For years, we’ve walked into retail stores only to pull out our phones and compare the prices we see to those online, generally using a website like Amazon to see if we’re getting a good deal. Now that Amazon is beginning to expand into retail spaces of its own, it has to worry about those same pricing comparisons. In a fantastic bit of irony, Amazon could use a new patent to outright prevent people from comparing prices in its own stores.
As most patents do, Amazon‘s patent for this technology – US patent no. 9,665,881 B1, “Physical Store Online Shopping Control” – goes into painstaking depth about what it could possibly entail. The long and short of is that Amazon has patented a mechanism for routing requested content to either the retailer itself or the retailer’s service provider. The retailer can then evaluate the incoming content to see if it may be from a competitor’s website.
If it is, then there a variety of controls that can be put in place. If the content you’re looking for isn’t straight up blocked, perhaps you’re sent to the retailer’s own website instead. If the price you’re looking up is actually higher than the retailer’s price, maybe they’ll just let it through.
In other scenarios that Amazon envisions, the retailer could opt to show the shopper a coupon instead, or an alert that says the retailer will price match listings from other stores. Amazon’s list of potential controls covers a lot of different scenarios, from sending a push notification to your phone to alerting an on-site sales rep that you’re attempting to compare prices.
It sounds like this patent would be implemented over an in-store WiFi network that the retailer provides, so as bad as it sounds, that does mean that it has one weakness: cellular data. Presumably by surfing over your data connection, you can avoid Amazon snooping on your web traffic. You can read the full patent in all of its unnerving glory by clicking the source link below.