US 20050027608 A1
The inventive system provides real-time commercial services to users of mobile communication devices (MCDs) over a wireless communication network utilizing the short message service protocol (SMS). The inventive system establishes a dialog with a user of an MCD utilizing SMS to present the user with commercial service options and to allow the user to quickly and easily purchase the services by sending minimal SMS responses during the dialog process. Preferably, prior to utilization of the inventive system, the user subscribes with a service provider to pre-arrange payment options for purchased services, to provide information helpful in tailoring offered services and service options to the user, and optionally to receive enhanced services (such as discounted and/or last minute offers, etc.). Utilization of the inventive system occurs in three phases: trigger, purchase and claim. During the trigger phase (user or service provider initiated), the service to be purchased is selected. During the purchase phase, the user selects the grade and quantity of services to be purchased and authorizes payment which is processed by the service provider and thereafter receives a unique service code. During the claim phase, the user presents the service code at the service location, which is then verified using a local terminal, and the service is then delivered to the user. The inventive dialog process can be advantageously and readily configured for a wide variety of commercial services, including, but not limited to entertainment site admissions and travel.
1. A data processing and communication method for providing commercial services over a wireless communication network to at least one user utilizing a mobile communication device configured for bi-directional communication over the wireless communication network with a service control system utilizing at least one of a short message service (SMS), or a multimedia message service (MMS) protocols, comprising the steps of:
(a) in response to a trigger event, selecting, by the at least one user through the corresponding mobile communication device, a service offered by a service provider;
(b) confirming a purchase of said service by the at least one user;
(c) obtaining, by the service control system, payment for said service from the at least one user; and
(d) transmitting a unique confirmation code to the at least one user confirming purchase of said service.
2. The data processing and communication method of
(e) prior to said step (b), selecting by the at least one user, at least one service parameter for said service.
3. The data processing and communication method of
4. The data processing and communication method of
(f) providing, to the service control system, by the at least one user, a keyword representative of said at least one offered service desired by the at least one user,
(g) searching said service system, initiated by the at least one user, to locate said at least one desired offered service; and
(h) transmitting, by the service control system to the at least one user, an offer for said at least one offered service and accepting said offer by said at least one user.
5. The data processing and communication method of
(i) selecting at least one service option by said at least one user from said at least one service option.
6. The data processing and communication method of
(j) prior to said step (a), subscribing, by the at least one user to a service program offered by said service provider.
7. The data processing and communication method of
(k) providing user information representative of the at least one user to the service control system.
8. The data processing and communication method of
(l) selecting of at least one payment type by the at least one user such that payment is obtained at said step (c) utilizing one of said selected at least one payment type.
9. The data processing and communication method of
(m) selecting of at least one default preference for at least one of said at least one service parameters.
10. The data processing and communication method of
(n) transmitting to the at least one user, information representative of said purchased service and instructions for claiming said purchased service.
11. The data processing and communication method of
(o) after said step (d), and when the at least one user decides to claim said purchased service, presenting said confirmation code by the at least one user to a service representative at a service claim location;
(p) verifying, by the service representative using the a local communication device communicating with said service control system, validity of said confirmation code; and
(q) if said confirmation code is valid, providing the purchased service to the user.
12. The data processing and communication method of
(r) marking, at the service control system, the confirmation code as claimed to prevent future utilization of said confirmation code to claim said purchased service.
13. The data processing and communication method of
14. The data processing and communication method of
15. The data processing and communication method of
16. A data processing and communication method for enabling a user to purchase parking services for a parked predetermined vehicle over a wireless communication network utilizing a mobile communication device (MCD) configured for bi-directional communication over the wireless communication network with a parking control system utilizing at least one of a short message service (SMS), or a multimedia message service (MMS) protocols, comprising the steps of:
(a) at a later time transmitting, by the user via the MCD to the parking control system, a selected number of parking time units to be purchased;
(b) obtaining, by the parking control system, payment for said said selected number of parking time units from the at least one user;
(c) confirming a purchase of said parking time units by the parking control system; and
(d) recording, by the parking control system, said parking time unit purchase for said predetermined vehicle.
17. The data processing and communication method of
(e) prior to said step (a), registering by the user, said predetermined vehicle with the parking control system to record data representative of the predetermined vehicle with the parking control system;
(f) selecting a default payment method for said step (b); and
(g) receiving a unique identification tag, by the user from the parking control system, for display at the predetermined vehicle to alert traffic officers that the user is subscribed to the parking control system.
18. The data processing and communication method of
(h) notifying the user, by the parking control system, that said purchased parking time units are about to expire, prior to expiration thereof.
19. The data processing and communication method of
(i) repeating said step (a) by the user.
20. The data processing and communication method of
(j) after said step (a) and prior to said step (b) obtaining confirmation of purchased parking time from the user and only performing said step (b) when the user issues such confirmation.
21. The data processing and communication method of
(k) after said step (d), transmit information, via the parking mobile communication device, representative of the predetermined vehicle to the parking control system to determine whether any unexpired parking time units are recorded for the predetermined vehicle; and
(l) when the purchased parking time units are not recorded or expired, issuing a parking ticket to the user.
22. The data processing and communication method of
(m) after said step (k), transmitting by the traffic officer, using the parking mobile communication device, a message to the user representative of the status of the vehicle.
23. The data processing and communication method of
24. A data processing and communication system for providing commercial services over a wireless communication network to at least one user utilizing a mobile communication device configured for bi-directional communication over the wireless communication network, comprising:
at least one service system, controlled by a corresponding service provider, operable to offer at least one service to the at least one user, through the corresponding mobile communication device; and
a control system communicating with said at least one service system and the mobile communication device over the wireless communication network, operable to:
in response to a trigger event, provide the at least one user with an opportunity to purchase said at least one offered service;
receive a confirmation of purchase of said at least one offered service by the at least one user;
obtain payment for said at least one offered service from the at least user; and
transmit a unique confirmation code to the at least one user confirming purchase of said at least one offered service.
26. The data processing and communication system of
27. The data processing and communication system of
28. The data processing and communication system of
29. The data processing and communication system of
The present patent application claims priority from the commonly assigned U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/490,752 entitled “System and Method for Providing Commercial Services over a Wireless Communication Network” filed Jul. 29, 2003.
The present invention relates generally to a mobile communication system for providing services over a wireless communication network and more particularly to a data processing and communication system for providing commercial services, over a wireless communication network, to users of mobile communication devices.
In the past decade, mobile communication devices (hereinafter “MCDs”), such as cellular telephones and pagers have taken the world by storm. While voice communication and text messaging remains the dominant area of utilization, in recent years there has been a proliferation of additional services that are offered to users of MCDs by various service providers. These services range from delivery of news or other information in text format, to full interactive services (Internet-based and otherwise), such as web-browsing and games. In most cases, such commercial services are implemented through utilization of the Wireless Application Protocol (“WAP”), which serves as a secure specification for allowing users to access information and utilize interactive services through their MCD. In essence WAP enables utilization of an MCD to access Internet content and services. WAP is advantageous over previously used MCD access techniques because it provides optimization of web-based applications for access by WAP-enables MCDs, taking into account the limited processing power, screen size, and bandwidth of a typical MCD.
However, while WAP is a robust standard and generally works well for utilization of an MCD to access the Internet, it still suffers from a number of drawbacks in the field of provision of interactive commercial services. First, WAP-based applications must be developed, maintained, and operated at a significant expense to service providers. Second, utilization of a WAP-based commercial service involves considerable involvement from a user to navigate through multiple screens of a WAP application, which is often difficult and time-consuming to do using an MCD. This in turn minimizes the opportunity of providing and stimulating impulse purchasing and/or orders from users. Third, WAP requires significant bandwidth and a good communication connection, making utilization of WAP-based services in areas with relatively poor network coverage difficult and frustrating for users.
In the past decade, a different standard for binary and text-based communication over wireless networks has emerged and is in the process of gaining tremendous popularity among both network service providers and users. This standard is called Short Message Service (SMS), initially established over ten years ago as a one way communication platform where operators could send notification messages to their customers, for example to state that the customer has voice mail. SMS, which has evolved into a popular person to person communication format, now enables quick and easy sending and receiving of short text messages (for example around 160 characters in the GSM standard) by MCD users. Typically the cost of sending and/or receiving SMS messages is very small to the user, making SMS a great option for cheap, fast, and efficient communication that is generally less expensive than voice communication. Furthermore, SMS is even more reliable in poor coverage areas than voice communication, due to the fact that SMS communication is queued, and is certainly more reliable than WAP.
It would thus be desirable to provide a platform that utilizes SMS for providing robust commercial services to users of MCDs. It would further be desirable to provide SMS-based commercial services that are inexpensive to design, develop, and maintain. It would also be desirable to provide SMS-based commercial services that are easy for the MCD users to utilize and that encourage impulse orders and purchases.
In the drawings, wherein like reference characters denote corresponding or similar elements throughout the various figures:
The present invention is directed to a novel system that provides commercial services, over a wireless communication network, to users of mobile communication devices using through a simplified SMS dialog process. In summary, the inventive system establishes a dialog with a user of a mobile communication device (MCD) utilizing SMS to present the user with commercial service options and to allow the user to quickly and easily purchase the services by sending minimal SMS responses during the dialog process.
Preferably, prior to utilization of the inventive system, the user subscribes with a service provider to pre-arrange payment options for purchased services, to provide information helpful in tailoring offered services and service options to the user, to select default values for various services to simplify the dialog process, and optionally to receive enhanced services (such as discounted and/or last minute offers, etc.).
Essentially, utilization of the inventive system occurs in three phases: trigger, purchase and claim. During the trigger phase, which may be initiated by the user or by the service provider transmitting an offer to the user, the service to be purchased is selected. During the purchase phase, the user selects the grade and quantity of services to be purchased (for example, the number and type of event tickets) and authorizes payment which is processed by the service provider. During the purchase phase, the user also receives a unique service code which is later utilized to claim the purchased service at the service location. During the claim phase, the user presents the service code at the service location (for example at an event hall), which is then verified using a local terminal, and the service is then delivered to the user (for example, the user is admitted to the event). The flexibility and ease of use of the inventive dialog process enables its utilization for a wide variety of commercial services, including, but not limited to entertainment site admissions, and travel.
The inventive system includes a wireless communication network that enables a service system to communicate with one or more users' MCDs via a gateway that translates SMS messages into electronic files and routs them to appropriate destinations (and vice versa). The service system executes one or more inventive control programs and program modules to control and interact with at least a portion of the other components of the inventive system and also stores data related to operation of the system (for example user information databases, software for provision of various commercial services, etc.). The service system is optionally connected to external payment system(s). While the service system can include internal payment processing capabilities, connection to the optional external payment system(s) enables the user to have multiple payment options. Thus, the service system serves to trigger the purchase of the service, in response to a user's request or in response to an offer sent to the user and to complete the purchase of the service.
The service system may be administered and managed by a service manager, for example, a company contracted by one or more third party service providers to provide their services through the inventive system. The service manager may be an independent entity or it may be a mobile service provider who also controls the wireless communication network and/or the gateway.
Optionally, the service system can work in conjunction with one or more connected additional third party systems. Alternately, the service system may be implemented in third party computer systems utilizing existing hardware (i.e. servers, data storage) to execute the inventive control program. In this case, the third parties directly manage and administer provision of their services to the user.
The service system is also connected to one or more remote systems, for enabling users to claim purchased services. For most services, remote system preferably resides at the location at which a purchased service is claimed. Thus each remote system corresponds to a different location for delivery of one or more types of services. For example, the service system may be connected to a large number of remote systems at various movie theaters, concert halls, amusement parks, airports, bus terminals, etc.
One or more remote terminals, for administrating the claim phase of the service provision process, are connected to the remote system. The number of the remote terminals at a particular location is determined as a matter of design choice based on the type of service offered and necessary capacity and throughput.
In conclusion, the service system, alone or in conjunction with additional systems, handles the subscription process, alone or in conjunction with payment systems, handles the purchase phase, while the remote terminals, alone or in conjunction with remote systems and/or the service system handle the claim phase.
Other objects and features of the present invention will become apparent from the following detailed description considered in conjunction with the accompanying drawings. It is to be understood, however, that the drawings are designed solely for purposes of illustration and not as a definition of the limits of the invention, for which reference should be made to the appended claims.
The system and method of the present invention remedy the disadvantages of previously known systems for providing commercial services over a wireless communication network. The inventive system provides one or more different real-time commercial services to users of mobile communication devices (MCDS) over a wireless communication network utilizing the short message service protocol (SMS). While the inventive system is described as advantageously utilizing the SMS standard, it should be understood to one skilled in the art, that the inventive system may utilize WAP and related systems (i.e. WAP gateways, etc.) without departing from the spirit of the invention as a matter of necessity or design choice. Furthermore, the multimedia message service (MMS) can also be readily utilized instead of or in addition to SMS, for example, providing additional or enhanced content during operation of the inventive system, as a matter of design choice without departing from the spirit of the invention. Thus, for the purposes of the present invention, it should be understood that any reference made to SMS below, also applies to MMS.
As described in greater detail below in connection with
The inventive system may be readily applied to provide a wide variety of commercial services to the users. For example, the inventive system enables the users to purchase tickets for various events, including but not limited to: movies, concerts, cultural events (theater, opera, museums, performance art), sporting events, zoos, amusement parks, or premium speaking engagements. Similarly, the inventive system can also readily enable the users to purchase travel services of all kinds, including but not limited to: travel tickets (airline, train, bus, ship), car rentals, hotel rooms, and parking. It should be noted that purchase of any other type of commercial services may be readily implemented using the inventive system without departing from the spirit of the invention. It should also be noted that for some types of services utilization of MMS may be advantageous in that enhanced content may be provided to the user in conjunction with an offer or purchase of a service. For example, an offer to purchase concert tickets may include a sound clip of an artist's music or a picture of an album cover, while when purchasing parking time, the user may use MMS to link to a traffic camera to view their car in the parking lot.
Referring now to
While only a single MCD is shown, it should be understood that the amount of MCDs that are capable of simultaneously utilizing the system 10 is limited only by the capacity of the wireless network 12 and capacity of other hardware system 10 components described below. The MCD 14 may be any mobile communication device that supports SMS services having a screen (not shown) for displaying SMS messages and an input device (such as a keypad, touch panel, or a voice input unit—not shown), for entering SMS messages. For example, the MCD 14 may be a cellular telephone, a personal digital assistant (PDA), or a combination of the two. Optionally, the MCD 14 can be implemented as a virtual device in a limited mobility (i.e. notebook) or desktop computer, utilizing instant message software functions of the computer to emulate SMS dialog.
The system 10 includes at least one gateway 18, for receiving wireless SMS messages from the MCD, through the wireless communication network 12 via a communication link 20, converting them to an electronic message form that can be transmitted and processed by a conventional computer system, and then routing the converted SMS message to a service system 22 via a communication link 24. While only a single gateway 18 is shown, it should be understood that multiple gateways may be readily utilized to provide broad geographical coverage to ensure that SMS messages sent from any MCD 14 location are picked up and properly routed. The communication link 24 is preferably a high speed broadband connection (for example the Internet, an intranet, a local area network (LAN), a wide are network (WAN), or a broadband high speed line (T1/T3, etc.)). Optionally, the communication link 24 may be a high speed wireless communication link.
The service system 22 is preferably a computer system capable of simultaneously processing data received from multiple sources and capable of high speed communication with other remote computer systems. At the very least, the service system includes a control system 26, for controlling operation of the service system 22 and for executing one or more inventive control programs and program modules to control and interact with at least a portion of the other components of the system 10, and a data storage system 28 for storing data related to operation of the system 10 (for example user information databases, software for provision of various commercial services, etc.). The control system 26 may be a server or group of interconnected servers, equipped with conventional peripherals (display, input system, communication system, etc.), while the data storage system 28 may be any high capacity secure data storage system, such as magnetic or optical drives.
The service system 22 is optionally connected to an external payment system (or systems) 30 via a secure communication link 32. While the service system 22 can include internal payment processing capabilities (for example direct billing to the user's MCD account or via a pre-paid plan), connection to the optional external payment system(s) 30 enables the user to have payment options such as credit or debit card, direct debit, paybox, or via other means. Thus, the payment system(s) 30 may be a bank, a credit card processor, or the like. Preferably, the communication link is secure (or at least data sent to and from the payment system 30 is encrypted) to protect user's confidential financial information.
The service system 22 may be administered and managed by a service manager, for example, a company contracted by one or more third party service providers to provide their services through the inventive system 10. The service manager may be an independent entity or it may be a mobile service provider who also controls the wireless communication network 12 and/or the gateway 18. Optionally, the service system 22 can work in conjunction with one or more additional third party systems 34, linked through a communication link 36. For example, part of the data storage system 28 that stores user information, can reside in a third party system 34. This can be advantageous if the user information is especially confidential, such as when the service provider is a government agency (e.g. a municipality providing parking services). In this case, the service system 22 works in conjunction with the additional system 34 to execute the inventive control program (an example of which is further described below in connection with
It should also be noted that, as a matter of design choice, multiple service systems 22 may be utilized in same or different geographic locations to simultaneously provide a variety of commercial services from a variety of different service providers. Optionally, some of the services may be provided over different wireless communication networks. Optionally, the service system 22 can be configured to execute multiple control programs to simultaneously provide services from different service providers.
The service system 22 is further advantageous in that it enables service managers and service providers to readily gather and analyze aggregate data from purchased services. For example, concert attendance and parking patterns in a municipality may be analyzed and tracked.
The service system 22 is also connected to one or more remote systems 38, for enabling users to claim purchased services, via a communication link 44 (which may be wireless or wired). For most services, remote system 38 preferably resides at the location at which a purchased service is claimed. For example, if the service is event tickets, the remote system 38 is located at the event venue, while if the service is airline tickets, the remote system 38 is located at the airport terminal. The remote system 38, which may be a conventional computer system having conventional peripherals, preferably includes a control system 40 (such as a workstation, a server, or a group of servers) for controlling the operation of the remote system 38, and a data storage system 42 for storing service-related data locally. Each remote system 38 corresponds to a different location for delivery of one or more types of services. For example, the service system 22 may be connected to a large number of remote systems 38 at various movie theaters, concert halls, amusement parks, airports, bus terminals, etc.
One or more remote terminals 46, for administrating the claim phase of the service provision process, are connected to the remote system 38 via a communication link 48. The number of the remote terminals 46 at a particular location is determined as a matter of design choice based on the type of service offered and necessary capacity and throughput. For example, at a small theater only one remote terminal 46 may be necessary, while at a large concert hall, more than a dozen may be necessary (for example one for each entry point). Preferably, the remote terminals 46 are robust MCDs (for example wireless PDAs), but they may be conventional cell phones or standard wired workstation-type terminals (for example existing workstation at a ticket counter). Thus, the communication link 48 may be wireless (when the remote terminals 46 are MCDS) or wired (when the remote terminals 46 are workstations). Optionally different types of remote terminals 46 may be utilized in conjunction with one another. For example, a concert hall may have several remote terminal 46 workstations at ticket counters, and multiple remote terminal 46 MCDs carried by gate ushers stationed at various entry points.
In an alternate embodiment of the present invention, the remote system 38 is eliminated and the remote terminals 46 may communicate with the service system 22 directly (i.e. via a wireless link to the gateway 18). This may be advantageous when the location at which the services are claimed can vary (for example if the services are purchased parking time) or for very small event venues for which having a remote system 38 is impractical. The operation of the remote system(s) 38 and the remote terminal(s) 46 is described in greater detail below in connection with
Referring now to
Completing the subscription process 100, is preferably done on-line utilizing a conventional computer system that establishes a communication connection with the service system 22 (for example via the Internet or via the wireless communication network 12). Preferably, the service system 22 provides an easy-to-navigate graphical user interface that assists the user in completing the subscription process 100. Alternately, the subscription process 100 may be performed by the user utilizing the MCD 14, by communicating with a service manager's or provider's customer representative by telephone, or by filling out a form and transmitting it to the service manager or provider by mail or by facsimile.
The main purpose of the subscription process 100, in addition to obtaining necessary user information and preferences, is to enable the user to simplify future use of the system 10 by making as many decisions as is practical in advance. By selecting various default values and preferences in advance, the amount and complexity of various dialogs during phases 102 and 104 may be significantly minimized and certain steps may be eliminated. This is particularly useful for future purchases of travel services where preferences of particular airlines or car rental agencies and car types will greatly simplify the purchase process.
During the subscription process 100, the user selects a preferred payment type (108)—for example, the user may indicate that all payments for services obtained through the system 10 should be billed to the user's MCD account. The user may also select any other payment option, such as credit or debit card, direct bank account debit, paybox, a prepaid service plan, etc. The user may also select whether any particular payment type would be default or whether the user should be prompted during the purchase dialog phase 104 to select a payment type. Optionally, the user may select particular default payment types for various types of services. For example, the user may desire all event services to be billed to their MCD account, while travel services should be billed to a particular credit card.
During the subscription process 100, the user also provides sufficient information (110) for identifying the user and for billing the selected payment types. The user can also select other preferences, such as whether or not the service system 22 should request identity verification prior to processing a service purchase, whether the purchase should be confirmed with the user prior to processing the payment, the preferred grade of service for certain types of services (i.e. always select best orchestra seats or always select least expensive seats), the preferred number of services (i.e. always purchase 2 movie tickets), the user's default location (i.e. a city or borough thereof) and any other preferences that may be offered for selection to the user as a matter of design choice. As part of providing the user information (110), the user may choose to utilize an offers service (112) to “opt-in” to receive, at the MCD 14, various offers from service providers or service managers, for example for one or more of the following:
Optionally, the user may also select location-based services (114) to receive one or more of above-subscribed offers at the MCD 14 based on the user's actual physical location. This enables transmission of offers to the user based on the user's physical proximity to service locations and also simplifies the user's search efforts during the trigger dialog phase 102. For example, the user who opts for location based services may receive an offer to purchase low-priced last minute tickets for an event taking place several streets away from the user. In another example, a user who searches for movie showtimes (during the trigger dialog phase 102), may automatically be presented with showtimes for movies in a theater closest to the user's actual geographical location at the time of the search.
The trigger dialog phase 102 initiates the process of providing a service by the inventive system 10 to the user. The trigger phase 102 may be initiated in one of several ways: keyword (116), search (118), or offer (120). Various SMS message keywords for specific services may be advertised and promoted by the service managers or service providers in media (radio, print, television) or on-line. For example, an advertisement may state “Send a message ‘JOEC112’ to this number to purchase tickets for Joe C's 8 PM show at the Garden Center this Friday.” Thus, the user can obtain one or more keywords representative of the desired services from advertising or from other users by word of mouth. The keywords can correspond to varying quantity of predetermined service information. A greater amount of information linked to the keyword results in a more simplified trigger and purchase dialog. For example, a keyword may correspond to an artist and concert location, so that the user may still need to select a time and date for the concert at the trigger phase 102. Alternately, a keyword that corresponds to an artist, location, date and time, can enable the user to enter the purchase phase 104 immediately after transmitting the keyword.
Alternately, the user may utilize a search (118) to find and select a particular service. By entering all or part of a search word, the user may be presented with simplified menus at the MCD 14 which can be navigated with single letter or number responses. In this case having previously selected preferences (during subscription process 102) can simplify the search process for the user. As noted before, a search may also be utilized in conjunction with use of a keyword. The search may be performed by the service system 22 and/or by additional systems 34 (if present). The particular search technology used may be selected as a matter of design choice.
Finally, when the user is sent a particular offer (for example by opting in at (112) during the subscription phase 100), the user can accept the offer and proceed directly to the purchase dialog phase 104. Optionally for certain applications of the inventive system 10, the trigger phase 102 may be completely eliminated, for example as described below in connection with an exemplary parking service system shown in
The purchase dialog phase 104 enables the user to select the quality and quantity of purchased services, to confirm the purchase, to arrange payment for purchased services and to receive information about the purchased services including claim instructions and a unique service code used later during the claim dialog phase 106 to redeem the purchased services at the service location.
To avoid repetition, it should be noted that selection of appropriate preferences during the subscription process 100, can greatly simplify or eliminate some or all of the below described steps. As the purchase phase 104 begins, the user may select the grade of desired service (122), for example the quality of event seats (orchestra, mezzanine, standing room), or the class of travel seats (first class, business class, economy). Optionally, the user may purchase additional bundled services as a higher grade service. For example, the service provider may offer a package—concert tickets and parking at a price lower than if purchased separately.
The user then selects the desired units of service (124) for example by transmitting the number of desired services (e.g. tickets, etc). Optionally, the user is presented with the service price and information and requested to confirm the purchase (126). Assuming, the purchase is confirmed (automatically or by the user), a payment option (128) is selected (automatically or by the user) and the payment is processed (130). Optionally, if the user selected the option, the user's identity may be verified prior to payment processing via a pin-code or a biometric scan if the MCD is equipped with such a device. Finally, the user receives the purchased service information (e.g. confirmation of purchased service, location, etc.) as well as a unique service code (132) used to claim the service some time later at the claim dialog phase 106. Optionally, the user is also provided with instructions on how to receive the service code again if the user accidentally deletes the message.
Optionally, in addition to claiming the purchased service, the unique service code may be used for provision or offer of other commercial services, or discounts on services or products to the user. For example, the unique code can be used as a sweepstakes entry for the user, or used to obtain discounts for parking or dining at locations proximal to where the purchased service is claimed. Alternately, the user may purchase multiple bundled services (for example, concert tickets and parking) under one unique code that may be utilized both for concert admission and for parking.
During the claim dialog phase, the user presents the service code at the service location, the service code is verified, the user is given the service, and the service code is marked as claimed so that it may not be used again. The user may present the service code (134) to service representatives at the service location (for example, gate ushers at a concert or ticketing representatives at an airport) who utilize remote terminals 46 to verify that the user's service code is valid (136). The user may show the screen with the service code to the representative or simply communicate the code verbally.
A database with valid service codes may reside at the service system 22 (i.e. remote terminals 46 can connect to it directly or via the remote system 38) or it may be downloaded prior to the time of scheduled service delivery (i.e. flight time or concert start time) to the remote system 38 that is at the service location. This is advantageous for large scale service provision (i.e. airlines, concert halls, movie theaters) because the service codes can be quickly verified locally and without reliance on the communication link 44. Optionally, if the remote system 38 is not used, the service code database may be downloaded into a remote terminal 46 (for example in a small venue).
After the service code is verified the service is delivered to the user (138), for example in form of boarding passes, admission into an event venue, or provision of a hotel room or rental car. The service is then marked as claimed (140) and the service code is disabled to prevent anyone else from using that code again.
The key features and operation of the inventive system 10 are controlled and configured by the main program executed by the system 10 (for example by the control system 26,
Referring now to
It should also be noted that various modules and steps of the main program do not run continuously and may in fact be executed at completely different times. The main program is capable of supporting virtually any type of commercial service in its form presented below. However, the main program may be readily modified or configured to provide certain services more efficiently and with increased simplicity. An exemplary modification of the main program configured for providing parking purchase services is shown in
The main program begins at a step 200, and at a step 202, the program invokes a subscription module. The purpose of the subscription module is to run the subscription process 100 as described above in connection with
Returning now to
At a step 222, the system 10 transmits purchased service and claim information to the user, including a unique SERVICE_Code that will be used at a future time to claim the purchased service. The information transmitted at this step may include information of what service the user purchased (including grade and quantity), service location information where the service will be claimed, as well as other messages such as instructions on how to recover this message if the user accidentally deletes it.
Optionally, at some point prior to the time at which the service is to be claimed, the system 10 may transmit one or more non-commercial messages to the user having information in connection with the purchased service. For example, the message may include entry instructions, or even cancellation information if the event is cancelled.
Some time later, when the user desires to claim the purchased services, at a step 226, the program invokes a claim module. The purpose of the claim module is to run the claim dialog phase 106 as described above in connection with
In certain applications, the claim module may be modified to account for particulars of the service being purchased. For example, if the service is a parking payment, the user is not around to present a SERVICE_Code to a traffic agent. Instead, the SERVICE_Code may be implemented as a “PAID” flag on a parking account created by the user during execution of the subscription module and associated with the user's vehicle ID (see description of step 314 above) and the unique identification tag. In this case, the service is claimed when a traffic agent transmits information from the identification tag (or if no tag is present, the vehicle license plate number) to the service system 22 to determine if a PAID flag is present. Unlike other services, the parking payment SERVICE_Code (i.e. the “paid” status) lasts for a particular duration and is not disabled when “claimed”. A more detailed exemplary embodiment of a parking embodiment of a main control program is described below in connection with
Referring now to
At a screen 454, the user transmits N, the number of services desired for purchase (i.e. a number of concert tickets), and at a screen 456, the system 10 returns a confirmation of the number of services to be purchased (N_Services) as well as the total purchase price (Total_Price). If the user desires to confirm the purchase, at a screen 458, the user transmits “Y” for “Yes” and then the system 10 verifies payment for the services by billing the user in accordance with a previously determined method (telephone bill, credit card, etc.). Optionally, in conjunction with purchase confirmation, the system 10 verifies the identity of the user via a pre-determined password or PIN code, or other form of identity verification (i.e. by voice verification or by a biometric scanner built into the MCD 14).
At a screen 460, the system 10 transmits purchase confirmation to the user in form of the SVS_NAME, a unique code serving as proof of the user's purchase (SVS_CODE), a warning message (Warn_Message—for example reminding the user not to delete this message and telling the user how to recover the message id accidentally deleted), and a statement of the amount of services (e.g. tickets) for which the SVS_CODE is valid. The user can then utilize the SVS_CODE to claim the purchased services by presenting the SVS_CODE at the predetermined LOCATION. As previously described, the SVS_CODE may include multiple bundled services (for example by offering additional services, such as parking, to the user during the above-described process), or may be utilized by the user to obtain discounts at service providers that made a previous cross-marketing or promotional arrangement with the service provider that issued the SVS_CODE. Furthermore, the SVS_CODE may be used for future marketing opportunities, for example sweepstakes, or as a basis for future service offers (discounted and otherwise) to the user.
Referring now to
It should also be noted that for most parking applications (for example street parking, the user can (and likely should) opt to eliminate steps 504 to 508 (i.e. by making appropriate preference choices during the subscription process) and to eliminate the optional identity verification portion of a step 510, since these steps are unnecessary for parking purchases of no more than a few dollars. These optional steps may be useful for purchases of long terms parking, such as parking permits and airport parking.
The process begins at a step 500 when the user parks the car at a location at which parking services may be purchased through the system 10 (for example this may be noted with local signage, even providing a particular SMS telephone number—PARK_NUM to which purchase messages can be sent. At a step 502, the user transmits TIME_D—the desired time for parking in units of minutes, hours, days or longer, to the PARK_NUM. This step serves as both the trigger event and selection of number of units of service. If optional steps 504 to 508 are preformed, at a step 504, the system 10 confirms the purchase price of TIME_D with the user and if the user does not agree at a test 506, enables the user to terminate the process or re-select TIME_D at a step 506.
At a step 510, the system 10 optionally verifies the user's identity via PIN code or other means, and then processes and verifies payment for the TIME_D. At a step 512, the system 10 transmits confirmation of parking purchase to the user along with a “valid-until”—VALID_U time so that the user has a record of when the purchased TIME_D will run out. At a step 514, the system 10 flags the VEH_ID as having paid parking (PAID_P) until TIME_D expires at which time the PAID_P flag is removed from the VEH_ID at a step 520.
Depending on the service provider, additional optional steps 516-518 may be offered to the user to warn them of TIME_D running out and/or enable them to purchase additional TIME_D remotely. At a step 516 the system 10 transmits an expiration warning to the user a predetermined time before TIME_D runs out (for example 5 or 10 minutes). And at a test 518 the user is offered to purchase additional time. If the user accepts, at a step 502 the user can replenish TIME_D by a desired amount. If the user declines, after TIME_D expires, the program proceeds to the step 520 where the PAID_P flag is removed from the VEH_ID. Alternately, even if the notification step 516 is not used, the user can still repeat step 502 at any time to add to or purchase additional TIME_D. Thus, the user is able to purchase parking time in one easy step, retain verification and record of the purchase, as well as able to add to the purchased parking time remotely without returning to their vehicle.
Referring now to
The process starts at a step 600 when the officer arrives at the user's vehicle. At a step 602 the officer transmits the VEH_ID to the service system 22. Preferably the officer acquires the VEH_ID by reading it from the unique ID tag at the vehicle with the remote terminal 46, or if the tag is not present by manually entering the license plate number of the vehicle into the remote terminal 46 as VEH_ID.
At a test 604, the system determines if the VEH_ID has a PAID_P flag. If it does not, the officer issues a ticket to the user's vehicle (optionally automatically generating it if the remote terminal 46 is equipped with a printer). At an optional test 610 the officer may determine whether he wants to send a message to the user, for example if the vehicle is damaged, a window is left open in the rain, or the vehicle lights are left on. If the message is to be sent, at a step 612, the message is composed (or preferably selected from predetermined messages, e.g. “your lights are on or “your windows are open”) and then routed to the user by the service system 10. Otherwise, the process ends at a step 608.
Thus, while there have been shown and described and pointed out fundamental novel features of the invention as applied to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood that various omissions and substitutions and changes in the form and details of the devices and methods illustrated, and in their operation, may be made by those skilled in the art without departing from the spirit of the invention. For example, it is expressly intended that all combinations of those elements and/or method steps which perform substantially the same function in substantially the same way to achieve the same results are within the scope of the invention. It is the intention, therefore, to be limited only as indicated by the scope of the claims appended hereto.