|Publication number||US20060277202 A1|
|Application number||US 11/503,651|
|Publication date||Dec 7, 2006|
|Filing date||Aug 14, 2006|
|Priority date||Mar 9, 2001|
|Also published as||CA2439002A1, CA2439002C, CA2439005A1, CA2441512A1, CA2441512C, EP1368909A1, EP1368909A4, EP1370973A2, EP1370973A4, EP1370990A2, US7099895, US8190730, US20020145534, US20020165731, US20020198986, WO2002073357A2, WO2002073357A3, WO2002073359A2, WO2002073359A3, WO2002073828A1|
|Publication number||11503651, 503651, US 2006/0277202 A1, US 2006/277202 A1, US 20060277202 A1, US 20060277202A1, US 2006277202 A1, US 2006277202A1, US-A1-20060277202, US-A1-2006277202, US2006/0277202A1, US2006/277202A1, US20060277202 A1, US20060277202A1, US2006277202 A1, US2006277202A1|
|Original Assignee||Radianse, Inc.|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Referenced by (7), Classifications (31)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application is a Continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/096,187 filed on Mar. 11, 2002, which claims priority to a U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No. 60/274,544, filed Mar. 9, 2001, entitled Location System. The contents of the aforementioned applications are incorporated herein by reference.
The illustrative embodiment of the present invention relates generally to a location tracking system and more particularly to performing object association using a location tracking system.
There is a need to automatically and accurately track the amount of time a person or object spends interacting or associating with other people or objects. This association information may be used for accounting purposes, for worker payroll, to bill a customer, or to log the “work expended” on a given object or by a given person. Alternatively, the information may be used for inventory records, equipment utilization studies, event precipitation and similar uses. Unfortunately, the accuracy of today's object association systems is inadequate. Conventional object association systems require estimates to capture the amount of time devices spend interacting. For example, it is quite common to estimate the amount of time that an expensive piece of medical equipment was used during a procedure. Since medical equipment can generate millions of dollars a year in bills corresponding to the time the equipment is operated, a small inaccuracy in estimation of the time of operation has a big impact on either the payer or the payee. Accordingly, it is becoming more common for medical insurance companies to demand exact time recordings of the usage of particular equipment. Since this requires human oversight, the process becomes very burdensome for the medical staff.
The need for humans to initiate conventional object association systems represents a major difficulty with the systems. This requirement for manual interaction, typically to start and stop timers or record times, results in inaccurate readings that can be subject to fraud. Some people simply forget to start or stop the timers, especially when they have multiple tasks to perform, or they just estimate the time to keep things simpler. In most cases they do not stop the timers when they take small breaks and this leads to inaccurate readings. In some cases, people start or stop the time tracking system fraudulently which results in inaccurate billing. Additionally, tracking the time that objects spend interacting is not possible since the objects, absent an interface with a timer, can not start a timer, a person needs to be involved in some way. Unfortunately conventional assocation systems are not designed to determine and log associations automatically without human intervention.
Conventional object association systems fail to track multiple tasks, either sequentially or simultaneously. In “time clock” type systems, if there are multiple objects or tasks to be tracked there must be multiple timers. These timers can track when a human operator notes that two devices begin to interact, but the problem rapidly becomes too complex to record if there are multiple devices interacting with other devices. Conventional wireless tether systems are limited to noting when two devices are close to each other, they can not deal with multiple interactions starting and stopping. The location system solutions simply show that multiple devices are in the same space, they do not show which is interacting with another nor the times of these interactions as they have difficulty in determining interaction detail. Additionally, most current systems do not have the ability to automatically and continuously track object interactions, such as tracking the progress of a piece of work in process (WIP) and the time it spends interacting with various tools and people, in order to make that information available in “real time” to an interested party. Without this ability to review real-time object association data, supervisors or systems have difficulty in quickly recognizing problems in a production flow.
The illustrative embodiment of the present invention provides a method of determining and tracking object associations using a location system. Object identifiers equipped with transmitting components are linked to objects and broadcast a transmission signal which includes a unique identifier. The transmission signal broadcast by the object identifiers is received by a networked connected element interfaced with a network. The signal from the object identifier is forwarded by the networked connected element to an electronic device interfaced with the network. The location determining module analyzes a variety of data including the unique identifier, the location of all of the the network connected elements receiving the signal, the receiver characteristics of the receivers of the network connected elements, and the historical location of the object in order to determine the location of the object. Once the location of the object has been determined, the location determining module consults a database to determine associations between the located object and other objects or locations based on the other objects or locations proximity to the located object. Once an association is determined, it is stored and the duration of the association is subsequently recorded.
In one embodiment of the present invention, a location system includes a network with a network connected element and is interfaced with an electronic device. The network connected element has at least one transmitting component giving it the ability to transmit and receive signals. An object identifier which is linked to an object transmits a signal bearing a unique identifier which is received by the network connected element. The network connected element appends a header to the signal and forwards it over the network to the electronic device. The system also includes a database which is interfaced with the network and which is used to store object associations. The object associations record the interaction of objects and locations that are located within a defined distance of other objects and locations. A location determining module is also interfaced with the network and uses the unique identifier sent to the electronic device and the location of the network connected element receiving the signal to calculate the location of the object. The calculated location is checked against the stored location of other objects and predetermined locations to identify associations. Any identified associations are stored in the database.
In another embodiment, a method which utilizes a location system is practiced over a network to determine object associations. The network is interfaced with an electronic device and a network connected element. An object identifier linked to an object broadcasts a signal containing a unique identifier which is received by the network connected element. The signal is forwarded to the electronic device. A location determining module calculates the location of the object identifier and the object to which it is linked using the known location of the network connected element and the unique identifier extracted from the signal retrieved from the object identifier signal. The calculated position of the object is compared against the position of other objects and locations of interest in order to determine associations. Identified associations are stored in a database interfaced with the network. In one aspect of the invention, the associations are made available as input data to other applications executing on the network. In an additional aspect of the invention, a fixed location identifier which is not interfaced with the network is used to receive and transmit signals from the object identifier to the network connected element. The known location of the fixed location identifier and its receiver characteristics provide additional data to the location determining module which is used to determine the location of the object identifier.
The illustrative embodiment of the present invention provides a method of recording object associations using a location system. Object locations are determined based on signals generated from object identifiers linked to the objects and forwarded to an electronic device interfaced with a network. The origin of the signal is calculated based on the known position of the receivers receiving the signal, the historical recorded position of the object, the characteristics of the receivers receiving the signal (i.e. the range), the strength of the received signal, the type of signal, and whether or not the signal was repeated. The location is determined by software (the location determining module) either running on, or interfaced with, the electronic device. Once the location of the object has been determined, the location determining module consults a database to determine associations between the located object and other objects or specified locations based on the other objects proximity to the located object. Once an association is determined, it is stored and the duration of the association is subsequently recorded. The identified associations may then be leveraged in a number of ways by other applications interfaced with the network, such as by being used in billing systems, inventory systems, asset management, and automatic event generation based on the identified association.
The electronic device 12 includes a location determining module 14 which is used to locate the object identifer 2 and the corresponding object to which the object identifier is linked. The object identifier may be directly or indirectly linked to the object. For example, the object identifier 2 may be directly linked to a person who is wearing it as a medical bracelet. Alternatively, the object identifier 2 may be indirectly linked such as by being embedded in a name tag which is fastened to clothing. As long as the object identifier 2 travels with its linked object it will identify the location of the object. Although the location determining module 14 will usually be implemented as a software component, the location determining module 14 may also be implemented by being hardwired into a device. The location determining module 14 uses the unique identifer to calculate of the current location of the object identifier. The location determining module 14 calculates the origin of the signal using a variety of factors including the known position of the receivers receiving the signal (which is retrieved from a topology database 16 which is also interfaced with the network 10), the historical recorded position of the object, the characteristics of the receivers receiving the signal (i.e. the range) (which are retrieved from a database 18 also interfaced with the network), the strength of the received signal, the type of signal, and whether or not the signal was repeated (which are determined by analyzing information contained in the signal received from the network connected element 6). Once a calculation of the location of the object identifier 2 has been made, the location of the object may be analyzed to see if it reveals object associations. The process of analyzing the calculated location of the object identifiers is described in more detail below. Any identified associations are stored in the database 18.
In one aspect of the illustrative embodiment of the present invention, a fixed location identifier 20 is also present in the location system. The fixed location identifier 20 includes an IR transmitter 3, an RF transmitter 4, an IR receiver 7 and an RF receiver 9. The IR receiver 7 is capable of receiving an IR signal generated by the object identifier 2, while the RF receiver 8 is capable of receiving an RF signal generated by the object identifier 2. The RF receiver 9 on the fixed location identifier 20 may have a shorter receiving range than the RF receiver 8 on the network connected element 6. The location of the fixed location identifier 20 is stored in the topology database 16. After receiving a signal from the object identifier 2, the fixed location identifier appends its own identifier to the signal and tranmsits it to a network connected element 6. When the signal eventually reaches the location determining module 14, the location determining module uses the range characteristic of the fixed location identifier 20 to help locate the object identifier 2. In other words, if the location determining module receives notification from both a fixed location identifier 20 and a network connected element 6 that both have received an RF signal, the signal can only have originated from a spot that is within both receivers receiving range. Those skilled in the art will recognize that many alternate implementations are possible within the scope of the present invention. The object identifier 2 may use different types and combinations of transmitting components. Similarly, the object identifier may include a receiving component. The location determining module 14 may appear in any of a number of locations including being located on the object identifier 2 and is not limited to being stored on the electronic device 12. In one embodiment of the present invention, the signals may be bi-directional and travel in both directions between the network 10 and the object identifier 2.
A non-networked form of the illustrative embodiment of the present invention may also be implemented.
According to various embodiments of the invention, the location determining module 14 may be capable of performing additional functionality, such as receiving requests for information, providing information, storing information, commanding actions in response to location information, associating objects with other objects or with locations, establishing privacy conditions regarding availability of location information, interfacing directly with various network types, and the like. According to further embodiments of the invention, the location determining module 14 includes multiple, distributed receivers, some of which may be connected to a network, and others not connected to a network. According to various embodiments of the invention, the object identifier 10 and location determining module 14 utilize both RF signals and IR signals for the determination of location.
The signaling process may make use of both RF and IR signals in alternating combination. According to one embodiment of the invention the RF signal is transmitted every ten seconds and the IR signal is transmitted every twenty seconds. This method provides a substantially consistent IR power level, while varying an RF power level. Varying the RF power level may assist in determining a location of the object identifier 2 by enabling the network connected element 6 to receive less than all of the RF signals. The transmitted signals may also include additional information such as the signal strength being transmitted, the period between transmissions, the length of time of the transmissions, a unique identifier for the object identifier 2, information received from one or more input devices and/or various status information, such as those pertaining to the components of the object identifier. In one aspect of the invention, the object identifier 2 also contains receivers and the location determining module 14 configures the object identifier over the network 10 by sending transmission parameters (i.e.: alternate signals every 30 seconds). Since IR signals are line-of-sight signals and RF signals travel through walls, the combination of signals may be used by the illustrative embodiment of the present invention to locate signals with greater accuracy than would be possible using either form of signaling alone.
The use of the network connected elements 6 and the fixed location identifiers 20 may be illustrated with an example. The object identifier 2 linked to the infusion pump 48 may be configured to emit alternating IR signals and RF signals bearing a unique identifier. If the infusion pump 48 is located in a corridor 31 the RF signal (which may travel through walls) may be picked up by receivers located on the fixed location identifiers 20 in a number of rooms 34, 36, 40 and 42 as well as the fixed location identifier at the end of the corridor nearest to the pump. Additionally, the signal may also be received by the network connected element 6 located outside room 34. The alternating IR signal emitted by the object identifier 2 linked to the infusion pump 48 is received by only the fixed location identifier 20 located at the end of the corridor and the network connected element 6 located outside room 34 since IR signals are line-of-sight signals. Since line-of-sight signals do not travel through walls well, they are unlikely to be received by an IR receiver located within one of the hospital rooms 32, 34, 36, 38, 40 and 42. The network connected element 6 located outside room 34 and the fixed location identifier 20 located at the end of the corridor will report receiving both signals to the location determining module 14. The location determining module 14 will use the known location of both the network connected element 6 outside room 34 and the fixed location identifier 20 at the end of the corridor to determine that since both receivers received both types of signal, the infusion pump 48 must be in the corridor 31. Furthermore, since the fixed location identifier 20 has a smaller receiving range for RF signals than does the receiver for the network connected element 6, the infusion pump 48 must be located not only in the corridor but within range of the RF receiver 9 on the fixed location identifier 20. In one embodiment, the fixed location identifier might have a receiving range for RF signals of 6 feet (as opposed to a 20 foot receiving range for the RF receiver 8 for the network connected element 6 outside room 34) which would allow the infusion pump to be located to within 6 feet of the fixed location identifier in the corridor 31. The actual receiving ranges of the RF receivers 8 and 9 are an implementation choice, and those skilled in the art will recognize that they may be adjusted without departing from the scope of the present invention.
Once the location determining module 14 has determined the current location of an object to which an object identifier 2 is linked, the location is compared against the current location of other objects and pre-determined locations to determine the proximity of the located object to the other objects or the pre-determined location. The pre-determined location is usually a place of special interest such as a bed. If the object is within a pre-defined distance of another object or pre-determined location, the location determining module 14 determines the two objects (or the object and the pre-determined location) are interacting and records an association in the database 18. Depending upon the implementation, the location determining module 14 may require the association to occur for a minimum period of time before deciding an association is occurring. The association is tracked for beginning time, ending time, duration and alternately for separate occurrences, all of which may be stored in the database 18. The electronic device 2 holds, or is interfaced with a variety of software programs to make use of the object associations determined by the location determining module 14.
Once the object associations have been determined by the location determining module 14, the records of the associations may be provided as input data to a variety of software programs.
The illustrative embodiment of the present invention may leverage the object association data in a number of ways. In one embodiment, the determined object associations are used to track the movements of a contagious patient in a health care facility. By mapping the calculated locations indicating the individual's path of travel, the health care facility is able to create a response based on which patients were probably exposed to the contagion. In another embodiment, object identifiers may be linked to prescription drugs. For example, when a bag of intravenous drugs linked to an object identifier forms an association with a patient, a database may be consulted to prevent adverse reactions based on other drugs already received by the patient and/or the patients personal medical history indicating allergies. In another embodiment, the object associations may be used to ensure compliance with HIPPA, the Health Insurance Privacy and Portability Act, which requires that access to a patient's records be limited. By linking object identifiers 2 to staff and the patient's chart, a record may be created indicating who viewed the chart.
The object association data held in the database 18 may also be used for event initiation.
In one embodiment of the present invention, the object association data is utilized by asset management software 52. Asset management software may be used to provide a real-time inventory of assets owned by a company. The ability to quickly locate items may be of paramount importance in industries such as the health care industry, where a failure to locate an item quickly can result in catastrophic consequences. Additionally, the constant updating of asset locations may result in much lower costs during end of the year inventories. The frequency with which assets transmit their positions is configurable and may be based on how frequently the item is likely to move. For example, for larger machines that move infrequently, the transmitters may be set to signal once an hour or once a day. For smaller items, or items that are frequently being moved, the transmitters may be set to signal once a minute or once every 10 seconds in the case of an object identifier linked to a person. The real-time position of assets may then be broadcast on the network 10 and made available to authorized individuals. In another embodiment, an association may be formed between a bedridden patient and a bed. If it is determined that the association has stopped, an alert is sent over the network to a nurses station to indicate the possibility that the patient has fallen out of bed.
Although many of the examples listed herein have been made with reference to a hospital environment, the illustrative embodiment of the present invention may be used to detect object associations in a variety of environments. For instance, the object association may take place in the setting of an airport where bags are associated with machinery designated to divert the bags to specific destinations. Alternatively, the object association may be used to verify that each checked bag is associated with a seated passenger before a plane takes off from an airport. The object association may be used to track the movements of products in a store or utilized at a check out register. The object association may be used to identify the effectiveness, or lack thereof, of advertising displays. Since the object association system is designed to work with components which utilize existing network topology, object associations may be determined in many different environments and the environments listed herein are intended merely as illustrative examples and not as an exhaustive list.
It will thus be seen that the invention attains the objectives stated in the previous description. Since certain changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention, it is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings be interpreted as illustrative and not in a literal sense. Practitioners of the art will realize that the sequence of steps depicted in the figures may be altered without departing from the scope of the present invention and that the illustrations contained herein are singular examples of a multitude of possible depictions of the present invention.
|Citing Patent||Filing date||Publication date||Applicant||Title|
|US7636043 *||Jun 29, 2006||Dec 22, 2009||General Instrument Corporation||Method and apparatus for improving the accuracy of security systems|
|US7761475||Jul 13, 2007||Jul 20, 2010||Objectivity, Inc.||Method, system and computer-readable media for managing dynamic object associations as a variable-length array of object references of heterogeneous types binding|
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|US8013735||Feb 12, 2009||Sep 6, 2011||Lojack Operating Company, Lp||Asset recovery system|
|US8175925||Aug 18, 2006||May 8, 2012||Amazon Technologies, Inc.||Position-based item identification in a materials handling facility|
|US8421606||Dec 23, 2011||Apr 16, 2013||Hill-Rom Services, Inc.||Wireless bed locating system|
|US20120084188 *||Apr 5, 2012||Thomas Zuber||Method for interactively collaborating across online social networking communities|
|U.S. Classification||1/1, 707/999.01|
|International Classification||G01S13/74, H04B7/15, G01S19/04, G06Q20/38, G06F7/00, G01S5/16, G01S5/00, G06F17/30, H04L12/56, G01S19/11, G01S19/48, G01S5/02|
|Cooperative Classification||Y10S707/99943, G01S5/16, H04W24/00, G01S5/0252, G01S5/02, G01S5/0081, G06Q20/382, H04W64/00, H04W4/02, H04W88/06, H04B7/15, H04W8/18, H04W8/26|
|European Classification||G01S5/02D, G06Q20/382, G01S5/02, G01S5/16|