Skip to main content

Microsoft files patent to prioritize calls based on urgency

On modern email systems, there is method by which one can “flag” a message based on importance. Anyone who has used Exchange should be familiar with this concept. The point of it is of course to help users triage that which is important from that which is not. If a message comes in with a highly urgent flag on it, you’re more likely to read it and not miss it.

Why not have the same thing for phone calls? That’s what Microsoft is asking and they have evidently filed a claim on the patent to bring that feature to fruition.

The system works by sending an encrypted authenticator to the phone, alerting the person of the incoming phone call’s significance. In the filing, an example is given:

“Consider, for example, a man named John and his daughter Lydia. Assume that Lydia needs to get ahold of her Dad immediately because her car has broken down and she needs his help. Assume also that John is in an important business meeting and so he would not normally take a call from Lydia; he would instead wait until after the meeting to call her back. If John knew it was important, however, he would of course take Lydia's call. The techniques can enable Lydia to indicate that her call is important and John to know, with confidence, that it is important, even if either or both of Lydia's and John's phones are basic, non-computing telephones.”

The solution is for Lydia’s phone is to send a “priority trigger” to her father’s device, thereby displaying an “urgent” message on his screen along with her caller ID. Only pre-authorized users can call attention to themselves, meaning rogue calls or telemarketers can’t take advantage of it.

That does seem like a very useful feature and one that would could imagine becoming wildly popular as mobile communication becomes ubiquitous. Of course, filing for a patent is different than being granted one and it’s also different than actually going forward with it in a consumer device. Lots of patents are filed by Microsoft and other tech companies that never see the light of day, meaning this could still be years off, if at all.

However, this seems like one idea that could be potentially huge for mobile smartphones, so we’re keeping our fingers crossed.

Source: USPTO; via: Engadget

Daniel Rubino
Executive Editor

Daniel Rubino is the Executive Editor of Windows Central, head reviewer, podcast co-host, and analyst. He has been covering Microsoft here since 2007, back when this site was called WMExperts (and later Windows Phone Central). His interests include Windows, Microsoft Surface, laptops, next-gen computing, and arguing with people on the internet.

  • That would be a nice option.
  • It's a nice idea but at least in the email variant, I see these flags get abused all the time.
  • This feature wouldn't be wrongly taken advantage of as much because it's for more personal use between authorized parties.. MS should work hard to bring this to WP ASAP..
  • true.
  • I'm sure telemarketers and bill collectors will find a way to use it.
  • The notification will include the callers identity. You would notice that when the call comes in. If the telemarketers and bill collectors impersonate someone else, they will be sued to high heaven for identity theft and hacking.
  • Bill collectors are already using fake caller ID and showing as family members and they haven't been sued yet. Maybe you should become a lawyer take them on.
  • I did see that it is for authorized parties, but when I said abused, I was really talking about people who think everything they do should be marked as important, which will cause it to be less effective, as even if a call is marked urgent, you have to wonder who is calling and how urgent it really might be.
  • That's a discipline feature. A provider can't discipline its patrons. If Lydia lied, she gets grounded, for example.
  • I don't disagree with you, that's just my opinion on why it might not work as well as we hope. Imagine you have a needy mother-in-law with health problems, for example. Maybe she needs to be authorized because of her health problems, but she might try making all kinds of other "important" calls as well.
  • totally agree. this would definitely be abused... hope they do have something solid to work it!
  • It seems as though windows implement features that are or can be very useful...i like the direction that Microsoft is going
  • That would be a great feature to have, especially if exclusive to a future release of windows phone...
  • Lmao. They patented this so they can license it to other phone companies. This is the obvious move.
  • I hear its one of the features in Windows Phone 8.5 ("project green").
  • Kidding btw
  • As long as I can easily allow everyone in my contact list to be able to do this with out individually selecting every contact.
  • It's time for MS to stop contemplating on great ideas like this, and quickly integrate these features into WP with more periodic updates..
  • Damn Lydia is always breaking down.
  • I'm afraid to comment, I don't want to release the DOG!!
  • Be nice or the DR will put a whoopin on ya.
  • I can see myself abusing this. My mother doesn't ever pick up my calls !
  • Isn't this a good thing? J/k
  • It's subtle things such as this that will pull people to Windows Phone, even if it may lack the 'app of the month' (though, that too can be avoided). Microsoft should work to bring this and other subtle things to make WP a significantly compelling option for people looking for a quality experience.
    A few other examples.
    Maybe a function that can allow end-users to customize TellMe, e.g. the ability to set up voice commands natively. I'm not just talking about, "send me to Pizza Hut" but being able to pre-input, "Command: Send me home// App: HERE Drive+ w/address 123 MyStreet, etc."
  • I can see this being abused just like the so-called "important" emails. I've yet to receive an email fitting of that flag.
  • Difference here is you pre-authorize certain users for this ability, meaning not everyone can do it. Otherwise you mom could use it or so couldn't telemarketers.
  • I'm good with the current option. If emergency, send text messages. Saying "emergency, calling u now". Then call.
  • And keep calling so they know it's urgent
  • Why not call blocking? Can we get there first?
  • I agree. Call blocking would be a more useful feature.
  • LOL! for a sec, I thought you wrote"cock blocking"
  • GDR2 ;)
  • Already available on the ativ s :P take that nokia
  • On a personal level, I don't think I'd make much use of this feature. That being said, it's better to have than not have.
  • I agree. Caller ID already serves the same purpose for screening calls. I usually use Caller ID along with voicemail. I let almost everything go to voicemail and then ignore or reply based on the message.
  • This would most definately be a useful feature in emergency situations.
  • "huge for mobile smartphones"...couldn't this be implemented for stationary smartphones as well?? :P
  • This would have to be something that the carriers enable. It would also have to be enable on all devices to be really useful. If microsoft creates this system, they would need to license it to everyone on a FRAND basis.
  • i think if im in an "important" meeting and my kid emergency calls me when their car breaks down, i would start removing people from that list... now if it was an accident, that would be different.
  • Lydia was in a bad part of town
  • Zimmermans neighborhood getting skittles
  • That is a truly innovative feature
  • Problem with this is that ever telemarketer and bill collector would ONLY use the urgent flag.
  • And you would preauthorize them too, right? Read.
  • Rudy is working on it now #6flag
  • :P
  • Good. Just good.