In between ground-breaking projects like Google Glass and a self-driving car, engineers at Google are tackling the next great problem to challenge mankind: bill splitting. If you have ever found yourself at odds with your friends over uneven billing after a night out, then it seems Google has been thinking of you.
The patent for “Tracking and Managing Group Expenditures” (snappy name for an app, no?) was first filed by Google in March 2012, but was made public this week. The application, when it is launched, will aim at dividing the total bill at a restaurant based around what single members of the group have ordered that evening by keeping individual balances for each user. This sounds useful in practice, but it’s not exactly the innovation that Google might like it to be.
Critics of this bill splitting app began to show up almost as soon as Google’s patent application was first announced. Those who are less than impressed by the app accuse Google of patenting an idea which is both obvious and previously used. Currently, apps such as Tab, Splitwise and Billr all exist to perform much the same function, but it is unclear if this patent would affect them.