POSITION-BASED INFORMATION ACCESS
DEVICE AND METHOD
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED
This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. 120 to U.S. application Ser. No. 09/639,265, filed Aug. 15, 2000 and entitled "Global Positioning-Based Real Estate Database Access Device and Method," incorporated herein by reference, which claims priority under 35 U.S.C. 119(e) to U.S. application Ser. No. 60/186,155, filed Feb. 29, 2000, entitled "Global Positioning-Based Real Estate Database access Device and Method," incorporated herein by reference. This application is related to concurrently filed U.S. Patent Application entitled "Position-Based Information Access Device and Method of Searching Same," U.S. application Ser. No. 09/774,119 incorporated herein by reference, which is a CIP of Appl. Ser. No. 09/639,265
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates to a method and apparatus for accessing and managing property-centric information, and, more particularly to a wireless device that uses positioning data to access such information.
2. Description of the Related Art
People often desire to obtain information about a particular location at which they are located, whether it be a famous or historic landmark, an office building, a business location, a piece of real estate, an airport, a hotel, shopping mall, or a sports arena. The traditional methods of obtaining such information include using printed materials such as guide books, maps, etc., communicating with people knowledgeable about the particular location, and researching the particular location either before or after being physically present at the location.
Such methods of obtaining information may significantly detract from the person's ability to appreciate or experience the location at which they are present. Put more simply, the person may not be able to gather or access enough information about the location because it is not readily available. For example, if a person is visiting a famous landmark at a time when there are no tour guides available and the local gift shop is closed, the person may not be able to obtain valuable information about the landmark. Although the person may be able to get the information later, that isn't always a suitable alternative. Even in the event where a person is able to obtain printed materials, they are often cumbersome to carry around and read through while traveling from place to place. Moreover, as a person visits numerous locations, they tend to accumulate vast amounts of printed materials.
Another example in which location-specific information is not readily obtained is during a real estate search. The traditional method of buying real estate requires the prospective purchaser to transact through a real estate broker for virtually every aspect of the transaction, from finding a desired property to completing the sale. Often the most difficult part of the process, from the buyer's perspective, is locating a desired piece of real estate. There are generally two methods employed to locate a desired piece of property.
The first method relies solely on the real estate broker to use his or her contacts, including listing services, to locate property that meets the buyer's specifications. The second is more random, in that if a buyer happens to pass a piece of
property that is displaying a "for sale" sign, the buyer can write down the phone number shown on the sign to later inquire about the property, which then places the transaction totally within the broker's hands, as the broker controls all
5 the information relating to the property (e.g., size and cost). People also have a difficult time finding exactly the right features in their house search or have trouble adding exactly the right features to their existing homes. People generally have difficulty finding exactly the right manufacturer or
10 service provider to provide particular features for their home or office. Moreover, it is difficult to find an architect to design a home of the style that a person desires, or to find a landscaper or gardener to achieve a look that a person wants, etc. Most often, people will look in the phone book to get a list of service providers or manufacturers and then end up driving all over town to review samples of various service providers' work.
Over the last few years, various computer-related methods for locating real estate have been introduced. For
2Q example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,032,989 relates to a computerized map-based real estate search system in which a user can zoom in on a map to greater levels of detail, in order to obtain a more accurate view of the location of an available piece of property. The mapping system in the '989 patent is
25 centered about a user-selectable landmark, and the different maps that are generated are also centered about the landmark. There is an associated property database that can be accessed remotely either by searching by specified criteria or by using the mapping system. Additionally, U.S. Pat. No.
30 5,852,8 10 covers an Internet map-based real estate search system that operates in a similar manner to the '989 patent. The system disclosed in the '810 patent also permits a user to search criteria after narrowing the map-based search down to the city level, thereby allowing a criteria-based
35 search in addition to a location-based search.
When accessing property information via a computer, it is often desirable to view an image of the property at the same time. In this regard, U.S. Pat. No. 5,794,216 is directed to an interactive multimedia real estate database including interior
4q images and exterior images of the selected house, the floor plan of the house, a textual description of the property, etc. Additionally, links are provided on the exterior image of the house that, if clicked, permit the user to view the interior of the corresponding room.
45 The foregoing patents require a user to be located at a computer, and remote from the property. The technology disclosed in these patents is not effective when a buyer is driving past a particular piece of property and would like additional information about that property. It would be
50 desirable for a prospective buyer to be able to access information relating to a piece of property as the buyer was present at the property, at any time of day, and whether or not the property displayed a "for sale" sign. This type of information is ideally suited to be transmitted via a wireless
U.S. Pat. No. 5,930,699 relates to an address retrieval system based on the position of a cellular telephone. A cell phone user can request information relating to businesses that are located in the proximity of the user, based upon the
60 geographic position of the user as determined by pinpointing the location of the cell phone. Once the location of the user is determined, a database that is keyed on geographic location is searched, looking for businesses of the type requested by the user (e.g., restaurants, gas stations, hotels,
65 etc.) that are located in the area around the user.
U.S. Pat. No. 5,938,721 discloses a mobile computer system having a built-in global positioning system (GPS)