US 20060022796 A1
A local wireless device serves as a unique identifier for students and teachers in a school system. The school is equipped with multiple stationary hubs for tracking the location of students and teachers. The school may also be equipped with multiple mobile hubs, such as hand-held hubs and hubs on school buses, which allow easily and quickly determining if a student or teacher is where he or she should be. The local wireless device may be used in conjunction with a pager, mobile phone, a voicemail device, and devices for storing, reviewing and sending audio and video files. The preferred embodiments also include a single device that provides all of the above-mentioned functions. The preferred embodiments thus disclose many different wireless devices that are all integrated into the school's computer system to customize their function according to the needs of the school.
1. A method for exchanging information between a student and a teacher, the method comprising the steps of:
(A) providing the student a wireless identification module that comprises:
a wireless transmitter;
a wireless receiver;
an identification mechanism that uniquely identifies the wireless identification module; and
a memory coupled to the wireless transmitter and to the wireless receiver;
(B) automatically transferring from the memory of the wireless identification module via the wireless transmitter at least one communication from the student, and storing the student communication in a location accessible by the teacher;
(C) automatically transferring at least one communication from the teacher via the wireless receiver to the memory of the wireless identification module; and
wherein the at least one communication from the student comprises at least one student message stored in the memory that the student has marked for submission to the teacher.
2. The method of
3. The method of
4. The method of
This patent application is a continuation of U.S. Ser. No. 10/124,885 having the same title as this patent application, which was filed on Apr. 18, 2002, and which is incorporated herein by reference.
1. Technical Field
This invention generally relates to computer systems, and more specifically relates to computer systems and associated wireless devices for use at schools and other educational facilities.
2. Background Art
One serious problem that faces school administrators is the task of keeping track of hundreds or thousands of students each day. Even in our current computer age, attendance records are typically kept manually on paper. The teacher must generally take the time to see who is present and who is absent, and record the attendance on a paper form. If a student comes to school late or leaves early, the student must check in or check out at the principal's office. Sometimes students are involved in special programs, such as gifted programs and field trips, that cause the student to miss regular class activities. Keeping track of who is at school and where they are is a formidable task. The importance of knowing who is at school and where they are is especially important in the case of an emergency, such as a fire or bomb threat in the school. Without a way to accurately track who is present and absent at school, present day school systems will continue to use archaic methods for tracking attendance and inefficient ways to determine whether all students and teachers are evacuated in the case of an emergency.
According to the preferred embodiments, a local wireless device serves as a unique identifier for students and teachers in a school system. The school is equipped with multiple stationary hubs for tracking the location of students and teachers. The school may also be equipped with multiple mobile hubs, such as hand-held hubs and hubs on school buses, which allow easily and quickly determining if a student or teacher is where he or she should be. The local wireless device may be used in conjunction with a pager, mobile phone, a voicemail device, and devices for storing, reviewing and sending audio and video files. The preferred embodiments also include a single device that provides all of the above-mentioned functions. In addition, a wireless display may be coupled to the local wireless device as needed. The function of these devices may be controlled according to the needs of the system. For example, some of the functions may be disabled during class periods, but enabled between classes. The preferred embodiments thus disclose many different wireless devices that are all integrated into the school's computer system to customize their function according to the needs of the school.
The foregoing and other features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following more particular description of preferred embodiments of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings.
The preferred embodiments of the present invention will hereinafter be described in conjunction with the appended drawings, where like designations denote like elements, and:
The preferred embodiments relate to wireless communications to electronic devices using a local wireless interface, such as Bluetooth. To understand the context of the invention, a general discussion of the Bluetooth standard for wireless communication is provided below.
Bluetooth wireless technology is a worldwide specification for a small-form factor, low-cost radio solution that provides links between mobile computers, mobile phones, other portable handheld devices, and connectivity to the Internet. The specification is developed, published and promoted by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is a trade association comprised of leaders in the telecommunications, computing, and network industries, and is driving development of the technology and bringing it to market. The Bluetooth SIG promoters include IBM, 3Com, Agere, Ericsson, Intel, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba, and hundreds of associate and adopter member companies.
Bluetooth wireless technology is unique in its breadth of applications. Links can be established between groups of products simultaneously or between individual products and the Internet. While point-to-point connections are supported, the specification allows up to seven simultaneous connections to be established and maintained by a single radio. This flexibility, combined with strict interoperability requirements, has led to support for Bluetooth wireless technology from a wide range of market segments, including software developers, silicon vendors, peripheral and camera manufacturers, mobile PC manufacturers and handheld device developers, consumer electronics manufacturers, car manufacturers, and test and measurement equipment manufacturers.
Hardware that complies with the Bluetooth wireless specification ensures communication compatibility worldwide. Bluetooth is generally designed to operate in a maximum range of one to one hundred meters, depending on the class of the device. Class 1 devices have a range up to 100 meters. Class 2 devices have a range up to ten meters. Class 3 devices have a range up to 1 meter. As a low-cost, low-power solution with industry-wide support, Bluetooth wireless technology allows effortlessly interconnecting with compatible devices all over the world.
Devices enabled with Bluetooth wireless technology will be able to: free electronic accessories and peripherals from wired connections; exchange files, business cards, and calendar appointments; transfer and synchronize data wirelessly; take advantage of localized content services in public areas; and function as remote controls, keys, tickets and e-cash wallets.
Many manufacturers of electronic devices are planning to integrate Bluetooth into their devices so their devices can automatically connect to other devices that have a Bluetooth interface within a short range. One goal of Bluetooth is to interconnect many electronic devices without using hard-wire cables. For example, a computer network that includes four computer systems, four monitors, a printer, and a scanner could theoretically be all interconnected via Bluetooth without using any cables to interconnect these items.
Bluetooth includes the capability of identifying each type of device as it establishes a link to other devices. Thus, a printer that has a Bluetooth interface will identify itself as a printer, which makes the print function available to other devices that are linked via Bluetooth to the printer. A mobile phone that includes a Bluetooth interface could automatically detect when it comes in range of a printer that has a Bluetooth interface, and in response to detecting the printer the mobile phone could provide an option to print e-mail or other text information received by the mobile phone, which would send the e-mail or other information to the printer. Details regarding Bluetooth and it's detailed specification may be found at www.bluetooth.com.
Unlike many other wireless standards, the Bluetooth wireless specification includes both link layer and application layer definitions for product developers. Radios that comply with the Bluetooth wireless specification operate in the unlicensed, 2.4 GHz radio spectrum ensuring communication compatibility worldwide. These radios use a spread spectrum, frequency hopping, full-duplex signal at up to 1600 hops/sec. The signal hops among 79 frequencies at 1 MHz intervals to give a high degree of interference immunity.
The 2.4 GHz band used by Bluetooth is unlicensed, and can be used by many other types of devices such as cordless phones, microwave ovens, and baby monitors. Any device designed for use in an unlicensed band should be designed for robustness in the presence of interference, and the Bluetooth wireless technology has many features that provide such robustness.
Products that incorporate a Bluetooth interface are already on the market. Nokia Corp. is selling its Bluetooth 6310 phones in Europe, and are expected to be available in the United States sometime in 2002. Broadcom Corp. and handheld PC maker Palm Inc. plan to co-develop a new Bluetooth handheld PC design.
There are other wireless standards that exist besides Bluetooth. For example, Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11b) is designed to provide wireless Ethernet connectivity that can extend or replace wired networks for dozens of computing devices. Wi-Fi is a trademark of WECA (the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance). The Bluetooth wireless technology is expected to be used widely as a cable replacement for devices such as PDAs, cell phones, cameras, speakers, headsets and so on. 802.11 will likely still be used for higher speed wireless Ethernet access, so it is widely expected that Bluetooth and 802.11 will co-exist. Preliminary tests by the Pennsylvania State University's Applied Research Laboratory show that Bluetooth and 802.11b (Wi-Fi) do not interfere with each other even in close proximity. 802.11b's typical 284-foot range was unaffected by the presence of Bluetooth devices, while Bluetooth's typical 64-foot range was unaffected by the presence of 802.11b devices.
The preferred embodiments provide a modular school computer system and method that includes wireless hubs that communicate with electronic devices carried or worn by students and teachers. The electronic devices within the scope of the preferred embodiments discussed herein include an RFID module, a pager module, a wireless phone module, a voicemail module, an audio module, and a video module. These modules may be mixed in any combination into a suitable electronic device according to the needs of the student and teacher. Allowing wireless devices to be integrated into the school's computer system allows students and teachers great flexibility and power that has not been possible using prior art school computer systems and prior art portable devices.
RFID module 240 is a small, low-cost, lightweight module that can be easily transported by the student, and can even be pinned to the student's clothing or backpack. RFID module 240 provides an identifier that uniquely identifies the student to the school network server 100.
Pager module 242 is a wireless pager that may communicate text and numeric messages to the user. Telephone module 244 is a wireless telephone that communicates via the wireless network. Voicemail module 246 is a module that allows storing and forwarding voicemail messages via the wireless network. Audio module 248 allows listening to audio data and transferring audio files via the wireless network. The difference between the voicemail module 246 and the audio module 248 is the quality of the sound. The voicemail module preferably has voice quality, for example 8 KHz mono sound. The audio module 248 preferably includes music quality, for example 128 kbps MP3 to 44 KHz stereo sound. Video module 250 allows watching video data and transferring video files via the wireless network. Each of the modules 240-250 in
Each of the wireless modules 240-250 may be selectively coupled to a wireless display 260. The wireless display 260 is especially useful for rendering information from the teacher to the student, and may be used as an electronic book, to present audio and video information to the student, to view homework assignments, etc.
Note that network 202 as shown in
One suitable implementation of the school network server 100 in accordance with the preferred embodiments of the invention is shown in
Main memory 120 in accordance with the preferred embodiments contains data 121, an operating system 122, and a local wireless interface mechanism 123. Data 121 represents any data that serves as input to or output from any program in computer system 100. Operating system 122 is a multitasking operating system known in the industry as OS/400; however, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the spirit and scope of the present invention is not limited to any one operating system. Local wireless interface mechanism 123 is a software mechanism that defines how to communicate with the various wireless modules 240-250 shown in
Computer system 100 utilizes well known virtual addressing mechanisms that allow the programs of computer system 100 to behave as if they only have access to a large, single storage entity instead of access to multiple, smaller storage entities such as main memory 120 and DASD device 155. Therefore, while data 121, operating system 122, and local wireless interface mechanism 123 are shown to reside in main memory 120, those skilled in the art will recognize that these items are not necessarily all completely contained in main memory 120 at the same time. It should also be noted that the term “memory” is used herein to generically refer to the entire virtual memory of computer system 100, and may include the virtual memory of other computer systems coupled to computer system 100.
Processor 110 may be constructed from one or more microprocessors and/or integrated circuits. Processor 110 executes program instructions stored in main memory 120. Main memory 120 stores programs and data that processor 110 may access. When computer system 100 starts up, processor 110 initially executes the program instructions that make up operating system 122. Operating system 122 is a sophisticated program that manages the resources of computer system 100. Some of these resources are processor 110, main memory 120, mass storage interface 130, display interface 140, network interface 150, and system bus 160.
Although computer system 100 is shown to contain only a single processor and a single system bus, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the present invention may be practiced using a computer system that has multiple processors and/or multiple buses. In addition, the interfaces that are used in the preferred embodiment each include separate, fully programmed microprocessors that are used to off-load compute-intensive processing from processor 110. However, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the present invention applies equally to computer systems that simply use I/O adapters to perform similar functions.
Display interface 140 is used to directly connect one or more displays 165 to computer system 100. These displays 165, which may be non-intelligent (i.e., dumb) terminals or fully programmable workstations, are used to allow system administrators and users to communicate with computer system 100. Note, however, that while display interface 140 is provided to support communication with one or more displays 165, computer system 100 does not necessarily require a display 165, because all needed interaction with users and other processes may occur via network interface 150.
Network interface 150 is used to connect other computer systems and/or workstations (e.g., 175 in
At this point, it is important to note that while the present invention has been and will continue to be described in the context of a fully functional computer system, those skilled in the art will appreciate that the present invention is capable of being distributed as a program product in a variety of forms, and that the present invention applies equally regardless of the particular type of computer-readable signal bearing media used to actually carry out the distribution. Examples of suitable computer-readable signal bearing media include: recordable type media such as floppy disks and CD ROM (e.g., 195 of
The remainder of this specification describes various ways that the wireless modules 240-250 in
Referring now to
We now look at method 500 of
Once the receiver sensitivity is set to bus-wide in step 532, the Bluetooth interface 420 logs the riders currently on the bus (step 534) by reading their identification information from their respective RFID modules 240. If the boarding record does not match the log for some reason, the driver may be alerted so he or she can resolve the inconsistency between the records. Once the riders on the bus have been logged in step 534, a route may be dynamically generated for the driver based on the riders that are currently on the bus. This feature may not be useful for buses that make the same stops regardless of who is riding, but comes in very handy in many circumstances, particularly for school buses that take children home from school each day in rural areas. Many rural areas of the United States have school bus service that picks up the students at their homes and drops them off at their homes. Currently, bus drivers on these rural routes must visually determine who is riding the bus to determine which stops to make. This requires considerable effort by the bus driver, particularly on a relatively full bus. The preferred embodiments relieve the driver from any effort to determine where to stop by automating the route and stop generation according to the riders actually on the bus. Note that not only can the stops be dynamically determined, the actual route the bus takes can be dynamically generated to eliminate unnecessary miles going by stops where nobody will get off. Generating dynamic routing and stop information for a bus driver according to the riders on the bus is a significant advantage of the preferred embodiments.
When the bus stops to let riders off, the mobile Bluetooth hub 410 monitors who gets off the bus (step 538), preferably by logging when the RFID modules 240 of the rider(s) that got off the bus get out of range of the mobile Bluetooth interface 420. Note that location indicator mechanism 430 is used to record each stop when the riders get off the bus. Location indicator mechanism 430 could be the bus driver pressing a key or button on the mobile data terminal to indicate a particular stop, or could be automatically provided by a global positioning system (GPS) tracking device that detects the precise geographical coordinates of each stop when riders get off. The bus driver monitors the mobile data terminal as the riders get off the bus (step 540). If the correct riders do not get off the bus (step 550=NO), the driver is alerted to the error. This can occur by either a person staying on the bus that is expected to get off, or a person getting off the bus that is not normally allowed to get off at that stop, as determined by the authorized rider and stop information 440, which correlates each rider to his or her normal stop. If a rider did not get off the bus when he or she was supposed to, the bus driver can determine whether the rider is asleep, distracted, or intends to get off at a different stop. If a rider gets off the bus that was not expected to get off, the bus driver may ask the rider why he or she is getting off at that stop, and may enter appropriate information into the mobile data terminal to indicate the reason for the rider getting off at that stop. In the alternative, the mobile Bluetooth hub 410 may simply log the event to document where each rider gets off the bus.
The process of monitoring riders as they get off the bus at different stops continues until all riders are off the bus (step 560=YES). At this point, method 500 is done. One of the significant advantages of the system 400 in
Note that many variations of the bus/rider scenario presented above in
Another useful scenario for using the wireless system of
A method 700 in accordance with the preferred embodiments is one exemplary method that illustrates the function of the automatic attendance mechanism 630. Method 700 begins when a bell rings to begin a class session (step 710). When the bell rings, which typically happens at a predetermined time of day, the stationary Bluetooth hub 610 records all students that it currently detects in the classroom (from their respective RFID modules 240) (step 720), and reports the attendance to the server (step 730). At this point, if a student enters class late (step 740=YES), the Bluetooth interface detects the new RFID module 240 of the student that entered late, and updates the attendance report to replace the “absent” for the late student with a “tardy” (step 742). In similar fashion, if a student leaves class early (step 750=YES)), the stationary Bluetooth hub 610 detects when the student leaves, and updates the attendance report to show that the student left class early (step 752). Note that the threshold for determining when a student is given a “tardy” or “absent” is programmable, and may vary according to the needs of the teacher or the school administrators. It is likely, for example, that a student should not be given a “tardy” if he or she enters class when only five minutes remain in the class session, but should remain “absent” on the records. The automatic attendance mechanism 630 preferably includes programmable intelligence regarding when and how to take the attendance report and when and how to communicate the attendance report to the server. Note also that the automatic attendance mechanism 630 could be separate from a tracking mechanism that tracks the current location of all students and teachers. Thus, a student that comes to class with only five minutes remaining may be recorded “absent” in the attendance records, yet a tracking mechanism could still know that the student is in the classroom.
Yet another useful scenario for using the wireless system of
Referring now to
Student communications may include, for example, completed homework assignments, take-home tests, individual messages from the student to the teacher, messages from a parent to the teacher, or any other communication from the student's RFID module to a location accessible by the teacher. In the preferred embodiments, the information stored in the RFID module must be marked as being ready for submission in order to be automatically transferred to the teacher. This allows drafts of messages to be stored in the RFID module but not sent until they are finalized and marked for submission.
In the preferred embodiments, step 1020 in method 1000 is performed at a first predetermined time, and step 1030 is performed at a second predetermined time. For example, step 1020 may be performed automatically when the bell rings to start class, or at a set time such as five minutes after the bell rings. In the alternative, step 1020 may be performed by the teacher initiating the transfer at a time of his or her choosing using a computer workstation or handheld unit. In similar fashion, step 1030 may be performed automatically when the bell rings to end class, or at a set time such as five minutes before the bell rings. In the alternative, step 1030 may be performed by the teacher initiating the transfer at a time of his or her choosing.
Note that the prior art discloses the use of RFID tags. One specific type of tag is used in herding cattle. An RFID tag placed in an animal's ear may contain a transmitter that is activated when it receives sufficient RF energy. When the transmitter is active, it transmits a unique identifier that identifies the animal. Let's assume that such a system is in use in a stockyard that sells cattle. Large corrals are connected to chutes that require the cows to move in single file. A series of movable gates or stops could be used to stop the movement of the cows so each cow is stopped on a scale and weighed. The ID of the cow is read from its ear tag, and the weight of the cow is automatically stored for the cow according to its ID. In such a system, the RFID tag in the cow's ear simply transmits an identifier when activated by sufficient RF energy. No power supply is present, no receiver is present, and no memory is present that allows storing information in addition to the identifier. Two-way communication with such an RFID tag is impossible. For this reason, the RFID module 240 of the preferred embodiments is a significant improvement over the known RFID tags described above. The prior art does not disclose using Bluetooth as an RFID module. For this reason, the preferred embodiments define an RFID profile 124 (see
Referring now to
Display 1140 is used to display a stored text message 1132 to the user, and to display a text message as it is composed by a user. Key/buttons 1150 allow a user to retrieve a stored text message 1132 from memory 1120, to scroll through multiple stored text messages, or to even compose a text message to be sent to someone else. User alert mechanism 1160 comprises any suitable way to notify the user that a text message has been received and needs to be read by the user, including an audible tone or series of tones, a blinking light, and a vibrator.
One of the significant features of pager module 242 is the ability to use a Bluetooth interface as a pager. Most pagers are activated by signals from towers that are typically several miles away from the pager. Pager module 242, in contrast, receives and sends data only via its Bluetooth interface 1110, which requires that the pager be within range of a Bluetooth hub to be useful. Reducing the distance from several miles to less than 100 meters means that the pager module 242 can be much smaller, lighter, and use less battery power than known pagers. Note that a Bluetooth hub could be coupled to a wide area pager service, to the Internet, or to other wide area networks that could allow the pager module 242 to communicate with a wide variety of different types of pagers and electronic devices, so long as the pager is in range of a Bluetooth hub. The prior art does not disclose using Bluetooth as a pager. For this reason, the preferred embodiments define a pager profile 125 (see
A method for using the pager module 242 of
A telephone module 244 is shown in
Display 1340 is used to display information to the user regarding the time of day, the time duration of a call, caller ID to show who is calling when the phone rings, stored phone numbers, etc. Key/buttons 1350 allow user input to control the function of the telephone module 244, such as storing telephone numbers in a phone directory. One suitable implementation for microphone 1360 is the microphone in the mouthpiece of the telephone module that picks up the voice of the user for transmission to the party on the other end of the call. One suitable implementation for speaker 1370 is the speaker in the earpiece of the telephone module that transmits the audio voice information to the user's ear. Note that speaker 1370 could also be used to sound one or more tones when the phone rings. In the alternative, the telephone module 244 could include a separate device to alert the user of a call, including audio tones, a blinking light, or a vibrator.
One of the significant features of telephone module 244 is the ability to use a Bluetooth interface as the primary transmitter and receiver for a wireless telephone. The concept of a Bluetooth-enabled telephone is not new in the art, as stated by the examples of Bluetooth-enabled telephones in the Background section. However, a Bluetooth-enabled phone known in the art includes a transmitter/receiver for communication with a tower that is part of the wireless phone network. Enabling a phone with Bluetooth in the prior art means adding the capability for a phone to communicate with peripherals via Bluetooth. For example, a Bluetooth-enabled phone may detect when a Bluetooth-enabled printer is present, and will then allow the user to print information stored in the phone (such as an e-mail or a phone list) to the printer without physically connecting the phone to the printer. However, there are no known telephones that use a Bluetooth interface to carry the telephone conversation. Most known wireless phones are activated by signals from towers that are typically many miles away from the wireless phone. Telephone module 244, in contrast, receives and sends voice information for the call via its Bluetooth interface 1310, which requires that the telephone module 244 be within range of a Bluetooth hub to be useful. Note that a Bluetooth hub could be coupled to the Internet, which would allow a user to use the telephone module to communicate with other parties using voice over internet protocol (VoIP). A Bluetooth hub could also be coupled to a traditional wireless phone network that transmits via towers or a wired telephone network, allowing the telephone module 244 to be used to communicate with virtually any other phone so long as the telephone module 244 is within range of a Bluetooth hub. Because there is currently no defined profile in Bluetooth for transmitting and receiving a telephone conversation, the preferred embodiments define a telephone profile 126 (see
A method for using the telephone module 244 of
A voicemail module 246 is shown in
One example of using the voicemail module 246 allows parents to communicate voicemail messages in Bluetooth-compatible data packets for their students. A parent could use their personal computer at work to record a voicemail message in Bluetooth-compatible data packets. The data packets could be sent to the voicemail module 246 via the data channel, and the voicemail module 246 would then convert the data packets to an audio message that the student could listen to. In the alternative, the data packets could be sent to the Bluetooth hub, which could convert the data packets to the audio voicemail message, and send the audio voicemail message to the voicemail module 246 via the voice channel.
In another example, a parent calls the school using a normal phone and leaves a message for his or her child. One or more Bluetooth hubs could be connected to a telephone PBX that would allow a Bluetooth hub to retrieve the stored audio voicemail message, and to send the audio voicemail message to the child's voicemail module 246 via the voice interface.
Processor 1520 is any suitable processor or combination of processors capable of executing software to control its operation, including one or more microprocessors, microcontrollers, or embedded processors. Memory 1530 may store any useful information for voicemail module 246, including one or more voicemail messages 1532.
Display 1540 is used to display information to the user regarding the available functions of the voicemail module 246 and any stored voicemail messages. Key/buttons 1550 allow user input to control the function of the voicemail module 246, such as storing a voicemail message for another user or retrieving stored voicemail messages from memory. One suitable implementation for microphone 1560 is an internal microphone that allows the user to record voicemail messages for other users. One suitable implementation for speaker 1570 is an internal speaker that plays an audio voicemail message to the user. Speaker 1570 may also include a jack for an earphone or headphones. User alert mechanism 1580 provides an indication to the user that a voicemail message has arrived, including audio tones, a blinking light, or a vibrator. In the alternative, the voicemail module 246 could alert the user using speaker 1570.
One of the significant features of voicemail module 246 is the ability to use a Bluetooth interface to transmit and store voicemail messages. Nowhere does the prior art teach the ability to send and receive voicemail messages via a Bluetooth interface. Most known wireless phones include the capability of listening to a voicemail message left for the user when a caller was unable to reach the user. The voicemail message is typically stored on a computer system in the wireless phone network, and retrieving the voicemail message means having the system play the audio to the wireless phone. Voicemail module 246, in contrast, provides the capability of composing a voicemail without calling anybody, and for sending the voicemail to the intended recipient via a Bluetooth hub that is coupled to some mechanism that knows how to transmit the stored voicemail to the recipient. In the specific school computing system 200 shown in
A method for using the voicemail module 246 of
Voicemail module 246 provides significant advantages over voicemail systems known in the art. While short text messages are becoming increasingly popular with pagers and cell phones, text messages lack the emotion of a voicemail message. Instead of storing voicemail messages on central servers that allow a user to call in and listen to the messages, a voicemail message in digital form can actually be transmitted to the voicemail module 246 to be played to the user. Because the voicemail messages are in digital form, they may be easily stored in the voicemail module 246 for future reference, and may be transferred to another device, such as a personal computer, for archiving. Voicemail messages are still voice communications, but are not real-time, and thus allow off-line compression to reduce the size of the transmission. We know from sad experience on Sep. 11, 2001 in New York City that the cell phone networks were jammed with traffic. Connections were sometimes impossible and sometimes unreliable. The voicemail capability provided by voicemail module 246 would have resulted in less data due to off-line compression, and voicemail messages would have been reliable because the voicemail messages would have simply been queued up for later delivery. Had the victims of the attacks on the World Trade Center on Sep. 11, 2001 had voicemail modules, they would have been able to leave voice messages for their relatives even if they couldn't through on their cell phones.
An audio module 248 is shown in
Display 1740 is used to display information to the user regarding the operation of the audio module 248. Keys/buttons 1750 allow user input to control the function of the audio module 248, such as storing an audio file or playing an audio file 1732 stored in the memory 1730. One suitable implementation for speaker 1760 is an internal speaker that can play audio files to the user. Speaker 1760 may also include ajack for an earphone or headphones. Audio module 248 may also include a microphone (not shown) that allows the user to record audio information as a digital audio file. Note that the preferred embodiments define an audio profile 128 (see
One method for using the audio module 248 of
Another method for using the audio module 248 of
A video module 250 is shown in
Display 2140 is used to display information to the user regarding the operation of the video module 250. Key/buttons 2150 allow user input to control the function of the video module 250, such as storing a video file or playing a video file 2132 stored in the memory 2130. One suitable implementation for speaker 2160 is an internal speaker that can play audio files to the user. Speaker 2160 may also include a jack for an earphone or headphones. Note that the preferred embodiments define a video profile 129 (see
One method for using the video module 250 of
One specific device that incorporates the function of all of the modules 240-250 described above is shown in
Bluetooth interface 310 preferably includes a transmitter, receiver, identification mechanism, and memory as shown in
Student module 2400 also includes a wireless display interface 2490 that allows displaying information on a wireless display, such as 260 shown in
Note that keys/buttons are shown in the figures. These keys/buttons are simply representative of a user input mechanism by which the user may control the function of a module. Of course, other means for controlling the function of a module may also be used, including a touch screen display, voice recognition, etc. Any suitable user input mechanism is within the scope of the preferred embodiments.
Other configurations and combinations are possible within the scope of the preferred embodiments. With the budgetary constraints in most school systems, providing a student module 2400 is not a viable option due to the relatively high cost of each student module 2400. In this case, we can take advantage of electronic devices that the students may already own to reduce the cost of a student module. For example, many students already carry an MP3 player for playing music. MP3 players typically have hard disk drives that sometimes have more capacity than needed for songs. In addition, many students carry wireless cell phones and pagers. Another system contemplated within the scope of the preferred embodiments takes advantage of the investment the students may have already made in devices that are similar to the modules 240-250 described herein. Let's assume that a school system allows its students to carry MP3 players, cell phones, and pagers as long as they are compatible with the school's wireless system. One requirement for compatibility would likely be that each include an RFID module 240. In this case, the MP3 players the students carry would be audio modules 248, the pagers the students carry would be pager modules 242, and the wireless phones the students carry would be telephone modules 244. An education computer in a classroom could be simply be a display with a processor and some memory. The student then plugs their wireless telephone or pager into the display and it becomes wireless, and can communicate with any of the modules 240-250 described herein. The hard disk drive the student uses for MP3 music in the audio module may now be used as the hard disk drive for the educational computer display. The telephone module can provide a digital-to-analog converter and audio amplifier, thereby relieving the education computer from having these functions. The school-authorized peripherals the students purchase and bring to school become part of their educational computers, allowing the school to provide a an inexpensive display that uses resources that are provided by peripherals the student purchases and brings to school.
One of the great advantages of providing a system 200 as shown in
While the wireless world is fast adopting Bluetooth, many features herein would not have been obvious in light of prior art devices combined with the knowledge of Bluetooth. For example, sending pager or voicemail messages via a Bluetooth interface would not have been obvious to one of ordinary skill in the art. In fact, such pagers and voicemail modules would have limited use because they would not function as soon as they are out of range of the Bluetooth system (such as the school wireless system) to which it is enabled. Having electronic devices that only work within a small geographic area (such as within buildings on a school ground) would not have widespread use and appeal, because their functions are so limited. However, when such devices are provided at a school as part of the wireless system, the devices operate great when in the school, but won't operate if taken out of the school. This provides a disincentive for thieves, because the devices are useless outside of the school. Furthermore, by coupling the wireless network to the Internet, to land-based phone systems, to wireless phone systems, and the like, the functions of the wireless devices (such as modules 240-250) may be greatly enhanced, yet their function can also be controlled and limited by the system according to the specific system requirements. This combination of power and control is not known in the art. The preferred embodiments disclosed herein thus provide a powerful combination of wireless modules and functions that are ideally suited to a school environment, yet could also be used in other applications within the scope of the preferred embodiments.
One skilled in the art will appreciate that many variations are possible within the scope of the present invention. Thus, while the invention has been particularly shown and described with reference to preferred embodiments thereof, it will be understood by those skilled in the art that these and other changes in form and details may be made therein without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.