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Publication numberUS20060144918 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberUS 11/142,944
Publication dateJul 6, 2006
Filing dateJun 2, 2005
Priority dateJan 6, 2005
Publication number11142944, 142944, US 2006/0144918 A1, US 2006/144918 A1, US 20060144918 A1, US 20060144918A1, US 2006144918 A1, US 2006144918A1, US-A1-20060144918, US-A1-2006144918, US2006/0144918A1, US2006/144918A1, US20060144918 A1, US20060144918A1, US2006144918 A1, US2006144918A1
InventorsDennis Hutchinson
Original AssigneeHutchinson Dennis O
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Mailbox door alert device
US 20060144918 A1
Abstract
A device that can be installed at a residence to alert the resident if and when the resident's mailbox is being or has been opened, the device having three major components, two of which are attached to the mailbox in a cooperating configuration to produce and relay a signal to the third component, which is a remote receiver in the residence, that the mailbox door is, or is being, opened. The first component is a first contact attached to the inside of the mailbox door, the second component is a second contact and transmitter attached to the inside of the mailbox, and the third component is a receiver that can have an aural signal, such as a beeper or buzzer, a visual signal, such as a light or diode, a mechanical signal, such as a vibrator, or a combination of any of these three.
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Claims(19)
1. A device for alerting if and when a mailbox is being or has been opened, the device comprising:
a) a first component attached to the mailbox door,
b) a second component attached to the mailbox and comprising a transmitting means, and
c) a third component comprising a receiving means and a signaling means,
wherein the first component and the second component cooperate to produce and relay a signal to the third component, whereby when the third component receives the signal the signaling means is activated, thereby alerting that the mailbox door is or is being opened.
2. The device as claimed in claim 1, wherein the first component comprises a first contact for cooperating with a second contact on the second component, wherein when the mailbox door is closed the first contact is proximal to the second contact and when the mailbox door is opened the first contact is distal from the second contact.
3. The device as claimed in claim 2, wherein when the mailbox door is opened the transmitting means transmits a signal for reception by the receiving means, thereby activating the signaling means.
4. The device as claimed in claim 3, wherein the first component and the second component cooperate electrically.
5. The device as claimed in claim 3, wherein the first component and the second component cooperate magnetically.
6. The device as claimed in claim 3, wherein the first component and the second component cooperate using radio frequency.
7. The device as claimed in claim 3, wherein the signaling means is selected from the group consisting of aural signals, visual signals, mechanical signals, and combinations thereof.
8. An alerting system comprising in combination:
a) a mailbox having a mailbox body and a mailbox door,
b) a first component attached to the mailbox door,
c) a second component attached to the mailbox body and comprising a transmitting means, and
d) a third component comprising a receiving means and a signaling means,
wherein the first component and the second component cooperate to produce and relay a signal to the third component, whereby when the third component receives the signal the signaling means is activated, thereby alerting that the mailbox door is or is being opened.
9. The system as claimed in claim 8, wherein the first component comprises a first contact for cooperating with a second contact on the second component, wherein when the mailbox door is closed the first contact is proximal to the second contact and when the mailbox door is opened the first contact is distal from the second contact.
10. The system as claimed in claim 9, wherein when the mailbox door is opened the transmitting means transmits a signal for reception by the receiving means, thereby activating the signaling means.
11. The system as claimed in claim 10, wherein the signaling means is selected from the group consisting of aural signals, visual signals, mechanical signals, and combinations thereof.
12. The system as claimed in claim 11, wherein the first component and the second component cooperate electrically.
13. The system as claimed in claim 11, wherein the first component and the second component cooperate magnetically.
14. The system as claimed in claim 11, wherein the first component and the second component cooperate using radio frequency.
15. A method for alerting if and when a mailbox is being or has been opened, the device comprising the steps of:
a) attaching a first component to the mailbox door,
b) attaching a second component to the mailbox, the second component comprising a transmitting means, and
c) sending a signal to a third component comprising a receiving means and a signaling means,
wherein when the mailbox door is closed the first contact is proximal to the second contact and when the mailbox door is opened the first contact is distal from the second contact,
wherein the first component and the second component cooperate to produce and relay a signal to the third component,
wherein when the mailbox door is opened, the transmitting means is activated to produce the signal, and
whereby the third component receives the signal thus activating the signaling means, thereby alerting that the mailbox door is or is being opened.
16. The method as claimed in claim 15, wherein the signaling means is selected from the group consisting of aural signals, visual signals, mechanical signals, and combinations thereof.
17. The method as claimed in claim 16, wherein the first component and the second component cooperate electrically.
18. The method as claimed in claim 16, wherein the first component and the second component cooperate magnetically.
19. The method as claimed in claim 16, wherein the first component and the second component cooperate using radio frequency.
Description
STATEMENT OF RELATED APPLICATIONS

The present patent application claims priority on U.S. of America Provisional Patent Application No. 60/641,528 having a filing date of 6 Jan. 2005.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Technical Field

The present invention generally is in the field of devices for alerting people that their mailbox has been opened, and more particularly is in the field of remote alert devices that send a signal, such as an aural and/or visual signal, from a mailbox to a remote station alerting people if and when their mailbox has been opened.

2. Prior Art

Currently, the most common manner for a resident to know that his or her mailbox has been opened is by visual inspection. For example, if the mailbox door is open, the mailbox obviously has been opened. However, if the mailbox door is closed, the resident has no way of knowing whether the mailbox has been opened except by opening the mailbox himself or herself and peering inside to see if there is any new mail present. However, if there is no mail present, the resident would have no way of knowing whether the mail has been delivered and stolen or whether it has not been delivered at all.

Most mail boxes come with a red flag for raising by the resident when the resident has mail to be picked up. Some mailboxes come with a separate flag that automatically raises when the mailbox door is opened and remains raised until manually lowered. Although this separate flag does provide an indication that the mailbox door has been opened, this separate flag can be lowered by anyone, including a mail thief, and therefore does not necessarily provide an alert to the resident that the mailbox has been opened.

Accordingly, there is a need for a device that alerts a resident when the resident's mailbox has been opened. There is also a need for such a device that provides an alert to the resident within the residence and not just on the mailbox. There is also a need for such a device that is difficult to circumvent or deactivate by a potential mail thief. There is a further need for such a device having the advantageous characteristic of simple installation and use. It is to these needs and others that the present invention is directed.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Briefly described, the invention generally is a device that can be installed at a residence to alert the resident if and when the resident's mailbox is being or has been opened. The device comprises three major components, two of which are attached to the mailbox in a configuration to intercept a current in order to relay a signal to the third component, which is a remote receiver in the residence, that the mailbox door is, or is being, opened. The first component is a first contact attached to the inside of the mailbox door. The second component is a second contact and transmitter attached to the inside of the mailbox. The third component is a receiver that can have and aural signal, such as a beeper or buzzer, a visual signal, such as a light or diode, a mechanical signal, such as a vibrator, or a combination of any of these three. The third component can be portable so that it may be carried on the person or moved from room to room in the residence. Each of the components can comprise magnets, adhesives, tapes, cords, or other attachment devices.

In use, the first two components are attached to the mailbox, with the first component being attached to the mail box door and the second component being attached to the inside of the mailbox in a position that is proximal to the first component when the mailbox door is closed. In this manner, the first component either contacts or is in cooperative range of the second component when the mailbox door is closed so as to result in a closed circuit. The third component is placed within the residence, on the person, or in any other location desired and within cooperative range of the second component's transmitter's transmitting range. When the mailbox is opened, the first component is separated from the second component or is moved out of cooperative range of the second component so as to result in an open circuit. The open circuit causes the activation of the transmitter of the second component, which sends a signal that is received by the receiver of the third component. Upon receipt of the signal, the alert is activated, namely, the aural, visual, mechanical or other alert activates and alerts the residence to the opening of the mailbox.

The present invention can be both solar and battery powered. The device also includes a method of assisting the resident in prevention of theft of mail, as well as to announce the arrival of mail. Thus, the present invention is an uncomplicated system to alert the resident that the resident's mailbox door is, or is being, opened.

These features, and other features and advantages of the present invention will become more apparent to those of ordinary skill in the relevant art when the following detailed description of the preferred embodiments is read in conjunction with the appended drawings in which like reference numerals represent like components throughout the several views.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of a mailbox equipped with the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a side view of the first component contact switch of the present invention.

FIG. 3 is a front view of the second component transmitting unit of the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a side view of the first component and the second component in a closed circuit relationship, with FIG. 4A showing an illustrative electrical contact embodiment, FIG. 4B showing an illustrative magnetic contact embodiment, and FIG. 4C showing an illustrative microchip and radio frequency embodiment.

FIG. 5 is a front view of the third component receiving unit of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

Illustrative embodiments of the present invention are shown in FIGS. 1 through 4. FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an opened mailbox equipped with the present invention shown with the first component and the second component in an opened circuit relationship as would be when the mailbox door is open. FIG. 2 is a side view of the first component contact switch of the present invention. FIG. 3 is a front view of the second component transmitting unit of the present invention. FIG. 4 is a side view of the first component and the second component in a closed circuit relationship as would be when the mailbox door is closed, with FIG. 4A showing an illustrative electrical contact embodiment, FIG. 4B showing an illustrative magnetic contact embodiment, and FIG. 4C showing an illustrative microchip and radio frequency embodiment. FIG. 5 is a front view of the third component receiving unit of the present invention.

The present invention is a device that can be installed at a residence to alert the resident if and when their mailbox door has been opened. The device comprises three major components, two of which are attached to the mailbox in a configuration to intercept a current in order to relay a signal to the third component, which is a remote receiver in the residence, that the mailbox door is, or is being, opened. Referring now to the figures, the first component 14 comprises a first contact 16 attached to the inside of the mailbox door 12. The second component 18 comprises a second contact 20 and a transmitting means such as transmitter 22 attached to the inside of the mailbox 10. The third component 24 comprises a receiving means such as receiver 26 that has a signaling means 28 such as an aural signal, such as a beeper or buzzer, a visual signal, such as a light or diode, a mechanical signal, such as a vibrator, or a combination of any of these three. The third component 24 can be portable so that it may be carried on the person or moved from room to room in the residence. Each of the components can comprise magnets 30, adhesives 32, tapes, cords, or other attachment devices for attaching to the mailbox 10, the mailbox door 12, the residence, and/or any other place selected by the resident.

Referring to FIG. 1, a mailbox 10 equipped with the device is shown. The first component 14 preferably is attached to the inside surface of the mailbox door 12 in a position proximal to the positioning of the second component 18, as disclosed below. Although the first component 14 can be attached to the outside surface of the mailbox door 12, this would expose the first component 14 to weather and vandalism, and is not preferred. The first component 14 should be mounted such that the first contact 16 is facing into the mailbox 10 towards the second component 18, as disclosed below. Preferably, the first component 14 also is positioned closer to the top or opening end of the mailbox door 12 rather than the bottom or hinged end of the mailbox door 12 to better ensure that the first component 14 will separate sufficiently from the second component 18 when the mailbox door 12 is opened.

The second component 18 preferably is attached to the inside surface of the mailbox 10, namely the mailbox body, in a position proximal to open end of the mailbox 10 and to the positioning of the first component 14, as disclosed above. Although the second component 18 can be attached to the outside surface of the mailbox 10, this would expose the second component 18 to weather and vandalism, and is not preferred. The second component 18 should be mounted such that the second contact 20 is facing out of the mailbox 10 towards the first component 14. Preferably, the second component 18 also is positioned closer to the top of the front or opening end of the mailbox 10 rather than the bottom of the front or opening end of the mailbox 10 to better ensure that the second component 18 will separate sufficiently from the first component 14 when the mailbox door 12 is opened.

The first component 14 and the second component 18 can be of any type known in the art for creating and breaking a circuit. For example, known burglar alarms comprise such components, with an analogous first component attached to a door or window and an analogous second component attached to the doorframe or window frame. When the door or window is separated from the doorframe or window frame, the analogous first component is separated from the analogous second component, thus causing an analogous transmitter to send a signal to the burglar alarm. Two-component switches of this type and related types are known in the art and are suitable for use in this invention.

Referring to FIG. 2, a side view of the first component 14 is shown. The first component 14 comprises a first contact 16 attached to one side of a base 30 and an adhesion means 32 attached to the other side of the base 30. The adhesion means 32 can be any means suitable for attaching the first component 14 to the mailbox door 12. The contact 16 can be any known or conventional type of contact. For example, the first contact 16 can be a piece of electrically conducting material that electrically connects two contacts on the second component 18, as disclosed below. For another example, the first contact 16 can be a magnet material that is attracted to a cooperating magnetic material on the second component 18, as disclosed below. For another example, the first contact 16 can be a microchip that cooperates with a radio frequency device on the second component 18, as disclosed below. All of these examples, and other suitable contact means are known in the art and can be incorporated into this invention by those of ordinary skill in the art without undue experimentation.

Referring to FIG. 3, a front view of the second component 18 is shown. The second component 18 comprises a second contact 20 attached to one side of a base 34 and an adhesion means 36 attached to another side of the base 34. The adhesion means 36 can be any means suitable for attaching the second component 18 to the mailbox 10 interior sidewall. The second contact 20 can be any known or conventional type of contact. For example, the second contact 20 can be two separated contacts of electrically conducting material that are electrically connected to the transmitter 22 within the second component 18 and that cooperates with another piece of electrically conducting material on the first component 14, as disclosed above. For another example, the second contact 20 can be a magnet material that is attracted to a cooperating magnetic material on the first component 14, as disclosed above. For another example, the second contact 20 can be a radio frequency device within the second component 18 that cooperates with a microchip on the first component 14, as disclosed above. All of these examples, and other suitable contact means are known in the art and can be incorporated into this invention by those of ordinary skill in the art without undue experimentation.

Within the second component 18 is a transmitter 22 of a conventional or known design. The transmitter 22, when activated, emits a signal, preferably radio frequency but optionally optical frequency, that is received by the receiver 26 of the third component 24, as disclosed below. Such transmitters are known in the art and can be incorporated into this invention by those of ordinary skill in the art without undue experimentation. Activation occurs when the first contact 16 of the first component 14 is separated from the second contact 20 of the second component 18 by the opening of the mailbox door 12.

The transmitter 22 can be battery powered, in which case the second component 18 would include space and circuitry for such a battery or batteries, solar powered, in which case a solar cell or array (not shown) would be provided on the outside of the mailbox 10 and the appropriate circuitry included for connection to the second component 18, or powered by any other known or conventional power supplies.

Referring to FIGS. 4A, 4B and 4C, side views of the first component 14 and the second component 18 in a closed circuit relationship as would be when the mailbox door 12 is closed are shown. FIG. 4A illustrates a conventional electrical contact means in which the transmitter 22 would have two contacts as the second contact 20 located on the second component 18 to cooperate with the first contact 16 on the first component 14. More specifically, in the closed position, that is when the mailbox door 12 is closed, the first contact 16 would electrically connect the two contacts of the second contact 20, thus completing an electrical circuit, termed a closed circuit. When the mailbox door 12 is opened, the first contact 16 separates from the second contact 20, thus breaking the electrical circuit, termed an open circuit. The transmitter 22 is configured to send a signal when the circuit is broken or open.

FIG. 4B illustrates a conventional magnetic switch means in which the transmitter 22 would have a mechanical switch 40 attached to the second contact 20. Either of the first contact 16 or the second contact 20 can be a magnetic material, with the other being either a magnetic material or a material attracted to a magnetic material. More specifically, in the closed position, that is when the mailbox door 12 is closed, the first contact 16 would be magnetically attracted to the second contact 20 and the switch 40 would be in a closed position, thus completing an electrical circuit, termed a closed circuit. When the mailbox door 12 is opened, the magnetic pull of the first contact 16 away from the second contact 18 would pull the second contact 20 and activate the switch 40, thus breaking the electrical circuit, termed an open circuit. The transmitter 22 is configured to send a signal when the circuit is broken or open.

FIG. 4C illustrates a conventional microchip 42 and radio frequency means 44 in which the microchip 42 is the first contact 16 and the radio frequency means 44 is the second contact 20. More specifically, in the closed position, that is when the mailbox door 12 is closed, the microchip 44 would be in a first position relative to the radio frequency means 44 and the radio frequency means would be considered to be in a closed position, termed a closed circuit. When the mailbox door 12 is opened, the movement of the microchip 42 away from or relative to the radio frequency means 44, and the radio frequency means 44 would sense this movement, and would be considered to be in an opened position, termed an open circuit. The transmitter 22 is configured to send a signal when the circuit is open.

Referring to FIG. 5, a front view of the third component 24 receiving unit is shown. The third component 24 comprises a receiver 26 for receiving the signal sent by the transmitter 22 and a signaling means 28 for indicating that the signal has been received, thus indicating that the mailbox door 12 has been opened. The receiver 26, when it receives the signal from the transmitter, causes the signaling means 28 to turn on. Such receivers are known in the art and can be incorporated into this invention by those of ordinary skill in the art without undue experimentation. The receiver 26 must be able to cooperate with the transmitter 22 such that the signal transmitted from the transmitter 22 can be received and understood by the receiver 26.

The receiver 26 can be battery powered, in which case the third component 24 would include space and circuitry for such a battery or batteries, solar powered, in which case a solar cell or array (not shown) would be provided on the outside of the third component 24 and the appropriate circuitry included for connection to the receiver 26, or powered by any other known or conventional power supplies.

The signaling means 28 can be any means for alerting the resident. For example, the signaling means 28 can be an aural signal, such as a beeper or buzzer, a visual signal, such as a light or diode, a mechanical signal, such as a vibrator, or a combination of any of these three. Thus, the signaling means can be configured to be appropriate for all types of people, including those with hearing and sight impediments.

The third component 24 also can comprise a cancel button 46 for turning off the signaling means 28. Such a canceling button 46 simply could break the circuit leading to the signaling means 28 such that the signaling means 28 would turn off. The circuitry for such a cancel button 46 and its incorporation into the circuitry for the third component 24 is known in the art and can be incorporated into this invention by those of ordinary skill in the art without undue experimentation.

In use, the first component 14 and the second component 18 are attached to the mailbox 10, with the first component 14 being attached to the mailbox door 12 and the second component 18 being attached to the inside of the mailbox 10 in a position that is proximal to the first component 14 when the mailbox door 12 is closed. In this manner, the first component 14 either contacts or is in cooperative range of the second component 18 when the mailbox door 12 is closed so as to result in a closed circuit. The third component 24 is placed within the residence, on the person, or in any other location desired and within cooperative range of the second component's 18 transmitter's 22 transmitting range. When the mailbox door 10 is opened, the first component 14 is separated from the second component 18 or is moved out of cooperative range of the second component 18 so as to result in an open circuit. The open circuit causes the activation of the transmitter 22 of the second component 18, which sends a signal that is received by the receiver 26 of the third component 24. Upon receipt of the signal, the alert, namely the signaling means 28, is activated, namely, the aural, visual, mechanical or other alert activates and alerts the residence to the opening of the mailbox 10.

The present invention can be both solar and battery powered. The device also includes a method of assisting the resident in prevention of theft of mail, as well as to announce the arrival of mail. Thus, the present invention is an uncomplicated system to alert the resident that the resident's mailbox door is, or is being, opened. As can be appreciated, the present invention can be incorporated onto existing free-standing mailboxes as an add-on or after market accessory and can be built onto free-standing mailboxes during the manufacturing process as original equipment,. The present invention also can be used on through-the-door mail slots to alert the resident that mail has arrived if the resident is not within hearing or seeing range of the mail slot. This would be particularly useful for residents with dogs or other animals that enjoy attacking mail as it falls through the mail slot.

The foregoing detailed description of the preferred embodiments and the appended figures have been presented only for illustrative and descriptive purposes and are not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the scope and spirit of the invention. The embodiments were selected and described to best explain the principles of the invention and its practical applications. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that many variations can be made to the invention disclosed in this specification without departing from the scope and spirit of the invention.

Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US7360680 *Mar 31, 2006Apr 22, 2008Charles John GrossmeyerMailbox assembly and a mailbox assembly kit
US7506796 *Feb 2, 2008Mar 24, 2009Robert L. HannaMail delivery notification device
US7786862 *Sep 11, 2007Aug 31, 2010Campbell Eugene LRemote mail indicator
Classifications
U.S. Classification232/35
International ClassificationA47G29/12
Cooperative ClassificationA47G29/1214
European ClassificationA47G29/12R2E2