What’s Amazon Up To?

I have received a couple of requests from the readers of my last blog post, which asked me to analyze a company instead of a technology domain. A thorough analysis of a company’s patent filings can help us gain insights on the company’s technology development strategy and further their business strategy. I saw a lot of companies were doing this type of analysis by employing IP intelligence tools and experienced IP managers. Some of them closely monitor the competitors patent activities and generate monthly or weekly reports.

Here, I want to show you how we can do a robust patent activity analysis of a company and derive valuable insights within a few minutes. In order to demonstrate the capability of the tool (inno360) that I’m using, I choose Amazon to analyze, because Amazon is a leading technology company and I shop at Amazon a lot.

Patent activities
Amazon has drastically increased the patent filings in last three years, which grew 50% last year.

This graph is generated by PATENTINSPIRATION.

This graph is generated by PATENTINSPIRATION.

 

Ecosystem
Amazon has a relative closed ecosystem (not a lot of patent co-fillings) in the past 12 months, there were two joint developments with Orbeus LLC and Elemental Tech Inc., receptively. Amazon worked with Orbeus to develop technologies to enable facial recognition and scene recognition, which is probably used for the Fire devices. The Elemental Tech was working on video content delivery technology with Amazon.

web

(The pictures are Author-Organization relationship analysis results on Amazon’s patents in past 12 months. In the image a named author on a patent, or another related company, and the publishing company are connected by a blue line. Authors working on the same patent are connected by yellow lines.)

Internal focus
I use this analysis to understand if a given technical topic is broadly researched within an organization. When a technical topic is a common focus of the company, it’s more likely to be a platform technology for the company. However, we can also tell a lot from a topic that is narrowly researched in a small group. The experience and the background of the members in this group could indicate some strategic focus for the next generation of product or service.

hexagons

This is a Technical Topic Map that places technical topics from the patents in the two-dimensional metrics: how many groups are doing relevant research and how many times the topic has been mentioned. We can see that Amazon put a lot of emphasis on the research projects that can improve data service, which may relate to AWS, Amazon Video, Cloud storage, etc.

The Connection Between Research Topics
The following Topographic Map is the same analysis that I have used in my last blog post, which is generated by IBM Watson Technology. Amazon’s research has focused on technologies relevant to Network, Mass Data Storage, Data Center, Video Content, and Mobile Connection. This result is almost identical to the previous analysis from the Technical Topic Map. However, we can get more insights from this analysis.

  1. The technologies on Data Center, Video Content, and Mobile Connection are highly connected. I assume Amazon is targeting more mobile users for video content streaming. This can help us understand why Amazon is selling FireTVs and FirePhones.
  2. The Network technologies are for Amazon’s core business, E-commerce.
  3. The Analytics technologies enable the cloud based analytic service.
  4. The Mass Data Storage technologies are hardware technologies that can support the setup and operation of the Data Center.

map

Summary
I did the most of the analysis on Amazon’s patents in last 12 months. It’s possible to get a more comprehensive understanding of Amazon’s technology strategy by doing analysis on a broader time window. But we can get some valuable insights from this quick analysis:

  • Amazon is moving towards a Data-Centered company, which is different from an E-commerce company or an online bookstore as I thought
  • Amazon has worked with a few outside companies for key enabling technologies, but developed most of the technologies in house.
  • Amazon has developed technologies that cover many aspects of Data Service, e.g., hardware, system, analytics, backup, etc. It will be very helpful for a company that wants to operate in Data Service market to learn from Amazon’s technology strategy.

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inno360—Deployed as a cloud-based innovation management platform to leading R&D groups around the world.

IBM Watson—IBM Watson is a technology platform that uses natural language processing and machine learning to reveal insights from large amounts of unstructured data.

Qian Li, PhD

Associate

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