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Publication numberUS20050071879 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 10/889,187
Publication dateMar 31, 2005
Filing dateJul 12, 2004
Priority dateJul 10, 2003
Also published asUS7098788, US7155202, US7339493, US7397346, US20050035854, US20050038860, US20050057357, US20050057361, US20050060088, US20050062637, US20050101250, US20050132047, US20050262212, WO2005008914A1
Publication number10889187, 889187, US 2005/0071879 A1, US 2005/071879 A1, US 20050071879 A1, US 20050071879A1, US 2005071879 A1, US 2005071879A1, US-A1-20050071879, US-A1-2005071879, US2005/0071879A1, US2005/071879A1, US20050071879 A1, US20050071879A1, US2005071879 A1, US2005071879A1
InventorsNikhil Haldavnekar, Abdelsalam Helal, Sree Kuchibhotla, Manish Malik, Vijay Vokkaarne
Original AssigneeUniversity Of Florida Research Foundation, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Smart space appliance control using a mobile communications device
US 20050071879 A1
Abstract
A method for controlling appliances can include the step of presenting at least one appliance option for a controlled appliance upon a mobile communications device having mobile telephony capabilities. At least one appliance message can be transmitted across the wireless communications link between a smart space control unit and the mobile communications device. In one arrangement, wireless communication link can be a mobile telephony link. At least one appliance signal can be conveyed between the smart space control unit and the controlled appliance.
Images(7)
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Claims(19)
1. A method for controlling appliances comprising the steps of:
presenting at least one appliance option for a controlled appliance upon a mobile computing device having mobile telephony capabilities;
transmitting at least one appliance message across a wireless communication link established between the mobile computing device and a smart space control unit; and
conveying at least one appliance signal between said smart space control unit and said controlled appliance.
2. The method of claim 1, where said wireless communication link is a mobile telephony link.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein said conveying step further comprises the step of:
conveying said appliance signal over electrical power lines using a power-line carrier protocol.
4. The method of claim 1, further comprising the steps of:
detecting an operational condition of said controlled appliance, wherein said operational condition is sent to said smart space control unit within one of said appliance signals and thereafter sent to said mobile computing device within one of said appliance messages; and
displaying an indicator of said operational condition upon said mobile computing device.
5. The method of claim 4, said displaying step further comprising the step of:
displaying a graphic to visually illustrate said operational condition, wherein different graphics are used to visually illustrate different operational conditions.
6. The method of claim 4, wherein said indicator includes a speech message, said displaying step further comprising the step of:
audibly playing said speech message.
7. The method of claim 4, further comprising the steps of:
receiving a status inquiry via the mobile computing device, wherein said status inquiry is sent to said smart space control unit within one of said appliance messages and thereafter sent to said controlled appliance within one of said appliance signals; and
performing said detecting step responsive to said receiving step.
8. The method of claim 1, further comprising the steps of:
receiving a control notifier via the mobile computing device for said controlled appliance; and
responsively adjusting at least one operational condition of said controlled appliance.
9. The method of claim 1, further comprising the steps of:
conveying an identification key to said smart space control space; and
authorizing said mobile computing device to access said smart space control unit based upon said identification key.
10. The method of claim 1, wherein said mobile computing device is configured as a thin client, and wherein said smart space control unit is configured as a server for said thin client.
11. The method of claim 1, further comprising the step of:
controlling said controlled appliance using a control module such that in said conveying step said appliance signals are conveyed between said control module and said smart space control space so that said control module can initiate an appliance action responsive to receipt of selective ones of said appliance signals.
12. A system for controlling appliances comprising:
a mobile computing device configured for mobile telephony communications; and
a smart space control unit configured to manage at least one controlled appliance, wherein said mobile computing device comprises an interface for remotely managing said controlled appliance, wherein data is exchanged between said mobile computing device and said controlled appliance using said smart space control unit as an intermediary.
13. The system of claim 12, wherein said mobile computing device is a thin client and wherein said smart space control unit is the thin client server.
14. The system of claim 12, wherein said smart space control unit comprises a control board including a network interface port.
15. The system of claim 12, wherein said controlled appliance is linked to said smart space control unit through electrical lines and wherein data is conveyed between said smart space control unit and said controlled application using a power-line carrier protocol.
16. The system of claim 12, wherein said controlled appliance comprises:
a control module configured to receive data from said smart space control unit and responsively initiate at least one appliance action, wherein said control module is disposed between operative portions of the controlled appliance and a power source used by the controlled appliance.
17. The system of claim 12, wherein said controlled appliance is configured to receive visual input including at least one of a graphical image and a video segment, and wherein said mobile computing device is configured to visually display said visual input.
18. A machine-readable storage having stored thereon, a computer program having a plurality of code sections, said code sections executable by a machine for causing the machine to perform the steps of:
presenting at least one appliance option for a controlled appliance upon a mobile computing device having mobile telephony capabilities;
transmitting at least one appliance message across a wireless communication link established between the mobile computing device and a smart space control unit; and
conveying at least one appliance signal between said smart space control unit and said controlled appliance.
19. A system for controlling appliances comprising:
means for presenting at least one appliance option for a controlled appliance upon a mobile computing device having mobile telephony capabilities;
means for transmitting at least one appliance message across a wireless communication link established between the mobile computing device and a smart space control unit; and
means for conveying at least one appliance signal between said smart space control unit and said controlled appliance.
Description
CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of both U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/486,018, filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Jul. 10, 2003, and U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/490,717 filed in the United States Patent and Trademark Office on Jul. 29, 2003, the entirety of both applications is incorporated herein by reference.

BACKGROUND

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to the field of mobile communications devices and, more particularly, to a mobile communication device for controlling appliances in a smart space.

2. Description of the Related Art

Many modern homes have begun to include remotely controllable appliances, such as lights, doors, coffee machines, temperature controls, home theatre systems, communication systems, security cameras, surveillance equipment, and/or the like. Controlled appliances either include integrated circuitry through which operative states can be controlled, or are coupled to control modules, such as an X10 (TM) module from X10 Wireless Technology, Inc of Seattle, Wash. Often, controlled appliances can be manipulated using remote control units and/or control panels. Further, controlled appliances can be centrally controlled by a computer executing appliance automation software.

Conventional control mechanisms for remotely controlling appliances within a smart space have many shortcomings. For example, many of the control mechanisms are not portable and are operable only at a relatively fixed location. As such, it can often be more inconvenient for a user to access the control mechanism than to access the controlled appliance directly. That is, a user wanting to turn off a lamp may find it easier to walk across a room and deactivate the lamp than to walk over to a lamp control panel and turn off the lamp. Similarly, manually operating an appliance may be more convenient than moving to a computer, accessing an automation software application, and selecting appropriate software controls to operate the appliance.

Conventional portable control devices, like remote controls, have other problems. One such problem is that spaces equipped with controllable appliances typically have an excessive number of remote controls designed to control various ones of these devices. For example, an automated living room can utilize a television remote control, a stereo remote control, a DVD player remote control, a lighting remote control, and/or the like. The sheer quantity of remote controls available can result in user confusion, remote controls being misplaced, and other problems associated with the utilization of an unwieldy number of remote control units.

Yet another problem with existing portable controllers is that these controllers are generally designed to function only when the controller is in close proximity to the controlled device. Further, appliance controllers rarely provide a user with operational status information, such as whether a controlled device is on or off.

It would be advantageous if automated appliances could be controlled through a single, portable device. Optimally, appliance control functionality could be incorporated into an unobtrusive device that a user normally carries for other purposes.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention includes a method, a system, and an apparatus for remotely controlling appliances linked to a smart space control unit using a mobile communications device, such as a mobile telephone. More specifically, a mobile communication device (MCD) having mobile telephony capabilities can be wirelessly connected to a smart space control unit (SSCU), which can centrally control a multitude of appliances. Communications between the MCD and the SSCU can occur via a mobile telephony link and/or short range wireless link, such as 802.11 communication link. In one embodiment, the MCD can include a display screen that presents information concerning remotely controllable appliances. For example, status information for the appliances and available options for controlling the appliances can be presented via the display screen.

One aspect of the present invention can include a method for controlling appliances, where an appliance can refer to any controlled device or component that is useful for a particular job, such as a light, a coffee maker, a door, a doorbell, a surveillance camera, an answering machine, a stereo, and/or the like. The method can include the step of presenting at least one appliance option for a controlled appliance upon a MCD. At least one appliance message can be transmitted across the wireless communications link between a SSCU and a MCD having mobile telephony capabilities. In one embodiment, the wireless communication link can be a mobile telephony link. In another embodiment, the MCD can be a thin client and the SSCU can be a server for the thin client. For example, the SSCU can be a server for centrally controlling a smart home. At least one appliance signal can be conveyed between the SSCU and the controlled appliance.

In one embodiment, the application signal can be conveyed over electrical power lines using a power-line carrier protocol. In another embodiment, the controlled appliance can be controlled using a control module that receives appliance signals and responsively initiates appliance actions. For example, an X10 module can be used as the control module.

A status inquiry for a controlled appliance can be received by the MCD. The status inquiry can be sent to the SSCU within one of the appliance messages and thereafter sent to the controlled appliance within one of the appliance signals. In response, an operational condition of the controlled appliance can be detected. For example, a determination can be made as to whether an appliance, such as a light, is on or off. In another example, a determination can be made as to whether a monitored door is opened/closed or locked/unlocked.

Information pertaining to the detected operational condition can be sent to the SSCU within one of the appliance signals and thereafter sent to the MCD within one of the appliance messages. An indicator of the operational condition can be displayed upon the MCD. For example, a graphic can be displayed upon the MCD to visually illustrate the operational condition. In such an example, different graphics can be displayed to visually illustrate different operational conditions. In another example, the indicator can include a speech message that can be audibly played by the MCD to indicate the operational condition of the controlled appliance.

In a particular embodiment, a control notifier can be received via the MCD for the controlled appliance. At least one operational condition of the controlled appliance can be responsively adjusted. In another embodiment, an identification key can be conveyed to the SSCU from the MCD. The MCD can be authorized to access the SSCU based upon the identification key.

Another arrangement of the present invention can include a system for controlling appliances including a MCD and a SSCU. The MCD can be configured for mobile telephony communications. The SSCU can manage at least one controlled appliance. The MCD can also include an interface for remotely managing the controlled appliance, where data can be exchanged between the MCD and the controlled appliance using the SSCU as an intermediary. In one embodiment, the controlled appliance can be linked to the SSCU through electrical lines, where data can be conveyed between the SSCU and the controlled application using a power-line carrier protocol.

In a particular embodiment, the MCD can be a thin client and the SSCU can be the thin client server. In another embodiment, the SSCU can include a Tiny interNet interface (TINI). Additionally, the controlled appliance can include a control module configured to receive data from the SSCU and responsively initiate at least one appliance action. The control module can be imposed between operative portions of the controlled appliance and a power source used by the controlled appliance.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

There are shown in the drawings, embodiments that are presently preferred; it being understood, however, that the invention is not limited to the precise arrangements and instrumentalities shown.

FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating an exemplary mobile communications device (MCD) configured in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram illustrating an MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 3A is an exemplary graphical user interface of the MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 3B is another exemplary graphical user interface of the MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 3C is still another exemplary graphical user interface of the MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 3D is yet another exemplary graphical user interface of the MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 4 is a schematic diagram illustrating an exemplary environment in which a MCD can be utilized in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram illustrating an exemplary system supporting the MCD 200 in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 6 is a flow chart illustrating a method for controlling an appliance linked to a smart space control unit using a MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 7 is a flow chart of a method for displaying appliance data upon a MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 8 is a flow chart illustrating a method for controlling an appliance using a MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

FIG. 1 is a schematic diagram illustrating an exemplary mobile communications device (MCD) 100 having mobile telephony and appliance control capabilities in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. As shown, the MCD 100 can include a processor 105, a mobile telephony transceiver 110, audio circuitry 115, a short range wireless transceiver 120, a memory 125, and an interface port 145. Each of the aforementioned components can be communicatively linked via a suitable communications bus 150 or other circuitry.

The processor 105 can execute a suitable operating system and one or more applications for controlling the various appliance control functions of the MCD 100. The memory 125 can be implemented as random access memory (RAM), read-only memory (ROM), Erasable Programmable Read-Only Memory (EPROM), or any other type of physical memory suitable for use within a portable computing device, such as the MCD 100. It should be appreciated that the memory 125, while illustrated as a separate unit, can be incorporated into the processor 105 or another device.

Wireless signals can be received and sent via the antenna 155 which can be suited for longer-range communications such as conventional cellular or personal communication service (PCS) communications. Accordingly, the antenna 155 can be operatively connected to the mobile telephony transceiver 110. Signals detected by antenna 155 can be provided to the mobile telephony transceiver 110 for processing and decoding. For example, the mobile telephony transceiver 110 can include a codec for coding and decoding information received or to be sent via wireless transmission. The transceiver 110 can make the decoded signals and/or information available to other components of the MCD 100 for processing. Outbound information received by the mobile telephony transceiver 110 can be coded and/or formatted for wireless transmission by the codec and then provided to the antenna 155 for transmission.

In one embodiment, the MCD 100 can communicate via conventional cellular telephone and/or PCS telephone calls and access wireless networks, for example using Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) or another suitable wireless communications protocol, such that the MCD 100 can access the Internet, the Web, a Local Area Network (LAN), and/or a wide area network (WAN), as well as any applications and/or services disposed on such networks via a wireless communications link.

The audio circuitry 115 can include a microphone or other transducive element (not shown) for receiving sound and one or more analog-to-digital converters (not shown) for digitizing the received sound. The audio circuitry 115 further can include one or more digital-to-analog converters (not shown) for converting digital information into an analog signal. The audio circuitry 115 can include a speaker or other transducive element (not shown) for generating sound from an analog signal as well as one or more amplifiers (not shown). Notably, the MCD 100 can include one or more audio output jacks and/or or other digital data interface ports 145.

It should be appreciated that the audio circuitry 115 can include additional processors, such as digital signal processors (DSP) as may be required for processing audio and performing functions such as audio encoding, audio decoding, noise reduction, and/or the like. According to one embodiment of the present invention, the audio circuitry can be implemented using one or more discrete components. In another arrangement, the audio circuitry 115 can be implemented using one or more larger integrated circuits configured to perform the various functions disclosed herein.

The audio circuitry 115 can also include and/or be communicatively linked to automatic speech recognition (ASR) and synthetic speech generation components that can be used to perform text-to-speech and speech-to-text conversions. When the audio circuitry 115 includes ASR and/or speech generation components suitable software and/or firmware can be embedded within the audio circuitry 115. When the audio circuitry 115 is communicatively linked to remotely located ASR and/or speech generation components, communications between the audio circuitry 115 and the remotely located components can occur using the mobile telephony transceiver 110, the short range wireless transceiver 120, the interface port 145, and any other suitable elements.

The MCD 100 also can include a short range wireless transceiver 120 as well as an antenna 160 operatively connected thereto. The short range wireless transceiver 120 can both send and receive data. For example, according to one embodiment of the present invention, the short range wireless transceiver 120 can be implemented as a BlueTooth-enabled wireless transceiver, or as a transceiver configured to communicate with one of the 802.11 family of short range wireless communications specifications. The short range wireless transceiver 120 and accompanying antenna 160 can be configured to communicate using any of a variety of short range, wireless communications protocols and/or systems. Accordingly, the various examples disclosed herein have been provided for illustration only and should not be construed as a limitation of the present invention.

The interface port 145 can be used to physically connect devices and/or peripherals to the MCD 100. For example, the interface port 145 can be a standard wall jack to initiate telephone calls over the Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN). The interface port 145 can also include a universal serial bus (USB) port, a firewire (IEEE 1394) port, a parallel port, a COM port like an RS-232 port, an Ethernet port, an audio port, and/or the like. Use of the interface port 145 for communicatively linking the MCD 100 with a smart space control unit (SSCU) or other external device can be advantageous in situations where wireless connectivity may not be available, is intermittent, or otherwise unsuitable for a particular purpose.

The MCD 100 also can include a variety of other components which have not been illustrated in FIG. 1. For example, the MCD 100 can include components such as a modem, a media port, and other components common to portable computing devices, which can include personal data assistants (PDAs), notebook computers, mobile telephones, computing tablets, and/or the like.

Each of the various components of the MCD 100 disclosed herein can be communicatively linked with one another using appropriate circuitry, whether through the memory 125, one or more additional memories (not shown), the processor 105, one or more additional interface processors or logic controllers (not shown), and/or the communications bus 150.

Additionally, one skilled in the art will recognize that the various components disclosed herein can be embodied in various other forms and that the configuration disclosed and described with reference to FIG. 1 is provided for purposes of illustration only. For example, the various components can be implemented as one or more discrete components, as one or more processors, logic controllers, and/or DSP's, or any combination thereof.

FIG. 2 is a schematic diagram illustrating an exemplary mobile communications device (MCD) 200 in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. As shown, the MCD 200 can include a presentation element 205, one or more control or operational keys 210, which can include special function command keys for operation of one or more of the functions disclosed herein, alphanumeric keys or buttons 215, and an antenna 220 (which may be configured to be fully located within the MCD 200). The MCD 200 further can include a battery or other power source (not shown).

The physical arrangement of the MCD 200 has been provided for purposes of illustration only. As such, it should be appreciated that the various components can be located in any of a variety of different configurations. For example, the MCD 200 can include additional keys or controls disposed on the frontal portion or the sides of the unit.

According to one embodiment of the present invention, the physical arrangement of the MCD 200 can be conducive for use by individuals that may have difficulty accessing and/or operating the various keys and/or controls of conventional mobile computing devices, such as the elderly, persons with physical disabilities, or other infirmities. For example, the control keys 210 and the alphanumeric keys 215 of the MCD 200 can be larger in size than conventional cellular device keys and can be spaced a greater distance from one another with respect to both the width and length of the MCD 200. That is, the horizontal key spacing and the vertical key spacing can be greater than that found with conventional cellular devices. Further, the control keys 210 can include Braille markings for key identification purposes.

The presentation element 205 can include a visual display, an audible presentation mechanism like a speaker, and/or the like. When the presentation element 205 includes a display screen, this display can be a liquid crystal display (LCD) implemented in either grayscale or color, a touch screen, or any other type of suitable display screen. The presentation element 205 can include a display screen that is larger than those found on conventional mobile computing devices and can have an increased contrast ratio if so desired.

As shown in FIG. 2, the MCD 200 can be configured with one or more short range wireless transceivers 225. While the short range wireless transceiver 225 can be positioned on the MCD 200 in any of a variety of different locations, according to one embodiment, the short range wireless transceiver 225 can be positioned at the top portion of the MCD 200. Other elements of the MCD 200 can be located throughout the interior and exterior portions of the MCD 200 in a suitable fashion and need not be located in the positions indicated in FIG. 2.

FIG. 3A illustrates a graphical user interface (GUI) 300 of the MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. GUI 300 presents a welcome screen that includes information gathered from one or more controlled appliances. Different users can identify themselves via a user selection control 305 and GUI 300 will automatically update its presentation for the selected user in accordance with the selected user's previously established preferences.

In one embodiment, a communication section 310 can display communications that have been recently received. The communication section 310 can be filtered to display only communications originating from a particular source or sources and to not display other communications. For example, telemarketing telephone solicitations can be filtered and family members can be displayed. The communication section 310 can present communication information gathered from multiple controlled devices. For example, voice message data can be automatically gathered from a controlled answering machine, postal mail information can be provided using a controlled mailbox with package sensing capabilities, and new e-mail data can be queried via an e-mail client communicatively linked to the MCD.

An appliance automation section 315 can be used to initiate appliance actions. For example, when the user identified within GUI 300 is a coffee drinker, a prompt can be presented within the section 315 to start a controlled coffee machine. Another user, one that does not drink coffee, may be presented with other options. For instance, a user interested in the stock market might be asked if that user would like to receive a current stock portfolio update. In another example, a user with new messages as noted in section 310 can be asked in section 315 if one or more callers should be called in light of a received message from that caller.

The GUI 300 is not limited to displaying information relating to appliance management, but can also contain other data. For example, the GUI 300 can present scheduling, contact management data, and other such information to the user.

FIG. 3B illustrates a GUI 320 of the MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. The GUI 325 can present application control information for one or more smart spaces, where different smart spaces can be selected using the space selection control 325. The selection of different smart spaces can result in different options being presented in GUI 320 depending on the capabilities of the chosen smart space. It should be appreciated that different smart spaces can be controlled by different smart space control units (SSCUs). Accordingly, a selection within the space selection control 325 can determine that the MCD is to receive and transmit data between itself and a selected one of many available SSCUs.

The GUI 320 can group controllable appliances in a multitude of different manners. For example, a system section 330 can group appliances by appliance category, where categories can include appliances, doors, communications, security, video monitors, and the like. Each category can be represented as an expandable node, the expansion of which causes all devices within the selected category to be presented. In another example, a room section 335 of the GUI 320 can group appliances according to appliance location. The categories and presentation mechanisms provided in GUI 320 are intended for illustrative purposes and are not to be construed as limitations upon the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

FIG. 3C illustrates a GUI 340 of the MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. The GUI 340 presents a location specific screen for appliance monitoring and control to a user. The controlled location can be altered using a location selection control 345. For any selected location, a multitude of different controlled appliances can be displayed. For example, when the location selected is a kitchen, appliances within the kitchen, such as an overhead light, a stove top light, a stove fan, a stove, a coffee maker, and/or the like, can be presented in GUI 340.

Each appliance presented in GUI 340 can have an associated status indicator 350, such as a check box indicating whether an appliance is currently powered on or off. Further, each appliance can have an associated graphic 355. In particular embodiments, the graphic 355 can vary depending upon the current status of an associated appliance. For example, different icons can be provided for the coffee maker to indicate that coffee is being brewed, is currently available, is not available, and the like. When a location is monitored by a video device, a button can appear in GUI 340 to indicate that the location can be viewed via the MCD, assuming the MCD has video viewing capabilities.

FIG. 3D illustrates a GUI 360 of the MCD in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. The GUI 360 can present images and/or video from a selected controlled device upon a viewing area 370 of the MCD. A camera selection control 365 can be used to select which of many available devices is to provide video to the MCD. A multitude of device control options can be presented within a control section 375.

In one embodiment, the GUI 360 can be used to provide doorway monitoring and access control. For example, when a home visitor rings a doorbell, entry control functionality of a MCD can be triggered resulting in GUI 360 being automatically displayed within the MCD. The viewing area 370 can display a video of the visitor, as taken via an appropriately located video camera. The user of the MCD can then select controls in the control section 375 to interact with the visitor. For example, one control can allow the user to talk to the visitor, another to unlock the appropriate doorway so that visitor can enter, another to dial emergency assistance should the visitor be a threat, and the like.

It should be appreciated that GUIs 300, 320, 340, and 360 disclosed herein are shown for purposes of illustration only. Accordingly, the present invention is not limited by the particular GUI or data entry mechanisms contained within views of the representative GUIs. Rather, those skilled in the art will recognize that any of a variety of different GUI controls, selectors, fields, and/or the like can be used without departing from the intended scope of the inventive arrangements disclosed herein.

As shown in FIG. 4, the MCD 200 can communicate with a SSCU 405. The MCD 200 can include one or more application programs which allow the user to access the functionality of the various systems and/or devices connected to the SSCU 405. In one embodiment, the MCD 200 can be a thin client and the SSCU 405 can function as an application server. The SSCU 405 can also be configured with a multitude of MCD 200 and/or user specific settings so that information exchanged between the MCD 200 and the SSCU 405 can be tailored for the needs, capabilities, and privileges of different users and/or MCDs. The SSCU 405 can include a server that communicates to the MCD 200 through a wireless communication means, such as through a wireless network communication like the 802.11 family of wireless networking protocols, a Bluetooth transmission, and/or the like.

It should be appreciated that the MCD 200 can communicate with the SSCU 405 using any of a variety of different communications mechanisms and that the MCD 200 is not limited to any specific communication mechanism. For example, the MCD 200 can initiate cellular telephone and/or conventional telephone calls to the SSCU 405 when the MCD 200 is not located within or proximate to the home within which the SSCU 405 is disposed. In another example, the MCD 200 can communicate with the home control unit using short range wireless communications when in range. Communications can utilize circuit-based connections typical of telephony communications as well as packet-based connections typical of Internet communications.

In still another example, the MCD 200 can be linked to the SSCU 405 via one or more interface ports.

The SSCU 405 and/or the MCD 200 can be communicatively linked to a multitude of controlled appliances that can include a lighting system 410, an oven 415, a dishwasher 420, a camera 430, a surveillance system 435, actuated doors 450, actuated windows 455, environmental controls 425 and/or appliances. The MCD 200 can control each of the controlled appliances by triggering appropriate events within the smart space control unit 405 or by directly communicating with and controlling the controlled appliance.

Further, the SSCU 405 and/or the MCD 200 can be communicatively linked to a communication system (not shown), where the communication system can include a home intercom system, a line based computer network, a message service, a telephony system, an Internet connection, and/or the like. The capabilities of the communication systems can be utilized by a user of the MCD 200 through access granted via the SSCU 405. For example, the communication system can communicatively link the SSCU 405 to a multitude of remotely located computing systems, such as a service provider 460, a neighbor 465, an emergency assistance entity 470, or other contact point.

Web services, databases, and other remotely located computing and/or data resources can be provided by the service provider 460. The neighbor 465 can be a designated contact point that can be contacted to directly survey or correct problems that may occur in the environment controlled by the SSCU 405 that cannot be automatically fixed via the MCD 200.

For example, the SSCU 405 can detect that a garage door has been left opened or unlocked. In response to the detected potential security breach, the user of the MSD 200 can be automatically contacted and informed of the problem. The user can then use the MSD 200 to contact the neighbor 465 so that the neighbor can physically investigate and/or correct the detected problem.

In another example, the emergency assistance entity 470 can be contacted responsive to a detected situation. For example, if the SSCU 405 detects the activation of a smoke detector, a fire department can be contacted. This contact can be performed directly or can occur after a user of the MCD 200 provides permission to contact the emergency assistance entity 470. In one embodiment, the MCD 200 can utilize embedded communication capabilities to directly communicate with the service provider 460, the neighbor 465, the emergency assistance entity 470, and/or the like directly without using the SSCU 405 as a communication intermediary.

In operation, a user of the MCD 200 can adjust environmental controls 425 of the smart space using the MCD 200. In one embodiment, a user of the MCD 200 can check the status of any environmental devices so connected to the SSCU 405 to determine whether the device is on, off, turn the device on or off, set the device to automatically start or stop at predetermined times, and change settings of the device. For example, the MCD 200 can be used to change a thermostat setting with respect to heating and/or cooling, or turn on heated dry cycle in the dishwasher 420.

It should be appreciated that while smart spaces have been described with reference to a single, centralized computer system, one or more computer systems can be included. For example, lighting can be controlled with one computer system while temperature is controlled by another, and appliances can be controlled by yet another computer system. In another example, an appliance or appliance subsystem can be equipped with a control board, such as a Tiny interNet interface. The control board can provides internal control capabilities and one or more connectivity mechanism, such as a TCP/IP connection port or a RJ45/11 port. Such a control board can be used to directly connect to the MCD 200 and/or can utilize the SSCU 405 as a communication intermediary.

Notably, the various computer systems may or may not communicate with one another so long as each is able to communicate with the MCD 200. Still, each system can be configured to communicate with the MCD 200 independently and to otherwise operate autonomously. For instance, each appliance can be a “smart” appliance having built-in communications and control mechanisms for being accessed remotely by the MCD 200.

FIG. 5 is a schematic diagram illustrating an exemplary system 500 supporting the MCD 200 in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. The system 500 can include the MCD 200, a proxy server 515, and an external server 510, each communicatively linked via a communications network 505. The external server 510 can include the SSCU as well as servers and/or service providers communicatively accessible via the communications network 505.

Notably, the MCD 200 can be communicatively linked to the communications network 505 via any suitable connection, whether wireless or wired. The external server 510 can also perform one or more tasks for the MCD 200 such as a speech synthesis task, a speech recognition task, a communication task, an appliance control task, and/or the like. In one arrangement, the MCD 200 can be a thin client that is communicatively linked to a remotely located application server. The proxy server 515 can be an intermediary between the MCD 200 and the external server 510 that can provide security, administrative control, and traffic management for the MCD 200.

FIG. 6 is a flow chart illustrating a method 600 for controlling an appliance linked to a SSCU using a mobile computing device, such as MCD 200, in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. The method can begin in step 605, where at least one application option for a controlled appliance can be presented upon a mobile computing device having mobile telephony capabilities. The mobile computing device can include an enhanced mobile telephone, a personal data assistant (PDA) with mobile telephony capabilities, a portable media device with mobile telephony capabilities, and/or the like. In step 610, the mobile computing device can receive a user input for a user status inquiry about the controlled appliance. In step 615, a status inquiry can be transmitted within an appliance message across a wireless communication link between the mobile computing device and a SSCU.

In step 620, the SSCU can format the status inquiry into a different format tailored for communications between the SSCU and the controlled appliance. Once reformatted for the controlled appliance, the resulting information packet can be referred to as an appliance signal. In step 625, the appliance signal can be conveyed to the controlled appliance. For example, when the controlled appliance is controlled by a X10 module, the appliance signal can be conveyed over electrical power lines using a power-line carrier protocol.

In step 630, an operational condition of the controlled appliance can be detected. For example, when the controlled appliance is a door, the operational condition can indicate if the door is opened/closed, locked/unlocked, and/or the like. In another example, when the controlled appliance is a doorbell, the operational condition can indicate if the doorbell is ringing/silent, operational/disabled, and/or the like. In still another example, where the controlled appliance is a surveillance camera, the operational condition can indicate if the camera is on/off, can indicate the current angle to which the camera is positioned, can indicate a current camera magnification setting, and/or the like. In step 635, the operational condition can be sent to the SSCU from the controlled appliance within an appliance control signal. In step 640, the operational condition can be sent from the SSCU to the mobile computing device within an appliance message. In step 645 an indicator of the operational condition can be displayed upon the mobile computing device.

FIG. 7 is a flow chart of a method 700 for displaying appliance data upon a mobile computing device in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. In one embodiment, the method 700 can be performed in context of step 645 of method 600. The method 700 can begin in step 705 where, an indicator of an operational condition of a controlled appliance can be received by a mobile computing device. When the indicator is to be visually presented, the method can proceed to step 710, where a graphic and/or text message associated with the operational condition can be determined. For example, if the controlled appliance is a light, a graphic of a lit bulb can indicate that the light is ‘on’ and a graphic of an unlit bulb can indicate that the light is ‘off’. In step 715, the graphic and/or text message can be visually displayed upon the mobile computing device.

When the indicator is to be audibly displayed, the method can proceed to step 720, where a speech message and/or tone associated with the operational condition can be determined. In an example where the controlled appliance is a door, a warning alarm can be associated with a door that has been left unlocked and/or open. In another example where the controlled appliance is an answering machine, a previously recorded voice message can be provided to indicate that a new voice message has been placed into an answering machine. Embodiments exist where a synthetically generated voice message can be used to indicate the operational condition as well. In step 725, the determined audible message can be audibly presented upon the mobile computing device.

It should be noted that the mobile computing device detailed herein can include a myriad of different information presentation mechanisms including a display screen, an audio transducer, a tactile output mechanism like a Braille pad and/or a vibration mechanism, and/or the like. Further, a number of user configurable settings can be used to determine the form through which the indicator is presented to a user. For example, a user can establish that the indication is to be audibly provided as a synthetically generated speech message played though a speaker. Alternately, the user can establish that the indication is to be visually provided via a display screen. One of ordinary skill in the art should appreciate that the particular indication mechanisms detailed herein for method 700 are for illustrative purposes only and that the method is not to limited in this regard.

FIG. 8 is a flow chart illustrating a method 800 for controlling an appliance using a mobile computing device in accordance with the inventive arrangements disclosed herein. The method 800 can begin in step 805 where, a control notifier can be received via a mobile computing device for a controlled appliance. For example, a user can utilize an interface of the mobile computing device to turn the appliance on/off, to query an operation condition of the appliance, and to perform any other remotely controllable appliance function. The control notifier can specify the results of the user selected control operation.

In step 810, an identification key can be conveyed to a SSCU from the mobile computing device. This identification key can include a cryptography key, certificate, password, and/or the like that identifies either the user of the mobile computing device and/or the mobile computing device itself. In step 815, the SSCU can authorize the mobile computing device to remotely access the functions of the SSCU based upon the identification key. If no security is established for remote communications with the SSCU, steps 810 and 815 can be skipped.

In step 820, the control notifier can be conveyed within an appliance message to the SSCU. In step 825, the control notifier can be transmitted to a control module within an appliance signal. The control module can be coupled to the appliance to control one or more operational features of the appliance. The control module can either be an external module coupled between the appliance and the SSCU or can be integrated within the appliance. In one embodiment, the control unit can include any of a number of commercially available appliance networking modules, such as an X10 module. In step 830, a suitable appliance action can be initiated by the control module responsive to the appliance signal. In step 835, the initialized action can be performed and at least one operational condition of the appliance can be responsively adjusted.

The present invention can be realized in hardware, software, or a combination of hardware and software. The present invention can be realized in a centralized fashion in one computer system or in a distributed fashion where different elements are spread across several interconnected computer systems. Any kind of computer system or other apparatus adapted for carrying out the methods described herein is suited. A typical combination of hardware and software can be a general-purpose computer system with a computer program that, when being loaded and executed, controls the computer system such that it carries out the methods described herein.

The present invention also can be embedded in a computer program product, which comprises all the features enabling the implementation of the methods described herein, and which when loaded in a computer system is able to carry out these methods. Computer program in the present context means any expression, in any language, code or notation, of a set of instructions intended to cause a system having an information processing capability to perform a particular function either directly or after either or both of the following: a) conversion to another language, code or notation; b) reproduction in a different material form.

This invention can be embodied in other forms without departing from the spirit or essential attributes thereof. Accordingly, reference should be made to the following claims, rather than to the foregoing specification, as indicating the scope of the invention.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification725/81, 340/5.5, 348/734
International ClassificationG01C21/20, A61B5/053, G08B25/01, A61B5/024, A61B5/11, G08B27/00, G01C21/34, A61B5/00, H04M1/247, G06Q50/00, G08B1/08, G05B19/042, G08B25/00, A61B5/0205, G06F15/16, G01C21/00, G08C17/00, H04B7/00, H04M1/725, G08B25/08, A61B5/08, G06F19/00, H04L12/28, G05B19/00, G08C17/02
Cooperative ClassificationG01C21/005, H04L12/2803, G08B25/016, H04M2250/12, G06Q10/109, H04M1/72566, G08B21/025, H04L12/282, A61B5/0816, G08B13/19697, G08C2201/51, G08C17/02, A61B5/1112, G08B13/19658, G06Q50/00, G08C17/00, A61B5/024, G08C2201/41, G08B13/19684, G08C2201/50, G01C21/20, A61B2560/0242, G06Q10/10, A61B5/0531, G08B21/0283, G06F19/3418, G06Q90/00, G05B19/042, G08B25/008, G08C2201/61, G08B21/04, G08B25/009, H04M1/7253, G08C2201/93, H04M1/72533, G08B27/006, A61B5/02055, G08B21/0275, H04M1/72588, H04M1/72572, G08B21/0263, H04L12/2836, G08C2201/42, H04M1/72569, A61B5/7475, G06F15/16, G08B21/028, G06F19/3406, A61B5/0062, A61B5/1113, A61B2560/0468, A61B5/411, A61B5/002, A61B5/0022, A61B2503/08
European ClassificationH04M1/725F1B1, G06Q10/10, G01C21/20, G01C21/00C, G08C17/00, G06Q50/00, A61B5/11M, H04M1/725F2G, A61B5/74M, G08B21/04, G08B21/02A19, G08B21/02A25T, G08B27/00P, H04M1/725F5, G05B19/042, G06Q90/00, G08B13/196Y, G08B25/01D, G06F19/34A, G08B21/02A23, A61B5/0205B, H04M1/725F1B2, G08B13/196U3, H04M1/725F2C, A61B5/41B, A61B5/00B, A61B5/00P1, G08B25/00P, G06Q10/109, G08B13/196N2, G06F15/16, A61B5/11N, G08B21/02A25, G08B21/02A11G, G08C17/02, H04L12/28H, G08B25/00S, H04L12/28H3B, H04L12/28H5C
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Dec 7, 2004ASAssignment
Owner name: UNIVERSITY OF FLORIDA RESEARCH FOUNDATION, INC., F
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:HALDAVNEKAR, NIKHIL A.;HELAL, ABDELSALAM A.;KUCHIBHOTLA,SREE CHARAN;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:015421/0240;SIGNING DATES FROM 20041026 TO 20041120