US 20050261034 A1
In situations in which one or both parties of a call cannot speak on a telephone, a voice call establishment request (5-0) from an calling terminal (A) to a called terminal (B) is processed as follows. The called terminal (B) is alerted and a two-way connection (5-14; 5-24 . . . 5-28) is established between the calling terminal (A) and the called terminal (B). In response to determining (3-10; 3-14; 5-8) that a two-way voice call between the calling terminal (A) and the called terminal (B) is not allowed; a mode server (MS, MS′) receives silent messages (5-14; 5-24) via a user interface (UI) of the called terminal (B) and conveys (5-14; 5-26 . . . 5-28) information based on said silent messages to the calling terminal (A).
1. A method for processing a voice call establishment request from an calling terminal to a called terminal, the method comprising:
detecting the call establishment request;
in response to said detecting, alerting the called terminal; and
setting up a two-way connection between the calling terminal and the called terminal;
wherein the method further comprises:
determining that a two-way voice call between the calling terminal and the called terminal is not allowed; and
receiving silent messages via a user interface of said called terminal and/or calling terminal and conveying information based on said silent messages to the calling terminal and/or called terminal, respectively.
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11. An apparatus for processing a voice call establishment request from an calling terminal to a called terminal, the called terminal comprising alerting means for alerting a user and means for setting up a two-way connection between the calling terminal and the called terminal;
the apparatus comprising means for detecting the call establishment requests;
wherein the apparatus further comprises:
means for determining that a two-way voice call between the calling terminal and the called terminal is not allowed;
means for receiving silent messages via the called terminal's user interfaces; and
means for conveying information based on said silent messages to the calling terminal.
12. An apparatus according to
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14. An apparatus for processing a voice call establishment request from an calling terminal to a called terminal, the called terminal comprising alerting means for alerting a user and means for setting up a two-way connection between the calling terminal and the called terminal, the apparatus being configured to detect the call establishment request;
wherein the apparatus is further configured to:
determine that a two-way voice call between the calling terminal and the called terminal is not allowed;
receive silent messages via the called terminal's user interface; and
convey information based on said silent messages to the calling terminal.
15. An apparatus according to
16. An apparatus according to
The invention relates to methods and equipment for implementing a communication mechanism for calls in which speaking is not possible.
There are several situations in which one or both parties of a call cannot speak on a telephone. For instance, libraries, restaurants and public performances (concerts, theatres, movies, etc.) are situations in which speaking on a telephone is prohibited or socially unacceptable. If the called party (B) cannot take a call, the calling party (A) is usually directed to voice mail. Alternatively, the parties may communicate via short messages. Short message service, like the one provided by the GSM system and its derivatives, provides a widely-used substitute for conventional calls if one or both parties cannot speak on a telephone. But the short message service has its share of problems. For instance, reading and sending each message requires several acts via the telephone's menu system.
An object of the present invention is to provide improved methods and equipment for calls in which two-way speech is not possible.
The object of the invention is achieved by the methods and equipment which are characterized by what is stated in the independent claims. The preferred embodiments of the invention are disclosed in the dependent claims.
For example, the invention can be implemented as a method for processing a voice call establishment request from a calling terminal to a called terminal. A conventional method comprises detecting the call establishment request, alerting the called terminal or its user and setting up a two-way connection between the calling and the called terminals. A method according to the invention also comprises the following steps:
determining that a two-way voice call between the calling terminal and the called terminal is not allowed;
receiving silent messages via the called and/or calling terminal's user interface; and
conveying information based on said silent messages to the calling and/or called terminal, respectively.
An aspect of the invention is a method for processing a call setup request from an A party to a B party. Another aspect of the invention is an apparatus, such as a mode server, for supporting or implementing the above method. The mode server can be located in a network element or in the called terminal or both. As used herein, the mode server is an entity that determines or affects the mode of the call in the incoming and/or outgoing direction. An illustrative but non-exhaustive list of call modes comprises normal speaking, messaging, chatting and limited chatting. Speaking is the preferred mode for calls between two persons, but there are situations in which speaking is not allowed. As far as the invention is concerned, the precise reason as to why speaking is not allowed does not matter. Speaking may be prohibited by law or etiquette, or the called party may wish to avoid being overheard. From the point of view of the equipment, the called party gives an indication that speaking is not allowed. Such an indication may be given before alerting the called party, in which case the indication is a “current profile” or part of it. Or, indication may be given after the alert, in which case the called party selects the call mode on a case-by-case basis. What matters is that at least one party cannot participate in a two-way voice call and must participate silently instead. Yet further, the need to establish a silent call, in at least one direction, may develop during the call. For instance, one of the parties may be in a movie, and it may be possible to speak before the movie starts, but when it starts, the call must be continued silently, if at all. However, changing the call mode during a call may be technically simpler than having a silent call from the beginning, because the parties can inform each other on the situation.
In the context of this invention, the attribute “silent” means a call mode in which the party in question does not speak. Such a call mode could also be called a “non-voice” call. For example, if the B party is in a library, he/she can have a call in which the incoming half-call is a conventional voice call but the outgoing half-call is a silent one. On the other hand, a hearing-impaired person may participate in a call in which the incoming half-call is silent but the outgoing one is a conventional voice call, assuming that the hearing-impaired person is able to speak.
An example of a silent call mode is chatting. Chatting means a mode of conversation in which the chatting party sends his/her messages by typing on the terminal's keyboard or keypad. Obviously, sending arbitrary messages by chatting requires the ability to see the terminal's display and keyboard/keypad, and this is impossible in many public performances. But even in such situations a party can participate in a two-way dialogue by limited chatting. Limited chatting is a mode of conversation in which a limited number of messages are available. For example, a terminal's user interface may offer two keys for “yes” and “no”, and optionally, a third key for “I don't understand” (or “I cannot answer right now”). Instead of the few dedicated keys, or in addition to them, there may be a few different key presses. For example, a single click, a double click and a long press may mean three different things. A combination of three keys and three different key presses provides nine different messages such that the terminal user does not have to move his/her fingers or see the terminal. Alternatively, or in addition to the different keys/key presses, the terminal may store several pre-stored responses of which one is selected. The terminal's user interface may provide next/previous selection keys and an OK key. Whenever, the next/previous keys are used, a next or previous message may be displayed or read out to the terminal user via an earphone, and the message is only sent to the other party when the user selects the message with the OK key.
A server, as in the context of “mode server”, is something that provides a service. The mode server may be a separate server or an attachment to pre-existing call processing equipment, such as a mobile switching centre or private branch exchange. Or, the mode server may be implemented as a software agent in the user equipment, such as a mobile telephone. As a further alternative, the mode server may be implemented as a distributed collection of software, such as a client/server system.
The invention is based on the idea of processing the two directions (or “half-calls”) of the call, ie from A to B and B to A, separately. An example of such separate processing is that if B is unable to speak, the direction from A to B is processed as a conventional voice call but the inverse direction from B to A is processed as a chat connection.
This separate processing does not mean that the directions of the call are always processed differently. For example, it is possible to process both directions as chat connections. But even such a two-way chat connection is different from a conventional exchange of short messages because each message of the chat connection does not have to be addressed separately. The present invention also differs from the conventional short message service in that the caller attempts to initiate a normal voice call but the mode server automatically determines that the voice call is not permitted and changes the call mode to silent, at least in one direction.
The invention brings about certain problems or questions that do not exist in conventional call processing systems. These problems or questions are related to the fact that a call may be first attempted as a conventional call but if either party is unable to speak, at least one call direction must be processed as silent. For instance, which element determines which calls are processed as silent? How is this determination made? Various preferred embodiments of the invention provide solutions to these problems.
One solution to the above residual problems is as follows. The mobile phone's user interface provides two (or more) different techniques to answer an incoming call. For instance, the user interface may have buttons for “normal call” and “silent call”. Alternatively, a single short click on an “answer” button results in a normal call whereas a double click or a long press on the same button results in a silent call. In this embodiment, the mobile terminal user provides the input that lets the mobile telephone (or the underlying network) to determine the call mode on a per-call basis.
An alternative solution to the above residual problems is based on user profiles. Before entering a location in which speaking on a telephone is prohibited or unacceptable, the terminal user changes his/her profile to one that indicates silent calls. The profile may be maintained in the terminal or in an appropriate network element. Co-assigned Finnish patent application 20021664, filed 18 Sep. 2002, titled “User-configurable call answering/redirection mechanism”, discloses various techniques for maintaining user profiles. That patent application is not public at the filing date of the present invention, and its relevant parts are repeated later in this specification.
In the following the invention will be described in greater detail by means of preferred embodiments with reference to the attached drawings, in which:
The access network AN is connected to other networks via one or more gateway elements GW. For example, the other networks may be a Public Switched Telephone Network PSTN and/or a data network DN, such as the Internet and/or its closed subnetworks, commonly called intranets or extranets. The elements of
An essential functional block of the mode server MS, MS′ is a mode converter MC that is capable of changing the call mode from a voice call to one or more variants of non-voice calls, such as chatting, limited chatting, transmission of pre-stored or synthesized voice, etc.
According to a preferred embodiment of the invention, the mode server MS comprises a reachability server RS and an associated database DB. The database DB stores profile records PR that indicate the current profile of the called subscriber. If the mode server MS′ is located in the called party's terminal, a single current profile is sufficient, and the subscriber information is redundant. Further preferred embodiments of the reachability server RS and the profiles will be described in connection with
The embodiment shown in
In the example shown in
The terminal shown in
The user interface UI shown in
In the above description of the invention, a cursory reference was made to the use of profiles in connection with the mode server shown in
Within this detailed description, the name “Bill” refers to the terminal user whose incoming calls will be processed according to the invention. The reason for this name is that Bill will be acting the called or B party during a call, and “Bill” begins with a B.
Reference numeral 73 generally denotes Bill's caller groups. In this example, the caller group “Family” consists of the records for Alice, Bob and Cecilia. Another caller group “Colleagues” consists of the records for Dave L, Eric M and Frank W. The third caller group “Secretary” only comprises Bill's secretary Gail T. The fourth caller group “Friends” comprises Harry P and Ian R. The four first caller groups are formed explicitly, such that Bill explicitly adds records 70 (potential callers) to one of the caller groups 73.
In addition to explicit caller groups, there may be implicit caller groups, two of which are shown in
As regards the association of the records 70 and caller groups 73, what really matters to the reachability server/service is the association of a number/address field 72 and a caller group 73. This is because the reachability server detects the caller's identity based on the callers number (or other network address) 72. For the reachability server (and call processing in general), the name 71 is irrelevant. From Bill's point of view, however, it is much more convenient to associate a caller group 73 to a name 71 than to a number 72.
Each reachability profile 80 comprises at least a label (or identifier) field 81. According to a further preferred embodiment of the invention, a reachability profile 80 may also comprise a free-format presence information field 82. For example, the reachability profile “Meeting” comprises a presence information field 82 whose contents is “I am in a meeting . . . ” This presence information may be returned to a caller if the called party cannot answer calls.
According to another preferred embodiment of the invention, a reachability profile 80 may also comprise a default redirection setting field 83. The use of redirection settings will be explained in connection with
Each redirection settings record 90 consists of a label (or identifier) field 91 and an actual redirection setting field 92. The label/identifier field 91 is preferably a free-format field, whereby Bill can enter short but descriptive names. From the point of view of the reachability server, however, any identifier is usable. The first redirection settings record 901 has a label field 91 of “OfficeFirst” and a redirection setting field 92 of “5sOffice#/5sMobile#/Answer#”. Herein, “Office#” stands for Bill's office telephone number, Mobile# stands for his mobile terminal number and Answer# stands for the number of the answering service (voice mail). The redirection setting field 92 of “5sOffice#/5sMobile#/Answer#” is interpreted so that a call to the office number is attempted first for five seconds, then the mobile terminal's number is attempted for another five seconds, and if that fails too, the call is redirected to the answering service. The next two records 902 and 903 are self-explanatory based on the previous example. The fourth redirection settings record 904 means that an incoming call will be redirected to the telephone of Bill's secretary. Records 905 and 906 indicate that a caller is redirected to URL addresses www.addr1.fi and www.addr2.fi, respectively. For instance, www.addr1.fi may be the address of a web page informing the caller that the terminal user is unable to receive calls, and www.addr2.fi may be the address of a more informative web page for more trusted callers.
Instead of a different number or network address, or in addition to it, the redirection setting field 92 may indicate a change of call mode. For instance, Bill may be in a library in which it is socially unacceptable to speak on the telephone but Bill may be able to chat via the telephone's keyboard or keypad. According to a further preferred embodiment, the call mode is processed separately for each half-call or direction of call, that is, for the incoming and outgoing directions. For instance, when eating in the restaurant, Bill may not be able to speak on the telephone but may be able to listen to the caller's voice and respond via a chat connection.
In the example shown in
The last record 909, labelled “Voice/2KeyChat”, has a redirection setting of “<2KeyChat” which means that the outgoing half-call is converted to 2-key chat mode. The 2-key chat mode in the outgoing direction means that the mobile terminal user is able to listen to the caller's voice but is only able to respond with a very small number of keys, such as two or three. The two keys can be “yes” and “no”. An optional third key may mean “I don't know/understand”. The 2- (or 3-) key chat mode is useful in a situation where even conventional chatting is impossible. For instance, Bill may be in a concert, and calls from most caller groups are redirected to voice mail but calls from a babysitter are converted to 2-key chat mode. The babysitter, who may be facing an urgent problem, calls Bill. The alert of Bill's terminal is set to silent but vibrating. As soon as Bill feels the vibrating alert, he can place an ear-phone to his ear and take the call. The babysitter may then describe the situation and ask questions that can be answered by “yes” and “no” keys which Bill can memorize and use without taking the terminal out of his trouser pocket.
The example shown in
An advantage of the profiles and redirection settings is that it is very easy for users to change their reachability settings, even when there are multiple caller groups, all requiring different reachability settings. Because the profiles are separated from the redirection settings, the profiles may be very simple and, in a simple embodiment, only a profile name or indicator is necessary.
The invention is preferably implemented by co-operation between the terminal and an element (mode server) in the fixed network. This co-operation is further improved by setting the alert of the terminal automatically to silent/vibrating if the current profile of the B party indicates silent communication. This way, the user does not have to select a profile that indicates silent communication and silence the terminal's alert separately.
Preferably, the profiles comprise presence information and/or instructions which is/are returned to the A party. For example, the presence information/instructions may indicate “I am in a meeting, please dial 1 if you wish to leave a message, or, dial 2 if you have urgent business; I can reply by chatting”.
Dashed lines 1102 and 1105 denote occasions in which the reachability server waits for more actions from Bill or a caller, respectively. In step 1103, Bill's reachability settings change and he updates his current profile in the reachability server. In other words, he indicates the current one of the pre-existing profiles stored in the reachability server. For instance, if Bill is about to enter an airplane, he selects “Flight” as his current profile.
The remaining steps 1111 to 1118 relate to processing of one call. In step 1111, the reachability server detects a call to Bill from an A user. In step 1112, the reachability server retrieves Bill's current profile. In step 1113, the reachability server determines the A user's identity. For example, the A user can be identified by means of a Calling Line Indicator (CLI). In step 1114, the reachability server determines the A user's caller group, that is, the caller group 73 corresponding to the A user's identity 71. In step 1115, the reachability server attempts to retrieve the redirection settings record 100 corresponding to the A user's caller group 73 and Bill's current profile 80. In step 1116, it is checked if such a redirection settings record could be determined, which means that there was an association corresponding to the A user's identity and Bill's current profile. If yes, the process continues to step 1118 in which the call is processed according to the redirection settings.
According to a preferred embodiment, if the check in step 1116 failed, the process continues to step 1117 in which it is checked if Bill's current profile indicates a default redirection setting. For instance, each of the profiles “Theatre”, “Flight” and “Abroad” in
If checks 1116 and 1117 both fail, the process continues to step 1119 in which the call is processed normally (no redirection or mode change).
An advantage of the profiles and redirection settings as shown in FIGS. 7 to 11 is that the terminal user has to send the reachability server only one piece of information, namely an indicator of the current profile, whenever the reachability conditions change. The caller groups, profiles and redirection/call mode settings are pre-stored and are changed much less often. Because the caller groups, profiles and redirection/call mode settings are pre-stored at the reachability server (or are otherwise accessible by it), call processing is much more flexible than in a system which only supports a single redirection setting to all callers.
Further Enhancements to the Mode/Reachability Server
Preferably, the mode server MS and the reachability server RS (or equivalent functions in other network elements) support as many as possible from the following redirections and mode changes:
Option 6 is implemented without text-to-speech or speech-to-text conversion. That is, if B can only chat but not talk, then a chat connection is established in at least one direction. For instance, A can talk to B but B will type his responses. Alternatively, both parties can resort to chatting. Option 7 requires text-to-speech or speech-to-text conversion. For instance, A can talk and B's typed responses are converted to speech.
The invention is useful if one or both parties of a call cannot speak on a telephone, regardless of why such two-way speaking is impossible. Two-way speaking may be prohibited by law or etiquette, or one or both parties may be physically handicapped. It is readily apparent to a person skilled in the art that, as the technology advances, the inventive concept can be implemented in various ways. The invention and its embodiments are not limited to the examples described above but may vary within the scope of the claims.