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Publication numberUS20020073646 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 09/234,626
Publication dateJun 20, 2002
Filing dateJan 21, 1999
Priority dateJan 23, 1998
Publication number09234626, 234626, US 2002/0073646 A1, US 2002/073646 A1, US 20020073646 A1, US 20020073646A1, US 2002073646 A1, US 2002073646A1, US-A1-20020073646, US-A1-2002073646, US2002/0073646A1, US2002/073646A1, US20020073646 A1, US20020073646A1, US2002073646 A1, US2002073646A1
InventorsRobert J. VON Gutfeld, Paul A. Moskowitz, Trieu C. Chieu
Original AssigneeVon Gutfeld Robert J., Paul A. Moskowitz, Trieu C. Chieu
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Apparatus and system for rapidly attaching identifiers to items
US 20020073646 A1
Abstract
A system for processing containers, includes a sensor for sensing contents of a closed container, an identifier applicator for applying, based on an output of the sensor, a predetermined identifier to the container, a controller for controlling the sensor and the identifier applicator, and a read-out device for reading the identifier and communicating a result of read-out of the identifier to the controller.
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Claims(41)
Having thus described our invention, what we claim as new and desire to secure by Letters Patent is as follows:
1. A system for processing containers, comprising:
a sensor for sensing contents of a closed container;
an identifier applicator for applying, based on an output of said sensor, a predetermined identifier to said container;
a controller for controlling said sensor and said identifier applicator; and
a read-out device for reading said identifier and communicating a result of read-out of said identifier to said controller.
2. The system according to claim 1, wherein said identifier applicator comprises a tag applicator for applying tags.
3. The system according to claim 2, wherein said tag applicator comprises a gaseously-driven device for propelling said tag to said container.
4. The system according to claim 2, wherein said tag applicator comprises a pivotable arm, controlled by said controller, for applying said tag to said container.
5. The system according to claim 1, wherein said identifier applicator comprises a label applicator.
6. The system according to claim 5, wherein said label applicator comprises a pivotable arm controlled by said controller, for applying a label to said container.
7. The system according to claim 1, wherein said sensor senses whether said contents of said container has predetermined characteristics,
wherein, when said contents of said container has said predetermined characteristics, said identifier applicator applies an identifier having a first characteristic to said container, and
wherein, when said contents of said container has a characteristic other than said predetermined characteristics, said identifier applicator applies an identifier having a second characteristic to said container.
8. The system according to claim 7, wherein said identifier comprises a 1-bit tag for indicating one of said container having said predetermined characteristics and said container being devoid of said predetermined characteristics.
9. The system according to claim 7, wherein said identifier comprises a radio-frequency identification tag, said tag being encodable for indicating contents of said container.
10. The system according to claim 1, wherein a pressure-sensitive adhesive is provided on a surface of said identifier to be attached to said container.
11. The system according to claim 1, further comprising first and second loading queues for storing first and second identifiers for loading to said identifier applicator.
12. The system according to claim 1, further comprising an interrogator for interrogating said identifier after said identifier has been affixed to said container by said identifier applicator.
13. The system according to claim 1, wherein said interrogator comprises a hand-held radio-frequency scanner.
14. The system according to claim 2, wherein first and second types of tags are attachable to said container,
said first type of tag comprising a dummy tag, and said second tag comprising a functional tag, wherein each of said first and second tags comprises one of a 1-bit tag and a multi-bit radio frequency (RF) tag.
15. The system according to claim 2, further comprising first and second queues for stacking first and second types of tags respectively,
wherein, within each queue, said tags are stacked such that a release layer is provided between adjacent tags.
16. The system according to claim 2, wherein said tags have a rectangular shape having a primary surface and a secondary surface, and
wherein said tags are stacked face-to-face such that a primary surface of a first tag faces a primary surface of a second, adjacent tag.
17. The system according to claim 2, wherein said tags have a rectangular shape having a primary surface and a secondary surface, and
wherein said tags are stacked edge-to-edge such that a secondary surface of a first tag faces a secondary surface of a second, adjacent tag.
18. The system according to claim 2, wherein at least some of said tags comprise radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for being written to and read from.
19. The system according to claim 18, wherein said tags comprise RFID tags for a predetermined type of containers and dummy tags for other types of containers.
20. The system according to claim 2, wherein said tags comprise 1-bit tags for being one of armed and unarmed for predetermined types of container and the other of armed and disarmed for other types of containers.
21. The system according to claim 2, wherein said tags comprise 1-bit tags for a predetermined type of containers and dummy tags for other types of container.
22. The system according to claim 20, wherein said 1-bit tags comprise magnetic tags.
23. The system according to claim 18, wherein said RFID tags comprise radio frequency 1-bit tags comprising a RLC circuit therein.
24. The system according to claim 1, wherein each said predetermined identifier has substantially a same outward appearance as another said predetermined identifier.
25. An apparatus for tagging a container and for use with a sensor for sensing contents of the container, comprising:
an identifier applicator for applying a predetermined identifier to a container depending upon a sensed contents of said container;
first and second queues of first and second predetermined identifiers, respectively, for being provided to said identifier applicator based upon the sensed contents of said container; and
a controller for controlling said first and second queues and actuating said identifier applicator at a predetermined time, to apply one of said first and second predetermined identifiers to said container depending upon a sensed contents of said container.
26. The apparatus according to claim 25, wherein said identifier applicator comprises a tag applicator for applying tags.
27. The apparatus according to claim 26, wherein said tag applicator comprises a gaseously-driven device for propelling a tag of said tags to said container.
28. The apparatus according to claim 26, wherein said tag applicator comprises a pivotable arm, controlled by said controller, for applying said tag to said container.
29. The apparatus according to claim 25, wherein said identifier applicator comprises a label applicator.
30. The apparatus according to claim 29, wherein said label applicator comprises a pivotable arm, controlled by said controller, for applying a label to said container.
31. The apparatus according to claim 26, wherein first and second types of tags are attachable to said container, said first type of tag comprising a dummy tag, and said second tag comprising a functional tag, and
wherein each of said first and second tags comprises one of a 1-bit tag and a multi-bit radio frequency (RF) tag.
32. The apparatus according to claim 26, further comprising first and second queues for stacking first and second types of tags respectively, wherein, within each queue, said tags are stacked such that a release layer is provided between adjacent tags.
33. The apparatus according to claim 26, wherein said tags have a rectangular shape having a primary surface and a secondary surface, and
wherein said tags are stacked face-to-face such that a primary surface of a first tag faces a primary surface of a second, adjacent tag.
34. The apparatus according to claim 26, wherein said tags have a rectangular shape having a primary surface and a secondary surface, and
wherein said tags are stacked edge-to-edge such that a secondary surface of a first tag faces a secondary surface of a second, adjacent tag.
35. The apparatus according to claim 26, wherein at least some of said tags comprise radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for being written to and read from.
36. The apparatus according to claim 35, wherein said tags comprise RFID tags for a predetermined type of containers and dummy tags for other types of containers.
37. The apparatus according to claim 26, wherein said tags comprise 1-bit tags for being one of armed and unarmed for predetermined types of containers and the other of armed and disarmed for other types of containers.
38. The apparatus according to claim 26, wherein said tags comprise 1-bit tags for a predetermined type of containers and dummy tags for other types of containers.
39. The apparatus according to claim 37, wherein said 1-bit tags comprise magnetic tags.
40. The apparatus according to claim 35, wherein said RFID tags comprise radio frequency 1-bit tags comprising a RLC circuit therein.
41. The apparatus according to claim 25, wherein all of said predetermined identifiers have substantially a same outward appearance.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0001] The present invention generally relates to an apparatus for attaching identifiers (e.g., tags, labels, etc.) to inanimate objects, and to a system for identifying contents of the inanimate objects and tagging the objects based on the contents detected.

[0002] Description of the Related Art

[0003] Many government agencies (e.g., U.S. Customs, Border Patrol, Department of Agriculture, etc.) and civilian entities have a need to screen containers and baggage, and to identify suspicious (e.g., “suspect”) baggage which may contain products (e.g., drugs, contraband, explosives, conventional or biotechnological/chemical weaponry, etc.) that are dangerous and/or illegal in the U S. or into secured areas.

[0004] The conventional methods of detection of parcels or baggage include x-rays, neutron spectroscopy, and other odor detection schemes (e.g., sniffing dogs or chemical sensors). With the proliferation of smuggling into and terrorism in the industrialized and other nations and the increased travel both within international borders and interstate borders by travelers, the number of items (baggage) which should be checked has increased dramatically in the last decade.

[0005] To prevent long lines and congestion at airports, debarkation ports, train stations, and other sensitive areas and yet still check parcels and baggage sufficiently to provide adequate security, a system for rapidly tagging “suspect” luggage for subsequent detailed inspection is required. Conventional systems and methods have not been able to reliably identify such “suspect” baggage in a timely manner.

[0006] Some airports currently have neutron detectors to sense explosives. However, these devices are very expensive (approximately $1,000,000) and are not fast enough to handle large quantities of articles/freight rapidly.

[0007] Another detector has been reported (by Bofors Applied Technologies of Sweden) which includes a portable biosensor “sniffer” that incorporates antibodies. However, this system has not been fielded yet, and is likely to be very expensive.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0008] In view of the foregoing problems and drawbacks of the conventional systems, it is therefore an object of the present invention to provide an apparatus and system for quickly identifying and rapidly tagging “suspect” containers or luggage for subsequent detailed inspection.

[0009] In a first aspect of the present invention, a system for identifying contents of a container, includes at least one device for sensing contents of a closed container, a tag applicator for tagging the container with a predetermined tag depending upon the container being sensed to have contents having predetermined characteristics, a controller for controlling the sensing device and the tag applicator, and a device for writing to the tag the encoded information derived from the sensing devices. The tag can be read by a separate tag reader located at a site where human intervention can be undertaken based on the information on the tag, as read by the tag reader.

[0010] The tag applicator may include a gaseously-driven (e.g., air) gun for propelling the tag to the container, or a pivotable arm controlled by the controller, for applying the tag to the container.

[0011] With the unique and unobvious structure and system of the present invention, rapid sensing of different species of atoms and/or molecules (gaseous) emanating from closed baggage, boxes or containers and rapid tagging of the bag after sensing have been achieved.

[0012] Thus, the invention provides a system for rapidly identifying and tagging “suspect” luggage or containers for subsequent detailed inspection.

[0013] Further, the system makes it necessary to inspect by human intervention only those articles that have been deemed to be “suspicious”, thereby saving the time and expense of inspecting all articles. Generally, this procedure increases the throughput of the articles that can be safely and reliably passed through (processed) by Customs, for example, without human intervention.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0014] The foregoing and other objects, aspects and advantages will be better understood from the following detailed description of preferred embodiments of the invention with reference to the drawings, in which:

[0015]FIG. 1 illustrates a system according to the present invention for identifying and attaching tags to items of interest (e.g., containers, luggage or the like) and including at least one sensor (several sensors being shown to detect a variety of atoms and/or molecules emanating from the articles passing by these sensing devices);

[0016]FIG. 2 illustrates a first embodiment of a tag applicator 4 for receiving tags from queues of tags, according to a first embodiment of the present invention;

[0017]FIG. 3(A) is a perspective view of a tag applicator 4 for clamping a tag 101(201) onto a container according to a second embodiment of the present invention;

[0018]FIG. 3(B) is a side view of the tag applicator according to the second embodiment of the present invention;

[0019]FIG. 3(C) is a side view of a tag restraining member 40 of the tag applicator shown in FIG. 3(B);

[0020]FIG. 3(D) is a side view of the tag applicator according to the second embodiment of the present invention and showing a computer-controlled loading tag release 51;

[0021]FIG. 3(E) is a side view of the end of the tag applicator (e.g., arm 30) with a tag for being applied to an article according to the second embodiment of the present invention;

[0022]FIG. 3(F) is a side view of the tag applicator according to the second embodiment of the present invention and showing a loading from a side of the tag applicator;

[0023]FIG. 3(G) is a side view of the tag applicator according to the second embodiment of the present invention and the stacking of the tags in a loading holder 50′ with a release layer 53 between adjacent tags; and

[0024]FIG. 3(H) is a side view of the tag holder in which the tags are stored edge-to-edge.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION

[0025] Referring now to the drawings, and more particularly to FIG. 1, there is shown a block diagram of the inventive system for rapidly identifying and attaching tags to objects of interest (e.g., containers, baggage, and the like).

[0026] Briefly, a first preferred embodiment of the system includes a processor 1, a detector 2 (or a plurality of different detectors including primarily, but not necessarily exclusively, gaseous sensors) for detecting contents of a container (e.g., baggage, suitcase, etc.) passing through an inspection site, for example, by a moving belt or the like, a memory 3 for storing predetermined indicia indicating a high probability of predetermined contents of interest (e.g., explosives, drugs including refined narcotics and unrefined/unprocessed crop products, explosives, hazardous chemicals, biological weapons, food items, etc.) and further storing predetermined codes based on tags (or labels or other suitable identifiers) to be applied to a container reflecting such predetermined contents, a tag/label (or other suitable identifier) applicator 4 for applying a tag (or label) to an item of interest after the contents of the container have been detected by detector 2, an interrogation unit 5 for interrogating a tag attached to a container, an alarm/display 6 for indicating when a tag has been interrogated and found to be “suspect” (e.g., considered to possibly contain contraband, etc.), and a tag writer for writing information to a tag based upon sensed contents thereof.

[0027] Detector 2 preferably includes at least one of a mass spectrometer, laser absorption analyzer, gaseous sampler etc. Sensors presently exist for sensing parts/million of gaseous species and in some cases can achieve this in a matter of several seconds.

[0028] Some suitable candidate detection machines include Chemical Gas Species Sensors developed by NASA Lewis Research Center, a “Mini Gas Detector”, Model No. MD-16, “Portable Toxic Gas Detector”, TGKA Series, and “Transportable Toxic Gas Detector”, TG-XA Series, each produced by CEA Instruments, Inc.

[0029] Additionally or alternatively to the above detectors, detectors produced by Neotronics Inc. under the Model Names of “NEOTOX-XL” (single gas monitoring), “MiniGas” (multi-gas monitoring), “EXOTOX 60/75” (multi-gas monitoring), “EXOTOX 50 CO2” (for carbon dioxide monitoring and other gas monitoring), “DigiFlam 2000” (for flammable gas detection), and/or “Safe-T-Cube” (area monitoring) could be provided. Moreover, single- and multi-point systems may be used which are networked together.

[0030] Referring now to FIG. 2, a first preferred embodiment of the tag applicator 4 is shown. For clarity and ease of understanding, the same structures in FIG. 2 as in FIG. 1 are shown with the same reference numerals.

[0031] In FIG. 2, two queues 100, 200 of tags 101, 201 are shown for feeding a tag application applicator 4. In an exemplary implementation, the tag applicator 4 includes a gaseously-driven (e.g., air or other gas) gun. Alternatively, two guns may be used (e.g., one gun for each queue of the two different tags).

[0032] The tag applicator 4 (e.g., air gun) preferably is mounted on a rigid stand 20, made of metal or hardened plastic, and preferably is fired remotely by depressing an electronic actuator (not shown). Such an actuator may be operated manually (e.g., by a human operator), or actuated by automated means through use of robotics or the like.

[0033] Specifically, upon sensing various criteria such as position of the container, suspected contents of the container, etc. by the detector(s) 2, including predetermined sensors, the tag applicator would be actuated automatically.

[0034] As mentioned above, the gun preferably is permanently mounted on a solid surface to assure stability and aim. Thus, the gun will always be attached at the same height with respect to the belt or floor level on which the baggage rests. Of course, the positioning of the gun could be made adjustable to accommodate various heights and shapes of containers. Such positioning of the gun can be automated, as would be known by one of ordinary skill in the art taking the present specification as a whole. Further, the gun may be actuated as the container is moving on the belt or designed to fire at the container when the container is stopped on the moving belt by known position sensing devices.

[0035] Thus, the gun fires the tags at the baggage. The gun is provided preferably with an automatic feed (shown schematically in FIG. 2) to load the tags after firing. Specifically, the gun is reloaded via a slotted arm which brings a new tag into place after each firing. The air gun is commercially available from a variety of sources, and is generally well-known. There also exist other gaseously-driven guns (not necessarily air) such as those made by the Tippmann “Pro-Lite” Spyder Model CO2-propelled, having a .68 caliber, for example, which fire paint balls. These guns have a relatively large caliber which make them especially suitable for the present invention.

[0036] As mentioned above, the tags 101, 201 preferably are positioned in a plurality (e.g., in the present implementation, two queues are used) of tag queues 100, 200.

[0037] A first tag queue (e.g., 100) includes, for example, tags containing silicon or the like, to which information can be written remotely regarding the nature of the contents of the “suspect” luggage. For example, a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag could be employed, as discussed in further detail below.

[0038] Alternatively, the tag may simply indicate that further investigation is warranted. For example, such a tag could be a 1-bit tag (discussed in further detail below) and could be encoded with binary data (e.g., “0” or “1”) indicating a “suspect” bag or a “non-suspect” bag, as appropriate. Examples of such tags are commercially available by companies such as Sensormatic Corporation, Checkpoint Systems Inc., SenTech Corporation, and Knogo Corporation.

[0039] As mentioned in further detail below, the tags preferably have a highly adherent (adhesive) substance 21 located within a diameter or their areal dimensions (in the case of non-circular tags) somewhat smaller than that of the tag. Such positioning of the adhesive 21 minimizes wrinkling of the tag. For example, the adhesive substance 21 is preferably located approximately ⅛ in. to ¼ in. from the edge of the tag. The tags preferably are stacked, one atop another along a circumferential surface, to avoid the tags from sticking to one another by virtue of the adhesive. As shown in FIG. 2, the loading mechanism for the gun is slotted to hold the tags not yet applied.

[0040] A second queue 200 includes the dummy tags 201. The dummy tags 201 preferably have an external configuration which appears similar to (or identical) the silicon-based tags 101 in queue 100. However, these dummy tags preferably contain no silicon and no information encoded therein, thereby to minimize the cost of the dummy tags. Alternatively, the dummy tags may contain silicon or the like, but simply not have any information encoded therein. Thus, the dummy tags 201 indicate that the luggage is not “suspect”, and no further investigation is necessary.

[0041] Additionally, as mentioned above, a 1-bit RF or magnetic tag (Electronic Article Surveillance (EAS) tag) may be used, which, when affixed to the luggage, is used simply to flag the item as being suspect without necessarily describing the suspected contents.

[0042] Preferably, the tag should be as unobtrusive as possible but removable without damage to the tagged item. Further, the tags may be designed to be collected (e.g., removed from the baggage) at the conclusion of the inspection process and be reused, after being “recharged” or some other suitable processing.

[0043] As mentioned above, preferably all of the tags look substantially identical but, for example using a typical magnetic tag such as the Sensormatic Ultramax™, there will be two different types. One type will be a dummy tag, as mentioned above, including an empty tag encapsulation shell or a shell containing only a soft magnetic strip without the hard magnetic bias strip required for the tag to resonate upon entering, for example, a 58 kHz magnetic interrogation field.

[0044] For a suspicious article, the tag will be a functional (e.g., containing both hard and soft magnetic material such that it will set off a buzzer or indicate an alert on a computer screen when subjected to a 58 kHz magnetic field). The exteriors of the two tags preferably look substantially exactly alike to any observer in order not to arouse suspicion on the part of the article owner and each article must have such a tag in order to pass inspection.

[0045] For a 1-bit radio frequency (RF)/resonant tag such as those commercially available from Checkpoint Systems, Inc., the two tags will appear alike (e.g., all tags will have the same outward appearance), but the tags attached to the suspect luggage will be active (e.g., resonate typically at 8.2 MHZ) and ring an alarm or sound an alert when interrogated. In contrast, the non-suspect baggage will have the same tag, but deactivated by having an open circuit due to the usual method of disabling such tags with high RF power.

[0046] As mentioned above, the tags 101, 201 preferably include a pressure-sensitive adhesive 21 on one of the surfaces of the tag which adheres to container 22 (e.g., luggage such as a suitcase, bag, or the like as shown in FIG. 2) after firing. For example, suitable pressure-sensitive adhesives 21 would include any form of double-backed sticky material. For example, a sticky material with very high adhesion, such as Pressure Sensitive Adhesive, manufactured by 3M Corporation, under the tradename of 3M “Pressure Sensitive Adhesive”, may be used. Other types of adhesive may include a viscous ink such as that used for various printing applications, which dries very quickly (e.g., less than 1 second) after application.

[0047] At a tag writing station, the tag writer 7, controllable based on an input from processor 1, writes to the tags. Depending on the type of tag employed, the tag writer 7, for example, may include a radio frequency (RF) transceiver to write information to the tag. Alternatively or additionally to the RF transceiver, if a magnetic tag is employed alternatively or additional to a RF tag, a device for selectively creating a magnetic field could be employed for selectively activating/deactivating the tag. Such devices are well-known to those ordinarily skilled in the art, and thus, for brevity, will not be further described herein. It is noted that while different types of tags (e.g., RF or magnetic) may be simultaneously employed by the system according to the present invention, the simplest embodiment has tags which are all the same.

[0048] In FIG. 2, downstream from the tag application station, an inspector is shown holding the interrogation unit 5 for interrogating the tag at the inspection station. The bag having the tag is movable from the tag application station to the inspection station preferably by a conveyor belt 23 or the like.

[0049] Preferably, the interrogation unit 5 includes a hand-held radio unit such as a scanner and RF/DC unit. Alternatively, a fixed unit could be used. Further, it is envisioned that no human operator may be necessary given certain design modifications and system configuration and pathways. The signal from the hand-held radio unit 5 is provided as an uplink, for example, to processor 1 shown in FIG. 1.

[0050] In the operation of the present invention, the sensing information from detection unit 2 is digitized by the processor 1 (including an analog-to-digital converter therein), and the information is transmitted to a database (e.g., memory 3). As soon as the bag/article has its tag attached, the information from the database in memory 3 is transmitted (written onto) to the tag (e.g., assuming the tag is a silicon-based radio frequency (RF) tag).

[0051] To assure the database information correlates with the proper bag, some pre-coded tag information may be sensed by a transceiver before the transceiver transmits the digitized sensor information to the tag.

[0052] When the tag is a radio frequency identification (RFID) tag, detailed information can be written on the tag describing the suspected contents based on the sensor analysis, the amount of information depending on the memory capacity of the tag. In that case, the tag is a multi-bit tag.

[0053] However, a 1-bit tag (binary tag) can also be used with the tag placed in one of two possible states (e.g., either magnetized or not magnetized). Similarly for 1-bit RF tags, such as a tag manufactured by Checkpoint Systems Inc., the resonant circuit is either activated or deactivated. For both 1-bit tags described above, the information is transmitted to the tag by a magnetic field or by an RF resonant field, respectively. For such tags, the information is binary (e.g., representing only that the bag is suspicious or not). Alternatively, these two types of tags can be used each in a pre-set stage so that the tag applicator 4 is prompted to attach the appropriate tag's state.

[0054] In the passageway from where the bag is picked up by an owner to the final human inspection area, such as the customs officer, there preferably are no passageways, bathrooms, etc. where containers may be compromised such as by the tag being exchanged with a blank tag to fool the customs agent. Additionally, video cameras scan the passageway to ensure that there is no tampering with the tag or container.

[0055] At the customs or inspection station, the inspector can read the tag with the hand-held interrogation unit (reader) to determine if the bag is suspicious. Since, generally bags are not always hand-inspected, this type of information will help speed up the customs inspection process as well as alert the customs agent to potential contraband or dangerous materials.

[0056] In FIG. 2, the article is on the moving conveyor belt 23 and as it passes the appropriate position as determined by a sensing unit, the gun is made to fire a tag at the article. The sensing unit may be a photocell or the like (e.g., an optical or mechanical unit for sensing position) or similar device well-known in the art to sense position. The position sensing signal is transmitted to the microprocessor 1 to activate the tag application (e.g., the gun) process.

[0057] Second Embodiment

[0058] Turning to FIGS. 3(A)-3(H), a second embodiment of the tag application apparatus 4 is shown. Once again, for clarity and ease of understanding, the same structures in FIGS. 3(A)-3(H) as in FIGS. 1 and 2 are shown with the same reference numerals.

[0059] The second embodiment is an improvement over the first embodiment in that, while the first embodiment is more rapid and can process more baggage/articles in a predetermined time than that of the second embodiment described below, the first embodiment is less effective due to recoil at the baggage-/article-tag interface.

[0060] Further, since pressure of the tag is impulsive, there is less chance of the tag sticking reliably in the first embodiment, especially if the baggage has a crease or wrinkle in the region at which the gun is aimed. The second embodiment was designed to overcome these disadvantages of the first embodiment of the present invention.

[0061] As shown in FIG. 3(A), the tag application apparatus 4 according to the second embodiment of the present invention, includes a pivotal arm 30 for clamping a tag (e.g., 101 or 201) onto the container (e.g., baggage/article) using force sufficient to cause the tag to stick to the baggage/article. Two types of tags are fed into the arm 30, and can be selected automatically or manually depending on the information provided by the detector 2 (e.g., suspect” or “not suspect”). It is noted that instead of a tag, a label having similar characteristics as the abovementioned tags may be employed.

[0062] Similarly to the first embodiment described above, the tags preferably have a pressure-sensitive adhesive applied on a surface thereof to ensure mounting on the container. As in the first embodiment, the containers/articles to be tagged are preferably placed on a moving belt 23 (e.g., conveyor belt or the like) to increase the automation of the process.

[0063]FIG. 3(B) illustrates the pivotal arm 30 in greater detail. The arm is pivotable about a pivot pin 32 mounted on a mounting structure (not shown). With such a mounting, the arm 30 is movable between a first position for selecting a tag and a second position at which the tag is applied to a container. The arm 30 is made pivotable to the first and second positions by a hydraulic piston 33 or the like controlled by the processor 1 and various automated sensing/detecting devices (not shown).

[0064] Loading arms (e.g., tag holders/feeders) 34, 35, are provided respectively for the two queues of tags (e.g., “real” tags 101, and “dummy” tags 201). The loading feeders are coupled to the processor 1 such that the proper tag is provided to the pivotal arm 30 for application to the containers. The respective tags are made available to the loading arm 30 by the feeders having appropriate dimensions to accommodate the particular tag.

[0065]FIG. 3(B) also shows a retaining member 31 for retaining the container 22 while the arm 30 pivots/swings and applies a tag thereto. It is noted that two or more tag holders may be employed or alternatively two independent arms may be employed.

[0066] The preferred embodiment for the swinging arm is to load the tags edgewise, then drop one tag into the horizontal portion of the applicator after which pressure is applied. A mechanical release 40 (e.g., shown in FIG. 3(C) at the end of the arm allows the tag to be disconnected from the arm. The mechanical release 40 is retractable as shown and allows the tag to be selected reliably and quickly.

[0067] As another example, a simpler loading mechanism includes a stack of tags loaded from the top of the arm and two feeders, one for each type of tag.

[0068] Thus, the mechanical arm has an automatic feed to hold the tags (preferably formed as circular tags, but if rectangular tags are employed the rectangular tags also would preferably be stacked edgewise). It is noted again that the tags have a highly adherent substance located within a diameter somewhat smaller than that of the tag. The tags will be stacked, one atop the other along a circumferential or edgewise surface, to avoid the tags from sticking to one another. The arm and the load mechanism for the gun is slotted to hold the tags not yet applied. Once again, if rectangular tags are employed, the rectangular tags may be stacked either face-to-face (e.g., so that a primary surface of a first tag faces a primary surface of an adjacent second tag), or edgewise (e.g., so that a secondary surface of a first rectangular tag faces a secondary surface of an adjacent second tag). If the rectangular (or circular) tags are oriented in a face-to-face manner, a release layer described below preferably is employed.

[0069] The slotted arm is hinged vertically. As the item passes through the designated space, the arm 30 rapidly swings down with a tag and applies the tag using a predetermined amount of pressure. The slot is wide enough to hold the tags, but is folded over to prevent the tags from falling out. For this embodiment, as shown in FIG. 3(B), there is a retaining member that prevents the baggage from sliding away from the arm, thereby allowing the pressure to be applied.

[0070] Further, FIG. 3(D) illustrates the arm and a tag loading holder in a modified embodiment in which a tag loading holder 50 is shown with the tags stacked edgewise. At the bottom of the holder 50, a computer/processor 1 controlled loading tag release 51 is employed. The tag release 51 may be configured, for example, as a spring-activated shutter mechanism or the like. The tags are pushed by a hydraulic (or similar means) computer/processor-controlled piston 52, and the tag shown in FIG. 3(D) is shown in place for attachment to a container. It is noted that, while FIG. 3(D) shows only one holder 50, a plurality of holders may be provided as would be known by one of ordinary skill in the art within the purview of the present application.

[0071] As shown in FIG. 3(C), at a bottom surface, the arm 30 has two retracting members 40 that permit the tag to be released from the slot within the arm 30 that holds the tags. In this method of mounting, there is no recoil so that adherence of the tag to the container is reasonably certain and reliable.

[0072]FIG. 3(E) illustrates the adhesive on the side of the tag to be applied to the container by the arm 30 and the hydraulic (or similar means) computer/processor-controlled piston 52. As mentioned previously, the release/retracting members 40 are computer-controlled to open and shut at appropriate times.

[0073] Immediately after multi-bit RF tag attachment, a base station (the tag writer 7 including, for example, a transceiver) encodes (writes to) the tag to give it a unique ID. The identification is simultaneously transferred to the database in memory 3, a technique well-known in the art.

[0074] As mentioned above, the tags may include first and second types of tags attachable to the container. The first type of tag may include a dummy tag, and the second type of tag may include a functional tag, or vice-versa. Each of the first and second tags may include either a 1-bit tag or a multi-bit radio frequency (RF) tag.

[0075] The first and second queues may are for stacking first and second types of tags respectively, such that within each queue, the tags are stacked. A release layer may be provided between adjacent tags, as shown in FIG. 3(B), especially with regard to tags stacked face-to-face in the tag holder/feeder.

[0076] The tag may have any geometric shape such as a circular shape or a rectangular shape having a primary surface (e.g., the relatively large surface area surfaces of a rectangular shaped object and a secondary surface (e.g., the edgewise surfaces). The tags may be stacked face-to-face such that a primary surface of a first tag faces a primary surface of a second, adjacent tag. Alternatively, the tags may be stacked edge-to-edge such that a secondary surface of a first tag faces a secondary surface of a second, adjacent tag. Similar stacking arrangements may be provided for the circular tags.

[0077] At least some of the tags may include radio frequency identification (RFID) tags for being written to and read from. The RFID tags may be provided for a predetermined type of bags and dummy tags for other types of tags. Dummy tags generally are less expensive than RFID (or 1-bit) tags.

[0078] The 1-bit tags may be one of armed and unarmed for predetermined (e.g., suspicious) types of bags and the other of armed and disarmed for other types (e.g., not suspicious) of bags.

[0079] Moreover, the tags may comprise 1-bit tags for a predetermined type (e.g., suspicious) of bags and dummy tags for other types (e.g., not suspicious) of tags.

[0080] The 1-bit tags may include magnetic tags and the RFID tags may include radio frequency 1-bit tags comprising a RLC circuit therein.

[0081] Instead of loading the attachment arm as above, the attachment arm may be loaded from the side as shown in FIG. 3(F) with a side tag loader 50′. The tag release 51 is formed by a shutter or the like which is computer-controlled. The piston position during loading is shown by 52′, whereas the piston position during tag attachment is shown with reference numeral 52″. Similarly to the earlier embodiments, a release layer 53 is provided between the tags in the tag holder 50′. Specifically, the release layer 53 covers the adhesive on a tag prior to application of the tag to a container, thereby to prevent the tags sticking together in the holder. A gaseous (e.g., air) stream designated by reference letter Z is provided at the tag application point to separate the release layer 53, thereby to ready the tag for application to the container.

[0082]FIG. 3(G) illustrates stacking of tags for the embodiment of FIG. 3(F). FIG. 3(H) illustrates stacking of tags edgewise.

[0083] In lieu of the tags and as mentioned above, bar code labels may be attached to the baggage by the pivotal arm 30. Here, the sensor information is fed to the processor 1 which then prints a bar code label (preferably two-dimensional) with sensor information. This information is read by the inspector with the hand-held interrogation unit 5 (e.g., bar code scanner). Preferably, one of two different bar code labels with minimal information can be attached, one indicative of no suspected contraband problem, while the other label indicates suspicion.

[0084] It should be clear by those ordinarily skilled in the art within the purview of this application that tag attachment also may occur on the top of the bag/article using the swinging arm or on any exposed surface using the air gun.

[0085] Thus, with the invention as already described above, the tags can be attached by a gaseously-driven (e.g., air) gun or by an automated hinged arm.

[0086] The same system can also be used for inspecting baggage (articles) at a time of airport boarding. For example, the sensors can be used to sense the contents of checked baggage traveling along a conveyor. Once again, a tag is affixed as previously described and encoded after attachment with the sensor information (or 1 of 2 possible 1-bit tags is attached in one of two states indicating “danger” or “no danger”). The tag information is read by the baggage handler prior to loading article(s) onto the aircraft. Based on that information, a decision is made to either load or pull the article(s) off for further inspection.

[0087] Generally, the sensing and tag attachment system is not limited to airports but can have application in any transportation system, where large amounts of baggage or freight are handled in order to rapidly check the contents of closed containers. Moreover, the system can be used for rapid inspection of any movement of large quantities of freight, etc. through a passageway where some information is required regarding possible contraband or attempted illegal shipment of goods based on content.

[0088] The present invention achieves rapid sensing of different species of molecules (gaseous) emanating from closed baggage (articles) or suitcases. After the chemical sensing, the sensor information is transmitted to a database. The database activates one of several means for rapidly attaching a tag (e.g., the form of the rapid attachment mechanism constituting part of the present invention). Either a 1-bit or a multi-bit radio frequency identification (RFID) tag can be used for the tagging. If the tag is an RFID tag, detailed information can be written on the tag describing the suspected contents based on the sensor analysis immediately after tag attachment.

[0089] For 1-bit tags, they can be used in one of two magnetic states. Alternatively, an active or dummy tag can be used to provide the distinction between a suspicious/non-suspicious item. Once again, the sensor information in the database determines which tag to use.

[0090] While the invention has been described in terms of several preferred embodiments, those skilled in the art will recognize that the invention can be practiced with modification within the spirit and scope of the appended claims.

[0091] For example, since it is difficult to conceal the tag, every item should be tagged using dummy tags for those items that are not suspect, and using functional look-alike tags for those that are suspect (or vice-versa). In this mode, passengers picking up their luggage are less likely to be suspicious since every item has a look-alike tag and must have the tag upon reaching the final inspection station. Thus, if only suspect items are tagged, the owner may become suspicious and abandon the bag or attempt to rip the tag off of the article/baggage. The above procedure would reduce the likelihood of such abandoning the bag or ripping the tag off.

[0092] A preferred mode of operation is one in which all tags are removed prior to leaving the terminal. Read/write tags such as RFID tags can be reused by the baggage or freight department.

[0093] Further, in yet another embodiment, 1-bit tags which are all the same (e.g., have the same structure and composition) may be employed. Alternatively, as mentioned above, multi-bit tags which are written to may be employed.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US6859745 *Apr 17, 2002Feb 22, 2005Alcoa Closure Systems InternationalInteractive information package
US7195159 *Jan 3, 2005Mar 27, 2007Symbol Technologies, Inc.Radio frequency identification (RFID) material tracking and apparatus
US7513425 *May 1, 2006Apr 7, 2009Avante International Technology, Inc.Article tracking system and method
US7599847 *Aug 2, 2002Oct 6, 2009Airport AmericaAutomated internet based interactive travel planning and management system
US8005189 *Mar 6, 2009Aug 23, 2011L-3 Communications Security and Detection Systems Inc.Suitcase compartmentalized for security inspection and system
US8164457 *May 27, 2009Apr 24, 2012Plastipak Packaging, Inc.Application of radio frequency identification
US20090237215 *May 27, 2009Sep 24, 2009Plastipak Packaging, Inc.Application of radio frequency identification
Classifications
U.S. Classification53/54
International ClassificationG01V5/00
Cooperative ClassificationB64F1/368, G01V5/0008, G06K19/0716
European ClassificationG06K19/07E, B64F1/36D, G01V5/00D
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Jan 21, 1999ASAssignment
Owner name: INTERMEC IP CORP., CALIFORNIA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:VON GUTFELD, ROBERT J.;MOSKOWITZ, PAUL A.;CHIEU, TRIEU C.;REEL/FRAME:009716/0942
Effective date: 19990115