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Publication numberUS20010045449 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/770,001
Publication dateNov 29, 2001
Filing dateJan 25, 2001
Priority dateJan 31, 2000
Publication number09770001, 770001, US 2001/0045449 A1, US 2001/045449 A1, US 20010045449 A1, US 20010045449A1, US 2001045449 A1, US 2001045449A1, US-A1-20010045449, US-A1-2001045449, US2001/0045449A1, US2001/045449A1, US20010045449 A1, US20010045449A1, US2001045449 A1, US2001045449A1
InventorsBruce Shannon
Original AssigneeShannon Bruce L.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Internet delivery lock box
US 20010045449 A1
Abstract
Disclosed is a temporary storage device associated with a home or office building for use in temporarily storing delivered goods. The storage device has a compartment with an access door associated with a locking device and preferably a handcart. In some embodiments, the storage device is integrated into a wall of a home or office associated with the storage device and further includes a second access door. In other embodiments, a temporary storage device system is provided having a switch means connected to the locking device, an input device, and a control unit, where access to the storage device is granted through entry of a valid security code. Also disclosed is a method for ordering goods from a remote location for delivery into the storage device. In some embodiments, a security code generated at the time of the order is provided to a commercial carrier to access the temporary storage device upon delivery of the good.
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Claims(31)
I claim:
1. A temporary storage device associated with a home or office building for use in temporarily storing delivered goods, said storage device comprising:
a compartment having an access door provided with a locking device.
2. The temporary storage device of
claim 1
, wherein the storage device further comprises a handcart associated with said compartment.
3. The temporary storage device of
claim 1
, wherein the temporary storage device further comprises:
a second access door;
wherein the first access door comprises primary access for delivery of goods; and
wherein the second access door comprises primary access for retrieval of goods.
4. The temporary storage device of
claim 3
wherein the locking device is configured as a one way access door.
5. The temporary storage device of
claim 3
, wherein:
the second access door is provided with a locking device.
6. The temporary storage device of
claim 3
, wherein the storage device further comprises a handcart associated with said compartment.
7. The temporary storage device of
claim 3
, wherein the storage device includes at least one of a cooling means, a heating means, an insulating means, a shelf, a bar to hang certain goods, and weather resistant materials.
8. The temporary storage device of
claim 3
, wherein the storage device is integrated into a wall of the structure wherein
a first access door made is made assessable for receiving deliveries on the exterior of the structure; and
a second access door is made assessable for retrieving deliveries on the interior of the structure.
9. A temporary storage device system associated with a home or office building for use in temporarily storing delivered goods comprising:
a compartment having an access door provided with a locking device;
a switch means connected to said locking device for causing unlocking of the locking device;
an input device for receiving data;
a control unit in communication with the input device and the switch means, wherein the control unit receives data from the input device; and
whereby, a security code is stored in a memory associated with the control unit and an access code is entered into the input device and transmitted to the control unit, whereupon access is granted to said compartment, upon entry of a valid access code, by activating the switch means to unlock the associated locking device.
10. The temporary storage device system of
claim 9
, wherein the input device comprises at least one of a keypad, a card reader, a telephone modem, a DSL modem, a cable modem, a radio receiver, a cellular receiver, and a satellite receiver.
11. The temporary storage device system of
claim 9
, wherein the storage device further comprises a communication device for receiving data from a public information network, wherein a temporary access code to the storage device is received from a public information network and stored in a memory associated with the control unit.
12. The temporary storage device system of
claim 9
, wherein the control unit comprises a microprocessor.
13. The temporary storage device system of
claim 9
, wherein a handcart is disposed within the compartment.
14. The temporary storage device system of
claim 9
, wherein the temporary storage device further comprises:
a second access door;
wherein the first access door comprises primary access for delivery of goods; and
wherein the second access door comprises primary access for retrieval of goods.
15. The temporary storage device of
claim 14
, wherein the locking device is configured as a one way access door.
16. The temporary storage device of
claim 14
, wherein:
the second access door is provided with a locking device.
17. The temporary storage device of
claim 14
, wherein a handcart is disposed within the storage compartment.
18. The temporary storage device of
claim 14
, wherein the storage device includes at least one of a cooling means, a heating means, an insulating means, a shelf, a bar to hang certain goods, and weather resistant materials.
19. The temporary storage device of
claim 14
, wherein the temporary storage device is integrated into a wall of the structure wherein
a first access door made is made assessable for receiving deliveries on the exterior of the structure; and
a second access door is made assessable for retrieving deliveries on the interior of the structure.
20. A method for ordering goods for delivery into a storage device for use in temporarily storing delivered goods associated with a home or office building of the intended recipient of the delivered goods, said method comprising the steps of:
ordering a good from a merchant;
establishing delivery of the good by commercial carrier to the intended recipient;
providing a temporary access code to the commercial carrier;
storing the temporary access code into a memory associated with a control unit associated with the storage device; and
whereby the commercial carrier enters the temporary access code into an input device associated with the storage device and access is granted to a compartment of the storage device upon entry of a valid access code verified by the control unit so that the control unit causes unlocking of a locking device associated with an access door of the storage device.
21. The method of
claim 20
, where the temporary access code is generated on a web site associated with the merchant of the good.
22. The method of
claim 21
, where the temporary access code is provided to the commercial carrier by the merchant.
23. The method of
claim 21
, where the temporary access code is provided to the commercial carrier by designation on the delivery invoice associated with the good.
24. The method of
claim 21
, where the temporary access code is provided to the commercial carrier and the intended recipient over the internet upon ordering the good.
25. The method of
claim 24
, where the temporary access code is provided to the commercial carrier by transmission to the commercial carrier using at least one of a telephone modem, a DSL modem, a cable modem, a radio receiver, a cellular receiver, and satellite receiver.
26. The method of
claim 20
, where the temporary access code is generated by the intended recipient.
27. The method of
claim 26
, where the temporary access code is provided to the commercial carrier over the internet
28. The method of
claim 26
, where the temporary access code is provided to the commercial carrier by transmission to the commercial carrier using at least one of a telephone modem, a DSL modem, a cable mode, a radio receiver, a cellular receiver, and a satellite receiver.
29. The method of
claim 20
, wherein the storage device provides notification of the existence of a delivered good or an unclosed door, wherein such notification includes at least one of a flag, a light, and a transmission signal to at least one of a home, office, pager, personal digital assistant, and computer.
30. The method of
claim 20
, where the good is retrieved from the storage device by accessing the access door associated with the storage device.
31. The method of
claim 20
, where the good is transported to a desired location inside the home or office by a handcart associated with the compartment of the storage device.
Description
RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] The present patent application claims the benefit of, and priority to, U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/179,182 entitled “Internet Delivery Lock box” filed Jan. 31, 2000, the entire contents of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Field of the Invention

[0003] The present invention generally relates to a device having a handcart associated therewith for temporarily and securely storing delivered goods, and more particularly, to a method for ordering goods over the Internet which are delivered to a lock box with selective access.

[0004] 2. Discussion of Related Art

[0005] The shipment of parcels for delivery to a home or office has been a cumbersome and time-consuming process for both the commercial carrier delivering the parcel and for the parcel recipient. Typically, products purchased remotely, such as through a catalog or over the internet, must be delivered to a purchaser by a commercial carrier. Commercial carriers generally request that the intended recipient be present at the time of delivery. In the absence of the recipient, it is necessary for the commercial carrier to return the package to the delivery hub and await personal pickup by the recipient. This time-consuming process is frequently averted by agreement between the recipient and the commercial carrier that personal receipt of a delivered parcel is not required. In these cases, the commercial carrier commonly drops the package in an unsecured area near the front entrance of a building, such as near the front porch area of a home or office. However, this practice carries the obvious liability of exposing the commercial carrier and/or the recipient to the risk that the unsecured parcel may be stolen or possibly damaged by exposure to environmental elements.

[0006] Retrieval of the delivered parcel further complicates the delivery process. In the absence of personal delivery to the intended recipient, a parcel is typically hidden behind some obstruction by the commercial carrier to block it from common view, such as behind a grouping of bushes or a fence. This practice creates a risk of injury for the intended recipient who must bend over to retrieve the parcel, thus frequently exerting tremendous effort to dislodge the parcel from the above-described obstructions in order to pick the parcel up off the ground. This risk of injury is exacerbated when retrieving parcels with larger than average weight or dimensions, or for people with back problems, the elderly or the infirm. Such parcels are often pushed, pulled, kicked, or tugged into the home or office by the intended recipient further exposing the package and its contents to risk of damage.

[0007] The retrieval of delivered parcels in inclement weather further subjects the intended recipient to an increased risk of injury and the parcel to an increased risk of damage. The intended recipient faces an increased risk of injury through a slip and fall when forced to go outside to retrieve packages in the rain, sleet, hail, snow, or in icy conditions. These same weather conditions also create an increased risk of damage to the packages contents by exposure to environmental factors such as freezing, rain or moisture, or extreme heat conditions.

[0008] A solution for storing articles in a plurality of storage units is offered by U.S. Pat. No. 5,126,732, which describes a stowing system having a plurality of adjacent lockers, and U.S. Pat. No. 5,946,660, which describes a storage system having a plurality of storage facilities each containing a plurality of storage units, both of which are herein incorporated by reference. However, these inventions fail to address the need of a storage device for temporarily storing delivered goods associated with a home or office. These inventions also fail to address the need of a device for transporting parcels to a desired location in a home or office, or for reducing the risk of injury to the parcel and intended recipient by exposure to environmental elements.

[0009] Accordingly, there is a need for a storage device for temporarily storing delivered goods associated with a home or office. Further there is a need for a device that enables a recipient to transport the delivered goods to an intended destination inside a home or office. Further, there is a need for a storage device that allows an intended recipient to retrieve a parcel from the comfort and convenience of her home or office. Further, there is a need for a storage device associated with an input device or keypad that allows the composition of a temporary code granting one-time access for the commercial carrier to the storage device for delivery of the good.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0010] The present invention overcomes the inconvenience and limitations of prior systems described above by providing a storage device that allows temporary storage of delivered goods at home or office from a commercial carrier. The temporary storage device facilitates temporary storage of the delivered goods by providing a compartment with an access door associated with a locking device. Upon delivery, the commercial carrier is able to secure the delivered goods within the compartment by deactivating the locking device associated with the access door. The delivered goods remain securely stored within the temporary storage device until the locking device is unlocked by the intended recipient of the goods.

[0011] The invention also facilitates transportation of the delivered good to a desired location within the home or office of the intended recipient by incorporating a handcart into the temporary storage device. As such, the intended recipient is able to transport the good on a handcart rather than lifting and carrying the good to its desired location within a home or office. The present invention also is configured to allow retrieval of the delivered good from within the interior of a home or office building by integrating the storage device into a wall of a home or office building and providing an inside and outside access door. In this regard, the intended recipient is not forced to exit a home or office building to retrieve delivered goods thereby offering enhanced convenience, security, and protection from the elements.

[0012] The invention is also configured with a switch means connected to the locking device for providing unlocking and locking of the locking device. An input device is further associated with the temporary storage device for inputting a temporary access code or personal security code to access the compartment of the device. A control unit is also associated with the temporary storage device where the control unit is communicatively linked to the input device and electrical switch means. In this aspect of the invention, a security code is stored in a memory associated with control unit and an access code is entered into the input device and transmitted to the control unit. Access to the compartment of the temporary storage device is granted upon entry of a valid access code and verification by the control unit. The temporary access code may be deactivated after first use. The electrical switch means is then energized by communication with the control unit to cause unlocking of the locking device so that the access door may be opened by the commercial carrier. The good is then placed within the compartment, the access door closed, whereupon the locking device is returned to the locked position so that the good is securely stored inside. Retrieval of the good by the intended recipient may then be provided by entry of a similar temporary access code or permanent security code in the manner described above.

[0013] The present invention also includes a method of ordering goods for delivery into the temporary storage device, including ordering goods from a merchant, establishing delivery by commercial carrier, providing an access code to the commercial carrier, and storing an access code into a memory associated with the control unit, wherein the commercial carrier enters the provided access code into the input device and the access code is transmitted to the control unit. Access to the compartment of the temporary storage device is granted upon entry of a valid access code and verification by the control unit. The electrical switch means is then energized by communication with the control unit to cause unlocking of the locking device so that the access door may be opened by the commercial carrier. The good is then placed within the compartment, the access door closed, whereupon the locking device is returned to the locked position with the good securely stored inside. The temporary access code is then deactivated by the control unit.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY DRAWINGS

[0014] The features and advantages of the present invention reside in the details of construction and operation as more fully depicted, described, and claimed below, with particular reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein like numerals refer to like parts throughout, and wherein:

[0015]FIG. 1 illustrates a perspective view of an exemplary temporary storage device in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

[0016]FIG. 2 illustrates a perspective view of an exemplary handcart associated with the temporary storage device in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

[0017]FIG. 3 illustrates a perspective view of the temporary storage device with the access door in the open position and with the associated handcart therein in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present invention.

[0018]FIG. 4 illustrates a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the present invention with a first access door and a second access door.

[0019]FIG. 5 illustrates a perspective view of an alternative embodiment of the present invention with a first access door and a second access door integrated within a wall of a home or office building in accordance with the present invention.

[0020]FIG. 6 illustrates a schematic diagram of an electronic access means associated with the temporary storage device system of the present invention.

[0021]FIG. 7 illustrates an exemplary flow chart showing the method for purchasing a desired good from a remote location and delivering the purchased good to the temporary storage device.

[0022]FIG. 8 illustrates an exemplary flow chart showing the method for entering and storing the temporary access code into a keypad.

[0023]FIG. 9 illustrates an exemplary flow chart showing the method for retrieving the delivered good from the temporary storage device.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

[0024] The present invention is described herein with reference to block diagrams and flowchart illustrations of methods, apparatus (e.g., systems), and computer program products according to various aspects of the invention. It will be understood that each functional block of the block diagrams and the flowchart illustrations, and combinations of functional blocks in the block diagrams and flowchart illustrations, respectively, can be implemented by computer program instructions. These computer program instructions may be loaded onto any combination of general purpose computer, special purpose computer, or other programmable data processing apparatus to produce a machine, such that the instructions which execute on the computer or other programmable data processing apparatus create means for implementing the functions specified in the flowchart block or blocks.

[0025] These computer program instructions may also be stored in a computer-readable memory that can direct a computer or other programmable data processing apparatus to function in a particular manner. The computer program instructions may also be loaded onto a computer or other programmable data processing apparatus to cause a series of operational steps to be performed on the computer or other programmable apparatus to produce a computer-implemented process such that the instructions which execute on the computer or other programmable apparatus provide steps for implementing the functions specified in the flowchart block or blocks.

[0026] It should be appreciated that the particular implementations shown and described herein are illustrative of the invention and its best mode and are not intended to otherwise limit the scope of the present invention in any way. Indeed, for the sake of brevity, conventional data networking, application development and other functional aspects of the systems (and components of the individual operating components of the systems) may not be described in detail herein. Furthermore, the connecting lines shown in the various figures contained herein are intended to represent exemplary functional relationships and/or physical couplings between the various elements. It should be noted that many alternative or additional functional relationships or physical connections may be present in a practical electronic transaction system.

[0027] Referring to FIG. 1, the present invention includes a temporary storage device 10 a for temporarily storing goods. In an exemplary embodiment, the storage device 10 a includes a compartment 40 having a rectangular access door 12 a with a locking device 50 associated therewith. The box preferably includes a hinged door wherein the door can be suitably locked by a key, electronic coding device or any other locking mechanism. The storage device 10 a may be any shape or size, constructed of any suitable material, such as, metal, plastic, wood and/or the like and include any number of compartments, openings and/or the like. The storage device may be free-standing or incorporated into any existing structure, device or element, such as, for example, the device may be integral with a bench, planter, statute, wall and/or the like. Any portion of the lock box may be decorated, painted or designed to match the building facade or to imitate a structure or plant (e.g., to conform to area specific housing community guidelines). The temporary storage device could also be associated with a cooling means, heating means, or insulating means to maintain the compartment at a desired temperature in cases where the contents of the parcel contained temperature sensitive goods or perishable items, such as frozen foods or produce. The box may include different size shelves for different sized packages, a cooler for goods that require temperature control (e.g. groceries, frozen food deliveries and the like), a bar to hang certain goods (e.g., dry-cleaning, new clothes, rugs, posters and the like) or any other desired storage compartment. In an alternative embodiment, the temporary storage device would by configured in a weather-proof or water resistant manner to temporarily protect the parcel from environmental elements or degradation. Moreover, the storage compartments may be easily removable or interchangeable to allow the user to select a preferred storage feature. The lock box may optionally include a portion which allows visual inspection of the contents (e.g., window).

[0028] The storage device may also include any other indication device to provide convenient notification of the existence of a delivery waiting inside the lock box (e.g., flag, light and or the like). The storage device may be suitably configured with the appropriate electronics and telecommunications technology to allow the transmission of a signal to the inside of a home or office, to a pager, to a personal digital assistant, to a computer and/or the like. The signal may indicate that the access door has been opened, closed or tampered with. The internal portions of the storage device may include a suitable detector (pressure, light beam, weight and/ or the like) which may also transmit a signal indicating the existence of a delivery.

[0029] Such an indication device may comprise a lamp which is actuated by means of a switch, such as a microswitch, located within the storage device. Deposit of a parcel inside the compartment 40 of the storage device would cause actuation of the microswitch which would cause current to be applied to the lamp and further cause illumination thereof indicating that a parcel has been placed in the storage device. When the parcel is removed from the storage device, the weight removed from the microswitch would cause the switch to open and current to be removed from the lamp, causing termination of the illumination thereof The lamp may be LED or any other suitable form of display.

[0030] A suitable indicator device may also be coupled to an alarm and contact switch to monitor the status of the door, such as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,475,378, the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference. Additionally, sensors for detecting proper closing of the access door may also be used, such as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,126,732, the disclosure of which is also incorporated by reference. Suitable communication technology for transmitting a signal identifying the status of the storage device may be practiced in accordance with U.S. Pat. No. 5,946,660, the disclosure of which is also incorporated by reference.

[0031] An exemplary storage device of the present invention is defined by a first rectangular side wall 14 and a second rectangular side wall 16, which are spaced apart by a rectangular rear wall 18 and a rectangular top wall 20. Referring to FIG. 4, an alternative embodiment of the temporary storage device 10 b includes two access doors, namely a first access door 12 a and second access door 12 b, wherein delivery and retrieval of a good may be accomplished through opposite ends of the temporary storage device 10 b. Referring to FIG. 5, the temporary storage device 10 b is integrated within a wall of a home or office building where the first access door 12 a is positioned outside to receive delivery of goods by the delivery person and the second access door 12 b is positioned inside to retrieve delivered goods by the recipient for further distribution within the home or office building. In this regard, the intended recipient could then transport the good to within a desired location of the home or office building by the associated handcart 70 disposed therein. Accordingly, the intended recipient is able to retrieve the delivered good from within the safety and security of the associated home or office building without exposure to the outside elements, thereby promoting the safety, security, and convenience associated with the retrieval of a good in accordance with the present invention.

[0032] In an alternative embodiment of the present invention a locking device may be configured as a one way access door such that a delivered good may be placed in the temporary storage device, but not removed without accessing the locking device 50, wherein locking device 50 may be located on any access door of the invention. Such an embodiment comprises a self-locking door allowing one-time access into the temporary storage device 10 b, where the first access door 12 a automatically locks or otherwise prevents access into the temporary storage device after delivery without activation from the intended recipient. In this embodiment, the compartment 40 may include an internal baffle adjacent to the first access door 12 a which, when delivered goods are placed into the compartment through the first access door 12 a, prevents access to the delivered good. Alternatively, the first access door may be pivotally mounted and include a panel or flap which blocks access to the compartment when the first access door 12 a is opened.

[0033] Referring to FIG. 2, the present invention also includes a handcart 70 associated with the temporary storage device 10 a. Handcart 70 is any device suitably configured to transport, manually or automatically, boxes, packages and other deliveries. In an exemplary embodiment, the handcart 70 has a rectangular bottom platform 72 outlined by a first side rail 74 and a second side rail 76, which are spaced apart by a rear side rail 78 and a front side rail 80. A pair of wheels 87, 88 are connected to a rear axle 84, and another pair of wheels 85, 86 are connected to a front axle 82 to allow rolling motion of the associated handcart 70. The front axle 82 is configured in a triangular fashion with the base of the triangle mounted onto a swivel mechanism 90 to allow the front axle 82 to swivel to facilitate turning the integrated handcart 70. An optional handle 92 is connected to the handcart to facilitate towing the handcart 70. More preferably, the handcart 70 is arranged within the compartment 40 of the temporary storage device 10 a so that placement of the delivered good within the compartment of the temporary 40 storage device situates the good upon the bottom platform 72 of the handcart 70. Retrieval of the delivered good is thus facilitated as the intended recipient is able to transport the good on the handcart 70 rather than lifting and carrying the good to its desired location within a home or office. As best shown in FIG. 3, the associated handcart 70 is disposed within the compartment 40 of the temporary storage device 10 a and can be removed through access door 12 a when the access door is in the open position.

[0034] Referring to FIG. 6, the present invention also includes, in an alternative embodiment, a temporary storage device system, which contains a locking device 50 in communication with a switch means 52, a control unit 54 and an input device 56 for receiving data. The input device 56 is configured to allow the input of a personal security code or access code to access the temporary storage device 10 c. The input device may read and/or accept any form of data, such as, for example, numbers, letters, characters, symbols, fingerprint, eyeprint, magnetic, bar code, smart card, infrared, electromagnetic waves, voice sample and/or the like. In an exemplary embodiment, the input device 56 is a keypad assembly, which is communicatively linked to the control unit 54, and includes a 12 character keyboard comprising keys 0-9, and an ENTER key and a CANCEL key to confirm or cancel the desired operation. The keypad 58 allows the user to input a personal security code or an access code into the input device and the information is transmitted to the control unit and then to the electrical switch. In an exemplary embodiment, a personal security code unique to a particular intended recipient of delivered goods is entered into the temporary storage device and stored within a memory allowing the intended recipient access to the temporary storage device using the same personal security code each time. Preferably, the security code would be numeric, 4 to 6 characters in length. The security code could be changed periodically, depending on the preference of the intended recipient. The keypad 58 also enables entry of an access code to enable temporary access of the temporary storage device 10 c by the commercial carrier using the same code as the recipient code, a special delivery person code or a one-time use code. Preferably, the access code would also be numeric, 4 to 6 characters in length. Alternatively, the access code and other information could be shown on a display associated with the keypad, preferably an LCD display.

[0035] The input device 56 comprises any digital or analog input device mechanism including a conventional keypad, card reader, standard telephone, DSL, and cable modems, as well as cellular and radio transmitter technology and satellite technology. If a keypad 58 is employed, it may comprise the type described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,946,660, the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference. If a card reader is employed, it may comprise the type described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,475,378, the disclosure of which is also incorporated by reference. If a modem is employed, it may comprise any number of commercially available telephone, DSL, or cable modems. If a satellite is employed, it may comprise any number of commercially available satellite dishes and receivers. It is also contemplated that any number of devices may be used as substitute for or as a compliment to the input device 56. For example, a fingerprint recognition means may be provided for identifying a delivery agent for the commercial carrier and/or the intended recipient of the delivered good.

[0036] The control unit 54 receives, processes and stores the personal security code and/or access code data. The control unit may be incorporated into the input device 56, the switch means 52, or remotely located from the storage device. Prior to delivery, the desired access code(s) would be entered into the keypad 58 by striking the individual keys of the keypad 58. The desired access code would then be suitably transmitted to the control unit 54 and stored in a memory associated with the control unit 54. In a preferred embodiment, the control unit 54 is a microprocessor based device with its own memory or associated EPROM memory for storing operating instructions and a random access memory or storage of the RAM type for allowing storage of the security code of the intended recipient and temporary access code for the commercial carrier. The microprocessor is utilized to process information from the input device 56 and electronic switch means 52 for operating the locking device 50, such as described in U.S. Pat. No. 5,126,732, the disclosure of which is incorporated herein by reference. The control unit 54 may optionally include power supplied by the home or business, its own integral power supply, as well as a battery back-up which may be used by the control unit 54 to supply DC power to itself and to the input device and to the locking device should the AC power fail. The power supplied to the control unit may optionally be provided by solar power. In an alternative embodiment, the power supplied to the control unit may also supply power to a heating or cooling device associated therewith. An exemplary heating and cooling device is found in U.S. Pat. No. 6,026,647 and U.S. Pat. No. 5,111,664, the disclosures of which are incorporated by reference.

[0037] In order to access the temporary storage device 10 c, the commercial carrier would input an access code associated with the delivered good into the keypad 58. The control unit is adapted to compare the code entered by the commercial carrier to the temporary access code previously entered and stored within a memory of the control unit 54. After having verified the coincidence of the access codes, the electrical switch means 52 is activated by communication with the control unit 54 to cause unlocking of the locking device 50 so that the access door 12 c may be opened by the commercial carrier. The control unit 54 controls the unlocking of the locking device 50 associated with the access door 12 c by activation of the electrical switch means 52. A wide variety operable locking devices comprising a locking device and switch means may be used by one skilled in the art, such as, mechanical, magnetic, electrical, optical and/or the solenoid controlled latch described in U.S. Pat. No. 4,698,630, the disclosure of which is incorporated by reference. Application of a low voltage signal or pulse to energize the solenoid associated with the electrical switch means 52 results in movement of the latch to an unlocked position, and subsequent removal of the energizing signal returns the latch to a locked position.

[0038] After successful entry of the access code by the commercial carrier, the locking device 50 would be switched to an unlocked position allowing the access door 12 c to be opened. The commercial carrier would then set the delivered good into the compartment 40 c of the temporary storage device and on top of the handcart 70 associated therein. Upon closing the access door 12 c, the locking device 50 would return to the locked position thereby securing the delivered good inside. In an alternative embodiment, if the door remains open for longer than a predetermined amount of time, an alarm or other indicia will be activated or a signal sent to the recipient's computer, pager, phone or personal digital assistant. Retrieval of the good by the intended recipient may then be provided by entry of a similar temporary access code or permanent security code in the manner described above.

[0039] Referring to FIG. 7, the present invention also includes a method for delivering goods to the temporary storage device. In this embodiment, a purchaser locates a particular good in a catalog or over the internet from a merchant in a remote location (step 110), or from any merchant which delivers purchased goods by commercial carrier. Particularly, the items are ordered from a computer, internet web site, catalog, telephone, interactive television or any other ordering service by submitting the necessary data and requesting delivery to a building by any common carrier such as, Federal Express™ or UPS™ or any corporation's delivery service (e.g., Petsmart, Staples, etc.). The purchaser would place an order by selecting and paying for the desired good in a manner provided by the merchant, such as over the phone or through the internet, by entering a credit card number or other means of payment into a telephone keypad or computer keyboard (step 120). A temporary access code to the desired storage device would be created by the purchaser, by the merchant, or randomly created by the computer (step 130). The temporary access code would then be transmitted to the commercial carrier or printed on the delivery invoice (step 150), preferably in a secure or encrypted manner. In a preferred embodiment, the temporary access code would be provided by the purchaser to the merchant at the time of purchase, and then from the merchant to the commercial carrier at the time of shipment (step 140). The purchased good would then be transported to the intended recipient by commercial carrier (step 160). The access code would allow the commercial carrier temporary one-time access to the storage device in the manner provided above.

[0040] Referring to FIG. 8, the temporary access code may be entered into the storage device manually through the input device, and preferably a keypad, by the intended recipient, or any other occupant of the home or office building of the intended recipient. In a preferred embodiment, the access code, comprised of 4 to 6 characters in length, is entered into the input device by depressing the corresponding numbers on the keypad (step 210). The operator may cancel the operation, in situations including the input of an erroneous access code, by pressing the CANCEL key (step 220). In this event, a new access code similarly of 4 to 6 characters in length is re-entered into the storage device by similarly depressing numerals corresponding to the access code on the keypad (step 230). Once the desired access code has been satisfactorily entered into the keypad, the operator depresses the ENTER key to confirm the selection of the temporary access code and to store it in a memory associated with the storage device (step 240). In a preferred embodiment, the temporary access code would be transmitted from the input device to the control unit and stored in a memory associated therewith.

[0041] Upon arrival to the location of the intended recipient, the commercial carrier would access the code from the delivery invoice, then input the temporary access code into the input device, preferably the keypad, by similarly depressing the keys corresponding to the access code and confirming the selection by depressing the ENTER key (step 250) as provided above. The control unit would then compare the temporary access code to the access code entered by the commercial carrier. Upon verification of acceptable access code entered by the commercial carrier, the control unit would grant access to the storage device by allowing unlocking of the locking device associated with the access door (step 260). The delivered good would then be placed into the storage device, and preferably on top of the handcart provided therein. The commercial carrier would then allow the access door to be returned to a closed position (step 270) and secured by locking of the locking device associated therewith by depressing the ENTER key of the keypad (step 280).

[0042] Referring to FIG. 9, the intended recipient would retrieve the delivered good by accessing the storage device in a similar manner. The intended recipient would input the same temporary access code (step 310) or a permanent security code (step 315) into the input device, preferably a keypad. The intended recipient would then depress the ENTER key to unlock the locking device (step 320). In a preferred embodiment, a locking device is associated with a second access door. Once the locking device is unlocked, the intended recipient would open the second access door, preferably positioned in the interior of the home (step 330). A handcart located in the compartment of the storage device would then be accessed, and preferably a handle would be attached thereto to facilitate towing (step 340). The intended recipient would then pull the handcart to a desired location within the home (step 350). The delivered good would then be removed from the handcart (step 360). The handcart would then be returned to the compartment of the storage device (step 370), whereupon the access door would be returned to its closed position (step 380). In an alternative embodiment, the delivered good could be removed from the storage device without transporting the handcart. In the preferred embodiment, once the access door is returned to its closed position, the ENTER key would be depressed to re-activate the locking device returning it to its closed position (step 390).

[0043] In an alternative embodiment of the present invention, the temporary access code could be transmitted directly from the merchant or commercial carrier to the storage device 10 c. Such transmission could occur over the internet, by a modem, or using cellular, satellite, or radio transmission technology associated with the input device 56. In this embodiment, the temporary access code would not have to be manually inputted by the intended recipient into the input device 56, as it would be automatically downloaded, for example, from the internet in association with the transaction purchase of the desired good from the merchant. In this embodiment, the commercial carrier would then enter in the provided access code into the input device 56 in order to gain access to the storage device 10c as described above.

[0044] A preferred embodiment of the present invention contemplates the placement of the storage device 10 b in an integrated relationship with a wall of the home or office of the intended recipient as shown in FIG. 5. In this embodiment, the storage device 10 b is integrated within a wall of a home or office building where the first access door 12 a is positioned outside to receive delivery of goods and the second access door 12 b is positioned inside to retrieve delivered goods for further distribution within the home or office building. The commercial carrier would access the first access door 12 a by entering in an access code through the input device 56, preferably through the keypad 58. The delivery agent would then place the parcel inside the compartment 40 of the storage device 10 b and secure the first access door 12 a. The intended recipient could then retrieve the parcel from a second access door 12 b inside her home or office, adding to the safety, comfort and convenience of the retrieval process.

[0045] Additionally, in either embodiment, the intended recipient's retrieval of the parcel would be facilitated by the handcart disposed therein. The delivery agent would place the parcel on top of the handcart disposed inside of the temporary storage device. Upon gaining access by use of a second access code or security code, the intended recipient would transport the parcel from inside the box to a destination inside the home or office of the recipient using the handcart provided therein.

[0046] The above network embodiment of the present invention may be described herein in terms of functional block components, screen shots, optional selections and various processing steps. It should be appreciated that such functional blocks may be realized by any number of hardware and/or software components configured to perform the specified functions. For example, the present invention may employ various integrated circuit components, e.g., memory elements, processing elements, logic elements, look-up tables, and the like, which may carry out a variety of functions under the control of one or more microprocessors or other control devices. Similarly, the software elements of the present invention may be implemented with any programming or scripting language such as C, C++, Java, COBOL, assembler, PERL, or the like, with the various algorithms being implemented with any combination of data structures, objects, processes, routines or other programming elements. Further, it should be noted that the present invention may employ any number of conventional techniques for data transmission, signaling, data processing, network control, and the like. For a basic introduction of cryptography, please review a text written by Bruce Schneider which is entitled “Applied Cryptography: Protocols, Algorithms, And Source Code In C,” published by John Wiley & Sons (second edition, 1996), which is hereby incorporated by reference.

[0047] It will be appreciated, that many applications of the present invention could be formulated. One skilled in the art will appreciate that the network may include any system for exchanging data or transacting business, such as the Internet, an intranet, an extranet, WAN, LAN, satellite communications, and/or the like. The users may interact with the system via any input device such as a keyboard, mouse, kiosk, personal digital assistant, handheld computer (e.g., Palm Pilot®), cellular phone and/or the like. Similarly, the invention could be used in conjunction with any type of personal computer, network computer, workstation, minicomputer, mainframe, or the like running any operating system such as any version of Windows, Windows NT, Windows2000, Windows 98, Windows 95, MacOS, OS/2, BeOS, Linux, UNIX, or the like. Moreover, although the invention is frequently described herein as being implemented with TCP/IP communications protocols, it will be readily understood that the invention could also be implemented using IPX, Appletalk, IP-6, NetBIOS, OSI or any number of existing or future protocols. Moreover, the system contemplates the use, sale or distribution of any goods, services or information over any network having similar functionality described herein.

[0048] As will be appreciated by one of ordinary skill in the art, the present invention may be embodied as a method, a data processing system, a device for data processing, and/or a computer program product. Accordingly, the present invention may take the form of an entirely software embodiment, an entirely hardware embodiment, or an embodiment combining aspects of both software and hardware. Furthermore, the present invention may take the form of a computer program product on a computer-readable storage medium having computer-readable program code means embodied in the storage medium. Any suitable computer-readable storage medium may be utilized, including hard disks, CD-ROM, optical storage devices, magnetic storage devices, and/or the like.

[0049] Communication between the parties to the transaction and the system of the present invention is accomplished through any suitable communication means, such as, for example, a telephone network, Intranet, Internet, point of interaction device (point of sale device, personal digital assistant, cellular phone, kiosk, etc.), online communications, off-line communications, wireless communications, and/or the like. One skilled in the art will also appreciate that, for security reasons, any databases, systems, or components of the present invention may consist of any combination of databases or components at a single location or at multiple locations, wherein each database or system includes any of various suitable security features, such as firewalls, access codes, encryption, de-encryption, compression, decompression, and/or the like.

[0050] The computing units are connected with each other via a data communication network. The network is a public network and assumed to be insecure and open to eavesdroppers. In the illustrated implementation, the network is embodied as the internet. In this context, the computers may or may not be connected to the internet at all times. For instance, the customer computer may employ a modem to occasionally connect to the internet, whereas the bank computing center might maintain a permanent connection to the internet. It is noted that the network may be implemented as other types of networks, such as an interactive television (ITV) network.

[0051] The merchant computer and the bank computer are interconnected via a second network referred to as a payment network. The payment network represents existing proprietary networks that presently accommodate transactions for credit cards, debit cards, and other types of financial/banking cards. The payment network is a closed network that is assumed to be secure from eavesdroppers. Examples of the payment network include the American Express®, VisaNet® and the Veriphone® network.

[0052] The electronic commerce system is implemented at the customer and issuing bank. In an exemplary implementation, the electronic commerce system is implemented as computer software modules loaded onto the customer computer and the banking computing center. The merchant computer does not require any additional software to participate in the online commerce transactions supported by the online commerce system.

[0053] It is to be understood that while the invention is disclosed in certain forms and embodiments, it is not to be limited to the specific forms or embodiments or parts or methods described and shown herein. It will be apparent to those skilled in the art that various changes may be made without departing from the scope of the invention and the invention is not to be considered limited to what is shown in the drawings and described in the specification.

Referenced by
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Classifications
U.S. Classification232/19
International ClassificationA47G29/14, G07F17/12, G07C9/00
Cooperative ClassificationA47G29/141, A47G2029/142, G07F17/12, A47G2029/147, G07C9/00015
European ClassificationG07C9/00B2, A47G29/14E, G07F17/12