APPARATUS, SYSTEM, AND METHOD OF PROVIDING A SOLIDS LEVEL MONITOR
An apparatus, system and method for providing a consumable level monitor for association with a solid content-filled consumable. The embodiments may include a sensing module embedded in a label associated with the consumable suitable to sense the consumable level; and a visual indicator suitable to receive the consumable level from the sensing module, and for communicating the consumable level to a user.
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This application is a national stage application of International Patent Application No. PCT/US2019/030658, filed May 3, 2019, entitled: APPARATUS, SYSTEM, AND METHOD OF PROVIDING A SOLIDS LEVEL MONITOR, which claims the benefit of priority to U.S. Provisional Application No. 62/666,605, filed May 3, 2018, entitled APPARATUS, SYSTEM, AND METHOD OF PROVIDING A SOLIDS LEVEL MONITOR, the entirety of which is incorporated herein by reference as if set forth in its entirety.BACKGROUND Field of the Disclosure
The disclosure relates generally to sensing, and, more particularly, to an apparatus, system, and method of monitoring solids levels in a container and indicating a need for replenishment.Background of the Disclosure
It is well understood that various types of solids may be carried within containers, and may be dispensed over extended time periods in discreet quantities from such containers, such as in servings or doses. In general, the solids placed ultimately placed within the container may be tracked, in bulk, prior to delivery to or purchase by the ultimate consumer. For example, bulk tracking may be performed on farmed goods as they are farmed, and as they are shipped for distribution; warehoused solids may be tracked by production date, such as by UPC code or the like, and/or such as by warehoused pallet, and so on; once the goods reach a sales center, such as a grocery store, they may be tracked, such as by UPC code or the like, from an inventory perspective; but, once the solids reach the consumer and are placed into a container, such as for consumption, or consumed from a purchased container, there are no longer readily available tracking methodologies at present.
Thus, in embodiments such as the aforementioned, it is often the case that the only way for a user/consumer to monitor how much remains in the container is to periodically shake, lift, or otherwise manipulate the container to allow for a qualified guess by the user as to how much remains therein. Further, there is historically no methodology whereby proper dosing for use of the solid in a container may be readily assessed. Yet further, there is presently no mechanism whereby a seller of a solid can assess a consumer's need for additional solids.
Therefore, the need exists for an apparatus, system, and method of monitoring solid levels within a container, of dosing a solid within a container, and of automatically indicating (herein referred to as “autoreplenishment”), such as to at least one of a consumer and a seller, when the need for additional solid and/or a container thereof occurs.SUMMARY
The embodiments are and include at least an apparatus, system and method for providing a consumable level monitor for association with a solid content-filled consumable. The embodiments may include a sensing module embedded in a label associated with the consumable suitable to sense the consumable level; and a visual indicator suitable to receive the consumable level from the sensing module, and for communicating the consumable level to a user.
The disclosure is illustrated by way of example and not limitation in the accompanying drawings, in which like references indicate similar elements, and in which:
The figures and descriptions provided herein may have been simplified to illustrate aspects that are relevant for a clear understanding of the herein described devices, systems, and methods, while eliminating, for the purpose of clarity, other aspects that may be found in typical similar devices, systems, and methods. Those of ordinary skill may recognize that other elements and/or operations may be desirable and/or necessary to implement the devices, systems, and methods described herein. But because such elements and operations are well known in the art, and because they do not facilitate a better understanding of the present disclosure, a discussion of such elements and operations may not be provided herein. However, the present disclosure is deemed to inherently include all such elements, variations, and modifications to the described aspects that would be known to those of ordinary skill in the art.
The terminology used herein is for the purpose of describing particular example embodiments only and is not intended to be limiting. As used herein, the singular forms “a”, “an” and “the” may be intended to include the plural forms as well, unless the context clearly indicates otherwise. The terms “comprises,” “comprising,” “including,” and “having,” are inclusive and therefore specify the presence of stated features, integers, steps, operations, elements, and/or components, but do not preclude the presence or addition of one or more other features, integers, steps, operations, elements, components, and/or groups thereof. The method steps, processes, and operations described herein are not to be construed as necessarily requiring their performance in the particular order discussed or illustrated, unless specifically identified as an order of performance. It is also to be understood that additional or alternative steps may be employed.
When an element or layer is referred to as being “on”, “engaged to”, “connected to” or “coupled to” another element or layer, it may be directly on, engaged, connected or coupled to the other element or layer, or intervening elements or layers may be present. In contrast, when an element is referred to as being “directly on,” “directly engaged to”, “directly connected to” or “directly coupled to” another element or layer, there may be no intervening elements or layers present. Other words used to describe the relationship between elements should be interpreted in a like fashion (e.g., “between” versus “directly between,” “adjacent” versus “directly adjacent,” etc.). As used herein, the term “and/or” includes any and all combinations of one or more of the associated listed items.
Although the terms first, second, third, etc., may be used herein to describe various elements, components, regions, layers and/or sections, these elements, components, regions, layers and/or sections should not be limited by these terms. These terms may be only used to distinguish one element, component, region, layer or section from another element, component, region, layer or section. Terms such as “first,” “second,” and other numerical terms when used herein do not imply a sequence or order unless clearly indicated by the context. Thus, a first element, component, region, layer or section discussed below could be termed a second element, component, region, layer or section without departing from the teachings of the exemplary embodiments.
Processor-implemented modules, systems and methods of use are disclosed herein that may provide networked access to a plurality of types of digital content, including but not limited to video, image, text, audio, metadata, algorithms, interactive and document content, and which track, deliver, manipulate, transform and report the accessed content. Described embodiments of these modules, systems and methods are intended to be exemplary and not limiting. As such, it is contemplated that the herein described systems and methods may be adapted and may be extended to provide enhancements and/or additions to the exemplary modules, systems and methods described. The disclosure is thus intended to include all such extensions.
Embodiments may include a solids level monitoring apparatus, system, and method, as well as an auto replenishment apparatus, system, and method for solids typically within a container, for which monitoring of the level of those solids has not historically occurred. The embodiments may include a stand-alone base that is distinct from the one or more containers, and which may include one or more printed circuit boards, firmware, network communication capabilities, user interfaces and indicators, provided power, and/or a dispenser for dispensing solids from a container associated with the base. The embodiments of the base may be associated with one or more types of containers, such as may be formed of plastic, cardboard, or glass, and may extend upward into contact, in part or in whole, with one or more aspects of the container placed into the base, such that the container is brought into contact with aspects of the base in order that the functionality discussed herein may be provided. Of note, the container may have associated there with one or more aspects, such as electronic labels, to provide the functionality herein, either discretely or in conjunction with the encompassing and electronic aspects of the base, as described throughout.
Further, included in the embodiments may be: cloud based storage and communication with one or more of the bases; one or more smartphone apps for communication with the one or more bases and/or the cloud based communication site; and an analytics dashboard, which may be app and/or web-based, such as may be used by a consumer or seller of the solids. As used herein, a “solids level” monitored in the disclosed apparatuses, systems and methods is indicative of the amount of solids consumed from or remaining in a container associated with aspects of the embodiments; a “dose” is an amount of solid dispensed for a given purpose, such as to be eaten or for medicinal purposes; and an “auto replenishment” is that which may occur when the level in a container reaches a point at which a reorder is required.
In accordance with the foregoing, the embodiments provide the tracking of solids upon use of the solids from a container. This tracking may allow for reordering of the solids in a container, tracking of individual doses of the solids upon use, tracking of the unused portions of a solid after dosing, and/or bulk tracking of the solids, by way of non-limiting example.
As illustrated in
The sensing employed herein may be any one or more types of sensing suitable for sensing the contents of the box or doses dispensed from the box. By way of example, the sensing may be one or more photo conductive material sensors, which may be printed around at least a portion of the label of the container. Thereby, as portions of the label are uncovered, i.e., as the amount of solids within the container decreases, the photo conductive material senses the additional light that now hits the photo conductive label sensor. Thereby, the level of solids is sensed as indicated by the light received by the photo conductive label.
Of course, a variety of other sensing methodologies may be employed, such as, but not limited to, infrared, ultrasound, proximity sensing, other types of light sensing, derivative sensing, weight sensing, sound sensing, or resistance/conductance sensing, by way of non-limiting example. Needless to say, one or more of the foregoing sensing methodologies may vary in the uniformity of the sensing output, such as in accordance with the type of bulk solid 102 item placed within the container. Therefore, adjustments may be necessary in the type of sensing used, and/or in the processing of the sensor output, in order to properly sense different types of bulk items.
In accordance with the foregoing, the sensor output may be active or passive, as discussed. In either case, the output of the sensor must be provided to a processing system 110. This may be done by any of a variety of methods. For example, a highly simplistic processor may be included on the container in association with the sensor. In such cases, the processor may include some wireless communication capabilities, such as RF, infrared, blue tooth, Wi-Fi, or the like, or communication with the processing chip may occur based on an active external interrogation of the processing chip. Alternatively, the one or more processors may be off-container, and hence may form part of a system that actively interrogates the container to obtain the requisite sensing output, as is also discussed further hereinbelow with respect to
In the embodiment of
As referenced with respect to
The dispensing base may include a dispenser 240, such as a crank, spout with spigot, or the like, for the dispensing of the solids from the container received into the base. The dispenser base and the dispenser may be, by way of non-limiting example, plastic in composition, and/or may be substantially injection molded, such as with one or more actuation elements, such as a handle, switch, button, or the like.
The base may include one or more indicator LEDs 250 to indicate dosage and auto replenishment; one or more network communication capable modules, such as for communicating with a smart phone, local area network, cellular network, or the like; one or more power modules to provide power to the base modules, and which may include batteries that may be permanent/semipermanent (i.e., rechargeable) or replaceable; and or other optional elements, such as one or more audio alarms to support or replace the LED indicators of correct dosage or auto replenishment.
Further included may be firmware and software to provide the functionality discussed throughout. For example, firmware may sense the solids level based on the intercommunication of the sensing and the processing, and may use this information to indicate dosing or auto replenishment. Likewise, dosing, and/or auto replenishment, may be information provided remotely from cloud-based algorithms, such as to the firmware of the base.
As referenced, the disclosed communication capabilities may include communication with one or more smartphone apps 220 having user information associated therewith, and which may receive user feedback regarding levels, dosing, auto replenishments, and so on. Such a smart phone app may communicate with the base via, for example, WiFi, Bluetooth, BLE, or cellular communication methodologies, and further, the firmware of the base may be suitable to batch information and data and/or otherwise piggyback to a smart phone having resident thereon the referenced app.
Further, a cloud-based backend 260 may store and serve received data to and from the aforementioned app, and to or from one or more web-based or app-based dashboards. Some or all of the additional processing discussed throughout may be performed at the cloud based backend, such as alerts or email confirmations in the circumstances of auto replenishment, such as instead of drawing on the limited resources of the dispensing base's firmware or processors.
As used herein, the disclosed system may include two aspects, as discussed throughout. More particularly, the first aspect may be a “consumable”, such as the food container discussed above with respect to
Also included within the system may be a durable aspect such as the aforementioned dispensing unit 240, by way of example, such as may be physically and/or communicatively associated with a consumable. The durable may, as referenced above, also include communication capabilities to back-end 260, as discussed above. Unlike the consumable, the durable aspect may have a usable life that spans the exhaustion of a plurality of consumables, such as over a predetermined time period, such as over the course of a month, a year, or the like.
As discussed throughout, the automatic reordering envisioned herein may reflect a need to reorder not only a consumable, but additionally a durable aspect of the disclosed system. By way of non-limiting example, durable and consumable pairs may include: razors and razor blades; a soap dispenser and a soap or shampoo bottle; a hand soap dispenser and a refill soap bag; a cereal box and a turning crank cereal dispenser; a printer and an ink cartridge; a disposable detergent bottle and an ergonomic spicket dispenser; a spice rack and a spice bottle; a centrifuge and a vial of bodily fluid; and a coffee machine and coffee, tea, or other beverage pods.
In prior efforts, the smart label of a consumable has been read by a durable with which the consumable is paired solely in order to identify the consumable. That is, a consumable may typically be associated with and RFID or NFC Tag, a Q.R. code, a barcode, a UPC code, or the like, which, when read by a paired durable, serves merely to identify the consumable. In contrast, the proposed embodiments may, embed semi-smart and smart labels on or in the consumables such that a wealth of information beyond identification may be sensed or otherwise conveyed to and by the paired durable, such as exclusively and only upon pairing of the consumable with the durable. That is, the durable may include a plurality of conventional electronics designed to sense/read the detailed consumable information provided by the semi-smart label of the consumable. Accordingly, the disclosed embodiments may provide functionality beyond mere identification, and may provide significant cost advantages over RFID, NFC, or optical reading methods previously provided for the consumable and durable pair.
Such functionality may be provided, such as only upon pairing of the consumable with the durable, by any of a variety of methods that will be understood to the skilled artisan in light of the discussion herein. For example, discussed throughout are capacitive proximity sensing, light sensing (such as using photo resistive sensors), and conductivity or resistivity sensing (wherein electrically unconnected portions of the system are subsequently connected to indicate a content level) to provide content identification for consumable items.
By way of non-limiting example,
Additionally, and alternatively,
In the illustration of
It will be appreciated that the foregoing embodiments may also work for liquids having a certain opacity, as well as for bulk solids sensing discussed throughout. That is, provided herein is an inexpensive method to continuously detect change in product level by sensing a change in resistance for solids or liquids.
It will be understood that the durable discussed throughout may be generic or proprietary. That is, a proprietary durable may be operable only with a particular brand of consumables, and hence other brands of the same type of consumable will not operate with the proprietary durable. Modification of the aspects discussed herein, such as customization in aspects of a printed photo resistive label, may make it difficult to genericize a proprietary durable. Thereby, a proprietary durable may enhance brand loyalty for certain categories of consumables.
The durable 606 may then have slots 608 connectively associated with power 610 and the input-output of one or more analog to digital convertors 612 associated with a microprocessor 614, such as to identify the different resistance values of the resistive trace 604 associated with a consumable placed within the slot 608. Thereby, if multiple consumable items may be used in a single durable, the resistive sensing identifies which consumable was used. If multiple consumables may be simultaneously placed within the durable at multiple slots at the same time, the disclosed embodiment may identify which consumable is in which slot. It will be appreciated that the variations in resistance of the resistive trace may be provided by any known methods, such as variations in the shape, length, thickness, or type, such as the polymer composition, of the trace used.
In relation to the proprietary or non-proprietary nature of the durables as discussed above, the aforementioned dashboard may be associated with one or more sellers or brands of the referenced solids. In such circumstances, an analytics dashboard may be available to the brand for user and use data indicative of certain geography use, global use, use at times of the day, use by demographic area, or the like. This and additional information provided at the dashboard may allow for a brand to target or otherwise send special offers, discount codes, or the like to particular users, such as high-volume users.
Dose size may be set up using the app or a web-based application, such as in small, medium, and large, increments, and those increments may be particularly associated, such as by a manufacturer's specifications. Alternatively, dosing may be hard coded into the firmware, such as for a given container size typically received by the base. Needless to say, dosing sizes may serve as portion control for solids that are eaten.
Moreover, the firmware, such as absent intercommunication with the cloud or in association with cloud communication, may indicate and/or otherwise trigger an autoreplenishment event. This auto replenishment may be automatic or semi-automatic—a semi-automatic autoreplenishment event may show a confirmation dialogue or other alert to the user, such as in the app, which may allow for the user to cancel or confirm the order; or, the auto replenishment order may be fully automated. An autoreplenishment event may be communicated to the referenced cloud backend, such as subject to an additional confirmation, such as by an app alert or an email, to the ordering consumer. Further, such an auto replenishment event may contribute to the data that may be provided to a brand, such as on the brand dashboard. Data associated with an autoreplenishment may include date, time, location, and/or user ID of the app associated with the auto replenishment, percent level for replenishment (which may be automatic as an autoreplenishment threshold, or which may be set by the user), product SKU, or the like.
Functionality for the cloud may include storage of level updates, dosage events, and auto replenishment events, by way of example. Further, cloud functionality may include user activity data, interactivity, reset capability, and the like. Decisions, such as the reaching of thresholds for discounts, may optionally occur in the cloud, and the brand dashboard may be enabled to approve such discounts to send, such as for receipt by the consumer app, discount codes and/or other targeted advertising to select consumers. Select consumers may be particular consumers meeting certain data thresholds, classes of consumers, app profile information, or the like.
Auto replenishment events available in the dashboard may be provided in list, mapped, or threshold formats, by way of non-limiting example. Accessing an auto replenishment event may open a particular consumer profile, and may make available to the dashboard all data associated with that profile. Such data, which may be in a map form as referenced above, may include latitude, longitude, location, distance from nearest seller of the brand, use date, use time, percent solids level, machine used with, and/or the like. Also included in the brand dashboard data may be typical frequency of use, recent frequency of use, time since last use, and so on.
In accordance with the foregoing, the user app may additionally include various aspects. For example, the smart phone at may be enabled to discover and pair with the firmware of the dispensing base, such as when the base is activated or on, as mentioned above. The smart phone app may display autoreplenishment requests or confirmation, such as in a user dialogue format. Further, the smart phone app may display a current solids level, and the frequency of updates for the solids level. Also indicated may be proper dosing for that solid and the ability for the user to request dosing.
The app may additionally include the capability to receive discounts and targeted advertising, such as from the brand dashboard. These may be in the form of a push notification or a user dialogue that provides an app alert to accept and/or apply the discount code, such as wherein the discount code may be saved for the next order or applied to a current order. Of course, the app may include the ability to change any one or more of the foregoing settings or any additional settings, such as autoreplenishment settings, such as wherein the level percentage threshold may be varied for an autoreplenishment indication. The foregoing may be available from a drop-down or similar menu, a pop-up window, or via any known user interaction, by way of example.
The dashboard referenced herein may additionally include particular aspects. For example, the dashboard may include autoreplenishment event data, particular user information, location-based information, and the like. Further, the dashboard may integrate third-party data, such as weather data, to allow for data fusion between sensed data and publicly available data sources, such as in order to optimize sales.
The dashboard may also include one or more search capabilities. That is, a dashboard user may search for particular data across one or more users, such as “frequent users”, “fading users” (i.e., a list of users whose frequency of use has fallen relative to long-term usage), certain geographic searches, usage associated with certain events (such as snowstorms), and the like. Responsive to the search, and otherwise available from within the dashboard, may be a consumer data display. That is, dashboard events, such as autoreplenishment events, may include drill down capabilities to obtain more detail on particular consumers. The drill down may include basic information, such as delivery address or locale, and more particular information, such as dosing events or solids levels over time.
The dashboard requirements may additionally include an ability to design marketing campaigns and/or discount codes. For example, discount codes may be provided based on the meeting of certain thresholds by certain data of consumers. Thereby, the discount codes may be automatically generated upon the trigger event for one or more consumers, or may be “hard entered” by a person controlling the dashboard. Moreover, the foregoing aspects may overlap, such as wherein discount codes are readily executed, such as responsive to a single click, to all consumers that have been returned responsive to an entered search within the dashboard.
Additional functional requirements may include those of the cloud based backend. The cloud based backend may store data, including autoreplenishment events, dosing events, and solids level events, by way of example, and may be suitable to serve that data back to the smart phone app and/or to the dashboard as needed. Further, certain of the decision-making algorithms discussed herein throughout may also reside at the cloud based backend, such as rather than residing in a smart phone app or in association with the dashboard.
In the foregoing Detailed Description, it can be seen that various features are grouped together in a single embodiment for the purpose of streamlining the disclosure. This method of disclosure is not to be interpreted as reflecting an intention that the embodiments require more features than are expressly recited herein.
1. A consumable level monitoring system for association with a solid content-filled consumable, comprising:
- a sensing module embedded in a label associated with the consumable suitable to sense the consumable level; and
- a visual indicator suitable to receive the consumable level from the sensing module, and for communicating the consumable level to a user.
2. The system of claim 1, wherein the visual indicator is a color changing indicator.
3. The system of claim 1, wherein the sensing module is passive.
4. The system of claim 1, wherein the sensing module is active.
5. The system of claim 1, wherein the sensing module is on an outside aspect of the label.
6. The system of claim 5, wherein the label further comprises an electronic communication module.
7. The system of claim 6, wherein the communication module comprises a processor.
8. The system of claim 1, wherein the sensing module comprises a plurality of sensors at various volume levels of the content-filled consumable.
9. The system of claim 8, wherein the plurality of sensors comprise a plurality of photo conductive material sensors.
10. The system of claim 8, wherein the plurality of sensors comprise photoresistors.
11. The system of claim 1, wherein the label is networked.
12. The system of claim 8, wherein the plurality of sensors comprise sensors selected from one of infrared, ultrasound, proximity, light, derivative, weight, sound and resistance sensors.
13. The system of claim 12, wherein the plurality of sensors vary with the uniformity of the contents.
14. The system of claim 1, further comprising a dispensing base for electrical association with the label.
15. The system of claim 14, wherein the sensing module is, in part, in the dispensing base, and, in part, in the label.
16. The system of claim 14, wherein the dispensing base includes a dispenser in physical communication with the solid content and capable of dispensing the content from the consumable to modify the content level.
17. The system of claim 16, wherein the dispenser comprises one of a crank, a spout, or a spigot.
18. The system of claim 1, further comprising a power module for powering at least the sensing module.
19. The system of claim 1, wherein the communication to the user comprises a display over at least one network.
20. The system of claim 1, wherein the sensing module comprises firmware for converting signals associated with the content level.
Filed: May 3, 2019
Publication Date: Mar 11, 2021
Applicant: NYPRO INC. (Clinton, MA)
Inventors: Amanda Williams (St. Petersburg, FL), Julio Daniel Oropeza (St. Petersburg, FL), Yu-Chang Lee (St. Petersburg, FL), Ying Hao Lee (St. Petersburg, FL), Martin Johnson (St. Petersburg, FL), Marc Theeuwes (St. Petersburg, FL), Stefan Vaes (St. Petersburg, FL), Toon Diels (St. Petersburg, FL)
Application Number: 17/052,779