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Publication numberUS3819012 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJun 25, 1974
Filing dateMar 20, 1970
Priority dateMar 20, 1970
Also published asCA941966A1, DE2113068A1
Publication numberUS 3819012 A, US 3819012A, US-A-3819012, US3819012 A, US3819012A
InventorsF Beck, W Kinslow
Original AssigneeRca Corp
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Merchandise handling and identifying system
US 3819012 A
Abstract
A conveyer carries articles identified by machine readable markings toward a read station. When the articles reach the end of the conveyer, they are manually moved past the read station and into a bag or other container, in one continuous operation. A check automatically is made of the markings on each article. In addition, each time an article is read, its price automatically is displayed and its inventory is updated.
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Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

1451 June 25, 1974 MERCHANDISE HANDLING AND 3,429,403 2/ 1969 Drechsler 186/ 1.1 C IDENTIFYING SYSTEM 3,480,114 11/1969 Shoffner l86/l.l C [75] Inventors: Francis Xavier Beck, Jr., Cherry FOREIGN PATENTS OR APPLICATIONS Hill; William Edward Kinslow, Jr., 170,924 3/1960 Sweden 186/1.1 W1111ngboro, both of NJ. OTHER PUBLICATIONS [73] Assignee: RCA Corporation New York Washington Post and Times Herald, Tuesday May 3, 22 Filed: Mar. 20, 1970 1955 P [211 Appl' 21,425 Primary Examiner-Even C. Blunk Assistant Examiner-Douglas D. Watts [52] U.S. c1 186/1 A Attorney. Agent, or Firm-Raymond y; [511 1 11.121 E04h 3/04 ward J. Norton [58] Field of Search, 186/1.l, 1.1 C; 250/219 {57] ABSTRACT [56] References Cited A conveyer carries articles identified by machine UNlTED'STATES PATENTS readable markings toward a read station, When the 2,902,811 9/1959 Joyce l86/l.1 articles teach the end of the y y are manu- 3,004,702 10/1961 Kranz 250/223 ally movedpast the read station and into a bag or 3,025,651 3/1962 Stanley 186/1 1 other container, in one continuous operation. A check ,324 1 1/1962 Hennion l86/l.1 automatically is made of the markings on each article.

In addition, each time an article is read, its price autorown 3,111,576 11/1963 Lipschutz 186/1.1 mat'cany ls dsplayed and memory updated 3,414,731 12/1968 Sperry 250/219 1 Claim, 5 Drawing Figures C0 UNI E R COUNTER-ll 102 50 102 A 1 108 l 1 1 7- I 524g 5 2 O 106 V 52 108 e 1 o a a n \u2 8O 'E'UHRQ l 100 II 1 1 1 "'1 1 1 l LINE IZ-n CONCENTRATOR 2 l E M MERCHANDISE HANDLING AND IDENTIFYING SYSTEM BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION manner without unnecessary delay to the customer or 1 expense to the store. Unfortunately, delay has been the rule rather than the exception. This delay is caused in part by having to handle the merchandise twice, once when the price is entered on the cash register, and once again when the articles are packed in the bags or other containers. Further, the prices are often missing or unreadable, and this delays not only the customer at the check out stand involved, but often customers at the two or three adjacent check out stands while the checkers try to determine the price of the article. Additionally, when unit prices are set for two or more items, (e.g., 2 cans for 25 cents) and the items are not side by side, more delay is encountered while the missing item is searched for in the grocery pile. Finally, the large number of trading stamps and article coupons invloved in the check out process create still further delay.

Early attempts at speeding up the check out process involved automatically conveying an article to the check out stand in response to the insertion of a card or key into a slot adjacent to the desired article. Pricing was taken care of automatically. However, having material handling equipment to dispense the some 10,000 items handled by a typical supermarket which are packaged in a wide variety of containers was, if not impossible, certainly economically impractical.

Then the idea was proposed of adding a punched card or other removable record carrier containing price and other information such as article identification information to each article. This idea also proved impractical as the time taken to collect all the cards from the various articles took longer than the time to ring the articles in the conventional way. Also customers with larcenous tendencies could easily substitute record carriers from one article to another. Finally, when prices changed, the tags had to be changed invloving large time and therefore dollar expenditures.

An object of the present invention is to provide a new and improved system of the general type discussed above and which does not exhibit the deficiencies of these systems.

BRIEF DESCTIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIG. 1 is a diagram, partially in block form, of the system of the present invention;

FIG. 2 is a plan view of one automatic check out counter of the system of FIG. 1;

FIG. 3 is an elevation view, partly in cross section, taken substantially along lines 3--3 of FIG. 2;

FIG. 4 is a drawing of a machine and human readable lable which may be used in the system of FIG. 1; and

FIG. 5 is a drawing, mostly in block diagram form, showing the electrical interconnection among the components of a portion of the system of FIG. 1.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION A supermarket system includes a conveyer for transportingarticles, an automatic read station located beyond the output end of said conveyer for identifying the articles and a container supporting means located beyond the read station for holding a container. This arrangement permits a checker to manually move articles off the conveyer past the read station and into the con- O tainer in one continuous motion.

Detailed Description FIG. 1 shows a plurality of stores, labeled STORE I to STORE n, only the first and last of which are shown, connected to a central computer. STORE l, which is representative, includes a plurality of automatic check out counters labeled COUNTER 1 through COUNTER n, only two of which are shown. Others would be similarly configured. The counters are connected via electrical cables 12-1 12.-n, respectively, to a line concentrator 14 located within store 1. The line concentrator, while depicted as having a multiposition switch 15, in reality comprises an electronic scanning device which may be connected to all the counters in a store. While the line concentrator at any particular instant, is connected only to a single counter, it scans at a relatively rapid rate from counter-to-counter, in reading the information stored at the respective counters (if any) in turn and in this way services them all.

The output of line concentrator 14 is coupled to a' computer 16 which may be located in the store or at some distance from the store. The computer may, for example, be located in a warehouse or office which may be in the same or a distant city as the stores which it services. The computer may be a relatively slow speed computer such as an RCA model 1600.

A pair of modems 18, 20 connecting with the line concentrator l4 and computer 16 respectively are coupled to a common carrier line 22. Alternately, if the computer is located in proximity to the line concentrator, the modems are not required and a direct connection shown as a dotted wire 24 may be used. The modems serve to convert signal shapes and levels from those produced by the computer and line concentrator to those desiredby the common carrier line and vice versa. Modems are commercially available devices, such as the Western Electric Model 202D, which may be provided by the common carrier or from computer peripheral equipment manufacturers. v

A teleprinter 26 comprising a printer portion 28 and keyboard portion 30 may also be connected with the central computer 16 via line concentrator 14. The teleprinter permits communication between the store management and the computer.

Other stores configured similarly to store 1 may also have line concentrators coupled via additional modems 20 to the computer 16.

A random access memory device 40 is coupled to the computer 16. Examples of such memories are a drum memory or a disc file. Stored on the drum or disc are prices corresponding to each article carried by all the stores serviced by computer 16. Also stored is the inventory status of each item and other related information such as whether trading stamps are to be given with the item, etc.

Referring now to FIGS. 2 and 3 which show the check out counter in greater detail, an article transporting device such as conveyer 50 transports articles 52 which have been placed on the conveyer near its input end 54. The conveyer, driven by a suitable motor 56 (FIG. 3), transports the articles toward the output end 58 of the conveyer A light sensitive switch assembly consisting of light source 60 and photodiode 62 located at the output end of the conveyer serve to control operation of motor 56 and therefore of conveyer 50.

When an article 52 reaches the output end of the conveyer, it interrupts the beam of light and prevents it from reaching photodiode 62. A circuit (not shown) coupling the photodiode to the motor, in response to the absence of light reaching photodiode 62, stops the motor thereby preventing articles from being pushed beyond the end of the conveyer. Alternately, a foot operated switch (not shown) may be used to control the movement of the belt by a checker.

Attached to each article 52 is a machine and human readable label 64 shown in FIG. 4. The reflection from the black and white annuli, when scanned by a light beam, may be converted to electrical signals which rep resent, in binary form, the Arabic numerals written on the label. Although the numbers are illustrated as covering the annuli, in practice they may be printed in a contrasting colored semitransparent ink so that the annuli are visible beneath the numbers.

Although the information on the labels may represent price, it is preferred that the information identify the items. For example, a large can of Brand X peas would carry one identifying number, a large can of Brand Y peas would carry a second number and a small can of Brand X peas would carry yet a third identifying number. Although the labels may be printed on gummed paper and put on at the retail store level, they may be put on at the store warehouse level or ideally the circles and numerals will be printed right on the container as it is manufactured.

There are a certain number of items that are packaged at the store level and therefore some method must be provided to label such items. Examples are meat and produce which are most often priced by weight. A local label maker may be employed in each store to produce such labels. In an eight digit label as shown in FIG. 4 the first four digits may represent a commodity code uniquely identifying the particular type of meat or produce and the last four digits may be the weight with a decimal point assumed between digits six and seven. Labels such as those in FIG. 4 may also be printed as part of coupons for discounts on merchandise, for bonus trading stamps, credit cards, etc. Then one or more digits may signify the amount of discount, number of trading stamps to be given, etc.

A read station 70 is located at the output end of the conveyer 50 (see FIG. 3). The read station 70 includes a light source 82, which produces a light beam 88 that is focused by a focusing lens 83 into a very fine scanning spot onto a multifaced mirror 84. The light source 82 may, for example, comprise a helium-neon laser that is pumped to produce a continuous laser beam of red monochromatic light of approximately 6,328 Angstrom wavelength. The mirror 84 is mounted to be rotated at a substantially constant speed by a motor 90 and is positioned to intercept the light beam 88 and project this scanning beam 88 into the slot 80 in the counter top 81. The rotatable mirror 84 is positioned offset from the slot so that dirt, etc. falling through the slot 80 does not strike the mirror 84. The rotation of the mirror 84 causes a succession of light beam scans through slot 80, each scan being in a direction generally transverse to the direction of movement of the article 52. The number and sizes of the faces of the mirror 84 are selected to produce only one scanning spot on the underside of the article 52 at any one time. When an article 52 bearing a label 64 (FIG. 4) is passed over the slot, light is reflected from the light spots of the label back to the read receiver 86.

A combination of a light source 92' and photodiode 94 are used to detect the presence of an article in the vicinity of slot 80. When no article is present in the vicinity of slot 80, light striking the photodiode 94 causes a shutter 96 (FIG. 3) to be closed across the path of light beam 88 thereby preventing light from being emitted through slot 80. When an article is in the vicinity of slot 80, light to photodiode 94 is cut off thereby causing shutter 96 to be removed from the light path.

Also located beyond the output end of the conveyer and just beyond the read station is a container holding means 72 for supporting one or more bags or other gro cery containers 74. The holder 72 is positioned beneath the conveyer level a sufficient amount so that the top of a standard container 74 is level with conveyer 50 and the portion of the counter 81 in which slot 80 is lo cated.

A display area 102 located on one side of conveyer 50 holds small articles such as candy, chewing gum, shaving needs and smokers needs. Also located in display area 102 is a visual display device 104 for indicating to a customer the price of each article, as it is rung, and other important infonnation such as total price, amount of refunds, taxes, etc. Visual display device 104 is positioned so as to be easily viewed by the customer 106 who is located on the opposite side of the conveyer from the display area.

A register 110 is positioned beside reader 70 so that it may be conveniently operated by the checker 100. The register 110 comprises a manual input means such as a keyboard 112, a printing device 114 for recording numbers, letters or the like on paper tape 120, and a sense stimulating means such as speakers 1 16. The various components in the register are electronically coupled to the central computer (16 of FIG. 1) in a manner to be described shortly. Keyboard 112 permits entry of information concerning articles from which the machine readable portion of label 64 has been damaged or obliterated, items too small to have a label (e .g., chewing gum) or bulky items, such as fertilizer, which may be kept in the bottom portion of shopping cart 108. Keyboard 112 is also used for other miscellaneous entries such as starting the order, requesting a total from the computer, canceling individual items or the entire order and various other inputs. Operation of some of the more important keys will be discussed late in connection with a discussion of the operation of the equipment.

Printer 114 receives information from the remote computer 16 and prints the cost of each article along with a portion of the identification number on a paper tape 120. The identification number pemiits easy reference back to the articles if the customer wishes to check her paper tape. Printer 114 also prints totals, tax amounts and other important information on the paper tape. The printer 1 14 is configured such that all printed lines are visible to the checker. Therefore the total amount will be displayed to checker 100 for his verbal transmission to customer 106.

Speakers 116 are coupled to reader 70 in a manner to be described, and indicate to the checker that an article has been properly identified. Alternately, circuitry may be employed between the reader and speakers to indicate that an article has not been identified.

The check out counter also includes a storage area 122 located beside checker 100 for holding various size bags. The check out counter further includes a cash drawer 124, a change dispenser 126 and a trading stamp dispenser 128, the latter two being conveniently located for access by the customer.

FIG. 5 shows, largely in black diagram form, the electronic interconnection among the various components of the system. Photodiode 62 which is located at the output end of conveyer 511 is connected to an amplifier 130. Amplifier 130 produces a binary signal labeled CONVEYER BEAM TRANSMI'ITED which is present when no article is between light source 60 and photodiode 62. The CONVEYER BEAM TRANSMIT- TED signal is coupled as one input to AND gate 132. A keyboard 112 contains, among other things, two push buttons labeled respectively START and TOTAL.

The START button is. coupled to the set (s) input of flip-flop 142 and the TOTAL key is coupled to the I reset (r) input of the flip-flop. The output of flip-flop 142 labeled ACTIVE is connected as the second input to AND gate 132. The polarities of the two input signals are such that when flip-flop 142 is set and the CONVEYER BEAM TRANSMITTED signal is present, AND gate 132 is enabled and via amplifier 144 drives conveyer motor 56. When an article crosses between light 60 and photodiode 62, the absence of CONVEYER BEAM TRANSMITTED signal disables gate 132 stopping motor 56. Also, when the TOTAL key on keyboard 112 is depressed, flip-flop 142 is reset thus disabling AND gate 132 thereby stopping motor 56.

Photodiode 94 located at one end of slot 811 is connected to an amplifier 1511 which has two mutually exclusive binary outputs labeled READER BEAM TRANSMITTED and READER BEAM BLOCKED. READER BEAM TRANSMITFED is present when no article blocks the passage of light from light source 92 to photodiode 94. READER BEAM BLOCKED is present when light is blocked from activating photodiode 94. The READER BEAM BLOCKED signal is coupled as one input to AND gate 151. The second input,

ACTIVE is generated at flip-flop 142. With both sig nals present at gate 151, solenoid 152 is activated and moves shutter 96 from the path of light from light source 82. When the article 52 has passed slot 30, the

READER BEAM TRANSMITTED signal once again appears and the absence of READER BEAM BLOCKED signal deenergizes solenoid 152 allowing shutter 96 to once again cut off light from light source 92 reaching the slot 81). Also when the TOTAL key on keyboard 112 is depressed, resetting flip-flop 142, the absence of ACTIVE prevents solenoid 152 from being energized.

Light reflected back from label 64 (FIG. 4), affixed to the bottom of an article 52, is received by read receiver 86 which converts the light signals into timed binary signals indicative of the light and dark areas on the label 64. Binary signals from read receiver 86 are evaluated for reasonableness by a validity checker 87. The

validity checker checks, among other things, that the requisite number of digits precede and follow the large black circular area 68 in the center of the label (FIG. 4). It also recognizes the large black outer annulus which indicates the reader has detected the label. Outputs from validity checker 87 are coupled to AND gates 161 and 163. Gate 161 is enabled after the large outer annulus is detected until the validity checker detects circular area 68. Then gate 161 is disabled and gate 163 previously disabled, is enabled. The read receiver output is coupled as a second input to AND gates 161 and 163. Their outputs are coupled to storage device 160 which comprises two storage areas labeled left storage 162 and right storage 164 respectively. During the passage of an article 52 over slot the label is scanned many times. When the center portion of the label, in the vicinity of center line 65 (FIG. 4), is scanned the label will be read properly as determined by the validity checker. Scans over any other portion of the label such as indicated by dotted lines 67 will produce an improper scan since not all circles are read by the reader device.

Assumea label contains eight digits of information. Then, when the center portion of the label is read, as indicated by center line 65 (FIG. 4) all 16 digits will be recorded in storage device 160, 8 digits in left storage 162 and 8 digits in right storage 164.

A comparator 170 coupled to storage device checks for a comparison between the information stored in the left storage portion 162 and right storage portion 164, as required. The comparator has two outputs labeled NO VALID READ and VALID READ which are mutually exclusive binary signals. When a comparison indicates that the left storage and right storage portions of storage device 1611 contain the same information (reversed in the right storage device) the comparator produces the VALID READ signal. This signal indicates that the information contained in 160 is valid information and is available to be sent to buffer storage 180 for transfer to the remote computer. It is of course, possible that the read circuitry may erroneously read one or more information bits from the same position(s) on both the left and right halves of the label. Then a VALID READ signal would be produced when in fact the label was read improperly. The probability of such an occurrance is so small however as to be nonexistant for practical purposes.

The VALID READ signal may be coupled via appropriate circuitry 171 to a speaker or similar sense stimulating device 116 to produce a short duration signal to indicate to the checker that infonnation has been properly read from the label. Alternatively the checker may be signaled in the absence of an article being properly identified by the circuitry shown in phantom. The NO VALID READ signal from validity checker maybe coupled as one input to an AND gate 172. The READER BEAM TRANSMITTED signal from amplifier 150 is coupled to a one shot multivibrator 174, the output of which serves as the second input to AND gate 172. With the NO VALID READ signal present at I.

AND gate 172, the leading edge of the READER BEAM TRANSMITTED signal produced as an article passes beyond slot 80 triggers one shot 174. The output of one shot 174 enables AND gate 172 producing via appropriate circuitry 173 a short duration signal to emanate from speaker 116 to indicate to a checker that an article has passed slot 811 and has not been properly identified. In practice, only one of the two methods previously mentioned will be used. It has been found that as a practical matter the signal indicating a valid read has occurred is the more useful of the two to the checker.

Line concentrator 14 is also coupled as an output to speaker 116 via amplifier 171. This arrangement permits the computer to audiably signal the checker that file 40 contains no such number as was just received by the computer. A series of short beeps from the speaker (as contrasted with the single beep when an article has been properly scanned) may be used as a warning.

The presence of the VALID READ signal at AND gate 175 permits data from storage device 160 to be transmitted to buffer storage 180. Storage 180 is coupled to line concentrator 14 to transfer data to the computer. Keyboard 112 is also connected to the com puter to permit transmission of information manually entered on its key buttons. As shown and as will be described more fully when the operation of the device is discussed, the output from the computer is coupled to a printer 114, a visual readout 104, a cash drawer 124, a coin dispenser 126 and a stamp dispenser 128.

In operation, a customer 106 (FIG. 2) unloads articles from a cart 108 onto conveyer 50, the articles having been selected from the supermarket shelves in a conventional manner. The clerk 100 prepares to check the order by depressing the START key located on keyboard 1 12. The START key sets flip-flop 142 (FIG. which, via enabled AND gate 132, drives motor 56 to bring the articles toward the reader 70 and toward operator 100.

As the first article approaches the output end of conveyer 50, the light beam from light 60 to photodiode 62 is interrupted thereby disabling AND gate 132 and stopping motor 56. The clark slides the article off the end of conveyer 50 across slot 80 and places the article into a bag 74 (which has previously been put into container holder 72) all in one continuous motion. As the article is slid across slot 80, the light beam from light 92 to photodiode 94 is interrupted causing shutter 96 to be raised from its position in the path of light beam 88.

The unshuttered light beam strikes the label 64 located on the bottom of each article. The light reflected from the label 64 is sent to read receiver 86 the output of which is coupled to storage device 160, as previously discussed. Then the center portion of the label passes slot 80, the left storage and right storage portions of storage device 160 should contain the same information. A comparison is made by the comparator 170 which produces a VALID READ signal. The VALID READ signal activates speaker 116 indicating audibly to the checker that the article has been properly identified.

Since, as indicated in FIG. 1, a typical store contains a plurality of check out counters which may be spaced relatively close to one another, some means must be used to prevent signals intended for one checker from being heard by the checker at an adjacent counter and being interpreted as corresponding to an article he has just read. One means of localizing the output of speaker 116 is to have two such speakers in register 110 as shown in FIG. 2. The circuits which drive the speakers may be designed'to drive them at a single given fre quency. The two speakers are separated by a distance corresponding to one half wave length at that given frequency. Such an arrangement produces a rather loud signal directed toward the checker but produces a very weak signal on either side of the two speakers where adjacent check out counters will be located.

When the article being scanned has been properly identified (i.e., left storage 162 contains the same information as right storage 164) a signal is sent from storage device 180 of a check out counter to line concentrator 14 to indicate that the check out counter desires to transmit information to the computer. Line concentrator 14 which is constantly scanning (when not servicing another counter) will detect such a request for service). Switch 15 will stop scanning long enough for information indicative of the article to be transmitted to computer 16 and, if no other counter wishes to transmit data, for return information to be received from the computer.

If during the time data is being transferred from buffer storage of one counter to the computer a second counter wishes to transfer data (as determined by a request from its buffer storage) the line concentrator will transfer the data from the second counter to the computer immediately following the transfer of data from the first counter. This process will continue for as many counters as wish to transmit messages to the computer. After the computer has received data from the first counter it will proceed to process the data in a manner to be described. When data has been transferred from all counters requesting service modems l8 and 20 (FIG. 1) will be electronically turned around (i.e., set up to transmit data back to the line concentrator). Turn around is a rather time-consuming process requiring about 100 milliseconds. Therefore, the process just described of grouping messages considerably reduces the total time to transfer messages to and from multiple counters.

If a second item is scanned at a given check out counter before data from a first item has been accepted from buffer storage 180 by the line concentrator it will be stored in right storage 164. With both storage resisters 164 and 180 full AND gate 182 to which they are coupled will be enabled causing warning light 184 to be illuminated. An illuminated warning light 184 indicates to the checker that he may not scan any more items. The light will be extinguished when the line concentrator has transferred data to the computer. Also an output (not shown) from AND gate 182 may be coupled in such a way as to inhibit speaker 116.

The computer is programmed to search disc drive 40, to which it is coupled, for the identification number or numbers sent to the computer from the check out counter. For each identification number, the disc contains information relating to price, quantity of articles in the store, whether trading stamps are to be given, whether the article is to be taxed and other relevant information. The computer causes the inventory number stored on the disc to be reduced by one indicating that the article has been removed from the stores stock. The price of the article is sent back through line concentrator 14 to printer 114 to be registered for a permanent record on the tape which is later given to the customer. The price information is also displayed in visual readout 104. The price, trading stamp information and taxable information is temporarily stored in the computer. The computer may also be programmed to temporarily store information relating to the first article of a multiarticle per unit price item. For example,

when the first can of Brand X peas selling for 2 for 25 cents is read, the computer will be programmed to store this fact and the customer will be charged 13 cents. When a second can of Brand X peas is read during the order the computer will be programmed to charge only 12 cents.

The process just described is repeated for each article that is passed over slot 80. If an article is passed over slot 80 and it cannot be identified by the equipment due, for example, to a missing label or a mutilated label, the valid read signal is not generated by comparator 170. Instead a NO VALID READ signal is generated.

Then when the article has passed beyond slot 80, light again striking photodiode 94 causes the READER BEAM TRANSMITTED signal to occur. This signal via one shot multivibrator 74 enables AND gate 172 producing a signal from speaker 116 assuming that this arrangement is used. The checker may manually move the article over the reader several times until the infor mation is read or may manually enter the information on the numeric portion of the keyboard, as read from the numbers printed on label 64.

The checker normally grasping articles in alternate hands for maximum efficiency continues to move the successive articles over the slot in the manner described, at high speed approximately one article per second. After all regular articles have been processed, identification numbers for small articles and from very large and bulky articles such as may be located in the bottom of shopping cart 108 will be entered on the keyboard and sent to the computer for price look up and inventory adjustment. It should be noted that the position of checker 100 relative to the cart 108 is such as to permit easy viewing of the bottom of the cart. This arrangement is in contrast to the typical supermarket where the checker is located on the opposite side of the counter from the customer and shopping card and thus is not in a good position to see merchandise which may have been left in the bottom of the cart.

After information has been received from all articles in the customers order, the checker depresses the TOTAL key located on keyboard 112. The signal produced by the TOTAL key causes motor 56 to cease revolving as previously mentioned. The TOTAL key also sends a signal to the computer which acts as an end-oforder signal and causes the computer to compute a subtotal, applicable taxes, a total and to send this information back to the check out counter where it is printed at printer 114 and visually displayed at visual readout 104. When the customer tenders money equal in amount to the value of the order or in excess of the value of the order, the checker enters the amount tendered on the numeric portion of keyboard 112 and depresses the check or cash key depending on the type of payment made by the customer. This information is transmitted to the computer which relays back information to the check out counter causing the cash drawer 124 to be opened, causing the proper coins to be dispensed at coin dispenser 126 and causing the proper number of stamps to be dispensed at stamp dispenser 128.

Should the customer find that the total value of the order is in excess of the amount of money she has or for any other reason wishes to return any or all the articles previously read, this may be accomplished by depressing certain keys on the keyboard. The keyboard may also be used to clock on and off clerks by their employee number and for inputting of various miscellaneous information.

The system has been described so far in terms of only one check out counter. However, as shown in FIG. 1, several check out counters may be operating concurrently into one line concentrator and several line concentrators located in different stores may be operating into one computer. Further, rather than reading one article at a time, the checker may slide two articles concurrently across slot 80.

The speed of the circuitry in the line concentrators and computer is such that each check out counter will appear to be receiving the undivided attention of the computer under most conditions. The time to transmit the identification number to the computer, to have the computer look up the price for that article, and to transmit the reply back to the check out counter is only on the order of a fraction of a second. The computer is tied up only during the time it is processing each article, which occupies only a few milliseconds. Since it is conceivable that a number of articles will be read simultaneously or nearly simultaneously at a number of check out counters there may on occasion be a perceptible delay in receiving a result back from the computer after a particular article has been read, however, the delay is relatively small and the entire process of tallying and bagging the order is only a fraction of that needed in conventional manual supermarkets.

What is claimed is:

11. An automatic supermarket check-out arrangement for articles having identification means thereon comprising, in combination:

a conveyer having an output end;

a counter having a top substantially flush with the surface of said conveyer, said counter top being formed with a slot therein close to said output end of said conveyer and in an extension of the general line of travel taken by an article as it moves along the conveyer;

a bag supporting means located at the end of said counter top and in line with said path of travel of said article and sufficiently below the counter top to permit an article conveniently tobe moved from the end of the conveyer, over said slot, and into a bag or other container on said bag supporting means;

reading means located beneath said counter top for reading the identification means of an article as it is moved over the slot for identifying the article, whereby a clerk standing adjacent to the bag sup- I porting means may, with one hand, in one continuous motion, move an article from the output end of the conveyer, over the slot, and into a bag or other container, the article being identified automatically in the process;

means responsive to the reading means for pricing each article; and

means responsive to the last-named means and to an end-of-order signal, for adding the prices of the articles to provide the price of the complete order.

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4114727 *Sep 23, 1977Sep 19, 1978Stanley JoseloffSupermarket counter construction and method of using same
US4138000 *Jul 8, 1977Feb 6, 1979Bel Air MartCheckout counter
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Classifications
U.S. Classification186/61
International ClassificationA47F9/04, G07G1/00, G06Q10/00, G07G1/10
Cooperative ClassificationA47F9/04, G07G1/0045, G06Q10/08, G07G1/10
European ClassificationG06Q10/08, G07G1/00C2, G07G1/10, A47F9/04