Google wants you to be able to vote online

Company receives patent for online voting interface

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Martyn Williams

Like the idea of using Google to vote online for the best airline, steamed dumpling or health app?

What about using Google to vote for governor or president? That seems to be Google's plan.

The search giant received a U.S. patent for a voting user interface (VUI). The interface would appear along with search results and would allow the user to vote for one or more contestants competing in a campaign.

The patent application was filed on Oct. 30, 2013, and the patent was awarded to Google on Tuesday.

What does the company plan to do with the technology? Google did not respond to a request for comment.

Ezra Gottheil, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said Google is unlikely to immediately aim for online political elections, and for starters, will probably use the technology for entertainment and social surveys.

However, online political elections are probably somewhere in the future, Gottheil said.

"I think they're looking at this for people to vote on the Top American Singer or the next M&Ms color," Gottheil said. "You could create very immersive entertainment experiences with it. Imagine you're not only watching the "Best Tap Dancer" show and calling in your votes, but you're using a rich interface that encourages you to vote, along with your friends. I guess people do that now, with group watching and voting by phone, but this makes it easier and faster."

Companies could pay Google to do research for them in the guise of a fun poll, he said. Dunkin Donuts, for instance, could have a vote on "What's the best new Donut Flavor."

The new technology easily could go beyond entertainment-oriented online campaigns, though.

Patrick Moorhead, an analyst with Moor Insights & Strategy, said the new online election technology would set up Google to handle both fun campaigns and serious political campaigns.

"I think it's set up for both," he told Computerworld. "Once we have more secure online identity, I think someday we will be able to vote online for president. To do this, we need hardened, multifactor authentication, but we'll get there."

Being able to vote online – from home or the local coffee shop – might get more people to vote.

"I believe people would prefer voting online," Moorhead said. "Who likes to wait in lines and deal with traffic and snow?"

Copyright © 2016 IDG Communications, Inc.

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