PORTABLE LOCATOR SYSTEM
A locator system and method for locating at least one of persons and objects within a facility comprises a plurality of badges, each badge having a badge transmitter that wirelessly transmits a signal including unique identification code, and a plurality of transceivers spatially dispersed within the facility, each of the transceivers having a transceiver receiver that receives signals including the unique identification code transmitted by a badge and a transceiver transmitter that wirelessly forwards the signals received from the badge to a central processor via a receiver.
This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 10/396,677, filed Mar. 25, 2003, projected U.S. Pat. No. ______ which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/410,386, filed on Sep. 30, 1999, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,539,393, the disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference.BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention generally relates to a portable locator system and more particularly a portable locator system for facilitating collection of information relating to visits by persons or objects at different locations within a facility.
Market analysts and sellers of goods and services make extensive use of data relating to the behavior of their purchasers to better target and market their goods and services. Data relating to consumer traffic is one purchaser behavior data used to gauge the attractiveness of the goods or services offered for sale. For example, data such as frequency and duration of visits to Internet websites where goods and services are offered is useful data for the seller marketing their goods.
For the operators of supermarkets and other large retail establishments, it may be important to know the traffic pattern of the shoppers, such as the frequencies of visits to certain isles and the duration of visits at certain types of goods or at locations where particular brands of goods are shelved.
In a tradeshow setting, exhibitors would like to know how often and for how long are visits to their booths to gauge the appeal to buyers of their goods. If available, the identity of the persons visited and the companies they belong to are valuable information to the sellers. Exhibitors often ask for visitors' business cards or use other techniques such as offer novelty gifts to entice visits by attendees so that the information can be collected. The identity and company information can be used by the marketer to follow up on the visitor's interests or to identify visits by competitors. When such information is coupled with the frequencies and durations of visits, the marketer can better gauge the level of interests in the marketer's product(s). When exhibitors display several products, it would also be helpful to know which of the products the attendees visited and for how long.
Shopper profiling software is now readily employed by Internet website operators to profile visitors to their sites. Operators of online shopping sites employ software to collect shopper traffic information such as which pages of product information were browsed, their viewing durations, frequencies, and types of goods browsed or purchased. With such information, the sellers can better solicit similar types of goods to the identified shoppers. Email solicitations seen to the target shopper are now common occurrences.
In a physical setting, a locator system can be used to collect information such as the identity of individuals, locations of visits by the individuals, and the durations of stays at different locations. Exemplary location systems are described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,515,426 to Yacenda, U.S. Pat. No. 5,455,851 to Chaco, and application Ser. No. 60/119,268, filed by John Chaco on Feb. 9, 1999. The disclosures in their entirety in these patents and patent application are incorporated by reference herein.
As can be seen from the above patents, a locator system for locating persons or objects within a facility includes portable badges worn by persons or objects which transmit identification information to receivers at fixed locations. A central processor collects the identification information from the receivers to determine the locations of the persons or objects. Typically, a receiver is installed in each room of the facility. Each receiver is connected by wire to the central processor. It can be appreciated that installation of a locator system requires considerable wiring, planning, and time. Once installed, reconfiguration of the system can be costly and difficult.
Therefore, a need exists for a locator system which can be portable, affording ease of installation and changes in system configuration, for collecting location and traffic information in facilities requiring frequent configuration changes.
A locator system of the present invention is provided for locating objects within a facility, comprising a plurality of badges, each having a badge transmitter for wirelessly transmitting a unique identification code, a database for storing a list of each badge, its identification code and a person or an object associated with each badge, and a plurality of transceivers spatially dispersed within the facility, each of the transceivers having a transceiver receive for receiving the identification code and a transceiver transmitter for wirelessly forwarding signals to a central processor, the signals including the unique identification code received from said badges, wherein the central processor determines from the signals received from the transceivers the location of the person or object.
Preferably, the central processor determines from the signals received from the transceivers the time the identification codes were received, by which transceivers, and the durations of receipt of the same identification code by each transceiver. The central processor preferably also generates a database listing the persons or objects located, locations visited by the persons or objects, and the duration of each visit.
In one embodiment of the system of the present invention, each of the transceivers receives in infrared the unique is identification codes from the badges and the transceivers transmit the signals to the central processor in RF.
In another embodiment, a plurality of transceiver modules are connected to the central processor through a local area network.
A method is also provided for collecting location data within a facility comprising the steps of: associating each of a plurality of objects or persons to a respective one of a plurality of badges; each of the badges having a unique identification code; wirelessly transmitting from each of said plurality of badges the unique identification code; receiving at transceivers within range of reception the unique identification code; wirelessly transmitting from the transceivers signals to a central processor, the signals including the unique identification code of the badge and its own identification code; determining from the signals received from the transceivers the locations of the transceivers and badges, and maintaining at the central processor, a list of objects or persons associated with respective badges and the locations of the objects or persons traveled within the facility.
In one embodiment, signal strength information relating to transmissions received from the badges is used to discriminate a transceiver closer to the transmitting badge. The central processor includes a RF transmitter for transmitting interrogation signals to each of the plurality of transceivers.
In still another embodiment, a portable locator system is provided for locating objects within a facility comprising a plurality of wireless transmitters, each having a unique identification code, for periodically transmitting the identification code, at least one wireless transceiver for receiving within its reception range the identification code transmitted from each of the wireless transmitters and for transmitting a message including the identification code of the wireless transmitter and identification code of said wireless transceiver, and a plurality of transceiver modules for receiving the message from the wireless transceiver and transmitting signals to a central processor, the signals including the identification codes of the wireless transmitter and the wireless transceivers wherein the central processor determines the locations of the wireless transmitters from the signals. The wireless transmitters and the wireless transceiver transmit in RF.
The system further includes memory for storing a list of each of the wireless transmitters, its identification code, identification of a person or an object associated with each of the wireless transmitter, and locations and times of travel. Another listing includes names of persons or identification of objects associated with each of the wireless transmitters, products associated with the at least one wireless transceiver having received transmissions from the wireless transmitters, and times and durations of the reception.BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
Preferred embodiments of the invention are described herein below with reference to the drawings wherein:
Generally, a locator system according to the present invention includes a central processor, a plurality of portable transceivers, and a plurality of portable badges. Each of the plurality of badges transmits a unique ID code, preferably in infrared, substantially periodically and continuously. Each of the plurality of transceivers includes an infrared receiver for receiving transmissions of the ID codes from badges within receiving range of the transceiver. In one embodiment, each of the transceivers also includes a wireless transmitter, which preferably transmits signals in RF, for forwarding signals to the central processor. The transceivers thus receive and transmit signals wirelessly, affording portability and mobility. The central processor includes an RF transceiver for receiving signals transmitted from the portable transceivers.
In another embodiment, transceiver modules are connected in a local area network to central processor. The transceiver modules are dispersed at locations throughout a facility. Transceiver modules receive signals from the portable transceivers, then relay badge, transceiver, and transceiver module IDs to the central processor via the LAN. The ID signals are processed by the central processor to determine, among other things, the locations of the badges.
Advantageously, the portable badges and transceivers facilitate ease of system installation and reconfiguration. Thus, the embodiments of the system according to the present invention are well suited for use in facilities which require frequently changed physical settings, such as in a convention center wherein tradeshows are frequently held and physical configurations of exhibits are changed depending upon the different types of shows.
Advantageously, because transceivers 151 to 162 receive and transmit wirelessly, e.g., receives in infrared and transmits in RF, installation of the transceivers can be simply by placement of the transceivers at the locations requiring locator coverage. The laborious, costly, and time consuming hardwired installations of transceivers are rendered unnecessary. Further, if the configuration of the trade show changes, such as changes necessary in the layout of the booths, the locator system configuration can easily be changed by moving the portable transceivers with the changed booths.
Referring again to
In the embodiment shown in
In the periodic transmission mode, each transceiver 151 to 162 transmits a transceiver packet, substantially as described above for the polling-mode, about every four seconds, to RF transceiver 120 of central processor 110. Central processor 110 includes stored program and associated memory for processing and time stamping the received packets as described above to track each attendee. Further descriptions of the components and operations of the central processor 110, RF transceiver 120 and transceivers 151 to 162 are provided below and in
In the configurations of the locator system shown in
In the configuration as shown in
Central processor 110 processes the information from transceiver modules 171 to 173 including time stamping the badge ID data as described for the system of
It can be seen from the configurations of the locator system shown in
Central processor 110 processes packets received from the LAN based TMs and tracks each shopping cart at the first instance a shopping cart transceiver ID is reported from any transceiver modules. At such reception, central processor 110 time stamps the reception and also may time stamp a signal received which indicates that the same shopping cart has moved out of range of the same transceiver module. Alternatively, duration of visit information can be collected by time stamping receipt of same transceiver ID at a next transceiver module, essentially as explained for the system of
Advantageously, with the use of the illustrative locator system, changes in products, positioning of the products, or promotional displays can be made and the impact on traffic flow observed and recorded. Archived reports can be generated for further analysis at other times.
It will be understood that various modifications can be made to the embodiments of the present invention herein disclosed without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention as defined by the claims appended hereto.
1. A locator system comprising:
- a portable disposable badge including a wireless transmitter, a signal conditioner, and an oscillator, operable to periodically wirelessly transmit a data signal including a unique badge identification code;
- a portable wireless transceiver including a processor, a memory including a storage area to store a unique transceiver identification code and executable instructions for operating the transceiver, and a data conditioner, operable to receive the data signal from the portable disposable badge, convert the received data signal to a format readable by the processor, and wirelessly transmit the converted signal over a network; and
- a central processor including a receiver to receive signals transmitted by the transceiver and a memory including executable instructions for processing the received signals and operating the locator system.
2. The locator system of claim 1, wherein the portable wireless transceiver automatically and periodically transmits the signals to the central processor.
3. The locator system of claim 2, wherein the signals are transmitted asynchronously by the transceiver to the central processor.
4. The locator system of claim 3, wherein the signals include a mechanism to alert the central processor to receive the signal.
5. The locator system of claim 4, further comprising a collision discrimination program to resolve signal collisions.
6. The locator system of claim 2, wherein the portable wireless transceiver transmits the signals to the central processor about every four seconds.
7. The locator system of claim 1, wherein signals received by the central processor are selectively time stamped.
8. The locator system of claim 7, wherein the signals are time stamped based on a detected change in location of the badge.
9. The locator system of claim 1, further comprising at least one of a display and a printer coupled to the central processor for outputting data generated by the locator system.
10. The locator system of claim 1, wherein the central processor periodically polls the transceiver and the transceiver transmits a signal to the central processor in response to the polling.
11. A method for configuring a locator system including a plurality of transmitters coupled to movable objects or persons in a facility, a plurality of portable transceivers positioned at spaced-apart locations in a facility to receive signals from the transmitters, and a processor to process signals generated by the transceivers and operate the locator system, the method comprising:
- placing a portable transceiver at a first location in need of locator system coverage;
- operating the locator system with the transceiver located at the first location;
- determining that a second location is in need of locator system coverage;
- virtually instantaneously moving the transceiver to the second location; and
- operating the locator system with the transceiver located at the second location.
12. The method of claim 11, further comprising:
- storing data relating to signals received from the portable transceiver at the first location;
- storing data relating to signals received from the portable transceiver at the second location; and
- comparing the data relating to signals received from the portable transceiver module at the first location to the data relating to signals received from the portable transceiver module at the second location.
13. The method of claim 12, further comprising storing the results of the comparing step.
14. The method of claim 11, wherein the locator system further includes a plurality of transceiver modules to receive signals from the transceivers and the processor processes signals generated by the transceiver modules, comprising:
- installing a transceiver module at a third location;
- operating the locator system with the transceiver module located at the third location;
- determining that the transceiver module should be moved to a fourth location,
- moving the transceiver module to the fourth location, and
- operating the locator system with the transceiver module located at the fourth location.
15. A locator system, comprising:
- a plurality of portable disposable transmitter members,
- a plurality of portable transceivers, and
- a processor coupled to a network to receive signals from the portable transceivers, wherein:
- each transmitter member includes a memory to store a unique identifier and transmits the unique identifier to the transceivers,
- each transceiver includes a receiver to receive unique identifiers from transmitter members within its reception range, a transmitter to transmit data signals from the transceiver to the processor, a memory to store programs for operating the transceiver and to store a transceiver ID code, and a level detector to detect signal strength of signals received from transmitter members, and
- the processor includes a receiver to receive signals from the transceivers, a clock to time stamp received signals, and memory including executable programs and commands to compare and evaluate the time stamps and the signal strengths of signals received by the transceivers to track locations and durations of visits to such locations by the portable transmitter members.
16. The locator system of claim 15, wherein the transmitter members are sized to be attached to a person.
17. The locator system of claim 15, wherein each transmitter member includes its own power supply.
18. The locator system of claim 15, wherein each transceiver includes its own power supply.
19. The locator system of claim 15, wherein at least one of the transceivers includes a keypad for inputting data to be stored in the transceiver memory.
20. The locator system of claim 15, wherein at least one of the transceivers includes a display to display at least one of data and programmed conditions.
Filed: Jul 14, 2006
Publication Date: Dec 14, 2006
Inventor: Stanley Kabala (Fairfield, CT)
Application Number: 11/457,533
International Classification: G06F 7/00 (20060101);