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Publication numberUS3893094 A
Publication typeGrant
Publication dateJul 1, 1975
Filing dateOct 29, 1973
Priority dateOct 29, 1973
Publication numberUS 3893094 A, US 3893094A, US-A-3893094, US3893094 A, US3893094A
InventorsShultz Henry D, Thorson Albin W
Original AssigneeBank Of America National Trust
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Customer directing system
US 3893094 A
Abstract
A system for directing customers to available clerks positioned at their respective work stations includes a counter serving to separate each work station from an associated customer service region. An open pedestrian space is typically located in front of the counter including the service regions and serves to permit movement of customers up to and passing freely in front of the counter. Means are located at each service region for detecting the absence of a customer thereat. Display means are operable between active and inactive states for directing customers to a service region free of customers when in its active state. Finally, means for activating the display means in response to the detection of the absence of a customer within the field defining the last named service region are provided.
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United States Patent [191 Thorson et a1.

[ CUSTOMER DIRECTING SYSTEM [75] Inventors: Albin W. Thorson, San Carlos;

[73] Assignee:

[22] Filed:

Henry D. Shultz, San Rafael, both of Calif.

Bank Of America National Trust & Savings Association, San Francisco, Calif.

Oct. 29, 1973 [21] Appl. No.: 410,683

I I I l I I I I L Jl J 340/1 G, 335, 1 R, l T; 317/141 R, DIG. 2

References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS Polster 340/258 B Bolton .4 340/51 UX [45] July 1, 1975 3,597,754 8/1971 Lerner 340/258 B Primary Examiner.lohn W. Caldwell Assistant Examiner-William M. Wannisky Attorney, Agent, or Firm-Flehr, Hohbach, Test, Albritton & Herbert 5 7] ABSTRACT A system for directing customers to available clerks positioned at their respective work stations includes a counter serving to separate each work station from an associated customer service region. An open pedestrian space is typically located in front of the counter including the service regions and serves to permit movement of customers up to and passing freely in front of the counter. Means are located at each service region for detecting the absence of a customer thereat. Display means are operable between active and inactive states for directing customers to,a service region free of customers when in its active state. Finally, means for activating the display means in re- McCauleym. 340/51 sponse to the detection of the absence of a customer Schwartz 340/51 X within the field defining the last named service region GUSIUS 6! a1. 340/51 are provided Auer 340/51 X Drake 340/258 8 5 Chums, 3 Figures I pl. I TELLER 13- I I c AVAILAILE u 2.9 l 5 I ramsut souuum t 6 1 QOKHZ 1O m 44 49 51 4e 46' I 1 52 l FREQ, I GEN'R A l 5v 3, I 54 e 43 as. I 61 59 51 z a set: N i j 1 64 l Z 65 I pu 5E l MS '45 37 sewn 4 I 92 rnTN s-i'|Fi E 3-1o|:rs

to? I06 10: 101 n; inf I en- E s I I g; I ocrscr nsrcct I l 110 99 I I as l l 24 II 98 6 113?; 120 I94. 69 I OH or; I 0 l Llll) YIMER HMEH TIMER I 5.5. 10 I I I 97 R RESET SET I RESET scr I 112 "1 FLASHER I 9I 1 r/ I 88 I 5 55 l 101' w is I I E82 4 l "12" 64' l 10 :02 10 I A FLOP f" I FLOP I ES, r 4 I l l I CUSTOMER DIREC'IING SYSTEM BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention pertains to a system for directing customers to available clerks positioned at their respective work stations and particularly to a system primarily useful in providing improved banking teller service.

The present invention though described in terms of a banking situation, wherein tellers are employed at particular work stations behind a counter line" (or counter) separating the teller from customers, is believed applicable to equivalent circumstances using clerks of other types.

Heretofore, in previous systems wherein it has been desired to provide an indication of availability of a teller at a particular window (Le, a window having no customers waiting in line), systems have depended upon the manual operation by the teller of a switch located at the teller station. These systems have, of course, suffered from the human fraility of the tellers failing to turn ON their switches to indicate that they are available as soon as no customer is present at the window.

According to the present invention, means are provided for detecting the absence of a customer at a tellers window and for subsequently activating an indicator light calling the customers attention to the unoccupied teller window so as to more efficiently handle and distribute the flow of incoming business.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION AND OBJECTS In general, there has been provided a system for directing customers to available clerks positioned at their respective work stations. The system includes the combination comprising a counter disposed and adapted to separate each work station from an associated customer service region. An open pedestrain space is formed in front of the counter, including the service regions, for movement of customers up to and for passing in front of said counter. Means at each service region for detecting the absence of a customer thereat have been provided as well as display means operable between active and inactive states for directing customers to a service region free of customers when in its active state. Finally, means have been provided for activating the display means in response to the foregoing detection of the absence of a customer within the field defining the last named service region.

In general, it is an object of the present invention to provide an improved system of the kind described.

It is another object of the present invention to provide a system of the kind described whereby a customer is detected by entering an ultrasonic field projected into the service region for a given teller while means are employed for receiving waves of the field reflected from the customer within the region.

A further object of the invention is to provide a detecting means which can distinguish between casual pedestrian traffic through the service region and a customer awaiting service at a particular window.

Yet another object is to provide a system of the kind described wherein the detecting means includes timedelay means serving to respond to the absence ofa customer only after a predetermined elapsed time so as not to falsely indicate the absence of a customer when the customer has only momentarily moved from the field of the service region.

Yet a further object of the invention is to provide a system of the kind described further including timedelay means coupled to the detection means for continuing the detection of the absence of a customer notwithstanding momentary entry into the field of the service region as may be caused by a passing customer.

It is still another object of the invention to provide a system of the kind described wherein the means projecting an ultrasonic field into the service region is shielded from means for receiving reflected waves of said field.

The foregoing and other objects of the invention will become readily evident from the following detailed description of a preferred embodiment.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS FIG. 1 shows a schematic system diagram according to the invention;

FIG. 2 shows, in perspective, an enlarged detail, partially broken away, disclosing a transducer mounting assembly and transducers as utilized in the present system;

FIG. 3 shows a diagram for illustrative purposes only of such a transducer mounting assembly.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF A PREFERRED EMBODIMENT A system 10 for directing customers, such as custom ers of a bank, to available clerks or tellers positioned at their respective work stations ll, 12 includes a counter 13 or other means serving to separate each work station 11, 12 from an associated customer service zone or region l4, 15.

An open pedestrian space in the nature of a lobby located in front of the counter includes the service regions 14, 15 and beyond and serves to permit movement of customers up to and for passing freely in front of the counter 13 including the teller windows associated with each of the work stations 11, I2.

At a suitable location serving, in general, to readily attract the attention of customers, a display means such as the sign 18 is mounted consisting of three portions. One portion constitutes a sign indicating Teller Available, and the other two portions respectively are formed as arrows pointing to the left and to the right to indicate to the customer the direction to which he should proceed in order to find an available clerk or teller.

Accordingly, the display means is operable between active and inactive states for directing customers to a service region l4, 15 free of customers when in its active state. It is to be understood that the arrows 19, 21 of sign l8 flash at a predetermined rate whenever customers are not present at their respective work stations l4, 15 as detected by the system 10 described further below.

In conjunction with sign l8, incandescent or other types of electric lights 22, 23, 24 respectively are associated with arrows 21, 19 and the Teller Available portion 26 of sign 18. As will be explained further below, there have been provided means for activating the sign 18 in response to the detection of the absence of a customer within one or the other or both of the service regions l4, l5.

Thus. in general, means have been provided for projecting an ultrasonic field into the open pedestrian space 17 in a manner so as to define each of the service regions 14, 15. Means have also been provided for receiving reflected waves from a customer disposed within the service region. Thus, for example, at each side of the tellers window and located beneath counter 13, a transducer assembly 27 includes a transmitting transducer 28 for projecting an ultrasonic field into the open pedestrian space in a manner as will be described below defining the service regions l4, 15.

Assembly 27 further includes a receiving transducer or unit 29 for receiving waves reflected from the customer when standing within the service regions 14, 15. Assembly 27 further includes means for mounting the receive unit 29 in shielded relation with respect to the direct radiations of transmit unit 28. In this way false indications of the presence of a customer will not be generated. The mounting block or member 31 disposed beneath counter 13 carries both units 28, 29 in closely spaced relation. The last named unit being disposed sufficiently ahead of an imaginary plane 32 disposed normal to the axis of transmission of unit 28 and passing through unit 28 to substantially isolate the receiving unit 29 from receiving radiation directly from transmitting unit 28. This arrangement serves to minimize cross-talk between the transmit and receive units as shown.

The axis of transmission of transmitter transducer 28 is disposed at something on the order of 37 to the plane of the wall 33 supporting counter 13. In addition, and in order not to obtain a false indication and false reflection of waves from the underside of counter 13, transmitting transducer 28 is tipped to project its axis 35 downwardly at an angle of the order of l from the horizontal plane of counter 13.

By disposing ultrasonic wave-transmitting units 28 on both sides of the teller windows beneath counter 13 and by appropriate adjustment of the power thereto, a customer service region 14, is appropriately defined.

ln general terms, the system shown in the diagram comprises, in addition to the transducer assemblies noted above for each of the service regions l4, l5 and the counter or other means for dividing the work stations from service regions as also noted above, a transmitter unit 34 serving to generate pulses to be transmitted via the transmitting transducers 28 at both stations in 3 an alternating manner whereby the transmitting transducer on one side of a station such as 14 will be pulsed followed by pulsing from the transmitting transducer at the other side of the same customer service region. Accordingly, the designations A and B have been employed to represent these two different channels and the subscripts and r are employed to represent transmitters and receivers carried in the mounting element or block 31.

A receiver 36, in general, includes a left hand section 65 and right hand section 70, each respectively associated with the left and right hand work stations l1, 12. Each section 65, 70 is responsive to both the A and B channels of its associated work station and provides an output indicative of the absence of a customer at its associated station ll, 12. The A and B sides or channels of each station 65, 70 are comparable in construction and function and prime marks associated with like reference numerals for like components have been used as a convention to identify such parts and thereby reduce the duplication of description herein.

Thus, as described below, only the B channel for the left side of work station 11 is traced through receiver 36, timer circuit 41 and logic 92.

However, from the description that follows, complementary portions in the remainder of the system to those described in detail herein are to be understood as having the same functions as the circuits described. Thus, prime marks have been associated with the reference numbers of all such complementary components with the understanding that they function in the same manner as those components as are described. Thus, in the left section 65 of receiver 36, 68' is an operational amplifier circuit comparable to that of 68. In the right section of receiver 36, gate 74' functions in the same manner as its corresponding gate 74, as will be described.

Transmitter unit 34 further serves to provide appropriate gating signals to a receiver circuit 36 via the leads 37, 38, 39 respectively. One of these gating signals referred to hereinafter as the X" signal on lead 37 serves to provide an appropriate period during which reflected signals can be gated through to timer circuit 41. Gating signals Y and Z carried respectively on leads 38, 39 serve to gate these signals via receiver 36 in a manner whereby a predetermined timing relationship is achieved between the A and B transmit and receive gatings.

The receiver gate pulse X and timing signals Y and Z serve to achieve a fixed timing relationship between the A and B transmit and receive gatings. Thus, Y is a timing pulse allowing the B receiver to receive the B transmit signal when the A transmitter is transmitting and Z is a timing pulse allowing the A receiver to receive the A transmit signal when the B transmitter is transmitting.

This gating relationship serves to alternately inhibit the A and B sides of a given customer service region so as to preclude the A receiver from receiving signals from the B transmitter and vice versa. This action further serves to blank unwanted acoustical noise in the region of the customer service areas l4, 15. Further, the X signal provides a receive gate pulse establishing the receive time duration for A and B receive transd ucers whereby only during the existence of the X pulse on lead 37 can the A or B receive transducers provide the above gating. 138

Transmitter unit 34 includes a frequency generator 42 supplying, for example, an SOKHZ square wave pulse train to a flip-flop 43. One output of flip-flop 43 appears along lead 44 so as to provide one of three direct inputs to the NAND gates 46 and 47, the latter being fed via the branch line 48. Another output of flipflop 43 appears along lead 49 to supply one of the two inputs to the A" NAND gate 51. The other input to NAND gate 51 is continuously supplied via a 5 volt D.C. source through one of resistors 52 whereby the output from flip-flop 43 via line 49 is gated directly through to lead 53 thereby supplying a second of the two inputs to NAND gate 46 which, via lead 38, supplies the Y gating signal to receiver 36.

The alternate output of flip-flop 43 appears on lead 54 and is similarly fed via the B" NAND gate 56 along lead 57 to provide a second input to NAND gate 47 and also by branch line connection 39 to supply the Z gating signal to receiver 36.

In summary, the Y and Z gating signals occur alternately via the A and B NAND gates 51, 56 fed from alternately conditioned outputs of flip-flop 43.

In order to provide similarly alternately occurring transmitting pulses to the A and B channels via a transmission equilizer circuit 58 of conventional construction, it will be evident that NAND gates 46 and 47 must be alternately gated using three inputs to each. The foregoing description has accounted for two of the three inputs to each of these NAND gates 46 and 47. The third input is supplied via lead 59 tapped into the output lead 61 of the first of two mono-stable multivibrator circuits 62, 63. ln addition, a pulse generator 64 provides a suitable saw tooth frequency on the order, for example, of 30112 via lead 66 to multivibrator 62. The output from multivibrator 62 appears on line 61, as noted, for resetting flip-flop 43 and is also used via lead 59 for gating out the signals supplied to NAND gates 46 and 47. Accordingly, the transmission equilizer circuit 58 will alternately receive transmission signals in the A and B channels to be alternately fed to A,, B, at customer service regions 14, 15.

Means for de-activating the lights 22, 23, and 24 as appropriate in response to the presence of a customer in either of the two customer service regions 14, in cludes the transducer receiver unit 29 for example l3 which, upon receiving reflected waves from a customer standing within the zone of region 14, for example, provides a signal along line 67 to be supplied to the two operational amplifier sections 68, 69 of receiver 36. Amplifiers 68, 69 supply their output pulses to line receivers 71, 72 of conventional type wherein a given threshold signal is required before it converts the input from the operational amplifiers to a useable output during the period that the reflected waves continue to be picked up by the receivers 29.

At each teller's work station 11, 12, a switch such as 89 or 91 has been provided. Operation of either of these switches between a first and second predetermined position serves either to associate or disassociate (via logic circuitry 92) the related teller station with the Teller Available sign. Switches 89 and 91 are normally closed to the position shown in full lines in FIG. 1 to apply a high input to inverter 99. Upon arrival of a teller at the tellers work station, switch 89, 91 is operated to the dashed line position.

NAND gates 73, 74 are associated with the output of line receivers 71, 72 for feeding an output pulse to the timing and detecting unit 41 so as to provide detection from the B channel side of the left or right hand tellers window 11, 12 respectively.

Accordingly, as noted above, the Y gating pulse on lead 38 is coupled to form a second of three inputs to the gating circuits 73, 74 while the gate pulse X, from multivibrator 63, provides the third input to NAND gates 73, 74. This provides a suitable output to electronic switches 76, 77 to provide an output on leads 78, 79 whereby detection in response to the B channel can be achieved at either of the two customer service regions 14, 15.

Similarly, at alternately occurring times, the A channel can serve to provide a suitable output, such as a voltage state, on one or the other of leads 78, 79 so as to indicate the presence of a customer in the left hand or right hand customer service region.

By the time a voltage on the order of 3-5 volts appears on output leads 78, 79 from receiver 36, the location of the occupied customer service region is established as being either the left hand service region, 14, or right hand service reegion, l5, dependent upon whether it is the left hand or the right hand output lead 78, 79.

At this point, means are provided for sensing the absence of a voltage (indicative of the absence of a customer) on lines 78 or 79, such as by means of a missing pulse detector or other suitable circuitry 81, 82. Upon sensing the absence ofa customer in this manner in the left hand region 14, for example, the output of circuit 81 is fed to the on-timer circuit 83. Circuit 83 provides a time-delay of the order of 2 seconds, for example, before resetting a latching flip-flop 84 to its relaxed state via an input lead 86.

Should latching flip-flop 84 be set or activated via a high voltage on lead 86, the output of flip-flop 84 will go high indicating a customer has been detected in service region 14. An off-timer" circuit 87 provides a suitable time-delay before feeding a setting pulse via lead 88 to flip-flop 84.

Thus, it is possible, using the timer/detecting circuitry 41 to provide time-delay means serving to respond to the absence of a customer only after a predetermined elapsed time so as not to falsely indicate the absence of a customer when the customer has only momentarily moved from the field of the service region 14 (or 15) and also at the same time serves to provide a time-delay means coupled to the detection means for maintaining detection of the absence of a customer and indication thereof notwithstanding momentary entry into the field defining the service region 14 (or 15) thereof by a passing customer who is merely walking past the tellers window. Thus, the on-timer and offtimer 83, 87 respectively each provide a two-second delay before indicating that a customer is present or that a customer has left the window.

The system operates as follows. With no one present in the left hand service region 11 (for example), and further assuming that the teller has closed switch 89 to the dotted line position shown in FIG. 1 so as to directly couple the timer-detector 41 to logic circuitry 92, a "low" voltage (such as zero volts) will appear on lead 98.

Lead 98 comprises the input to an inverter 99 whereby a high" appears on its output lead 101. Lead 101 supplies the input to a NAND gate producing a low on its output lead 115.

Lead 115 supplies this low voltage state to NAND gate 102 whereby any low produces a high on the output side thereof so as to form the input to NOR gate 104. At NOR gate 104, any high produces a low on lead 105 to provide the input to two gates 109, l 10 via leads 105 and 108. Lead 105 provides one input to NOR gate while a branch lead 108 supplies the same input to NAND gate 109. Flasher 103, in the form of a square wave generator, provides the second input to NOR gate 110 via lead 120.

With both inputs low at NOR gate 110, a high will be produced and thereby activate, i.e., turn ON, the electronic switch 106. Switch 106, in turn, serves to operate triac 107 to its active state for driving lamp 23 associated with directional arrow 19.

Lamp 23 flashes at a rate corresponding to the flashing or pulse rate of the square wave generated by flasher 103. The output from gate 104 is also sensed via lead 108 by NAND gate 109 where any low will produce a high serving to turn ON its associated electronic switch 113, triac 114, and thereby illuminate lamp 24 associated with the display marked Teller Available.

Illumination of the right hand directional arrow 21 by its associated lamp 22 is accomplished in a manner corresponding to that described above and, accordingly, since the right half of the above system represents a duplication of the left half of the system, the same components and reference numerals have been used but with the addition of a prime mark associated with the reference numerals in order to avoid duplicating the foregoing description.

From the foregoing, it should be readily evident that there has been provided an improved customer directing system whereby the absence of a customer in a service area or region associated with a tellers work station can be readily determined and indicated to the public, not by any act on the part of the teller or clerk, but solely in response to the sensed absence of a customer at the tellers window. A flashing arrow directs the public toward that particular available area.

The system described above is readily expandable into an arrangement for use in conjunction with more than two work stations and the foregoing description is believed exemplary of the primary concept.

We claim:

1. In a system for directing customers to available clerks positioned at their respective work stations, the combination comprising a counter disposed and adapted to separate each work station from an associated customer service region, an open pedestrian space in front of said counter, including said service regions, for movement of customers up to and for passing in front of said counter, electronic means in a continuously active state transducing signals at each service region for detecting the absence of a customer waiting thereat, display means operable between active and inactive states for directing customers to a service region free of customers when in said active state, and means for activating said display means in response to said detection of the absence of a waiting customer within that field defining the last named service region.

2. [n a system for directing customers to available clerks positioned at their respective work stations, the combination comprising a counter disposed and adapted to separate each work station from an associated customer service region, an open pedestrian space in front of said counter, including said service regions, for movement of customers up to and for passing in front of said counter, electronic means continuously projecting an ultrasonic field into said space to define each service region, means for receiving reflected waves of said field from a customer positioned within said service region, means coupled to said receiving means for detecting the absence of a customer positioned at the service region associated therewith, display means operable between active and inactive states for directing customers to a service region free of customers when in said active state, and means for activating said display means in response to said detection of the absence of a customer positioned within that field defining the last named service region.

3. ln a system according to claim 2 wherein the detecting means includes time-delay means serving to respond to the absence of a customer only after a predetermined elapsed time so as not to falsely indicate the absence of a customer when the customer has only momentarily moved from the field of the service region.

4. in a system according to claim 2 further including time-delay means coupled to said detection means for continuing detection of the absence of a customer notwithstanding momentary entry into the field defining said service region thereof by a passing customer.

5. In a system for directing customers to available clerks at their respective work stations, the combination comprising a counter, a plurality of work stations behind the counter, a service region in front of said counter associated with each work station, means disposed at the sides of each said service region in front of said counter for continuously projecting a field of ultrasonic waves away from the counter and for receiving portions thereof reflected from a customer located within the service region thereof, each of the last named means including both a transmit and receive unit disposed on the same side of said serivce region, and means for mounting said receive unit in shielded relative to the direct radiation of said transmit unit, the last named means including a mounting member disposed beneath the counter and carrying a wavetransmitting unit and a reflected wave-receiving unit in closely spaced relation, the last named unit being disposed sufficiently ahead of an imaginary plane normal to the axis of transmission of said wave-transmitting unit and passing through the first named unit to substantially isolate said receiving unit from receiving radiation directly from said transmitting unit so as to minimize cross-talk and ripple between said transmit and receive units.

t: l k I

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Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
US4398257 *Feb 27, 1981Aug 9, 1983Ncr CorporationCustomer queue control method and system
US4420751 *Oct 29, 1981Dec 13, 1983Ncr CorporationDetection method and apparatus for a user device or automatic teller bank machine
US4479207 *Mar 19, 1982Oct 23, 1984Hartman Material Handling Systems, Inc.Load detecting system for automatic storage apparatus
US4575707 *Mar 3, 1983Mar 11, 1986General Research Of Electronics, Inc.Waiting time display system
US4670798 *Apr 14, 1986Jun 2, 1987Max L. CampbellPoint of purchase advertising system
US4675647 *Jul 14, 1982Jun 23, 1987Rune SalinSystem for determining a queue sequence for serving customers at a plurality of service points
US5815554 *Feb 25, 1997Sep 29, 1998Burgess; Ken L.Method and system for indicating operator availability
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Classifications
U.S. Classification340/529, 367/93, 367/96, 340/286.6
International ClassificationG01S15/04, G07C11/00, G09F13/00, G09F13/04, G01S15/00, G09F19/00
Cooperative ClassificationG07C11/00, G09F2013/0472, G01S15/04, G09F19/00, G09F13/00
European ClassificationG07C11/00, G01S15/04, G09F13/00, G09F19/00