US 20070075575 A1
A car seat alarm has an on/off switch that is initiated by clicking the latch on the car seat. (“Pumpkin” or removable carrier infant seats may use a two-part switch.) Initiating the circuit when clicking the child into the seat would conserve battery life. The device would be off when the seat is unlocked. Additionally, if an occasion arose where a parent or caregiver were sitting in the vehicle with a child and needed to have the engine off, that parent or caregiver would simply need to unclick or unlock the child car seat restraint to deactivate the device. A learning or programmable chip can be programmed to the same frequency as the panic button on the key fob. This may be done by pressing the panic button on the key fob in close proximity to the learning circuit on the seat.
1. A child car seat, comprising:
a seat shaped to receive a child;
a child restraint attached to the seat;
a sensor responsive to the presence of the child in the seat;
a timing circuit;
a wireless transmitter operably configured to emit a signal mimicking an electronic key fob panic signal;
control circuitry responsive to the sensor indicating presence of a child to initiate broadcast by the wireless transmitter upon a determination of a time threshold from the timing circuit.
2. The child car seat of
3. The child car seat of
4. The child car seat of
5. The child car seat of
6. The child car seat of
7. The child car seat of
8. The child car seat of
The present application hereby claims the benefit of the provisional patent application of the same title, Ser. No. 60/722,863, filed on 30 Sep. 2005 to Gregory et al., the disclosure of which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.
The present invention relates, in general, to child safety alarm devices, especially those responsive to an ambient environmental parameter.
This device is an attempt to prevent the injuries and deaths that have occurred when children are left locked in child car seat restraints in extreme heat or extreme cold.
Every year there are news stories of deaths of children and infants left unattended in cars. These children and infants expire from the extreme heat or cold that builds up in a vehicle when the children are left in a vehicle without air conditioning for ventilation. Although the legislature of Kentucky has attempted to address this problem by making it illegal to leave a child unattended in a vehicle, this does not prevent these tragedies. Children are still left by busy, distracted, and sometimes neglectful, parents and care givers. There needs to be some way of warning that a child has been left locked in a child car seat restraint. Some ideas in the past, although effective, were elaborate and would have been difficult to implement.
Consequently, a significant need exists for an improved child car seat safety system.
The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated in and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate embodiments of the invention, and, together with the general description of the invention given above, and the detailed description of the embodiments given below, serve to explain the principles of the present invention.
Turning to the Figures, wherein like numerals denote like components throughout the several views, in
Upon power-up of the safety circuit 12, such as upon closing of restraints 30 on the car seat 14 that comprise an “ON OFF switch” of the safety circuit 12, a learning circuit 32 may enter a learning mode to configure appropriate wireless frequency code patterns for interacting with the remotely controlled subsystems 21 and/or the key fob 18. For instance, a press-to-test button 34 on the car seat 14 may be depressed in a certain pattern (e.g., 3 second duration) to enter the learning mode. Alternatively, learning mode may be initiated by detection at a signal transceiver (“emitter”) 36 of the safety circuit 12 of a key fob panic broadcast signal above a certain power threshold due to close proximity initiated by depressing a panic button 38 on the key fob 18. As yet a further alternative, removal of certain packaging, depicted as a remove-before-use flag 40 that initiates power from a battery 42 to the safety circuit 12, may also be sensed as an initial condition warranting a learning mode. Long lasting lithium batteries may power the device. The circuit and batteries may be anywhere on the car seat, in the back, on the side, or behind a panel in the seat. When the batteries begin to lose charge, a beeping sound would warn the owner.
Learning mode provides an opportunity for the safety circuit 12 to adapt to a particular vehicle 16 and/or key fob 18 to take advantage of their potential for alerting others as to the likelihood that a child has been left in the vehicle 16, buckled into the car seat 14. The sensed key fob panic broadcast signal above a certain power threshold may be recorded for playback and rebroadcasting upon detection of an unsafe condition. Alternatively, the learning circuit 32 may query a set of user adjusted configuration switches 44 to determine how to wirelessly interact with remotely controlled subsystems 21 (e.g., blue tooth, cellular, radio frequency (RF) key fob formats). As another alternative, the learning circuit 32 may perform a closed loop sweep of possible wireless communication modes until a microphone 45 of the safety circuit 12 detects a corresponding horn response, for instance. This sweeping mode may further be tripped after additional passage of time when the learned communication mode by the learning circuit 32 has not succeeded in changing the safety status of the child seat 14. Therefore, should the vehicle 14 be parked near other vehicles, the safety circuit 12 may succeed in gaining attention to the area by tripping one or more systems.
To enhance interaction with the safety circuit 12, a display, depicted as a light 46 (that may be part of the press-to-test button 34), and/or a speaker 48 mounted on the car seat 14 are controlled by the safety circuit 12. The light 46 and/or speaker 48 may indicate that the safety circuit 12 is powered and/or indicate that the key fob alarm signal has been successfully learned.
Detection by the safety circuit 12 of when the car seat 14 is occupied and an unsafe situation has arisen may be determination with reference to some combination of sensing features incorporated into the car seat 14. These may include the microphone 45, a pressure sensor 50, a temperature sensor 52, and/or an accelerometer 54. The temperature sensor 52 may provide information that reduces the time between pings and/or triggers additional communication channels, such as sweeping mode. The accelerometer 54 may provide a signal stream that may be analyzed to detect a condition of a stopped vehicle.
In one illustrative version of the safety circuit 14, an existing warning system on many new vehicles 16, the panic button feature on many key fobs 18, may be used to prevent deaths of children. This panic button 38 sets off an alarm on the vehicle 16 that triggers the horn 28 and flashing lights 26. This feature may be used to warn the driver or a by-stander that a child has been left locked in the child car seat restraint 30 with the vehicle 16 turned off. When the safety circuit 12 is activated, the car seat 14 may start pinging or sending some other signal every five minutes on the same frequency as the key fob panic alarm. The actual time may be determined by the manufactures. As long as the vehicle 16 is running, the alarm would not activate. However, when the vehicle 16 has been turned off enabling a response to the panic signal, the signal would continue to be sent by the locked restraint 30 (and/or pressure sensor 50) and the panic alarm would be initiated, thereby warning the driver or a by-stander. The safety circuit 12 may send the ping, or signal with reference to a timing circuit 56, until the circuit 12 was opened or turned off by un-buckling, or un-locking the child car seat restraint 30.
It should be appreciated that applications of the safety circuit 12 with some combination of the features described would have application to existing automobiles without any modification. New car seats, which are continuously being re-designed with additional safety features, may incorporate the safety circuit 12 rather inexpensively. The alarm signal would continue to be sent as long as the lock was engaged, thereby continuously activating the panic feature until the car was re-started or the child un-buckled.
Long life lithium batteries 42 may be used to power the device. Future generations of the device may work more extensively with the vehicle. Improved monitoring circuits in the vehicle or in newer key fobs may do such things as: notify the key fob with a beep, roll down the windows, or contact a monitoring system such as On Star.
In some applications consistent with the present invention, the car may be sufficiently intelligent in interpreting the signal sent by the “smart seat.” It may respond in different manners to the ping, including but not limited to: (1) the key fob's locking signal may activate upon sending a locking signal to the car which would cause the safety circuit 12 to ping immediately to the key fob, thereby setting off the alarm when the key fob locks the car; (2) again, upon locking with the key fob, the safety circuit 12 may send a signal to the vehicle 16 causing it to produce a less urgent alarm like those employed when the lights are left turned on in a car (e.g., a continuous beeping sound); (3) the vehicle 16 may receive the signal and turn on air conditioners, roll down windows, and notify a monitoring system and/or emergency personnel; (4) an escalating alarm may issue first smaller warnings before initiating the full panic alarm; (5) temperature sensors in the seat may alter the timing; (6) pressure sensors in the seat may disable signaling; (7) motion sensors in the vehicle 16 itself may serve as an additional sensor source; (8) warnings may be sent to the owner's key fob; (8) air conditioning may be automated; (9) windows may be rolled down remotely; and/or (10) the safety circuit 12 may be integrated into a monitoring system such as ON STAR.
An on/off switch initiated by clicking the latch on the car seat. (“Pumpkin” or removable carrier infant seats, may employ a two-part switch, one on the base and one on the seat). Initiating the circuit when clicking the child into the seat would conserve battery life. The device would be off when the seat is unlocked. Additionally, if an occasion arose where a parent or caregiver were sitting in the vehicle with a child and needed to have the engine off, that parent or caregiver would simply need to unclick or unlock the child car seat restraint or reinsert the remove-before-use flag 40 to deactivate the device.
It should be appreciated that any patent, publication, or other disclosure material, in whole or in part, that is said to be incorporated by reference herein is incorporated herein only to the extent that the incorporated material does not conflict with existing definitions, statements, or other disclosure material set forth in this disclosure. As such, and to the extent necessary, the disclosure as explicitly set forth herein supersedes any conflicting material incorporated herein by reference. Any material, or portion thereof, that is said to be incorporated by reference herein, but which conflicts with existing definitions, statements, or other disclosure material set forth herein will only be incorporated to the extent that no conflict arises between that incorporated material and the existing disclosure material.
While the present invention has been illustrated by description of several embodiments and while the illustrative embodiments have been described in considerable detail, it is not the intention of the applicant to restrict or in any way limit the scope of the appended claims to such detail. Additional advantages and modifications may readily appear to those skilled in the art.