US 20070181602 A1
A method and apparatus for a liquid dispensing head and system have been disclosed.
1. A method comprising:
receiving information related to an amount of liquid to be dispensed;
starting an injection of an inert gas into a container having said liquid; and
stopping said injection when said amount of liquid to be dispensed has exited said container.
2. The method of
3. The method of
4. The method of
5. The method of
6. An apparatus comprising:
means for receiving one or more containers having a liquid;
means for receiving one or more user inputs;
means for dispensing from said one or more containers an amount of said liquid based on said one or more user inputs.
7. The apparatus of
8. An apparatus comprising:
a cap assembly having an input port, and outlet port, and securing mechanism, said input port capable of gas communication, said outlet port capable of liquid communication, and said securing mechanism capable of being secured to a bottle;
a valve assembly having one or more input ports and one or more output ports, said valve assembly capable of being in gas and liquid communication with said cap assembly;
a gas port having an inlet and an outlet, said inlet capable of communication with a source of gas, and said outlet in gas communication with one or more of said valve assembly input ports; and
a spout having an input and an output, said input capable of being in gas and liquid communication with said valve assembly input ports and output ports, said output capable of directly a liquid out from said bottle.
9. The apparatus of
10. The apparatus of
This patent application claims priority of U.S. Provisional Application Serial No. 60/765904 filed Feb. 7, 2006 titled “Method and Apparatus for Liquid Dispensing Head and System”, which is hereby incorporated herein by reference.
The present invention pertains to a dispensing head and a dispensing system. More particularly, the present invention relates to a method and apparatus for a liquid dispensing head and system.
Dispensing of liquids that may be consumed by humans has the potential for contamination. This presents a problem.
Dispensing of liquids, such as wine, which may be costly, may be prone to error in the volume dispensed. This presents a problem.
The invention is illustrated by way of example and not limitation in the figures of the accompanying drawings in which:
In one embodiment the present invention may be an intelligent dispensing system. Such a system may have features, such as, but not limited to: a Pour Control System—Automated and adjustable Wine Pouring using an Inert Gas; Wine Preservation System—Manages and automates N2 or Ar distribution; Disposable or Washable wine delivery system—Sterile tubing & stopper—Creates vacuum prior to gas injection—Only part that makes contact with Wine; a Smartcard Access & Control System—Provides functional controls & validates customer & operator access—Customer Feedback tracking; Wine Identification System—Provides Wine Bottle Barcode identification against Store or central UPC database; Auto-latching Wine Bottle Security System—Provides control over wine bottle insertion and removal; Attention Required Alert System—Detects Bottle empty condition, gas empty condition, temperature alert, system attention required; Data Collection Manager—IDS Customer Database-tracks all customer info—IDS Store Database-tracks all employee & location related info—IDS System Database-tracks all events and system interactions; Master Unit Communications Manager—Detects, manages, and aggregates data across multiple Master Units—Provides Store PC and IDS central system access and synchronization; IDS Application-Runs on Customer PC—Provides synchronization with IDS Master Units—Provides Store Reporting functions—Provides Interface to supported POS systems—Provides access to Central IDS system our Internet, etc.
In one embodiment of the invention a master unit may have an embedded controller and/or microprocessor for controlling the following features and functions:
Controls Wine Dispensing
Controls Wine Bottle Functions
Collects All Actions & Alerts
Controls Scanning Function
Controls Smartcard Functions
Identifies, connects, and controls EUs attached (Gas bottles & refrigeration)
Connects and communicates to other MUs and passes data through as required
Connects and communicates to IDS PC App
Power distribution to components and connected EUs
In one embodiment of the invention an expansion unit may have many of the features of a master unit. For example, an LCD Display, LCD Controls, Bottle Insertion & Seal Function, Pour Control Function, Independent Gas Tank, and Refrigeration. The expansion unit may also be slaved or in communication with the Master Unit having data passed through communication links.
In one embodiment of the invention, an auto latching system for the pouring head insures a proper seal with the bottle, can secure the bottle, and may require a smartcard authorization to unlock the bottle. This feature may be on a bottle by bottle basis with, for example, bottled water not having any locks, whereas a bottle of 1937 Glenfiddich under extreme lock control.
In one embodiment of the invention, a barcode system may be used to among other things, automate liquid information entry (for example, bottled water v. whiskey, wine, etc.), access prices for the bottles from a database, display relevant information on the LCD above the bottle, interface with a database (such as a wine database to obtain ratings, suggested accompaniments, etc.
In one embodiment of the invention, a smartcard or equivalent type system (RFID, etc.) may provide security for the latching system, provides security for LCD functions, provides security for system functions, unlocks the pouring system, tracks customer debit or credit, interfaces with customer info database, etc. Different cards may be given to different customers, etc.
In one embodiment of the present invention, LCD panels with display and input are located above each bottle. The LCD Display may show such information as Price per pour, Wine Info, Compartment Temperature, Customer Ratings, Alert Conditions, etc.
In one embodiment of the invention the following features are available basic wine preservation, refrigeration, automated wine preservation, automated pour control wine transaction tracking, customer smartcard control, employee smart card control, unit management, LCD wine identification display, merchandising manager, product/brand management, site location manager, customer marketing manager, inventory manager, distributor/wholesaler manager, disposable delivery, auto-latch security, UPC/barcode database management, wine rating management.
In one embodiment, the present invention provides a way that wine and other liquids can be dispensed at predefined volumes using a preserving gas. It also provides a system for capturing, presenting, managing, and reporting data and information related to dispensing.
In one embodiment of the invention a dispensing head is used to dispense the liquid. In various embodiments of the dispensing head, it may be designed to have the following features and allow the following operation. The dispensing head in one embodiment is the only part that makes contact with the wine or liquid. It is designed as being disposable and hence eliminates the need for cleaning the dispensing unit. The dispensing head once inserted into the Dispensing Unit enables the purging of the initial air that is present in a bottle when it is first opened, by replacing this air with an inert gas such as nitrogen or argon. Once this purging is complete the dispensing head is sealed and prevents air from reentering the bottle. The bottle can then be served in predefined measured volumes by pressing a button on the dispensing unit. The button signals the unit to pour the desired volume by starting the flow of the inert gas into the bottle and displacing the desired liquid into a waiting glass at the dispensing head spout. The dispensing head after it has poured the desired volume into the glass, performs a puff function using the inert gas to clear any liquid that remains in the dispensing head spout into the glass. After the initial purging of the initial air in the bottle the bottle can also be removed at any time from the dispensing unit and be stored for later use due to the dispensing head's ability to prevent air from reentering the bottle, hence preserving the liquid for long periods. The dispensing head also has a built in detection mechanism to ensure that the proper volume is being served. One such way to detect the volume is by detecting the liquid in the dispensing head spout by detecting a current through the liquid as it is pouring. The dispensing head also has a built in mechanism that detects that it is properly positioned in the dispensing head bay. One way this may be accomplished is through electrically detecting the proper positioning of the head in the unit. The dispensing head also has a special mechanism that aligns with the inert gas valve that ensures that it is properly engaged into the dispensing head unit. The dispensing head also has a head locking mechanism built into the rotor and cap portions of the head that prevent a person from accidentally opening the dispensing head and exposing it to the air when the bottle is removed from the dispensing unit. The reason that someone would want to remove a full or partially opened bottle from the dispensing unit is for pre-staging purposes or for the flexibility of changing to offer other wine or liquid dispensing before the entire bottle has been entirely been served.
In one embodiment of the invention an actuation and automated dispensing bay is used. In various embodiments of the actuation and automated dispensing bay, it may be designed to have the following features and allow the following operation. The actuation and automated dispensing bay design of the dispensing system provides a number of features. It provides an unlocking function for the dispensing head's locking mechanism to enable the free rotation of the dispensing head rotor. It provides the detection function for the dispensing head's Alignment mechanism. The Gas Stem provides the gas valve mechanism that engages with the dispensing heads ensuring a proper seal and prevents gas from leaking. The actuation system detects the proper position of the dispensing head's rotor for the pour, puff, and purge functions with the use of a sensor (such as optical). The actuation system uses the sensor and a backup power source (such as a capacitor) to ensure that the dispensing head is closed in the event of a power failure during a pour operation. The automated dispensing bay provides for a quick release mechanism for the dispensing head when the dispensing head bay is opened for bottle removal or insertion. This allows for the protection of the gas from leaking out of the unit.
In one embodiment of the invention electrical and controller functions are used. In various embodiments of the electrical and controller functions, they may be designed to have the following features and allow the following operation. A Gas Transducer and low pressure switch is used to detect inert gas levels and pressures in the gas system and wine bottles. The controller detects gas leakage in the system. It also detects the gas required to dispense the liquid in the bottle and can also detect the amount of liquid volume in the bottle and assures that the volume left in the bottle is properly calculated for dispensing to customers. Door Solenoids are used to automate the opening of the Thermal Door as well as the Gas Door. The opening of the doors is initiated by the insertion of the proper authorized smartcard into the smartcard reader contained in the system enclosure. LCDs are used to display the wine or liquid information for the bottle inserted in a given bay position. The information is pulled from a locally managed SQL database after the UPC code is scanned through the barcode scanner that is mounted in the system enclosure. Control Buttons mounted around the LCDs provide controls for both the customer pouring a liquid into a glass as well as the servicing functions for the dispensing unit. The customer initiates the pouring functions after inserting a valid smartcard. The functions include the selection of the desired volume of the wine or liquid. The servicing functions are only available to authorized smartcards and includes the wine or liquid bottle insertion or removal, the inert gas bottle insertion or removal, temperature setting for the thermal control, as well as the resetting of system functions. The Controller collects and logs every event and action initiated by the customer, the operator, or the system. The Microprocessor of the system interfaces with the Controller subsystem and collects all events and actions of the dispensing system into an SQL database for further reporting and processing. The Controller controls multiple dispensing heads subsystems, controls internal or external inert gas systems, interfaces with barcode scanner, smartcard reader, Thermal Electronic Coupling subsystem, and microprocessors or PCs. Controllers are designed for modularity and multiple controllers can be chained together and can share one microprocessor or PC, one smartcard reader, and one barcode scanner, for central data collection and management. There is no theoretical limit to the number of controllers that may be chained together.
In one embodiment of the invention smartcards, barcodes, and software are used. In various embodiments of the smartcards, barcodes, and software, they may be designed to have the following features and allow the following operation. Smartcard readers using password protected memory cards are used for activating customer pouring functions. Cards can be defined as either credit or debit with limits defined. The software which supports the smartcard functions ensures the proper charging for the different quantities of wine or liquid being purchased. Barcode reader scans the UPC code from the wine or liquid bottle and passes this information to the Application which is running on the Microprocessor or PC. The Software provides the following major functions: a. the interfacing with the Controller providing for data collection and logging for further report generation and data analysis. b. the database definition and management for the wine database which contains both the UPC codes and mapping as well as pricing information from which the wine or liquid pricing is pulled for display on dispensing unit LCDs, the customer database which contains customer account information including customer history, the store or establishment information regarding authorized personnel from which authorized smartcards are validated, the system database which contains all system installation parameters, system events and logs, and customer system preferences. c. the systems management and communications between the embedded microprocessor or PC and the external customer PC to run and manage the installation.
In one embodiment of the present invention provides for an Automated and Intelligent Liquid Dispensing Head and System. The system provides a way that wine and other liquids can be dispensed at predefined volumes using a preserving gas. It also provides a system for capturing, presenting, managing, and reporting data and information related to dispensing.
Thus a method and apparatus for a liquid dispensing head and system have been described.
Referring back to
Further the method and apparatus described herein may be available and/or capabilities based on a variety of criteria. For example, certain features may be based upon communication of a payment and/or credit.
Referring back to
For purposes of discussing and understanding the invention, it is to be understood that various terms are used by those of skill in the art to describe techniques and approaches. Furthermore, in the description, for purposes of explanation, numerous specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough understanding of the present invention. It will be evident, however, to one of skill in the art that the present invention may be practiced without these specific details. In some instances, well-known structures and devices are shown in block diagram form, rather than in detail, in order to avoid obscuring the present invention. These embodiments are described in sufficient detail to enable those of skill in the art to practice the invention, and it is to be understood that other embodiments may be utilized and that logical, mechanical, electrical, and other changes may be made without departing from the scope of the present invention.
Some portions of the description may be presented in terms of algorithms and symbolic representations of operations on, for example, data bits within a computer memory, and/or logic circuitry. These algorithmic descriptions and representations are the means used by those of skill in the arts to most effectively convey the substance of their work to others of skill in the art. An algorithm is here, and generally, conceived to be a self-consistent sequence of acts leading to a desired result. The acts are those requiring physical manipulations of physical quantities. Usually, though not necessarily, these quantities take the form of electrical or magnetic signals capable of being stored, transferred, combined, compared, and otherwise manipulated. It has proven convenient at times, principally for reasons of common usage, to refer to these signals as bits, values, elements, symbols, characters, terms, numbers, or the like.
It should be borne in mind, however, that all of these and similar terms are to be associated with the appropriate physical quantities and are merely convenient labels applied to these quantities. Unless specifically stated otherwise as apparent from the discussion, it is appreciated that throughout the description, discussions utilizing terms such as “processing” or “computing” or “calculating” or “determining” or “displaying” or the like, can refer to the action and processes of a computer system, or similar electronic computing device, that manipulates and transforms data represented as physical (electronic) quantities within the computer system's registers and memories into other data similarly represented as physical quantities within the computer system memories or registers or other such information storage, transmission, or display devices.
Further, any of the methods according to the present invention can be implemented in hard-wired circuitry, by programmable logic, or by any combination of hardware and software.
An apparatus for performing the operations herein can implement the present invention. This apparatus may be specially constructed for the required purposes, or it may comprise a general-purpose computer, selectively activated or reconfigured by a computer program stored in the computer. Such a computer program may be stored in a computer readable storage medium, such as, but not limited to, any type of disk including floppy disks, hard disks, optical disks, compact disk- read only memories (CD-ROMs), and magnetic-optical disks, read-only memories (ROMs), random access memories (RAMs), electrically programmable read-only memories (EPROM)s, electrically erasable programmable read-only memories (EEPROMs), FLASH memories, magnetic or optical cards, etc., or any type of media suitable for storing electronic instructions either local to the computer or remote to the computer.
The algorithms and displays presented herein are not inherently related to any particular computer or other apparatus. Various general-purpose systems may be used with programs in accordance with the teachings herein, or it may prove convenient to construct more specialized apparatus to perform the required method. For example, any of the methods according to the present invention can be implemented in hard-wired circuitry, by programming a general-purpose processor, or by any combination of hardware and software. One of ordinary skill in the art will immediately appreciate that the invention can be practiced with computer system configurations other than those described, including hand-held devices, multiprocessor systems, microprocessor-based or programmable consumer electronics, digital signal processing (DSP) devices, set top boxes, network PCs, minicomputers, mainframe computers, and the like. The invention can also be practiced in distributed computing environments where tasks are performed by remote processing devices that are linked through a communications network.
The methods of the invention may be implemented using computer software. If written in a programming language conforming to a recognized standard, sequences of instructions designed to implement the methods can be compiled for execution on a variety of hardware platforms and for interface to a variety of operating systems. In addition, the present invention is not described with reference to any particular programming language. It will be appreciated that a variety of programming languages may be used to implement the teachings of the invention as described herein. Furthermore, it is common in the art to speak of software, in one form or another (e.g., program, procedure, application, driver, . . . ), as taking an action or causing a result. Such expressions are merely a shorthand way of saying that execution of the software by a computer causes the processor of the computer to perform an action or produce a result.
It is to be understood that various terms and techniques are used by those knowledgeable in the art to describe communications, protocols, applications, implementations, mechanisms, etc. One such technique is the description of an implementation of a technique in terms of an algorithm or mathematical expression. That is, while the technique may be, for example, implemented as executing code on a computer, the expression of that technique may be more aptly and succinctly conveyed and communicated as a formula, algorithm, or mathematical expression. Thus, one of skill in the art would recognize a block denoting A+B=C as an additive function whose implementation in hardware and/or software would take two inputs (A and B) and produce a summation output (C). Thus, the use of formula, algorithm, or mathematical expression as descriptions is to be understood as having a physical embodiment in at least hardware and/or software (such as a computer system in which the techniques of the present invention may be practiced as well as implemented as an embodiment).
A machine-readable medium is understood to include any mechanism for storing or transmitting information in a form readable by a machine (e.g., a computer). For example, a machine-readable medium includes read only memory (ROM); random access memory (RAM); magnetic disk storage media; optical storage media; flash memory devices; electrical, optical, acoustical or other form of propagated signals (e.g., carrier waves, infrared signals, digital signals, etc.) capable of affecting a physical entity (e.g. movement) upon absorption and/or reflection of such; etc.
As used in this description, “one embodiment” or “an embodiment” or similar phrases means that the feature(s) being described are included in at least one embodiment of the invention. References to “one embodiment” in this description do not necessarily refer to the same embodiment; however, neither are such embodiments mutually exclusive. Nor does “one embodiment” imply that there is but a single embodiment of the invention. For example, a feature, structure, act, etc. described in “one embodiment” may also be included in other embodiments. Thus, the invention may include a variety of combinations and/or integrations of the embodiments described herein.
Thus a method and apparatus for a liquid dispensing head and system have been described.