|Publication number||US20070280464 A1|
|Application number||US 11/578,512|
|Publication date||Dec 6, 2007|
|Filing date||Apr 15, 2005|
|Priority date||Apr 15, 2004|
|Also published as||CA2563536A1, CN1965591A, DE602005024246D1, EP1738590A1, EP1738590B1, US9118981, US20110305331, WO2005101857A1, WO2005101858A1|
|Publication number||11578512, 578512, PCT/2005/1454, PCT/GB/2005/001454, PCT/GB/2005/01454, PCT/GB/5/001454, PCT/GB/5/01454, PCT/GB2005/001454, PCT/GB2005/01454, PCT/GB2005001454, PCT/GB200501454, PCT/GB5/001454, PCT/GB5/01454, PCT/GB5001454, PCT/GB501454, US 2007/0280464 A1, US 2007/280464 A1, US 20070280464 A1, US 20070280464A1, US 2007280464 A1, US 2007280464A1, US-A1-20070280464, US-A1-2007280464, US2007/0280464A1, US2007/280464A1, US20070280464 A1, US20070280464A1, US2007280464 A1, US2007280464A1|
|Inventors||Thomas Hughes, Abdelkareem Siddiq, Sylvain Dufour, Sandeep Mohanty|
|Original Assignee||Hughes Thomas M, Abdelkareem Siddiq, Sylvain Dufour, Sandeep Mohanty|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Referenced by (47), Classifications (21), Legal Events (1)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present invention relates to a telecommunications apparatus, system and method; in particular, but not exclusively, to a system for managing telephone call set-up and in-call functions irrespective of the type of underlying network.
Telephony systems and services are ubiquitous, and are used for both residential and business purposes. The services and features provided by telephony systems have developed from simple person-to-person calls, to conference calls where many parties are connected together at a time. Telephony terminal devices have developed beyond the simple telephone to incorporate many features such as an address book of telephone numbers and quick dial telephone numbers, typically under microprocessor control. Examples of telephony devices are regular fixed line handsets (an illustrative example of which is the “Duet 60” Corded Phone sold by BT plc), more sophisticated fixed line telephony terminals (an illustrative example of which is the Meridian M3904 Professional Telephone sold by Nortel Networks), mobile/cellular handsets, mobile/cellular enabled personal digital assistants (PDAs) and other mobile/cellular terminals, or Internet Protocol (IP) telephones.
More sophisticated features are often required by businesses, and such features may be supplied by a Private Automatic Branch Exchange (PABX), also referred to as a Private Branch Exchange (PBX), which is installed at business premises for running an internal telephony system and interfacing to an external telephone system, for example a Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN).
An example of a conventional telephony system is illustrated schematically in
Many businesses operate a PABX 16 which provides enhanced telephony features for the telephones 14 of their internal telephony network, and may also provide call conferencing features with external telephones 4, 6, 10. Each PABX 16 has a fixed number of telephone lines 18 providing communication to the PSTN 2, and if the PABX 16 provides conference call features it also comprises one or more so-called “call bridge modules” 20. Each call bridge module provides call connections between a fixed number of lines, typically 3 or 5 parties.
Telephone calls need not be made over the circuit switched PSTN 2, but may use packet switched technology and be sent over an Internet 22 using an Internet Protocol communications format provided the PABX 16 has a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) module 24. VoIP calls are directed over the Internet 22, for example to an IP endpoint 26 such as an Internet enabled telephone or a computer system having a software client providing telephony functions.
If facilities for linking more than 3 or 5 parties to a conference call are required, then typically the only way to provide this additional functionality is to add more bridge modules 20 to the PABX 16. Each bridge module 20 represents a cost to the business, and if large conference call facilities are only required occasionally then a number of the bridge modules 20 purchased to provide large call conferencing facilities would remain unused for much of the time. This represents a significant waste of resources.
Furthermore, as the number of external parties to a call is limited by the number of outside lines 18 supported by the PABX 16 and the cost of a PABX depends on the number of external lines it has to handle, provision for conferencing a large number of external parties via the PABX 16 requires a significant capital investment for functionality that may only be used occasionally.
Telephone handsets 14 may also limit the number of parties that can join in a call. Advanced handsets may allow multiple call conferencing, but some are limited to 3-way calling or do not support conference call features at all. Typically such multi-way call conferencing has a highly restricted and awkward user interface. For example, in simple 3-way calling it is necessary to first call a party, wait until they have been connected, park that call, call a second party and then connect the calls together. For more than 3-way calling connecting all the parties to the call can be a particularly laborious and time-consuming process. Furthermore, each supplier of handsets and/or PABXs often have multiple, and non-standard, complex function button or key strokes for conferencing in additional parties to an ongoing call. This mitigates against multi-party impromptu call conferencing.
Manual dialing of numbers not yet programmed into a handset or telephony device address book or speed dial system also mitigates against ad-hoc multi-party conference calls, and telephone calling in general. Furthermore, the more features a handset 14 has, the greater the cost of the handset which is wasted if the handset is primarily used for simple 2-way calling. Additionally, with conventional PABX/handset controlled call conferencing the initiator (leader) of a call cannot drop a particular party (call leg) without dropping the whole call. This means that whilst an individual conference call participant can be asked to leave a conference call, the call leader cannot establish that they have actually done as requested. Consequently, a party may continue to listen into a conversation even after they have been asked to leave.
Another drawback is that different service providers may be used for setting up scheduled conference calls, where invitees “dial-in” to the conference call at the scheduled time. Thus, different protocols and telephone numbers have to be used to set up the conference calls.
The number of telephone numbers stored by a telephone handset, whether or not a conventional handset 4, 6, 14, is often limited—particularly when compared to the number that can be stored in a cellular telephone 10. Additionally, address books are often on Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs) and in desktop applications such as Contacts in Microsoft® Outlook. The PDA, which sometimes includes a cellular telephone, is generally kept with a user at all times and often has the most up-to-date address/telephone number information. Synchronising a cellular telephone with a PDA or Outlook, then ensures that the cellular telephone is up-to-date.
An artefact of the foregoing is that a cellular telephone 10 user will often call direct from their cellular telephone, even when at their desk with a land line telephone to hand, due to the convenience of having their telephone numbers stored in the address book, and being able to dial directly from them. However, cellular telephone calls are generally more costly than landline calls and this habit of cellular phone users leads to increased telephony expenses either for the business, or for the user in their personal capacity.
This problem is further exacerbated by the fact that many landline telephone handsets do not have telephone address book functionality, and those which do are generally limited to just a few telephone numbers, for example 10, and further require programming with the desired numbers even though those numbers may already be stored in the user's cellular telephone, PDA or desktop address book applications.
GB 2320641 has previously proposed to provide an internet-connected PC to send a call-initiation message via the internet to a service provider's web server, which then instructs a PSTN switch to make a call over the PSTN to the user's PSTN handset. When the user answers, the PSTN switch then calls the destination PSTN number and when that is answered, the PSTN switch joins the two call legs together. It has also previously been proposed to add further PSTN legs to the call and bridge them within the PSTN switch.
Whilst such a system provides the user with call conferencing functionality, and enables the user to take advantage of lower cost networks, a number of significant problems exist. For example, in such a system the functionality of the system as a whole is limited by the functionality of the PSTN switch and the interface by means of which the user communicates with the switch. Typically control mechanisms are html web pages (or so-called ‘thin’ clients running within browsers), email messages or SMS messages. Such control mechanisms require the use of an intermediary server to translate requests from these interfaces into a protocol understandable by the PSTN switch. In such an architecture the level of control and responsiveness of calls is limited. Moreover, such control mechanisms do not consist of independent software running on the operating system of the user's control device and consequently cannot interface with other programs running on the user's control device to provide enhanced functionality and usability.
Other systems have previously proposed to mix different legs of calls in a two-party or multi-party or conference call in software within an IP environment instead of in hardware resident on a PSTN switch. A current illustrative example of such an arrangement is eDial's Advanced Communications Server™, although we do not know when this server was first made available to the public.
Such systems, whilst mitigating some of the problems outlined above, are problematic because such switches are expensive (both in financial terms, and in terms of the resources required to install and maintain them). As a consequence, such switches tend only to be sold to large enterprises who can afford the equipment and are capable of implementing the solution, managing it and supporting it as it operates within their existing IT structure. A consequence of such solutions is that they are not best suited to the residential or small-medium sized business.
It is also well known in the art to use a software program (called a Telephony Application Programming Interface or TAPI) to connect a PC running an application within the Microsoft Windows operating system to telephone services. TAPI was introduced in 1993 as the result of joint development by Microsoft and Intel. The standard supports connections by individual computers as well as LAN connections serving many computers. Within each connection type, TAPI defines standards for simple call control and for manipulating call content.
Problems with TAPI are that a TAPI has to be created for each application and therefore requires separate installation or download by the user of a TAPI for each application that the user requires. Their operation can also be different from application to application depending on the creator. Additionally, TAPI based programs only provide the interface between the program running on the PC and some external communication service rather than a complete communication solution.
In an attempt to gain cost savings and take advantage of the benefits offered by carrying voice over IP networks (VoIP) instead of the PSTN, it has previously been proposed to provide a hardware plug-in that converts the PSTN voice signal from a user's telephone into a digital, packetised signal that then is fed into the user's broadband internet connection. Vonage provide one such hardware plug-in, although again we do not know whether this plug-in was available to the public before the filing of this application.
Problems with such systems include having to insert an extra piece of hardware into the user's network, requiring extra expense, configuration expertise and cabling. A major limitation is that calls over the service can only be made using the phone connected to the hardware plug-in. As the voice can only go through the internet, if the user's internet connection is of inconsistent quality, the quality of their call suffers and if they lose their internet connection, they lose the call. Moreover, such solutions typically contemplate replicating the functionality of the PSTN at lower cost rather than introducing new features and functionality to improve productivity and usability.
A further previously proposed alternative is that of the so-called “softphone”. The most common type of softphone is a software client residing on a user's PC and which must have both microphone and speaker functionality, or external equivalents connected to the PC. The user then communicates through the PC purely over VoIP. Skype and Vonage each currently offer a VoIP phone, although again we do not know whether these phones were available before the filing date of the present application.
Problems include that the user is limited to talking through their PC. The PC is required to run the compression and decompression protocols (CODEC) of the software and as a result voice quality may be impacted if the computer is processing other CPU intensive tasks during a conversation. If their internet connection is of inconsistent quality, the quality of their call suffers. If they lose their internet connection, they lose the call. In addition, these solutions are not handset independent the connection of the call-leg to the call originator must be to the PC, not for example to a PSTN or cellular or mobile telephone of the originator's choosing. PCs are poorly configured as telephones and require extensive configuration to balance ear and microphone volume for comfortable communication.
The foregoing problems and drawbacks associated with conventional and previously proposed telephone systems mitigate against efficient and cost-effective use of desktop and other telephone handsets, typically by requiring relatively expensive and complex modules in the handsets and/or PBAX to fully provide conference call functionality. Aspects and embodiments of the present invention were devised with the foregoing in mind.
In accordance with a presently preferred embodiment of the invention, there is provided a call management service for a communications system, configured to automatically: receive telephone call data identifying a destination end point and identifying a source end point; initiate a call-back telephone call to said source end point to set-up a first call leg responsive to receiving said telephone call data; initiate a telephone call to said destination end point to set-up a second call leg; combine said first and second call legs together thereby to provide voice communication between said source and destination end points; and transmit call leg status signals for said voice communication over a separate real-time communications connections signalling link to a communications client associated with at least one of said end points.
The use of a client installed onto a user's PC, PDA or mobile phone allows (a) a much tighter integration of calling into the operation of the user's device (b) communication enhancements with the system's back end by use of a fully implemented SIP (or other equivalent protocol) stack and (c) independent running of internal client threads and timers.
The reasons for this are as follows:
(a) A communications client of the type described herein runs as an independent program within the operating system of the device (for example not as a Java application within a browser). This allows the client to interact with the operating system and other programs running on the end user's device. For example, in the case of a communications client of the type described herein running on a Windows based PC, this arrangement allows the client to interact with other applications on the PC for example to allow information to be passed to the client to initiate a phone call, set a project code, pull in data to the client or other interactive service.
An example of such an application is the ability of the communications client to recognize certain key press combinations to initiate a call to any highlighted number. Mechanically what happens is that when the key sequence has been entered the communications client tells Windows to copy whatever the currently selected area is and paste the contents to the Windows Clipboard. From there the communications client pastes the contents into the module which strips away everything but the phone number, validates it against the established number verification rules either requests that the communications client places a call to the selected number if it passes the verification check or throws up a dialog requesting further clarification from the user if the selection fails in number validation.
Another example of such an application would be the ability of the communications client to pull data from other applications for use within the communications client. In this example, the communications client investigates the PC to establish if there are any contact information data sources that could be imported and used into the client. Upon detection of an available contact data source (e.g. Outlook, Outlook Express or Exchange) the client asks the user for permission to import the contact information from this source and then the data is brought into the client and stored in a phonebook for quick and easy access.
(b) A communications client of the type described herein is able to carry a full implementation of a SIP stack within its code base. This allows the client to issue and receive full real time communications with the Application Server or Call Controller/Call Mixer to issues commands, receive updates of in-call events and other general service updates. The presence of a SIP stack within the communications client means that the client can communicate with the Call Controller/Call Mixer directly, without going through an intermediary server for protocol conversion. Such direct communication with the Call Controller/Call Mixer means that during a call, the communications client virtually instantaneously updates the user as to the status of the various call legs involved and can rapidly instigate new legs or access in call features such as ‘record call’, ‘drop leg’, ‘hold leg’, ‘mute leg’, etc., etc.
(c) A communications client of the type described herein is able to run and manage its own internal threads and timers allowing the client to request updates from the Application Server and to provide additional call related controls from within the client. For example, the client can establish communication with the Application Server on a regular basis (for example every 2 minutes) to receive updates regarding such pertinent information as: the appropriate datacenter to initiate the next call from; whether a new scheduled conference call has been created and needs to be updated on the Communications Client display; if new account information such as an Administrator created company wide phone book has been updated and needs to be downloaded into the client.
Furthermore, the client can detect when internet connectivity has been interrupted and upon re-establishment of the connection, the client can request an update from the Application Server to find out if there are any ongoing calls for which the client should be reporting call state for the user. This allows the client to seamlessly recover state after interruption of internet connectivity.
Previously proposed systems have tended to use a web interface or thin client for call initiation and control and this implies the use of an intermediary web server device to translate the simple instructions from the thin client (often in a simplified proprietary protocol) into instructions understandable by the Call Controller. Such a scenario means that the thin client cannot interact with other programs running on the user's device,
Another advantage of the arrangement proposed herein is that it not only supports termination points on the PSIN, but also supports direct connection via IP to SIP based, VoIP end points. Examples of SIP end points include softphone clients (such as MSN Messenger) and hardware based IP Phone solutions. Such architecture allows call legs between the ring2 datacenter and the user's SIP terminal to be carried out over IP rather than going through a translation to PSTN protocols. In such an environment, users can experience significant cost savings as VoIP legs are generally cheaper to provision than PSTN legs and the overall responsiveness of the system in terms of call set up times will be augmented since there will be no protocol translation between the request to initiate a call and the provisioning of the media stream itself.
A further embodiment of the present invention pertains to a method of operating data processing apparatus for providing a call management service, comprising: receiving telephone call data identifying a destination end point and identifying a source end point; initiating a call-back telephone call to said source end point to set-up a first call leg responsive to receiving said telephone call data; initiating a telephone call to said destination end point to set-up a second call leg; combining first and second call legs together thereby to provide voice communication between said source and destination end points; and transmitting call leg status signals for said voice communication over a separate real-time communications connections signalling link to a communications client associated with at least one of said end points.
Yet another embodiment of the invention relates to a method of operating a data processing apparatus to provide a communications client for a communications system, comprising establishing a separate real-time communications connections signalling link to a call management service, said signalling link separate from a voice communications channel, responsive to instantiation of said method and communicating a conference call set-up request comprising conference call schedule information and contact information for two or more conference call participants to said call management service via a communications link.
A further embodiment of the invention relates to a communications client for a communications system, said communications client responsive to instantiation thereof to establish a separate real-time communications connections signalling link to a call management service, said signalling link separate from a voice communications channel, and said communications client operative to communicate data messages to said call management service via a communications link, said communications client associated with a conference call participant and configured to display a call status icon for a participant call leg.
Another embodiment of the invention relates to a method of operating data processing apparatus for providing a communications client for a communications system, comprising establishing a real-time communications connections signalling link to a call management service responsive to instantiation of said communications client, said signalling link separate from a voice communications channel.
Other embodiments, and features and advantages of those and other embodiments are set out by way of illustration in the accompanying claims and elsewhere in the description.
Specific embodiments of the present invention will now be described with reference to the following drawings, provided by way of example only, in which:
Embodiments of the present invention may be implemented on data processing apparatus such as that shown in a schematic and simplified form in
It will be appreciated that
A computer program for implementing various functions or conveying various functions (for example from a remote store for local execution) or conveying various information for configuring the data processing apparatus 28 may be supplied on media such as one or more CD-ROMs and/or floppy disks and/or Digital Versatile Disks (DVDs) and then stored on a local magnetic media such as a local hard disk, for example. A program implementable by the data processing apparatus may also be supplied over a telecommunications medium, for example embodied as an electronic signal conveyed over a telecommunications network and/or the Internet. For a data processing apparatus implemented in a wireless device such as a cellular telephone, the telecommunications medium may be a radio frequency carrier wave carrying suitably encoded signals representing the computer program and/or data or information. Optionally, the carrier wave may be an optical carrier wave for an optical fibre link or any other suitable carrier medium for a land line link between the data processing apparatus and telecommunications system.
On start-up, the BIOS tests the data processing system and prepares it for operation by querying the various configurations settings and searching for other BIOSs on various processing resources associated with the data processing apparatus, such as plug-in boards and also setting up pointers such as interrupt vectors in its memory resources to access those routines. An operating system 52 is then loaded and control passed to it. Generally, the BIOS accepts requests from peripheral device drivers as well as from application programs that are run on the data processing apparatus 28. Generally, the BIOS is stored in ROM memory 32, although adaptable and updatable BIOSs are often stored on a flash memory chip which may be upgraded by software.
In the illustrated example the operating system is a Microsoft Windows® 52 operating system available from Microsoft Corporation, and provides the platform for a full-function communications client 54. In the described embodiments the communications client 54 may be either a communications software client residing on user terminal devices such as a desktop 28 or laptop 56 computer (
The CMC 62 comprises 4 main components: an application server 68, a web server 92, a database 90 and a soft switch 66. The functions of each of these components will be set out in more detail below. A summary is given here. The soft switch 66 contains software for initiating, controlling and mixing calls made by Call Controller/Media Mixer 67 through the desired transport medium, whether that is PSTN 2 (thereby allowing delivery to PSTN handsets and cellular mobile phones) or the IP Network 22 (allowing delivery to a SIP-endpoint such as a SIP phone on a managed VoIP network or the internet), and reporting on the status of each call (and each leg of each call). The application server 68 receives log-in and log-out commands from the communications client 54, as well as call scheduling information and SMS call initiation requests (in which case the application server authenticates the requests and then communicates with the Soft Switch in order to carry out the requests) over a first secure messaging protocol channel 71.
The application server contains software for services as required by the desired system, for example a billing & rating module 82, notification services 84, analysis usage tool module 80, and provisioning tools 88. A suitable Call Controller/Media Mixer is the eDial AudioPresenter available from eDial, Inc., 266 Second Avenue, Waltham, Mass. 02451, USA.
The communications client 54 in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention is a key feature of the system 60, and is operable to perform several functions and to provide a user interface between the user device 28, 56, 58, 59, and the CMC 62 for initiating and controlling calls using the managed service. As befits a full-function communications client 54, the communications client 54 contains a number of different software modules, the operation of which is not critical to an understanding of the present invention and hence will not be described in detail.
As mentioned above, the application server 68 includes an analysis usage tool module 80 which collects statistics on the calls that have been made through the CMC 62, and also a billing and rating module 82. The analysis and usage tool 80 and billing and rating module 82 do not have a functional bearing on the present invention and so no further description thereof will be made.
As will later be described, the Notification Services module 84 is operable to send reminder messages to conference call invitees to remind them of a start time of a conference call scheduled on the application server 68 by a user or users, and a Conference Call Scheduling module 86 manages scheduled conference calls. The Provisioning module 88 contains user data such as user name, password and other information for setting up and implementing a call service and account for a given user.
The CMC 62 also has a high volume data storage unit 90 and one or more web servers 92 for communicating between the CMC 62 and web enabled devices. The CMC is also connected to various gateways to allow the exchange of information with various external networks in various formats for example for e-mailing notification messages to conference call participants via an e-mail gateway 91.
The soft switch 66 has two network facing sides; a PSTN side 94 for setting up telephone call legs over the PSTN 2, and a IP side 96 for setting up VoIP call legs over an Internet 22 or any other underlying transport network. The soft switch 66 further comprises a Call Controller/Media Mixer 67 operable to mix a plurality of media streams.
In general outline, if the communication is a ‘log in’ or ‘log out’ request, the communications client 54 sends the request via a secure messaging protocol to the application server 68 for execution of the appropriate authentication and processing. If the communication is for call initiation or control, the communications client 54 sends the communication directly to the relevant soft switch 66 via a separate real-time communications channel 72, preferably a SIP communications channel.
In essence, the arrangement is such that the communications client 54 is arranged to communicate directly with the soft switches 66 by means of the aforementioned SIP protocol, or any other suitable network protocol, for call related data exchange—for example on initiation or during the course of a call. Non-call related communications, on the other hand, between the communications client 54 and application server 68 are accomplished by means of a secure messaging protocol.
On attempted log-in by a user to the communications client, the communications client 54 opens a secure messaging protocol dialogue with the application server 68 and transmits the user's log-in information to the application server 68. The application server 68 invokes a verification routine for checking user identification information forwarded to it against the data held by the provisioning module 88 for verifying and authenticating the user to the service
If the user is authorised, the Application Server notifies the communications client 54, via the aforementioned secure messaging protocol 71 that the user is authorised and logged onto the service, as well as updating the Phonebook and passing on administrative information including which soft switch the user's communications client 54 should communicate with to make calls.
A basic call set-up procedure in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention will now be described with reference to
This procedure makes use of the aforementioned SIP protocol, but it will be appreciated by those persons skilled in the art that alternative message protocols may be utilised without departing from the scope of the invention.
In a particular embodiment, further parties may be added to an in progress call on an ad-hoc basis. The addition of a further one or more parties follows on from the basic call set-up procedure described with reference
Referring now to
To add fourth and further ad-hoc parties to the in-progress call states 22 to 35 are repeated as often as necessary.
As aforementioned, in the described embodiment call leg in-call control icons are displayed for each call leg, thereby allowing the initiator of the calls to actuate the appropriate icon in order to put an associated leg on HOLD, MUTE or indeed to DROP that leg.
When the user wishes to control an existing leg or introduce a new leg to the call, the continuous SIP dialogue enables the user to enact this command in real-time by actuating the communications client 54 as desired. For example, if the user wishes to place a leg of the call on hold, then they actuate the HOLD button next to the identity of the relevant leg in a display screen of the communications client 54. The communications client 54 sends the HOLD instruction via the SIP dialogue directly to the soft switch, where the soft switch acts on the instruction by placing the relevant party on hold within the Mixer 66. The soft switch then returns the status of that leg to the communications client 54 through the SIP dialogue. The communications client 54 receives the message and updates the real-time display to show that the relevant party is now on hold.
When a call is terminated, the Soft Switch 66 notifies the Application Server 68 of the call detail records (CDRs) for retention, processing and presentation as part of the user's call records, and for billing purposes. The Application Server then processes the CDRs in the manner required for the desired service, preferably rating and billing the call, and including the call as part of the call history displayed to the user through the Web Server.
The described embodiment of the invention implements the communications client 54 as a Windows® application. The communications client 54 may be displayed as a full user interface, or collapsed to run as a background function in the System Tray. In Windows 95/98 and XP for example, the System Tray is an area on the right-had side of the task bar which displays icons that are representative of software programs which have a persistent memory resident component (and hence are running in the background). Typically such memory resident programs comprise functions such as the volume control and Instant Messenger, and are invoked on start-up of the computer system.
Embodiments of the communications client user interface will now be described with reference to
Text window 118 displays the MY LOCATION telephone number, and is editable to change the MY LOCATION number. A cost or project code can also be entered into text window 120, which will be communicated to the soft switch and application server 68 for recording the cost of any call or calls against that cost or project code. The communications client user interface also includes a call display status window 121.
When a user wishes to invoke a call they can select the number from one of the quick dial buttons 110 or enter the number into the text window 114. Once a call has been initiated then the call set-up procedure as described in
Referring now to
In the described scenario, a user has set up a first call as described with reference to
Once the call leg to called party (name 5) has been established then the full status is displayed in display window 121, namely the name of the called party (name 5), the call active “tick” and the call control icons MUTE, DROP and HOLD 136, 138 and 140 respectively.
The user, who is the call initiator in this scenario, is able to control the third leg of the call to MUTE, DROP and/or HOLD that leg.
It will be evident to a person of ordinary skill in the art that the particular interface 100 described herein is not the only way to implement the communications client functions and various other configurations and forms of interface may be used. In particular, for devices having small area displays, for example portable or handheld devices such as PDAs and cellular telephones, for example, a simplified user interface would be appropriate.
As mentioned above, in the described embodiment the communications client 54 resides in a Windows® operating environment, and comprises a persistent memory-resident portion (represented by an icon in the aforementioned system tray) even when the communications client's main user interface window has been closed down. This arrangement is advantageous as it allows the communications client 54 to be invoked as required without having to restart the communications client on each occasion that a user desires to make a call. A further advantage of this arrangement is that the client can be invoked and an end-point called merely by highlighting a data entry containing telephone numbers in any application for example an-email or a Word document.
A process flow diagram for this aspect of the communications client 54 is illustrated in
At step S50 the communications client 54 invokes a call as described above with reference to
Processing control then flows back to Step S10 where the keyboard scan continues and further telephone numbers may be called and added to the call to achieve ad-hoc conferencing by highlighting data containing the new numbers and pressing the control key twice in quick succession.
In this manner, the communications client provides for the extraction of a telephone number from any textual application (for example Word, or textual acrobat files) to invoke a call to one or more parties.
In a particular embodiment of the present invention, a user may set-up a scheduled conference call provisioned and managed by the application server and call management centre 62. The conference call may be scheduled by way of the communications client 54.
Referring now to the process flow diagrams of
Schedule new conference form 200 may reside on a web server 92 and be completed by a user over the Internet 22 by way of an Internet protocol session, or directly in a Window managed by the communication client 54 and subsequently posted to the application server via the web server.
Referring to the form 200 illustrated in
The e-mail addresses of each of the invitees is input in box 224, and a message 226 may also be included in the e-mail invitation. Optionally, attachments 228 may be made to the form 200. Optionally, the conference call must have the leader present, 230 in order for the conference call to be active.
At step S110 the completed form is forwarded by the web server 92, and the application server 68 posts the completed form details to the conference call scheduler 86. As shown in
In the described embodiment, the application server 68 sets the user (new conference call originator) as the call leader, S120, and sends a secure message to the communications client 54 to confirm to the user that the conference call has been set up, S130. The conference call set-up is confirmed by way of an e-mail 250 (illustrated in
The confirmation e-mail 250 provides the option of e-mailing all participants in order to provide them with further information about the call for example, 236. Access details for the conference call are also provided, 238. Form 250 also provides the option for requesting a SMS reminder, 240, actuation of which invokes a web page via which the telephone number of the telephone, typically a cellular telephone, at which the SMS reminder has been received may be input.
Various other call set-up processes are initiated and managed by the application server 68 in order to notify the conference call invitees and to schedule the conference call within the call management centre 62 system. These processes will be described in detail with reference to
Conference call scheduling is provided by module 86 of the call management services 64, and receives call set-up details, S150, from the application server 68. Invitees provisioned as users within the system are identified by their e-mail address (S160) and the application server updates the invitees client with details of the conference call, S170, and a link from which the call can be joined when the call becomes available.
Referring now to
A similar conference call reminder goes to the invitees also, who may respond by requesting a call-back or use the access numbers or participation codes provided in the conference call reminder 290 to dial in and access the conference.
Operation of the communications client 54 will now be described with reference to the flow diagram of
In general terms, ten minutes before the scheduled start date and time of the conference call, the application server sets a flag that the conference call is now available to join, as a result, the next time that the invitee's clients log into the application server, the status of the conference link is updated, indicated to the invitee by shading the call link, and the link is activated such that double-clicking on the link posts a request to the application server to instruct the softswitch to initiate a call to the invitee's ‘my location’ so that the invitee can join the call. This also has the effect of opening a SIP session between the client and the soft switch so that the client can display real time information about the participants on the call and give the user the ability to add or manage different legs. The user who scheduled the call has full control over every leg on the call whereas invitees can see all the legs on the call but can only give instructions for their leg or any additional legs that they have added to the call. Once an invitee has joined a call, the application flags the call as active and upon the next client login to the application server the status is updated to indicate that the call is now in progress. This is indicated to the invitee by a different shading of the conference call in the conference call tab.
Referring back to
If the communications client 54 determines that a request to join the call has been made at step S440 then process flow proceeds to step S470 where a message is sent to the call management centre 62 requesting joining to the call.
Process flow control then proceeds to step 480 where the communications client display is updated to show that the user has joined the call. The communications client 54 then continues to monitor to see whether or not any further message has been received notifying that further parties have joined the call at step S490 and if they have updates the display accordingly.
Once there is at least one participant in a conference call the call becomes active, and the active conference call highlighted 348. Throughout the conference call additional parties (legs) may be added to the call in accordance with the procedure described with reference to
Throughout the conference call the leader, who is the user, may activation call control icons 350 to send call control messages, S500, to the call management centre 62, and at step S510 updates the display accordingly.
If the user decides to end the call, then they activate the end call icon 352 in line with their name, step S520. This drops the user from the conference call. However, the conference call may continue without the user. The user interface 100 will display the active call participants and also indicate that the user is no longer active on the call. However, the user may rejoin the conference call, step S530, by doubling clicking on the conference call in the conference tab section 108. Activation of the highlighted conference call 348 will result in a message being sent to the call management centre 62, S540, by the communications client 68 requesting the joining to the conference call. A user leg is set up by the soft switch 66 to join the user to the conference call and the communications client 54 updates its display, S550, to indicate that the user leg is now active.
Other conference call participants may also drop from a call and re-join at a later stage.
If a call invitee is running a communications client 54 then that communications client will also display a user interface 100 similar to that described for the user. That is to say, the invitee will join the conference, and be capable of re-joining the conference, in the same way as described for the user and their display will display the same information.
Each participant running a communications client 54 may add further parties to the call. The ad-hoc addition of parties to the conference call may be carried out in accordance with the process described with reference to
If a user (leader) adds a party to the call then the leader has control over the call functions, namely muting, dropping and holding that call leg. However, if a conference participant other than the leader adds a party to the conference then that participant and the leader have control over in call functions mute, drop call or hold for that leg.
It will be appreciated from the foregoing that these arrangements provide an effective means to implement call control and conference calling from a desktop application. It is also the case, however, that the advantages proffered by such a system are not limited solely to desktop applications but can additionally be implemented in any environment where a terminal with data access can be used to pass information to the CMC to facilitate calling, call control, conferencing, etc. One example of such an implementation would be a mobile phone, others include devices such as internet enabled PDAs, PDA mobile phones, VoIP handsets, etc.
As aforementioned, one particular problem facing users of mobile terminals is that calls placed from the terminals are significantly more expensive than calls placed from landline terminals. The aforementioned propensity of cellular phone users to use their mobile terminals in preference to their landline terminals (even where landline terminals are readily available) often leads to increased telephony expenses either for the business, or for the user in their personal capacity.
Currently the only way to circumvent expensive mobile telephony charges is for the mobile terminal user to dial a predetermined access number (for a given low-cost service provider), and then manually key in the number that they wish to be connected to. This is inconvenient for the user, in first instance because the user has to key in two sets of numbers (and typically also an access code), and in the second instance because numbers tend to be associated with listings of names in mobile terminal address books and as such the user must first find out what number is associated with a given name before invoking the call to the low-cost service provider.
A further problem facing mobile terminal users in particular is that whilst it is currently possible to participate in a conference call with a mobile terminal it is difficult, if not impossible, to instigate full conference calling from a mobile terminal.
By providing mobile terminals with a software client such as that described above (albeit on a reduced visual scale appropriate for the limited viewing capabilities of a mobile terminal) it is possible—as will now be described—to mitigate the aforementioned problems, and to provide additional functionality of use to the user.
In general terms, this embodiment of the invention relates to a software communications client, embodied for example as a Java applet, which can be locally executed on a mobile terminal, for example a GSM or UMTS telephone or cellular PDA. The client provides three generic functions: (1) it enables a user of the terminal to place a call to one or more called party identifiers (such as one or more other mobile telephones or a landline) via the Ring2 call network, and thereby avoid the relatively large call charges that are typically associated with traditional mobile networks; (2) it enables a user to schedule a conference call from their mobile terminal; and (3) it enables the user to use a mobile terminal as a conference call controller for an ongoing conference call, for example one that the user is participating in.
Before delving into the detail of the communications client, it is appropriate at this juncture to provide a brief background description of a mobile terminal.
As shown, the terminal 350 comprises a display 352, an aerial 354 and a plurality of keys 356 arranged in a keypad. The keys, as is known in the art, can be arranged as so-called hard keys with one predetermined function or alternatively they can be arranged as soft-keys which have a plurality of functions depending on the particular operating mode of the terminal. The terminal 350 is provided with a microphone 358 and a loudspeaker 360 for input of user speech and generation of audio signals for relaying to a user. An infra-red input/output port 362 is also provided to permit infrared optical data signals to be received from and/or transmitted to other mobile terminals which are also equipped with an appropriate port.
A removable data storage device or user identity module (SIM) 370 is provided for data and program storage. The data will usually comprise the IMSI (which uniquely identifies the telephone), and other information such as a phonebook of telephone numbers stored on the phone by the user. Software programs may also be stored on the SIM, for example as part of the so-called SIM toolkit (or SIM application toolkit as it is otherwise known).
Coupled to the processor 364 is the display 352, and signals can be sent from the processor to the display in order to convey messages, instructions, and other information to a user of the terminal. The processor is also coupled to the keypad for data input by a user to the terminal.
Sound (for example user speech) picked up by the microphone 358 is processed by a speech processor 372 (for example to remove non-transmittable frequencies), and a coder/decoder (CODEC) 374 that is operable to convert analogue signals generated by the microphone 358 into digital data for subsequent processing. The speech processor 372 and CODEC 374 are also operable to process received digital data and convert it into appropriate audio signals for relaying to a user by means of the loudspeaker 360.
Also coupled to the processor 364 is a ring generator 376 which is operable to generate one of a variety of different alerts which are used to alert a user of the terminal as to when a call, a message or other information is received at the terminal 350. In this particular case the ring generator is operable to generate appropriate signals to drive a vibrating buzzer 378, to illuminate an LED 380 (or bank of illumination devices) or to generate a ring signal for relay to the user via the loudspeaker 360. Typically, a user of the terminal is able to select which of these alert options are most preferable for their current ambient environment. For example, a user who is at work and does not want to disturb his or her colleagues with an audible ring tone might choose the vibrating buzzer as an alternative means to alert them to an arriving call at the terminal.
In accordance with a preferred embodiment of the present invention, the mobile terminal (which may for example be embodied as a mobile telephone such as a GSM or UMTS compatible telephone) includes the aforementioned communications client, and this client will hereafter be referred to as the mobile communications client.
Referring now to
As depicted, the processor 364 comprises a mobile communications client 382 implemented by software executed by the processor 364. The mobile communications client can form part of a so-called SIM Toolkit (or SIM Application toolkit as it is sometimes known), part of the software provided in the mobile terminal, or indeed comprise an applet (such as a Java™ applet for example) downloaded to or pre-stored in the terminal (for example in the SIM). The client is stored in the phone (for example in the SIM or other memory resource) and retrieved as required for execution by the processor.
In normal use of a telephone such as that depicted in
As depicted schematically in the flowchart of
On selection of the “call with Ring2” option, the mobile terminal signals the call management centre 62 (see
If the transmitted identity information is not verified, the call is terminated (step 398) and a message is displayed to the user at the mobile terminal to advise that they are not authorised to use the Ring2 network to place a call.
Once the terminal has been verified the mobile terminal transmits to the application server (in step 400) the “my location” telephone number (i.e. the number of the mobile terminal from whose phonebook the user has selected a telephone number for the party to be called) and the called party telephone number (or other identifier) selected from the phonebook or manually input by means of the keys (such data hereafter being referred to generically as “call data”).
On receipt of the call data from the mobile terminal, the application server 68 of the CMC 62 terminates (step 402) the data communications session with the mobile terminal and then controls the Call Controller/Media Mixer 67 to establish a first voice call leg to the “my location” number specified by the user (step 404), typically the telephone number assigned to the mobile terminal but could alternatively be any identifiable communications terminal such as a PSTN telephone, mobile phone or SIP IP phone device. The “my location” mobile terminal rings, and when the user presses a button or otherwise controls the terminal to go “off-hook” (step 406), a ringing tone is played to the user and the application server sets up a second call leg to the number specified in the aforementioned call data (step 408).
A telephony device associated with the number to be called rings and on pick-up by the individual called by the user of the mobile terminal (step 410), the first leg voice call and the second leg voice call are connected by the soft switch 66 to establish a voice communications channel between the mobile terminal and the individual with whom the user of the mobile terminal wishes to communicate (step 412).
The functionality provided by this aspect of the mobile communications client provides the user of the mobile terminal with ready access to the Ring2 network. It can be used, as described, to invoke two-party calling, or in an enhanced aspect it can be used to invoke multi-party calling (e.g. a conference call).
To invoke multi-party calling, the user need only select or input the telephony identifiers (for example from the phonebook of the mobile terminal) for a number of parties to be called for inclusion in the call data that is transferred to the CMC 62. On receipt of that data the CMC is then operable, as described above for the one called party, to call each of the specified call parties in turn. In an enhancement of the system described, instigation of multi-party calling can conveniently be accomplished by utilising SMS text messaging.
As depicted, the SMS message format 412 comprises a number of individual message components (414 to 422) separated by a separator 424, in this instance a semi-colon “,”. The first and second message components 414 comprises a username and a password 416 allocated to the user of the mobile terminal. The third message component 418 comprises the “my location” telephone number mentioned earlier, namely the number at which the mobile terminal user wishes to be called (as the first leg of the call)-typically but not necessarily the number allocated to the user's mobile terminal (in this particular example, the number is a UK mobile telephone number)—and the fourth and fifth components comprise, respectively, a UK landline phone number and a US landline number.
Once the message has been compiled by the user it is sent via the wireless network to the SMS gateway 74 for parsing and conversion to an appropriate format for use by the CMC 62. The CMC, following validation of the user's username and password then proceeds, as described above in connection with
In a variation of this arrangement, the CMC may include a store (not shown) of user selected aliases for often-used phone numbers for that user. Such a store may conveniently be implemented as a record which the user can populate and edit by accessing a web page maintained by the web servers 92. For example, as depicted in
On receipt of such a message, the application server would interrogate the database for the user identified by the first and second components of the message, and place calls to the numbers associated with any aliases that appear in the message and have a corresponding number stored in the store.
As mentioned above, the mobile communications client 382 is also operable in an embodiment of function (2) above, to enable the user to schedule a conference call from their mobile terminal. To implement this functionality, the Ring2 client can either display a form for the user to populate that then gets posted to the application server via the web server or alternatively, the user can access a web based conference call set up form configured for mobile and PDA devices. Such a web page is served to end users by the web server (
The mobile communications client 382 is also operable in an embodiment of function (3) above to enable the user to use a mobile terminal as a conference call controller for an ongoing conference call, for example one that the user is participating in. To implement this functionality the user need only book a conference call using their mobile terminal, as described above in connection with function (2) and designate as their “my location” another telephone handset—for example their desktop telephone handset coupled to the PSTN for example via a PBX. In the course of the conference call, the user will be provided with voice data at the handset they have designated as “my location”, and call status information (via the aforementioned communications channel established between the mobile terminal and the soft-switches of the CMC. The user can then use their mobile terminal to control the legs of the call that are attributable to them (as described above in detail). This is highly advantageous as it allows the user to port with them the embedded functionality of the mobile communications client, such that the user is provided with the full suite of conference call facilities wherever they have access to a telephone. For example, a user who has booked a conference call to a public telephone that accepts incoming calls (for example a conference call to a public telephone in an airport) can use their handheld terminal to view and control the real-time status of each leg of the call whilst simultaneously participating in the conference call from a public telephone that has no inherent call conferencing functionality.
Referring now to
The mobile communications client 382 includes a core software component 430 which controls the operation of the client, a call initiation component 432 invoked by the core component 430 when a user wishes to use the mobile communications client to place a call, and a SIP stack component 434 operable to establish a SIP communications protocol dialogue channel between the mobile terminal and the CMC as required to provide the terminal with status updates for display to the user by a real-time display component 436.
In the simplest embodiment of the mobile communications client it may only comprise the core program software component and the call initiation component, and be operable to use the wireless communications stack component of the terminal itself for transferring call data via an extant data channel to the call management centre, whereupon the call management centre drops the data communications channel and opens a voice channel to the mobile terminal (as described above).
Additional software components can be added as required having due regard to the processing power of the terminal on which the communications client is to be executed, until in a well equipped terminal all of the functional elements may be provided. In such an embodiment, particularly in circumstances where the mobile terminal permits simultaneous voice and data communications, the mobile terminal can for all intents and purposes look and operate in the same or similar manner as the desktop embodiment described above in detail.
Whilst various preferred embodiments of the present invention have been described above in detail, it will be appreciated that the scope of the present invention is not limited to those embodiments but instead includes all modifications and alterations to the embodiments described which fall within the spirit and scope of the invention as defined in the accompanying claims.
For example, whilst the communications client has been described above in terms of a client operable by a user to call the various parties to a given conference call one after the other, the user could opt to define a group comprised of a plurality of phone numbers (each belonging to a party to be called) and choose to call all members of the group in one go. Such an arrangement might be advantageous in circumstance where one individual is charged with quickly communicating important information (for example a safety warning) to a plurality of other parties.
Furthermore, insofar as embodiments of the invention described above are implementable, at least in part, using a computer system, it will be appreciated that a computer program for implementing at least part of the described methods and/or the described systems and/or the described data processing apparatus, implementing the communications client 54 and CMC 62, are envisaged as an aspect of the present invention. The computer system may be any suitable apparatus, system or device. For example, the computer system may a programmable data processing apparatus, a general purpose computer, a Digital Signal Processor or a microprocessor. The computer program may be embodied as source code and undergo compilation for implementation on a computer, or may be embodied as object code, for example.
Suitably, the computer program can be stored on a carrier medium in computer usable form, which is also envisaged as an aspect of the present invention. For example, the carrier medium may be solid-state memory, optical or magneto-optical memory such as a readable and/or writable disk for example a compact disk and a digital versatile disk, or magnetic memory such as disc or tape, and the computer system can utilise the program to configure it for operation. The computer program may be supplied from a remote source embodied in a carrier medium such as an electronic signal, including radio frequency carrier wave or optical carrier wave.
Embodiments of the invention may be implemented in software, firmware or hardware or any combination of two or more of software, firmware and hardware.
In view of the foregoing description of particular embodiments of the invention it will be appreciated by a person skilled in the art that various additions, modifications and alternatives thereto may be envisaged. For example, the data processing apparatus may run an execution environment other than Windows®, and may be implemented on an Internet connectable PDA or cellular telephony. In an optional embodiment for a PDA, the PDA is configured such that when a telephone number is selected from a PDA application, for example from an address book, an option such as a menu option is provided for making the call in accordance with the communications client. Selecting this option results in the selected telephone number being sent to the communications client running on the PDA to initiate the call. Additionally, the process flow, order and functions for implementing aspects need not be exactly as described.
The scope of the present disclosure includes any novel feature or combination of features disclosed herein either explicitly or implicitly or any generalisation thereof irrespective of whether or not it relates to the claimed invention or mitigates any or all of the problems addressed by the present invention. The applicant hereby gives notice that new claims may be formulated to such features during the prosecution of this application or of any such further application derived herefrom. In particular, with reference to the appended claims, features from dependent claims may be combined with those of the independent claims and features from respective independent claims may be combined in any appropriate manner and not merely in the specific combinations enumerated in the accompanying claims.
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|U.S. Classification||379/205.01, 379/220.01, 455/416, 379/219|
|International Classification||H04M7/00, H04Q3/00, H04M3/42, H04M3/56|
|Cooperative Classification||H04Q2213/1305, H04Q3/0016, H04Q2213/13204, H04Q2213/13389, H04Q2213/1326, H04M7/003, H04Q2213/13106, H04Q2213/13091, H04M7/006, H04Q2213/13176, H04Q2213/13175|
|European Classification||H04Q3/00D, H04M7/00D4|
|Aug 7, 2007||AS||Assignment|
Owner name: RING2 COMMUNICATIONS LIMITED, UNITED KINGDOM
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:HUGHES, THOMAS MICHAEL;SIDDIQ, ABDELKAREEM;MOHANTY, SANDEEP;AND OTHERS;REEL/FRAME:019656/0007;SIGNING DATES FROM 20061207 TO 20070202