, by an authentication server, based on authentication information received from the mobile terminal, whether to allow remote access from the mobile terminal to the network; and providing, by the authentication server, remote access from the mobile terminal to the plurality of applications hosted in the network, if it is determined that the remote access is allowed, wherein the remote access allows executing the plurality of applications in the network.

"The authentication server may reside between the mobile terminal trying to obtain access to the applications hosted in the network and the network itself. A user trying to access the applications hosted in the network may use the master application installed on the mobile terminal to connect to the authentication server. The authentication server may determine which mobile terminal or user is trying to obtain remote access. The user may input identification information identifying himself/herself to the authentication server. Alternatively, the authentication server may automatically determine the user based on information related to the mobile terminal or master application the user is using. The input or determined information may be used in order to derive the authentication information.

"The authentication information may comprise information based on which it can be determined by the authentication server, whether the mobile terminal or the user of the mobile terminal is allowed to obtain remote access to the applications hosted in the network. For example, the authentication information may be based on or derived from information input by the user, like a user name and a password. If the remote access is allowed, the authentication server may establish a remote connection between the mobile terminal and the network. The mobile terminal may then access and execute the applications hosted in the network via the remote connection. For example, a user may select any one of the applications hosted in the network via the master app installed on the mobile terminal and may then execute the selected application in the network rather than on the mobile terminal. In this way, there is no need to download the selected application to the mobile terminal, but the selected application can be executed in the network itself.

"In accordance with one variant of the first aspect, the steps of determining and providing remote access may be implemented as: determining, by the authentication server, based on the authentication information, a set of applications, wherein the set of applications comprises one or more of the plurality of applications hosted in the network; and providing, by the authentication server, remote access from the mobile terminal only to the one or more applications contained in the set of applications. According to the variant of the first aspect, the authentication server may not allow remote access to all of the plurality of applications hosted in the network, but may only allow, by considering the authentication information, remote access to the set of applications hosted in the network. If it is determined by the authentication server, by considering the authentication information, to allow only remote access to the set of applications, the authentication server will only allow the mobile terminal to remotely access the one or more applications contained in the set, rather than to remotely access applications which are hosted in the network but which are not contained in the set of applications. The applications contained in the set, to which the remote access is allowed, can then be executed by the mobile terminal in the network. The further applications, to which remote access is not allowed, i.e., the applications which are not contained in the set, cannot be accessed and executed by the mobile terminal.

"There are multiple possible realizations how the authentication server can determine the set of applications. In all realizations, one or more (e.g., a plurality of) sets of applications may be maintained, e.g. stored, in the authentication server and the set of applications may be determined from the one or more (e.g., the plurality of) sets of applications maintained in the authentication server.

"According to a first realization of the variant, the step of determining the set of applications may comprise determining the set of applications from the one or more (e.g., the plurality of) sets of applications maintained in the authentication server based on the authentication information. For example, the authentication server may automatically determine, from the one or more (e.g., the plurality of) sets of applications, the set which is indicated by the authentication information. In this first realization, no further user input may be required in order to select the correct set of applications.

"According to a second realization of the variant, the step of determining the set of applications may comprise choosing the set of applications from the one or more sets of applications based on a user input of a user of the mobile terminal. By means of the user input, a user of the mobile terminal may search, e.g. scroll, through the sets of applications maintained in the authentication server and may select the one he/she is interested in. The second realization may be based only on the user input.

"According to a third realization of the variant, the step of determining the set of applications may comprise both determining the set of applications from the one or more (e.g., the plurality of) sets of applications maintained in the authentication server based on the authentication information and choosing the set of applications from the one or more sets of applications based on a user input of a user of the mobile terminal. In this context, the third realization may comprise two steps. In a first step, the authentication server may determine at least one candidate set of applications from the one or more sets of applications hosted in the network based on the authentication information. The at least one determined candidate set of applications may be determined as a candidate because it is related to the mobile terminal or the user accessing the authentication server. In a second step, the user may then search, e.g. scroll, through the determined at least one candidate set of applications previously determined by the authentication server and may then select the appropriate set from the at least one candidate set. In this way, the third realization comprises both automatic pre-selection by the authentication server and a final user selection by way of a user input.

"At least a subset of the one or more sets of applications maintained in the authentication server may comprise different ones of the plurality of applications hosted in the network. Alternatively or additionally, at least a subset of the one or more sets of applications comprises the same of the plurality of applications hosted in the network. It is, for example, conceivable that a plurality of sets of applications assigned to multiple users or terminals is maintained in the authentication server. One or more of the plurality of applications hosted in the network may be part of two or more sets of applications maintained in the authentication server. In this way, a subset of the sets of applications maintained in the authentication server may share one or more applications. Alternatively or additionally, one or more of the plurality of applications hosted in the network may be exclusive for only one set of applications maintained in the authentication server.

"In one implementation, the one or more sets of applications may be defined in user accounts established for users of mobile terminals. For example, each user of a mobile terminal may create a user account in the mobile terminal he/she is using, e.g. by means of the master application. In other words, the user account may be specific to a user of the mobile terminal and may be maintained in the authentication server. The user account may then indicate to which applications the corresponding user shall have remote access. For example, each end user has a user account to get authorized to the network hosting the apps. The user account allows the definition and configuration of the set of apps which shall be remotely available on the client.

"In addition, the user may create one or more user profiles in the user account. In case one or more user profiles are created, each of the one or more sets of applications may be predefined in a user profile of the user account. Applying different user profiles per user account offers the possibility to have different sets of apps available on a client at different points in time. The different user profiles of one user account may be created based on different time, location or any other type of parameter.

"The applications to which remote access shall be allowed for each user profile may be automatically suggested or defined by the authentication server. For this purpose, the authentication server may consider the user's needs (as e.g. input by the user) or the typical or average user behavior when using the specific mobile terminal. Alternatively or additionally, the user may configure the applications to which remote access shall be allowed for each user profile.

"If it is determined, by the authentication server, that remote access is allowed, the remote access is provided from the mobile terminal to the plurality of applications hosted in the network. The remote access may be provided according to multiple possible realizations. In accordance with one realization, the step of providing remote access may include the steps of requesting, by the authentication server, connecting data to the plurality of applications hosted in the network, if it is determined that the remote access is allowed, retrieving, by the authentication server, the connecting data to the applications hosted in the network and transmitting, by the authentication server, the retrieved connecting data to the mobile terminal. For example, if a user of a mobile terminal has a user account created on his/her mobile terminal, the authentication server may identify the authentication information contained in or provided by the user account and may then retrieve the connecting data to the applications, which the user is allowed to access in accordance with the authentication information. The respective retrieved connecting data may then be transmitted to the mobile terminal, so that the user may be allowed to access only the applications for which he/she has received the connecting data from the authentication server.

"As stated above, the user corresponding to a user account can create one or more user profiles for the user account. Each user profile may be configured differently, i.e. may contain a different set of applications (although some applications may be contained in more than one of the user profiles). In this respect, the step of requesting connecting data may comprise the step of requesting, by the authentication server, only the connecting data to the applications contained in the set of applications indicated by the selected user account.

"For example, a user may log into its user account and may select a first user profile from the multiple created or configured user profiles for the user account. The authentication server may then determine from the authentication information derived from the selected first user profile that the user corresponding to the selected first user profile is allowed to access only the set of applications identified by the first user profile. Then, the authentication server only retrieves the connecting data corresponding to the identified set of applications and may forward the retrieved connecting data to the mobile terminal. The mobile terminal may then remotely access the applications for which the connecting data has been received, but cannot remotely access the further applications. The user may subsequently select a second user profile from the user profiles contained in his/her user account, e.g. by using the same or a different mobile terminal. The authentication server may then determine from the authentication information derived from the selected second user profile that the user corresponding to the selected second user profile is allowed to access only the set of applications identified by the second user profile. Then, the authentication server only retrieves the connecting data corresponding to the identified set of applications and may forward the retrieved connecting data to the mobile terminal. The mobile terminal may then remotely access the applications for which the connecting data has been received, but cannot remotely access the further applications. By way of different user profiles the same user having the same user account may obtain access to different applications.

"After having remote access to one, some or all of the applications hosted in the network, the mobile terminal can, by way of the remote access, execute the respective application(s) (in the network) to which remote access is obtained.

"According to a second aspect, a method of obtaining remote access from a mobile terminal to a plurality of applications hosted in a network is provided. The method comprises the steps of: requesting, by the mobile terminal, remote access to the plurality of applications hosted in the network by signaling authentication information; and obtaining, by the mobile terminal, remote access to the plurality of applications hosted in the network, if it is determined, based on the authentication information, that remote access is allowed, wherein the remote access allows executing the plurality of applications in the network.

"All aspects described above with respect to the method according to the first aspect correspondingly apply to the method according to the first aspect.

"Further to the foregoing steps of the method according to the second aspect, the method may comprise the step of executing, by the mobile terminal, one of the plurality of applications in the network after obtaining remote access to the plurality of applications. In this context, it may only be possible for the mobile terminal to execute an application to which remote access has been allowed. The applications to which remote access has not been allowed cannot be executed by the mobile terminal.

"According to one realization of the second aspect, the method may further comprise the step of creating, by the mobile terminal, a user account in the authentication server, wherein the user account is accessible by means of the authentication information. In this context, the user may, when using his/her mobile terminal, access the created user account by inputting the authentication information. The authentication information may then be forwarded from the mobile terminal to the authentication server, when the user wishes to obtain access to the applications hosted in the network. Based on the authentication information, the authentication server may decide whether to allow remote access to all or only some (e.g., only one) of the applications hosted in the network.

"The step of creating the user account may further comprise creating one or more user profiles in the user account. Each of the one or more user profiles may specify a set of applications comprising one or more of the plurality of applications hosted in the network. The one or more applications may be automatically specified by the authentication server based on the user behaviour of the user. Alternatively or additionally, the user may select one or more applications available in the network. When the user is trying to obtain remote access, he/she logs into his/her user account by using his/her authentication information. The user may then select from the one or more user profiles of the user account, one user profile. In accordance with the selected user profile, the authentication server may determine the applications which are indicated by the user profile. The authentication server may then retrieve, from the network, the connecting data for the determined applications and may forward the connecting data for the determined applications to the mobile terminal. The user may then choose one of the determined applications and may execute the chosen application in the network, e.g. by using the master application running on the mobile terminal.

"According to a third aspect, a computer program product is proposed, comprising program code portions for performing steps of any one of the method aspects described herein, when the computer program product is run on one or more computing devices. The computer program product may be stored on a computer readable recording medium.

"According to a fourth aspect, an authentication server for providing remote access from a mobile terminal to a plurality of applications hosted in a network is provided. The authentication server comprises: a determining component for determining based on authentication information received from the mobile terminal, whether to allow remote access from the mobile terminal to the network; and a remote access component for providing remote access from the mobile terminal to the plurality of applications hosted in the network, if it is determined that the remote access is allowed, wherein the remote access allows executing the plurality of applications in the network.

"The determining component may be further adapted to determine based on the authentication information, a set of applications, wherein the set of applications comprises one or more of the plurality of applications hosted in the network, and the remote access component may be further adapted to provide remote access from the mobile terminal only to the one or more applications contained in the set of applications.

"The server may further comprise a storing component for maintaining one or more sets of applications and the determining component may be further adapted to at least one of determine the set of applications from the one or more sets of applications based on the authentication information and to receive a user input of a user of the mobile terminal for choosing the set of applications from the one or more sets of applications. The storage component may be further adapted to maintain one or more user profiles of a user account, wherein the user account is specific to a user of the mobile terminal and each of the one or more user profiles specifies one of the one or more sets of applications.

"The remote access component may be further adapted to request connecting data to the plurality of applications hosted in the network, if it is determined that the remote access is allowed, to retrieve the connecting data to the applications hosted in the network and to transmit the retrieved connecting data to the mobile terminal.

"According to a fifth aspect, a mobile terminal for obtaining remote access to a plurality of applications hosted in a network is provided. The mobile terminal comprises: a requesting component for requesting remote access to the plurality of applications hosted in the network by signaling authentication information; and an obtaining component for obtaining remote access to the plurality of applications hosted in the network, if it is determined, based on the authentication information, that remote access is allowed, wherein the remote access allows executing the plurality of applications in the network.

"The mobile terminal may further comprise an executing component for executing one of the plurality of applications hosted in the network.

"According to a sixth aspect, a system for providing remote access from a mobile terminal to a plurality of applications hosted in a network is provided. The system comprises: the network hosting a plurality of applications; the authentication server according to the fourth aspect as previously described; and the mobile terminal according to the fifth aspect as previously described.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

"In the following, the invention will further be described with reference to exemplary embodiments illustrated in the figures, in which:

"FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a system comprising two mobile terminals, an authentication server and a network;

"FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration of a device embodiment of the authentication server of FIG. 1;

"FIG. 3 is a schematic illustration of a second device embodiment of one of the mobile terminals shown in FIG. 1;

"FIG. 4 is a schematic illustration of a first method embodiment performed in the first device embodiment of FIG. 2;

"FIG. 5 is a schematic illustration of a second method embodiment performed in the second device embodiment of FIG. 3; and

"FIG. 6 is a schematic illustration of a third method embodiment."

URL and more information on this patent application, see: Kamp, Andre. Smartphone Apps in a Cloud. Filed September 29, 2011 and posted July 24, 2014. Patent URL: http://appft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-adv.html&r=512&p=11&f=G&l=50&d=PG01&S1=20140717.PD.&OS=PD/20140717&RS=PD/20140717

Keywords for this news article include: Software, Telefonaktiebolaget L M Ericsson (publ).

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