US 20060267727 A1
An electronic locking system comprising a plurality of lockers, a controller in communication with the plurality of lockers for electronically controlling locking and unlocking of the plurality of lockers, and a biometric sensor in communication with the controller for recording a biometric characteristic of a user when the user is located at the plurality of lockers. The controller associates the recorded biometric characteristic of the user with one of the plurality of lockers thereby permitting only the user to open the one locker.
1. An electronic locking system comprising:
a plurality of lockers;
a controller in communication with said lockers for electronically controlling locking and unlocking of said lockers;
a biometric sensor in communication with said controller for recording a biometric characteristic of a user when said user is located at said plurality of lockers, wherein said controller associates said recorded biometric characteristic of said user with one of said lockers thereby permitting only said user to open the one of said lockers.
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14. An electronic locking system using biometrics comprising:
a plurality of lockers;
a controller in communication with said plurality of lockers for electronically controlling locking and unlocking of said plurality of lockers;
a biometric sensor in communication with said controller for initially recording a biometric characteristic of a user when said user is located at said plurality of lockers, wherein said controller associates said initially recorded biometric characteristic of said user with one of said lockers and permits said user to access the one of said lockers only if a subsequently recorded biometric characteristic matches said initially recorded biometric characteristic.
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21. An electronic locking system comprising:
a plurality of lockers;
a controller in communication with said plurality of lockers for electronically controlling locking and unlocking of said plurality of lockers;
a user interface in communication with said controller;
a biometric sensor in communication with said controller for recording a biometric characteristic of a user when said user is located at said plurality of lockers, wherein said controller associates said recorded biometric characteristic of said user with one of said lockers thereby permitting only said user to open the one of said lockers upon newly recording a biometric characteristic that matches said recorded biometric characteristic.
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The present application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 10/959,339, filed Oct. 5, 2004, now allowed, which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/896,595, filed Jun. 29, 2001, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,806,807, which claims benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/215,218 filed Jun. 30, 2000, the disclosures of which are hereby incorporated by reference herein.
The present invention is directed to a locking system for securing articles in lockable storage containers and is more particularly is directed to an electronic locking system that uses one or more microprocessors for identifying authorized users of the system, and for granting access to the one or more storage containers associated with each authorized user.
Mechanical lockers are used in both concessional and non-concessional venues. In concessional venues, such as airports, bus and train stations, malls, theme parks and ski resorts, users must often pay to use the lockers. In non-concessional venues, such as schools and fitness centers, users are typically not required to pay to use the lockers. There are a number of problems associated with mechanical locking systems that require a user to pay to use the system. These problems include the fact that each locker may only accept a limited number of coins, and those coins are the only acceptable method of payment. As a result, a third party must collect the coins from the system and the vendor/owner cannot always account for the correct amount of cash. Another problem with mechanical lockers is that keys must be used to operate them. These keys are commonly lost or stolen, thereby creating maintenance and security problems.
There are a number of companies that currently supply products and services in the electronic locker industry. MORS Industries built the first electronic locker system in the 1970's for use in the French railway system. In the early 1990's, MORS Industries experienced problems and sold the electronic locker division to a Dutch company operating under the name Logibag SA. Logibag SA has had some success in both the United States and Europe, placing approximately 35,000 lockers worldwide. Although Logibag SA has a large number of lockers in place, its electronic lockers use out-dated technology, and each locker has a relatively high selling price of approximately $1,000-$1,200 per locker.
Another electronic locker system, called Loksafe, was originally designed by RAANND Systems of Scotland UK. Initially, Loksafe was a direct competitor of Logibag SA and together Loksafe and Logibag dominated the global market for over a decade. Because it proved to be a more reliable and better-engineered product, Loksafe won a number of major state railway contracts over Logibag. Although there are currently about 12,000 Loksafe lockers installed worldwide, Loksafe uses 1980's DOS-based programming and therefore has a limited ability to accept upgrades. Like Logibag, Loksafe has a high per unit cost and requires special maintenance and support. The average selling price of each Loksafe locker is approximately $900-$1,200.
KW Muller, one of the original coin-operated locker manufacturers, recently introduced an electronic locker system in an attempt to maintain a market share being taken by competitors Logibag and Loksafe. Although KW Muller uses PC based technology, its system has proven to be unreliable and difficult to use. KW Muller has a price of approximately $2,000-$2,500 per locker.
Another entrant in the electronic locker market is Eurolocker. The Eurolocker system has an unreliable electronic system. As a result, Eurolocker has enjoyed only limited success. The Eurolocker was revamped and relaunched by its new owner (Smarte Carte), and has achieved success in a number shopping malls and theme parks in the United States. This success is due almost entirely to the fact that Eurolocker's electronic units are not sold to third parties, but instead are placed on concession through Eurolocker's parent organization, Smarte Carte. In fact, there have been many negative responses to the quality of Eurolocker, and the system is unlikely to be used in any major terminals or similar locations. The estimated cost for each Eurolocker opening in the United States is approximately $2,00-$3,000 per locker.
Another competitor, American Locker Security Systems, is a global leader in the non-electronic locker industry. This United States-based company has dominated the market in the United States and in many overseas countries with its Statesman system. American Locker Security Systems realized that the locker market was moving to electronics and originally tried to modify its document storage system, Compulok, to meet this demand. However, this attempt failed. American Locker Security Systems then obtained the United States dealership for Loksafe, but achieved only marginal success due to the high price of the Loksafe units in the United States. Since then, American Locker Security Systems has attempted to develop its own electronic system, but has been unsuccessful.
Thus, there is a tremendous need for an electronic locker system that is reliable, easy to use and cost effective for operators and users alike.
In accordance with certain preferred embodiments of the present invention, an electronic locking system includes a plurality of lockable storage enclosures, and a controller, such as a microprocessor-based controller, in communication with the plurality of lockable storage enclosures for controlling locking and unlocking of the storage enclosures. The electronic locking system may also include a biometric sensor in communication with the controller for sensing one or more identifying characteristics for multiple users. The controller is adapted to store the one or more identifying characteristics for each user in a memory device. For each user, the controller creates a link between the stored identifying characteristics for the user and one of the lockable storage enclosures. In certain preferred embodiments, the biometric sensor preferably measures the electrical capacitance of ridges and valleys comprising the fingerprint of a user. The electrical capacitance of the ridges and valleys of the fingerprint is then used to generate a unique biometric key that may be associated with the user. The unique key associated with each user is then stored in the memory device. The system may also use other forms of authentication such as an eye scan, magnetic cards, smart cards, PIN codes, bar codes and chips embedded in the human body.
In other preferred embodiments of the present invention, a method of assigning biometric markers to a plurality of lockable storage enclosures includes providing a controller, such as a microprocessor-based controller, in communication with a plurality of lockable storage enclosures, the controller being associated with a memory device for storing information. The method includes sensing one or more biometric markers for one or more users, storing the sensed one or more biometric markers for each of the users in the memory device and linking the sensed one or more biometric markers for each of the users with one of the storage enclosures.
Although the present invention is not limited by any particular theory of operation, in certain preferred embodiments, the present invention is directed to an electronic system that enables individuals to open and close locks, such as electronic locks on storage lockers or doors, using fingerprints or other authenticating data. In an electronic locker system, an individual's fingerprints are associated with one of the lockers in the system and can only be opened at a later time with the correct fingerprints. Thus, the system ensures that the depositor of an item in a locker is also the recipient. Instead of relying on the pattern of a fingerprint, the present invention utilizes a technology that records the capacitance of the ridges and valleys of an individual's fingertip. These measurements are as unique as the fingerprint itself and change when a person dies, or if their finger has been cut off. Thus, the present invention is an improvement over systems that utilize keys, magnetic cards or PIN codes that can be passed between the depositor and the receiver.
As a result, users of the present invention may not be required to use a key insertible into a lock, as is required with prior art systems. Depositors may still have to deposit a coin or other form of money; however, depositors may lay claim to a locker's contents by merely placing their fingertip on a sensor. The sensor notes the pattern of the individual's fingerprint and records it in a memory device or storage medium that notes the date and time. This information may be stored in a central electronic archive. The system will not unlock the locker until it once again sees that fingerprint. When the depositor returns to the locker to collect his or her belongings, they apply their finger to the sensor for scanning and the door will only open if the fingerprint stored in the memory device matches the sensed fingerprint. As noted above, the present invention does not look at the fingerprint pattern as is done in prior art systems, but instead measures the electrical capacitance of the ridges and valleys that make up the pattern of an individual's fingertip. This allows the system to identify whether the person laying claim to the articles stored in a locker really is the person who put the articles there in the first place.
Another advantage of the present invention is that it enables a user to identify the location of his or her stored articles when the user has forgotten his or her locker number. In accordance with certain preferred embodiments of the present invention, users will be able to walk up to a terminal and apply a fingertip. A central computer, which will have recorded the details of all recent users, will note the details of the fingertip, compare the fingertip with its records and then tell the user which locker is theirs. This feature will avoid the time-wasting and demeaning process of trying to open hundreds of lockers in order to identify the right one.
In certain preferred embodiments, the present invention utilizes an intelligent locking device, referred to by the assignee as a SmartLok, having a credit card sized printed circuit board. The intelligent locking device may be substituted wherever keys, barrels and non-intelligent electronic locks have traditionally been used. Unlike other electromechanical or electronic locks, the intelligent locking device of the present invention utilizes a printed circuit board that incorporates a powerful on-board microprocessor. The microprocessor is programmable so that it may be modified to satisfy an operator's particular locking and opening requirements. For example, an operator of a locking system in an airport or train station may have different operating requirements than an operator in a school environment (e.g. the airport operator may want to change money while the school operator may want the system to be free). In certain embodiments, the locking system includes a plurality of intelligent locking devices, the printed circuit board of each intelligent locking device being able to communicate with the printed circuit boards of the other intelligent locking devices and with a central controller, referred to by the assignee as a Customer Service Station (CSS), such as a Microsoft Windows NT supervisory systems. It is contemplated that the present invention may be distributed over a wide geographic area and may be managed locally or remotely. Industry standard communications are supported ranging from UTP interconnect for local infrastructure to high-speed modem and Internet protocols for remote access.
The printed circuit board of each intelligent locking device is preferably a credit card size printed circuit board containing the software necessary to offer the world's first true self-intelligent lock controller. Contained within the printed circuit board of each intelligent locking device is a multi-function processor chip, having both RAM and Flash memory as well as processing power. The chip is programmed to operate a number of onboard devices concerned with the control and monitoring of a motor driven lock mechanism. Specifically, each intelligent locking device preferably includes a solid state motor driver chip, a voltage regulator chip, two sets of gear drive status sensors and a pair of two color LED indicator lamps. The printed circuit board of each intelligent locking device may be programmed to communicate via an onboard network chip down a standard UTP network, back to a controller, such as a personal computer PC based operating on a Windows Operating Platform. Operational data may be downloaded to the printed circuit board of the intelligent locking device which will allow it to operate with the chosen environment independently of all other intelligent locking devices on the same network and independently of the controller. During initial setup, the intelligent locking device is given instructions from the central controller. After initial setup, the intelligent locking device runs independently. The intelligent locking device then communicates with the central controller for additional information and/or authorization as required. The PCB-based intelligent locking device is capable of independent security and monitors the mechanical lock assemblies associated therewith. An unauthorized change of status will cause the printed circuit board of the intelligent locking device to broadcast an alarm state to the controller for further action. Meanwhile, the intelligent locking device will take preventive preset action to protect its one or more secured enclosures.
In other preferred embodiments, the present invention includes an intelligent locking device for selectively locking and unlocking one or more enclosed areas including a housing having a microprocessor for operating the intelligent locking device, at least one bolt slidably mounted to the housing and movable between a retracted position and an extended position, and a mechanical driving mechanism in contact with the slidable bolt for moving the bolt between the retracted and extended positions, the driving mechanism being in communication with the microprocessor for receiving signals for retracting and extending the bolt.
The system may use a Distributed Lock Protocol (SDLP), which is a proprietary protocol designed to operate a Controller Area Network (CAN) merging to 2.0a and 2.0b environment. The protocol is used to communicate locking and programmatic control states and acts between intelligent locking device processes and intelligent locker Customer Service Station (CSS) software processes. The state and act model is embedded within the intelligent locker controller software and CSS CAN DLL routines. The protocol is implemented by these same routines.
SDLP is preferably a message-based protocol with fixed field definitions conforming to the CAN 2.0a specification. The protocol relies on the persistence and model of CAN to provide a reliable transport. The protocol embraces many functions, including setting controller specific parameters, controller state checking functions and an acknowledgment model for operational locking functions.
Controllers and CSS systems are unique arbitration IDS within messages to identify targets for messages. Collisions are detected and a retry model is used to resolve the collision traffic. A message ID is used to indicate the act that needs to be affected. A data component is used to carry controller specific parameters to a controller, such that the controller software may use them to reprogram behaviors in real time. At arbitration ID of zero, a general broadcast is generated that is heard by all active components.
In certain preferred embodiments, up to 2,047 active components or more may cooperate using SDLP. Moreover, up to 64 CSS systems or more and up to 1,983 controllers or more may be active in any one configuration.
These and other preferred embodiments of the present invention will be described in more detail below.
As mentioned above, the pair of hingedly connected doors 40A and 40B are designed to open away from one another. First door 40A is hingedly connected to cabinet 22 by hinge 50A. Similarly, second door 40B is hingedly connected to cabinet 22 by hinge 50B. Each door 40A, 40B also may include a resilient or spring element that normally maintains the door in a slightly open position. Thus, a potential user of the intelligent locker system can visually discern whether a particular locker opening is available for use.
A depressible button 52A, 52B is located adjacent each locker opening 24A, 24B. As will be explained in more detail below, when button 52 is depressed, the Customer Service Station 28 is alerted that a user is holding one of the locker doors 40 in a closed position.
The intelligent locker system also includes an intelligent locking device 54 having a printed circuit board 56 with a microprocessor secured therein. The intelligent locking device 54 includes two sets of retractable bolts. The first set of retractable bolts unlocks and locks the door 40A closable over the first locker area 44A and the second set of retractable bolts unlocks and locks the door 40B closable over the second locker area 44B.
The first and second sets of bolts 64, 66 are preferably independent from one another. In other words, one set of bolts may be in the retracted or unlocked position while the other set of bolts may be in the extended or locked position. Moreover, both sets of bolts may simultaneously be in the unlocked position or the locked position. In the particular embodiment shown in
Using the local area network shown in
The intelligent locking device 54 shown in
After the user places the articles within the locker opening 24, the user will close the door 40 so as to depress depressible button 52. Upon being depressed, a signal will be sent to the printed circuit board 56 of the intelligent locking device 54 that the locker door 40 is being held in a closed position. After approximately 2-10 seconds, the printed circuit board 56 will send a signal to motor 70 to move retractable bolts 64 into the extended, locking position. As the retractable bolts move into the locking position, the bolts will slide into the recess 74 formed at the edge of door 40. At the same time, light emitting element 60 will change from emitting a solid green light to a flashing amber or red light. The printed circuit board 56 will then send a communication to the Customer Service Station 28 that the particular door has been closed.
The user will then proceed to the Customer Service Station 28 shown in
Later, when the user desires to remove the stored articles from the locker, the user will approach the Customer Service Station 28. The user will place his or her fingerprint over the biometric scanner 38 so that the scanner may obtain a copy of the user's fingerprint. In highly preferred embodiments, the fingerprint data includes information related to the electrical capacitance of the ridges and valleys of the fingerprint. The scanned fingerprint will then be compared with the fingerprint stored in the memory of the Customer Service Station. The processor of the Customer Service Station will associate the retrieved fingerprint with a particular locker number for that fingerprint. Once a link or association has been made between the retrieved fingerprint and the locker associated therewith, the bolts of the intelligent locking device for that particular locker will retract, thereby unlocking the locker door 40. At that time, the light emitting element 60 will change from emitting a solid red light to a solid green light. Once the bolt(s) retract, the locker door 40 will return to its normally partially ajar orientation. The user may than proceed to the locker opening to remove the articles stored in the locker.
Although the above described embodiment utilizes a biometric scanner to obtain fingerprints, it is contemplated that other forms of identification may be used for opening and closing the lockers. For example, the biometric sensor 38 may scan another characteristic of a user's body, such as scanning a user's eye or other distinguishing feature of the body. The Customer Service Station may also utilize PIN codes, magnetic cards, embedded chips or other means for authenticating users.
Shown below are tables that detail message type and exchanges that form the implementation of the protocol.
Although the present invention has been described with reference to particular preferred embodiments, it is to