US 20060184644 A1
A system, method and computer program product for scanning and managing documents. The system includes a scanning device, a scan server connected to the scanning device via a network, and a directory server connected to the scan server. The system allows a user of the scanning device to search the directory server for e-mail addresses, fax numbers, or other destination information stored at the directory server, and to e-mail, fax, or otherwise electronically deliver scanned documents from the scanning device. The scan server transmits the e-mail addresses, fax numbers, or other destination information to the scanning device from the directory server. The user of the scanning device can select one or more destinations (e.g., e-mail addresses or fax numbers) received from the scan server. The scanning device transmits the scanned document with the selected destination to the scan server. The scan server transmits the scanned document to the appropriate server, such as an e-mail or fax server. The document is routed, for example by the e-mail or fax server, to the selected destination.
1. A method for managing documents, comprising the steps of:
requesting a destination information stored at a directory server, said requesting step being performed at a scanning device connected to a network;
receiving said destination information at said scanning device via said network, and
transmitting a scanned document and said destination information from said scanning device.
The present application is a divisional application of Ser. No. 10/243,645 filed Sep. 16, 2002 and claims priority to Provisional Application Ser. No. 60/374,811 filed Apr. 24, 2002, the entire contents of which are hereby incorporated by reference.
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention is directed to methods, computer-based systems and computer program products for scanning and managing documents or files. More particularly, the present invention allows a user of a scanning device to scan a document and to e-mail and/or fax the scanned document from the scanning device.
2. Discussion of the Background
A system for e-mailing a scanned document from a scanning device is already known. For example, Ricoh's ScanRouter™ Professional enables the capture and delivery of scanned documents from a scanning device. In this conventional system, the scanning device stores a directory of addresses used to deliver the scanned document. The ScanRouter Professional system suits the needs of small and medium companies well.
This conventional system, however, has a number of drawbacks, especially if considered within the environment of a relatively large company. Because the address directory is stored at the scanning device, the size of the address directory is limited and may not hold all of the addresses of a large company's directory. For example, the address book stored on Ricoh's ScanRouter Professional is limited to a maximum of 200 addresses. In addition, because the address directory is stored at the scanning device, each address book needs to be updated each time the company's global address book needs to be updated. For example, the company's global address book is updated each time an employee leaves the company, each time the company hires a new employee, and each time an employee changes position or department within the company. It is estimated that in large companies, the global address book can be updated 1000 times each week. The task of updating each local address book stored at the scanning devices creates a burden on the administrator of the system, and severely increases the traffic over the company's network. This increase in traffic, caused by the need to keep the local address books stored at the scanning devices synchronized with the company's global address book, can slow down the company's entire network. As another drawback, the information contained within the company's directory is exposed to security breaches because the local address books stored in the scanning devices are more easily accessible than the global directory, which can be stored in a secured area.
The present inventors have determined that there is a need for a system that allows a user to scan a document and to e-mail, fax or otherwise electronically deliver the scanned document from the scanning device, and that can conveniently and efficiently update the addresses, numbers, and other information available to the user. The present invention provides such a system. One object of the present invention is to provide a method, a system and a computer program product that allows a user of a scanning device to scan a document and to e-mail, fax, or otherwise electronically deliver the scanned document from the scanning device, wherein the document is routed to an e-mail address, a fax number, or a destination stored in a directory. In a preferred embodiment, the system includes a global directory server connected to a scan server. The global directory server stores the e-mail addresses, fax numbers, destinations and/or other information accessed by the user. In another embodiment, the system includes the global directory server and, in addition, a local directory that stores the e-mail addresses, fax numbers, destinations and/or other information in the scanning device.
The scan server passes the information stored at the global directory server to the scanning device. The user of the scanning device, who desires to search the global directory for e-mail addresses, fax number and/or destinations, can search the global directory by sending queries to the scan server, which passes the queries to the directory server. Alternatively, the user can directly e-mail or fax a document without accessing the global directory server by accessing the local directory or by otherwise entering the addresses and/or fax numbers using the scanning device user interface.
Advantageously, the system can be used within a company so that various employees can access the company's global directory, or address book. The global directory need not be copied or stored at the scanning device. Instead, the global directory can be maintained in a secure, central location. The company's administrator can update the global directory without having to update any local directory or address book that would be stored at the scanning devices.
The user of the scanning device may be prompted to log in the system by entering a login name and a password. This login information is transmitted to the scan server. The scan server can confirm a domain authentication with a domain controller to ensure that the user is authorized to use the system. The scan server can also process directory authentication to control access by the user of the global directory. The scan server also processes documents or files received from the scanning device. The scan server routes the documents to the appropriate server, for example an e-mail server or a fax server, as requested by the user of the scanning device.
Advantageously, several scanning devices can be connected via a network to the scan server. Within a company, several scanning devices may be located on different floors, in different rooms, or different buildings. The employees can access the global directory from any of the scanning devices. The administrator can maintain one global directory so that the information available to the users throughout the company is efficiently updated.
A more complete appreciation of the invention and many of the attendant advantages thereof will be readily obtained as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
Referring now to the drawings, wherein like reference numerals designate identical or corresponding parts throughout the several views,
As shown in
As shown in
The system 5 provides access to the users of the MFDs 10-30 of the information stored at the directory server 60 via the scan server 40. Accordingly, a user can scan a document at the MFD 20, and request a search of the company's global directory stored at the directory server 60. The scan server 40 can pass the search request to the directory server 60 and can receive the search results (e.g., e-mail addresses and/or fax numbers) from the directory server 60. The scan server 40 can pass the search results to the MFD 20, which can temporarily store and display them. In a preferred embodiment, the stored search results are erased automatically from the MFD after the job of the MFD is completed, or after a time period (e.g., two minutes) that can be set by the administrator of the system. The user can select e-mail addresses and fax numbers from the displayed search results and request that the scanned document be e-mailed and/or faxed to the selected addresses. Alternatively, the user can enter the addresses and numbers, or can select addresses and numbers from a local directory stored in the scanning devices 10-30. The local directory can be updated automatically or periodically after the directory server 60 is updated.
The scan server 40 receives the scanned document and the selected addresses/numbers from the MFD 20 and routes the scanned document to the appropriate server. For example, if the user requests the scanned document to be e-mailed, the scan server 40 routes the scanned document to an e-mail server 70. If the user requests the scanned document to be faxed, the scan server 40 routes the scanned document to a fax server 80. The scan server 40 can also route the scanned document to other applications 90, which may, for example, convert a document from one format (e.g., TIFF, “Tag Image File Format”) to another (PDF, “Portable Document Format”).
In the present embodiment, the Scan Server 40 can be configured to act as an intermediate agent between a plurality of computerized services (e.g., provided by devices 50, 60, 70, 80, and 90) so that the MFDs can perform a plurality of functions in a same scanning job. The Scan Server 40 can be configured to display the plurality of services based on a request from the browser 25. The MFD can display screens prompting the entry of a plurality of parameters such as e-mail addresses, fax numbers and billing codes, on the LCD panel based on the communication between the Browser 25 and the Scan Server 40. An MFD can then transmit the scanned document to a plurality of servers, e.g., servers 70, 80, and 90.
In a preferred embodiment, the MFDs 10-30 and the scan server 40 exchange data using the protocol HTTP (“Hypertext Transfer Protocol”) or HTTPS (HTTP over Secure Socket Layer) over the network 100. Other protocols can equivalently be used with the present invention. Preferably, the MFDs 10-30 and the scan server 40 exchange data using the format XML (“Extensible Markup Language”). Other formats, such as HTML, can equivalently be used with the present invention. In a preferred embodiment, the e-mail server 70 is incorporated into the scan server 40. E-mail server 70 can include, but is not limited to, Lotus Notes™ e-mail server, Microsoft Exchange™ e-mail server, and SMTP (“Simple Mail Transfer Protocol”) e-mail servers. In a preferred embodiment, the fax server 80 is the Captaris' RightFax™ server.
The system 5 provides three levels of user authentication. At a first authentication level, no user authentication is performed. Under this first level, any user can use the MFDs 10-30 to scan, copy, print, access the global directory server 60 to e-mail and fax documents.
At the second authentication level, the user is domain authenticated by the network domain controller 50. Under this second level, the user enters login information, such as a login name and a password. This login information is transmitted to the scan server 40 via the network 100. The scan server 40 passes the login information to the network domain controller that confirms (or not) the user's domain authentication. The confirmation is passed to the MFDs 10-30 via the scan server 40. If the user is domain authenticated, the user can use the MFD and its functions. In one embodiment, the system 5 can be configured so that certain functions of the MFDs 10-30, such as copying and direct e-mail and faxing (without access to the global directory server 60), be accessible to a user who is not domain authenticated. Under this embodiment, however, the system bars the non-authenticated user from using other functions, including access to the global directory server 60. Under another embodiment, the system bars the non-authenticated user from using all functions provided by the MFDs 10-30.
At the third authentication level, the user is authenticated by the directory server 60. Under this third level, the directory server 60 can control what portions (if any) of the directory, to which the user can have access. For example, employees of a particular division of the company (e.g., human resources, legal, etc . . . ) may have access to the portion of the directory that corresponds to that division only. More sensitive information can thus be protected and accessible only by certain individuals within the company. This third authentication level can be, but need not be, in addition to the second level.
Under the second and third authentication levels, the system can create a user profile such that upon authentication, the system provides access to the user only for certain functions that correspond to the user profile. Under this embodiment, different authenticated users can have different user profiles and thus have access to different functions. The administrator can control the user profiles.
In a preferred embodiment, the scan server 40 can include an MFD profiler that sets a specific profile for a specific MFD. The administrator of the system 5 can create, change and maintain profiles via a profile screen on the scan server 40. The profile can include an identification for the MFD, such as a serial number, and various parameters (computer network-name, machine location, etc . . . ) used to configure the exchange of information between the scan server 40 and the MFDs 10-30. These parameters can relate to the authentication scheme used for each MFD, to the data format/protocols used, to the e-mail server 70, to the fax server 80, and/or to the directory server 60. The profile can also include the time period during which the search results from the directory server are stored at the scanning device before being erased.
As shown in
Conventional MFDs include ECSs, MCSs, OCSs, NCSs, SCSs, and CISs which are firmware for implementing and controlling each hardware component of the MFD. In the present invention, however, the NCS 220 is configured to communicate with the browser 25. For instance, the NCS 220 has additional capabilities for communicating using the HTTP protocol. The NCS 220 is also configured to communicate with the server 40 so that the NCS 220 exchanges data between the browser 25 and the server 40. For example, The NCS 220 can transmit to the server 40 a request for an e-mail address and can receive from the server 40 a selected e-mail address, or the NCS 220 can transmit to the server 40 login information and can receive a user authentication confirmation from the server 40 (and from the directory server 60) during an authentication process.
The browser 25 includes an HTTP command processor 235 that communicates with the network control service (NCS) 220 of the MFD 20. For example, a request for an e-mail address entered by the user via the MFD key pad, or a request for displaying information on the LCD, such as
The HTTP command processor 235 can be provided with a program code for implementing a specific application, such as, user authentication processing which can be implemented with the directory service of the server 40. The HTTP command processor 235 can process information based on definitions of the specific application. For example, the HTTP command processor 235 can process information provided by the user, such as User Name or Password, and generate an HTTP request based on this processing for the server 40. The HTTP command processor 235 can transmit this HTTP request to the NCS 220 to be transmitted to the server 40.
The HTTP command processor 235 can also process information received from the server 40 (via the NCS 220). For example, the HTTP command processor 235 can receive an HTTP response generated by the server 40 which includes parameters for operating the MFD. The parameters can be stored for example in the profiler 280 of the server 40. The parameters can include a specific user ID as a result of the user authentication processing. Furthermore, the parameters can include scanning job parameters for the specific user ID, such as default size of papers, scanning resolution setting, condition of the document feeder, or department code for billing the scanning operation. The HTTP command processor 235 can process this information and generate commands to control the MFD in accordance with the information, e.g., can request the MFD to scan according to the scanning job parameters for the specific user ID. As another example, the HTTP command processor 235 can generate a graphic drawing command for the LCD panel. The HTTP command processor 235 can transmit the commands to the appropriate MFD firmware (e.g., the OCS 215) so as to be executed. For example, the OCS 215 can receive the graphic drawing command and execute it by displaying a graphic (e.g.,
At step 3250, the CIS 240 transmits the command to the HTTP command processor 235. At step 3300, the HTTP command processor 235 generates an HTTP requests composed in the HTML language and/or the XML language based on the command. At step 3350, the HTTP command processor 235 transmits the HTTP request to the NCS 220. Optionally, the HTTP command processor 235 transmits the HTTP request to the SSL 230, i.e., the HTTP request is sent using HTTPS protocol or Secure Sockets Layer over HTTP, based on the definition of the predetermined program code for the specific application. At step 3400, the NCS 220 transmits the HTTP request to the scan server 40.
In a preferred embodiment, the MFDs 10-30 provide interactive menus based on information inputted by the operator of the MFD, so as to allow the operator to conveniently take advantage of the services provided by the system 5. Examples of menus displayed on touch sensitive LCDs of the MFDs are shown in
The screen 400 can also include a “Create PDF” button 430 that requests, upon touching, the document to be converted to the PDF format. This conversion can take place at the MFD, at the scan server, or at a conversion server 90. In a preferred embodiment, the document is sent from the MFD to the scan server 40 in the TIFF format along with the request to convert to the PDF format. The scan server 40 then sends the document to the conversion server 90 to be converted into the PDF format.
If the user does not want the document converted to the PDF format, the user can touch a “Keep TIFF” button 435 to request that the document be kept in the TIFF format. The user can also touch the “Scan Size” button 440 to set the size of the document to be scanned. The user can also select a single sided scan by touching the “Single-Sided” button 420, or select a double sided scan by touching the “Double-Sided” button 425. Once the user has selected all the scanning parameters, the user can save his selection by touching the “Save” button 445. Alternatively, if the user wants to return to the previous screen 300, the user can touch the “Exit” button 450.
Upon touching the “Lookup Fax Number” button 525, the MFD displays a screen that prompts the user to enter the name(s) of a recipient(s), or the name of a group of recipients (e.g., “marketing,” “management,” “security,” “legal department,” “blue division,” “softball team,” etc . . . ). Search criteria other than names can be used. The MFD can send the names or other search criteria to the scan server 40, which passes the information to the directory server 60. The directory server 60 then returns the fax numbers for the names entered by the user to the scan server 40, which passes the fax numbers to the MFD for displaying on the portion 545 of the screen 500. The display portions 550 can be touched to select (e.g. by highlighting) fax numbers listed on the portion 545. The selected fax numbers can be removed from the recipients' list by touching the “Remove Fax Number” button 530. Upon touching the “OK” button 535, the information received via the screen 500 can be processed by the MFD to fax the document. The user can return to the previous screen by touching the “Cancel” button 540. Upon touching the “Billing Code” button 515, the MFD displays a bill management screen (not shown) to receive billing information. For example, the bill management screen would prompt the user to enter department code representing the department to which the user belongs. With this feature, the MFD can either locally process the billing information and/or transmit the billing information to the server 40 for centralized processing.
Turning to the screen 600 illustrated in
Upon touching the “Lookup E-mail Address” button 625, the MFD displays a screen that prompts the user to enter the name(s) of a recipient(s), or the name of a group of recipients (e.g., “marketing,” “management,” “security,” “legal department,” “blue division,” “softball team,” etc . . . ). Search criteria other than names can be used. The MFD can send the names or other search criteria to the scan server 40, which passes the information to the directory server 60. The directory server 60 then returns the e-mail addresses for the names entered by the user to the scan server 40, which passes the e-mail addresses to the MFD for displaying on the portion 645 of the screen 600. The display portions 650 can be touched to select (e.g. by highlighting) the e-mail addresses listed on the portion 645. The selected e-mail addresses can be removed from the recipients' list by touching the “Remove E-mail Address” button 630. Upon touching the “OK” button 635, the information received via the screen 600 can be processed by the MFD to e-mail the document. The user can return to the previous screen by touching the “Cancel” button 640.
In a preferred embodiment, the program code instructions for the MFD 20 are stored on the HDD 935 via an IC card. Alternatively, the program code instructions can be stored on the floppy 907 so that the program code instructions may be read by the FDD 936, transferred to the RAM 934 and executed by the CPU 931 to carry out the instructions. These instructions can be the instructions to perform the MFD's functions described above. These instructions permit the MFD 20 to interact with the scan server 40 via browser 25 and to control the control panel 937 and the image processing units of the MFD 20.
During a start-up of the MFD 20, the program code instructions may be read by the CPU 931, transferred to the RAM and executed by the CPU 931. Alternatively, the program code instructions may be loaded to the ROM 933. It is therefore understood that in the present invention any of the floppy disk 907, the HHD 935, the RAM 934, and the ROM 933 correspond to a computer readable storage medium capable of storing program code instructions. Other devices and medium that can store the instructions according to the present invention include for example magnetic disks, optical disks including DVDs, magneto-optical disks such as MOS, and semiconductor memory cards such as PC cards.
In a preferred embodiment, the control panel 937 includes a display screen that displays information allowing the user of the MFD 20 to interact with the scan server 40, such as screens 300-600 shown in
A conventional personal computer or computer workstation with sufficient memory and processing capability may also be configured to operate as the server 40. The central processing unit 1000 is configured for high volume data transmission and performing a significant number of mathematical calculations in processing communications and database searches. A Pentium III microprocessor such as the 1 GHz Pentium III manufactured by Intel Inc. may be used for the CPU 1000. This processor employs a 32 bit architecture. Other suitable processors include the Motorola 500 MHZ PowerPC G4 processor and the Advanced Micro Devices 1 GHz AMD Athlon processor. Multiple processors or workstations may be used as well.
The ROM 1800 is preferably included in a semiconductor form although other read-only memory forms including optical media may be used to host application software and temporary results. The ROM 1800 connects to the system bus 1500 for use by the CPU 1000. The ROM 1800 includes computer readable instructions that, when executed by the CPU 1000, can perform the different authenticating, routing and managing functions discussed above associated with scanned documents from MFDs. An input controller 1600 connects to the system bus 1500 and provides an interface with various peripheral equipment including a keyboard 1610 and a pointing device such as a mouse 1620. The input controller 1600 may include different ports such as a mouse port in the form of a PS2 port or, for example, a universal serial bus (USB) port. The keyboard port for the input controller 1600 is in the form of a mini-DIN port although other connectors may be used as well. The input controller 1600 provides sound card connections so that external jacks on the sound card allow users to attach microphone speakers or an external sound source. The input controller 1600 also may include serial ports or parallel ports as well.
A disk controller 1400 is in the form of an IDE controller and connects via ribbon cables to a floppy disk drive 1410 as well as a hard disk drive 1420, a CD-ROM drive 1180 and a compact disk 1190 (
An input/output controller 1200 also provides connections to external components such as an external hard disk 1210, printer 1220, which can be MFD 10-30, for example, by way of an RS 232 port, a SCSI bus, an Ethernet or other network connection which supports any desired network protocol such as, but not limited to TCP/IP, IPX, IPX/SPX, or NetBEUI.
A display controller 1100 interconnects the system bus 1500 to a display device, such as a cathode ray tube (CRT) 1110. While a CRT is shown, a variety of other display devices may be used such as an LCD (liquid crystal display), or plasma display device.
The mechanisms and processes set forth in the present description may be implemented using a conventional general purpose microprocessor(s) programmed according to the teachings of the present specification, as will be appreciated to those skilled in the relevant arts. Appropriate software coding can readily be prepared by skilled programmers based on the teachings of the present disclosure, as will also be apparent to those skilled in the software art. In particular, the computer program product for authenticating, routing, and managing scanned documents according to the present invention can be written in a number of computer languages including but not limited to C, C++, Fortran, and Basic, as would be recognized by those of ordinary skill in the art. The invention may also be implemented by the preparation of applications specific integrated circuits or by interconnecting an appropriate network of conventional component circuits, as will be readily apparent to those skilled in the art.
The present invention thus also includes a computer-based product that may be hosted on a storage medium and include instructions that can be used to program a computer to perform a process in accordance with the present invention. This storage medium can include, but is not limited to, any type of disk including floppy disks, optical disks, CD-ROM, magneto-optical disks, ROMs, RAMs, EPROMs, EEPROMs, Flash Memory, Magnetic or Optical Cards, or any type of media suitable for storing electronic instructions.
Additional Benefits of the Present Invention
Historically, business applications ran on mainframe computers and users executed operations from terminal consoles by sending instruction commands. The terminal consoles had no computing power other than displaying data stream sent back from the mainframe computer which ran the actual applications. As LAN (Local Area Network) became available, the Client-Server architecture was introduced. The Client-Server architecture utilizes the client computer's computing power to offload the mainframe from data processing, resulting in a more efficient use of the resources and better overall performance.
This Client-Server technology introduced a new problem however. Each and every computer needs to have an application program installed. Installation. upgrades, and maintenance of the client require a lot of time and human support, which increase operation cost. Furthermore, this approach lacks flexibility because different versions of applications on clients and servers should match.
Once introduced, the web browser was well accepted because it not only solves the problems of the Client-Server architecture but it also allows the user to maintain the benefit of distributed computing. Specifically, the web browser eliminates the need for client program maintenance because application programs and/or web pages are loaded dynamically at the time the user accesses the web site. The user is guaranteed to have the latest version of the application. As a result, PCs no longer need to have application programs installed manually and permanently on their local hard disk. This is why a PC web browser is sometimes referred to as “thin client technology;” it is free from relatively bulky application programs.
The MFD browser according to the present invention provides the benefits of thin client technology to MFDs because it does not need manual program installation or program upgrade but still guarantees the latest and/or only appropriate software loaded from a web site. Once the MFD browser is incorporated in the MFD, a web server can identify the capabilities of the MFD and dynamically download and run selected programs by a pre-defined criterion. This criterion can be used to run different types of applications by department, e.g. a patent search and a print program for a legal department or a resume management application for a human resources department. Advantageously, the present invention can be incorporated into the system and method for managing documents disclosed in co-pending Ser. No. 09/795,438, the entire content of which is hereby incorporated by reference.
Obviously, numerous additional modifications and variations of the present invention are possible in light of the above teachings. It is therefore to be understood that within the scope of the appended claims the present invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein.