IBM Patents Guessing How Many Kids Are On A School Bus

from the jellybeans-in-a-jar-patent-is-next dept

theodp writes “Self-described patent reformer IBM was awarded a patent Tuesday for Utilizing Gross Vehicle Weight to Determine Passenger Numbers. And yes, the ‘invention’ of five IBMers is what you think it is – from the Abstract: ‘A total weight of passengers on the vehicle is divided by an estimated weight of each of the passengers to estimate how many passengers are on the vehicle.’ First-graders everywhere will no doubt rejoice to learn that the elusive how-many-kids-are-on-the-school-bus problem has finally been solved!”

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Companies: ibm

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Comments on “IBM Patents Guessing How Many Kids Are On A School Bus”

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Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re: Re: Re:

Well, one would have to consider the number of patents being processed and the amount of time it would take to process them all if each one took two minutes and one would also have to consider the number of patent examiners involved.

If there are 20 patent examiners and each patent takes each patent examiner two minutes to process then you can process 2000 patents in 200 minutes.

Hopefully the above calculation won’t cause me to get sued for patent infringement.

How many patent examiners are there and how many patents are being processed and how long does it take to process each patent?

Chronno S. Trigger (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

No, the first way works, you just missed the part after the equals sign.

S1 = weight of buss
S2 = weight of buss plus kids
X = average kid weight
E = estimated number of kids

(If I remember my math, the | | symbol is an absolute symbol so the number is positive even if it’s negative.)

And you can patent that.

Hulser (profile) says:


I think most Americans have a healthy distrust of government, but the patent office holds a special place in this negative view. The stereotypes are that the IRS is evil, politicians are corrupt, the DMV is indifferent, etc. But what’s the general view of the patent office? Because even people who aren’t up on all the latest patent and IP issues, the average person on the street, has heard about these kinds of ridiculous patents, I’d say the answer is “incompetent”. That’s gotta sting. People don’t like government agencies for various reasons, but they don’t like your agency because it’s laughably stupid. Ouch.

Pete says:

Re: Laughable

Since we have a democracy here, this dim view of the government really reflects the ability of the citizens to make good choices. If you say this government is incompetent, then you are saying the majority of Americans are incompetent in choosing who should represent them.

So, those who complain are either a bunch of hypocrites or really don’t believe in democracy.

Josh in CharlotteNC (profile) says:

Re: Re: Laughable

The biggest argument against democracy is a five minute discussion with the average voter. – Winston Churchill

I don’t really disagree with your comment. Every time I go vote, I’m either picking the least worst candidate, knowingly selecting someone who doesn’t have a chance of winning, or eventually disappointed by my choice (even though I should know better).

Decent, intelligent people with convictions are mostly ruled out of being successful in politics by what is required to get into a position to do any good.

halley (profile) says:

Even though the arithmetic may be schoolyard simple, the actual techniques may be pretty sophisticated if we assume that they’re trying to guess accurately. Given that an obese sixth-grader can weigh over twice the amount of a small first-grader, and given that we see so many kids being forgotten, misrouted, or otherwise unaccounted, it’s hard to say that an accurate method is simple, or even possible, but quite sought-after. Many parents cringe at the issues of individual tracking, but all parents go ballistic if their precious child is not exactly where the school system says they are. I’d be interested to see what this group did, to see if it’s as laughably useless as everyone’s assuming; it may be, it may not.

halley (profile) says:

Re: Re: Re:

I’ve read it, and I agree it’s short of the mark of addressing the accuracy down to each head. Disappointing.

However, they are definitely trying to get a better guess at X (in the above-commented formula): the passengers get heavier in the winter, and if still talking about school, presumably over the course of a school year.

Anonymous Coward says:


The only thing they do to go beyond a basic average is explained. None of it is anything new, of course.

“The typical adjusted passenger weight is determined using preset information such as, but not limited to, average passenger weight, area of vehicle use, holiday of use, day of week, time of day, season of use, average weight of passenger personal items, etc. For example, individual passengers may weigh more in the winter than in the summer due to heavy coats, while holiday shoppers (with their packages) may each weigh more than passengers on a workday. Such average weights can be estimated or calculated using statistical analysis of past measurements, etc.”

Steve R. (profile) says:


Why would IBM want to patent this? Seems that there has to be an undisclosed motive. What interest would IBM have in determining passenger numbers based on vehicle gross weight?

I had assumed that that this so-called innovative technology would already be utilized at US border crossings. Its a no brainier. Not to mention truck weighing stations too.

Also why limit to people? A “better” more abstract and ridicules patent would be “a method of assessing the validity of cargo being carried on a generic vehicle based on gross weight”.

Michael (profile) says:

They need this patent...

…because I have patented actually counting the number of students and am in the process of suing a lot of school systems for not purchasing a license to use my counting technology.

I am guessing that this was passed because the patent office lacked anyone with the appropriate expertise in the field (you know, 1st grade math) to use for the obviousness test.

I don’t know how anyone can take the patent office in this country seriously anymore.

Jack Everitt (user link) says:

Who knew simple math could be patented?!

Patents for games I’m now filing:

Adding two dice to determine a number.
Adding two dice to determine a number, where one die is the tens digit.
Use of a red jar icon with subscript to be number of Health Potions.
Use of a blue jar icon with subscript to be number of Mana Potions.
Use of sliding red horizontal bar to indicate health.
Use of sliding blue horizontal bar to indicate mana reserves.

And the big one, where all your base is mine:
M the 1+1=2 patent, so that all software created must pay me a royalty. (I accept only PayPal!)

Anonymous Coward says:

Changing the description to fit your point of view

It’s dishonest to present this as patenting guessing how many kids are on a school bus (unless that part was in the images, which would not appear for me for some reason). It’s very clear by the reading of the patent that what they’re talking about is a system for a city bus service to be able to change routes, the number of buses, the length of routes, etc. based on the number of people on the buses. It might be useful, but I suspect just using bus fares and average time on the bus to estimate how full the buses are would work just as well and be a hell of a lot cheaper.

Coco Was Screwed says:

Umm, hello, prior art?

Tare (pronounced /ˈtɛər/), from the Middle French word tare “wastage in goods, deficiency, imperfection” (15c.), from Italian tara, from Arabic tarah, lit. “thing deducted or rejected,” from taraha “to reject”[1] weight, sometimes called unladen weight, is the weight of an empty vehicle or container. By subtracting it from the gross weight (laden weight), the weight of the goods carried (the net weight) may be determined.

Anonymous Coward says:

Changing the description to fit your point of view


“Utilizing gross vehicle weight to determine passenger numbers”


“A method, system, and computer program for determining the number of passengers riding on a vehicle in real time is presented. A total weight of passengers on the vehicle is divided by an estimated weight of each of the passengers to estimate how many passengers are on the vehicle in real time.”

Where I come from, the abstract of an article should be enough for an expert in the field to understand what is going on. If that isn’t what the patent is about, then THEY are being dishonest.

Anonymous Coward says:

Re: Re:

If you were responding to my comment at 45, all I can say is that the general tenor of comments here, as well as the article itself, misconstrue what the patent is intended to cover and does cover. It is not merely “How many are on a bus?”, but directed to a broader, real time system where data may be usefully employed across a transit system in to reallocate resources, etc.

This site does no favors by its deliberate distortion of what the patent covers so that it can present an attention grabbing headline.

porkster says:

Too late IBM!!!

This patent is just a rehash of the calculation for estimating the combine weight of passengers on an aircraft!

Number of passengers x average weight = additional weight add to aircraft.

Does that makes this patent a copyright issue?

I’m going to patent a new method of calculating the number of children on a bus. Count the number of legs and divide by two and subtract 1 (driver). Of course all one legged kids will have to be banned from riding school buses but that a sacrifice we all should be willing to make for the sake of accuracy.

darryl says:

From the ""Its a patent so it MUST be "BAD"" Department.

Maybe I should get a patent, on the method of weighting my dog, by first weighing myself, then picking up my dog and waying myself (and the dog) together).

And if you can ZERO your scales when you (alone) are standing on it you dont even have to do any math.

or maybe they watched Oceans 11, and worked out that by measuring the level of suspension compression they could work out which armoured truck held the real gold !!.

But im sure if you read the actual patent, there is more to it that Mike would wish us to believe.

Why dont they just put wireless pressure sensors in the tyres, and calibrate the pressure to load ratio. !!

(also could be applied to aircraft). they use that now with formula 1, (wireless pressure sensors in tyres). and in Rally. It would not be hard to do a temperature, pressure, load calculation real time. (and pump your types up to the correct pressure for that load dynamically)..

You have a right as a citizen to fight patent claims, so if you actually do believe its a ‘bad’ patent, stop whining, tell us what exactly is wrong with it, and why.

Then explain why you are not taking appropriate action to inform the patent office of your findings ?

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