US 3913069 A
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Description (OCR text may contain errors)
United States Patent Rundin et al.
Oct. 14, 1975 SELF SERVICE SYSTEM Inventors: Sten E. Rundin, Bromma; Jan H.
Westlund, Akersberga, both of Sweden Assignee: Auto Tank AB, Stockholm, Sweden Filed: Oct. 21, 1974 Appl. No.: 516,219
U.S. Cl. 340/147 A; 340/147 LP Int. Cl. .1 G06K 7/08 Field of Search..... 340/147 A, 147 LP; 222/25,
References Cited UNITED STATES PATENTS 9/1968 Ciotti 222/26 X l/l974 Wostl 340/147 A Clock pulse generator Primary ExaminerHarold I. Pitts Attorney, Agerit, or FirmOldham & Oldham Co.
 ABSTRACT A self service system is disclosed which comprises a number of fuel pumps, a less number of storage and display devices at a cashier location, and an interconnecting multiplexing unit. When a pump becomes occupied, automatically it is interconnected to any one of the storage'and display devices which are free. After dispensing the interconnection is broken, such that the pump is free but the storage and display device is still occupied. The pump can be used immediately again together with any other free storage and display, device-The occupied storage and display device is set free, after the customer has paid or become registered at the cashier location.
10 Claims, 3 Drawing Figures Storage and display device 72,
U.S. Patant Oct. 14, 1975 Sheet20f3 3,913,069
US Patent Oct. 14, 1975 Sheet 3 of3 3,913,069
SELF SERVICE SYSTEM BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION This invention relates to a self service system of the type including a number of dispensing units or devices and a cashier or operator location with a number of storage and display devices for visual registration of dispense data. The invention is particularly applicable to a system for dispensing motor fuel.
Known and generally used self service systems for fuel dispensing stations, in which each fuel pump is permanently connected to a corresponding storage and display device at the cashier location, have many disadvantages, the so-called queue problem being one of the most important ones. The queue problem means that after a pump has been used for dispensing fuel said pump usually cannot be used again, until the dispensed fuel volume has been paid or acknowledged at the cashier location and, subsequently, the cashier has unblocked said pump. As an alternative the cashier, after a completed dispensing operation at a pump, can make a separate note of the number of the pump and of the fuel volume dispensed and, thereafter, release the pump for a new dispensing operation. However, this latter procedure is troublesome and unsafe, particularly when the station has many customers at the same time.
The queue problem can be accentuated due to the fact that often the pumps of a station are used more or less frequently, because they dispense various kinds of fuel or various fuel qualities.
Other disadvantages of the known systems are, for instance, that the cashier location they are difficult to monitor and thus to read, which is particularly inconvenient if a customer cannot state distinctly which pump he has used. Also, the known system generally are very space-requiring.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION Therefore, an object of this inventionis to provide a self service system, which does not have the abovementioned disadvantages and which, in addition thereto, gives further advantages.
Another object of this invention is to provide a novel method of operating a self service system of the type previously mentioned.
Thus, according to one aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of operating a self service system that includes a number of dispensing units and a cashier location having a number of storage and display devices, the method essentially comprising the following steps:
when a dispensing unit, such as a fuel pump, is occupied by a customer the dispensing unit is connected to any of the storage and display devices which are free, that is not occupied;
when, after the dispensing operation, the occupation of said dispensing unit is terminated, the connection between said dispensing unit and the storage and display device involved is broken, while said storage and display device is maintained in an occupied state, dispense data fed into the storage and display device during the dispensing operation also being maintained in the storage and display device, whereby said dispensing unit is free to be used immediately again togethr with any other free storage and display device;
and when an acknowledgement corresponding to the dispense data fed into the storage and display device has taken place at the cashiers, said storage and display device is reset into a free state.
When connecting the dispensing unit and the storage and display device selected, suitably information is presented on the storage and display device which uniquely defines the dispensing unit, involved. This information is maintained until the storage and display device is reset into its free state.
The method according to the invention obviously means that different dispense data from one and the same dispensing units can be presented simultaneously on separate storage and display devices. In other words, a dispensing unit can be used independently of whether or not a previous dispensing operation of said dispensing unit has been paid, or in any other way acknowledged at the cashiers. This means improved flexibility, customer throughput and capacity of the station.
At the acknowledgement of an occupied storage and display device, which means that the cashier with the guidance of information from a customer to be served, has identified the storage and display device associated with said customer, suitably the presentation or display of dispense data on other occupied storage and display devices is interrupted temporarily, until the acknowledged storage and display device is reset into its free state, for instance after the customer has paid or has been registered.
According to another aspect of the invention there is provided a self service system essentially comprising:
a first number of dispensing units;
a second number of storage and display devices at a cashier location; and
means for automatically connecting a dispensing unit, when it becomes occupied, for instance when the nozzle of a fuel pump is taken off, to any free one of the storage and display devices, such that data regarding the dispensing operation of said dispensing unit can be transferred to the selected storage and display device, said means being arranged to break said connection between said dispensing units and said storage and display device automatically, as soon as the occupation of said dispensing unit is terminated, for instance when said nozzle is replaced on the pump, each storage and display device being arranged, after such a connection, to remain in an occupied state while retaining dispense data received during said connection at least until an acknowledgement corresponding to said dispense data has taken place by the cashier.
Said means suitably include a multiplexing unit, said dispensing unit being connected to the input side of the multiplexing unit and said storage and display devices being connected to the output side of the multiplexing unit. Preferably, said multiplexing unit is a time multiplexing unit.
Each storage and display device suitably includes means for uniquely defining preferably in a digital format, such as with two decimal digits the dispensing'unit from which dispense data is received or has been received. Also, dispense data is presented on the storage and display device preferably in a digital format on a display means, for instance with five decimal digits, two of which can be to the right of the decimal point. The display means can show volume or price.
Each storage and display device advantageously includes first storage means, in which received dispense data is stored and from which said display means are supplied. Furthermore, the storage and display device can include second storage means for storing data obtained from a calculation of the data stored in said first storage means, for instance in order to convert volume data into price data. In this case means are provided for making it possible to supply said display means selectively either from said first storage means or from said second storage means. These selective means can be common to all storage and display means.
.Suitably, each storage and display device is provided with an acknowledge or check means, which has to be actuated before the storage and display device can be reset into its free state by the actuation of a resetmeans that can be common to all storage and display devices. Advantageously, said acknowledge means can be arranged to turn off or disable the display means of all other storageand display devices temporarily when actuated. However, said other display means are turned on orenabled again, when said reset means is actuated in orderto reset the acknowledged storage and display device.
.The dispensing unit defining means, the display means'and the acknowledge means of each storage and display devices are suitably assembled in a display unit, which while'using modern electronic components can be made vary small although it is easily monitored and read. The display ,units of all storage and display devices are preferably assembled in a cashier panel or control unit, on which also said reset means and said selective means are arranged. Consequently, the unit to be watched or monitored and operated on by the ca shier is extremely simple and easy to place in the best way at the cashier location.
If an increased capacity is needed, additional control units easily can be placed adjacent the original control unit without reducing the surveyability.
The relation between the first number of dispensing units and the second member of storage and displace devices can vary within the scope of the invention. Thus, according to the need, the number of storage and display devices can be greater than, equal to or less than the number of dispensing units. However, it is particularly advantageous that in a system including a great number of dispensing units it has shown that a significant less number of storage and display units will be sufficient. This means that the work of the cashier will be most simplified. For instance, in a system having up to 15 dispensing units, generally no more than 4-6 storage and display devices are needed.
However, in certain cases great advantages are achieved by using a greater number of storage and display devices than the number of dispensing units. Assume for instance thatfor some reason the system cannot be provided with any more dispensing units, although a greater capacity and customer throughput are highly desirable. In such a case an increased number of storage and display devices couldmean tha the dispensing. units can be used more intensely, because waiting times are reduced in that each dispensing unit after a terminated dispensing operation generally can be used again immediately together with a new storage and display device.
BREIF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS The invention will be more fully understood from the following description of a preferred embodiment thereof in connection with the. accompanying drawings,
FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram of a self service system for dispensing fuel in accordance with this invention;
FIG. 2 shows the construction of the storage and display devices in more detail; and 1 FIG. 3 illustrates a preferred design of the control unit.
DESCRIPTION OE THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT Referring to FIG. 1 the system according to the invention comprises m dispensing units in the form' of fuel pumps 10, n storage and display devices l2,and a I time multiplexing unit interconnecting the pumps and the storage and display units 12, said time multiplexing unit including a clock pulse generator 13 and n multiplexing channels 14. Each multiplexing channel 14 is 3 nel 14 is connected to clock pulse generator 13 via a separate line Kl Kn, respectively. Moreover, the multiplexing channels are connected to a common pump address line 18 from clock pulse generator 13 and to a common inhibit line 19. As to the connections 20, which exist between each multiplexing channel 14 and.
its associated storage and display unit 12, said connec tions are evident from FIG. 2 and will be described later.
Since the operation mode of a time multiplexing unit is wellknown to those skilled in the art, the function of time multiplexing unit used in accordance with the invention will be described briefly. Clock pulse generator 1 l3 cyclically generates, for instance on a binary basis,
m timely separated control pulses defining m time in-.
tervals, said pulses being emitted sequentially on the 7 corresponding lines Pl Pm, respectively. Thus, each" I V of lines Pl Pm periodically transmits a control pulse defining a time interval, during which the associated pump 10 canuse said lines 15, 16 and 17. Simulta-.
neously with each of said controlpulses a corresponding pump address signal is transmitted on line 18, said corresponding pump address signal defining for in'-. stance on a binary basis the pump that receives the corresponding control pulse.
During each cycle including. m control pulses in order to make it possible sequentially to sample and transmit data from said in pumps 10, only one multiplexing channel 14 at a time can be used for sampling. This is because duringeach such cycle clock pulse generator 13 emits only one pulse on one. of lines Kl Kn. For each new cycle a pulse is emitted on a new line, such that multiplexing channels 14 are enabled sequentially. and cyclically. In other words one multiplexing unitat.
a time samples pumps 10, each pump being sampled during a predetermined time interval defined by clock pulse generator 13.
When an enabled and free multiplexing channel 14 notices a call on line 15 from a sampled, occupied pump 10, the pump and the multiplexing channel and thus also the associated storage and display device 12 are interconnected in that the address of the pump is registered in a register of said multiplexing channel, while producing a taken signal preventing the multiplexing channel from answering a call from any other pump as well as an inhibit signal emitted on inhibit line 19 during time intervals associated with the pump in question, such that the other multiplexing channels are prevented from cooperating with said pump.
When a pump 10 thus has been interconnected to a multiplexing channel 14 and its associated storage and display device 12, data transmission from the pump to the storage and display device can take place during each time interval associated with the pump, because the pump address emitted by clock pulse generator 13 during these time intervals corresponds to the pump address stored in said register of the multiplexing channel in question, whereby gate pulses are produced which establish gate controlled connections through the multiplexing channel.
Referring now also to FIG. 2, each storage and display device comprises two units, namely a storage unit 21 and a display unit 22, which units can be arranged separate from each other. The display units 22 of the storage and display devices 12 are assembled, one above the other, in a cashier or control panel 23, which at its lower part'also is provided with a blocking key switch 24, a reset switch 25 and price/volume switches 26 and 27. Each display unit 22 includes a first digital electronic indicating means 28 showing the number of a pump interconnected to the storage and display device in question, a second electronic digital indicating means 29 showing dispensed volume or, alternatively, the price thereof, and an acknowledge or check switch 30.
Each storage unit 21 includes a storage register circuit comprising a volume storage register 31, in which dispensed fuel volume is registered, a price storage register 32 for registering the price corresponding to the registered volume, a calculator 33 for continuous conversion between volume and price, a circuit 34 for setting the conversion factor associated with the interconnected pump, and a switch means 35 which makes it possible to connect said indicating means 29 either two volume storage register 31 or to price storage register 32.
Storage unit 21 also includes a control circuit comprising three flip flops 36, 37, and 38, which are reset into their 0 state when the storage and display device is in its free state, and a number of logic gates, the functions of which will be evident from the following example as to the function of the system.
Assume that multiplexing channel 14, is enabled, because clock pulse generator 13 emits a pulse on line K,, and that a customer wishes to use pump 10,. When the customer takes off the nozzle from pump 10,, pump 10, during its associated time interval determined by the pulse emitted by clock pulse generator 13 on line Pl will produce an engagement pulse on line 15. This engagement pulse is received as a call by multiplexing channel 14,, thereby producing interconnection, as described above, in that address of pump 10, via line 18 is registered in the address register of multiplexing channel 14,. The engagement pulse also passes through multiplexing channel 14, providing a continuous engagement signal to AND gates 41 and 42 of the storage unit 21 of the associated storage and display device 12,. Provided that blocking key switch 24 is not in its blocking position, both inputs of said AND gates 41 and 42 will be enabled, whereby. flip flops 36 and 37 are set into their 1 state. This means that a pump motor signal and a taken signal are sent to the associated multiplexing channel 14,. The pump motor signal passes through multiplexing channel 14, and causes, via line 16, the motor of pump10, to start, such that the fuel dispensing operationcan start. Said taken signal prevents multiplexing channel 14, from being reset, that isprevents that the own taken signal of the multiplexing channel ceases and that the content of said multiplexing channel address register is cleared.
When in its occupied or taken state multiplexing channel 14, also sendsa pump identity signal to its storage and display device 12,, this signal, which is produced on the basis of the pump address registered in the multiplexing channel, causes the pump number to be presented on indicating means 28 as well as the setting of circuit 34 to the conversion factor associated with pump 10,.
During the following dispensing operation pump 10, preferably produces one pulse for each volume unit of fuel dispensed. The pulses produced are transferred via line 17 and multiplexing channel 14, to volume storage register 31 of storage unit 21 during the time intervals, which are associated with pump 10, and during which the connection between pump 10, and the interconnected storage and display device 12, are enabled.
Calculator 33 continuously converts the volume registration in volume storage register 31 into a price registration in price storage register 32. During the dispensing operation switch 35 normally is in its position for supplying a volume registration to indicating means When the dispensing operation is terminated and the customer has replaced the nozzle on pump 10,, the pump stops emittingengagement pulses. As a result, the engagement signal from multiplexing channel 14, to the associated storage unit 21 ceases, which means that flip flop 36 via inverter 43 is reset into the 0 state, whereby the pump motor signal ceases and the pump motor stops. The interconnection between pump 10, and multiplexing channel 14 thereby no longer exists, but multiplexing channel 14, remains in its occupied or taken state, due to the fact that the taken signal from its associated storage unit 21 is still received.
When the customer, who has used pump 10, as discussed above, comes to the cashier location, the cashier with the guidance of information received from the customer identifies the storage and display device 12,, that isits display unit. Said information received from the customer could be pump number and (if the same pump number can be found on more than one display unit)/or the dispensed volume or the corresponding price sum. If the customer only knows the price of the volume dispensed (that is if for some reason he does not know the number of the pump used and the volume dispensed), the cashier actuates the price switch 26 with the result that switches 35 of all storage units 21 are activated causing all working indicating means 29 on the control panel to show price of volume dispensed instead of, as usual, volume dispensed. If
necessary, Switches 35 can be brought back into their volume position by actuation of the volume. switch 27. Of course, the control panel is provided with indieating means (not shown in FIG. 2) for indicating whether volume or price is presented. Said indicating means can be signal lamps coupled to said switches 26 and 27.
When the cashier has identified the display unit in question, he acknowledges this by pressing the acknowledge or check press button switch 30 of said display unit. As a result indicating means 29 of all other display units and thus all information irrelevant to for instance the payment procedure are darkened or switched off, while indicating means 29 of the acknowledged display unit automatically show the price of the volume dispensed. The two last-mentioned functions are not realized on the drawings because it should be obvious to those skilled in the art how they can be easily accomplished.
When acknowledge switch 30 is actuated flip flop 38, normally in its state, will be set into its 1 state enabling AND date 45, because both inputs of AND gate 46 are enabled due to the fact that the pump motor signal has ceased and that the taken signal still exists, which means that, both inputs of AND gate 44 are enabled causing AND gate 44 to emit an input signal to AND gate 46.
After the customer has payed or in any other way been registered, the cashier presses the reset push button switch 25 and as a result via enabled AND gate 45 flip flops 37, 38 and storage registers 31, 32 are reset and cleared. Consequently, the taken signal from flip flop 37 ceases causing the multiplexing channel with the pump address register to be reset orv cleared as well. Thereby the acknowledged storage and display device l2 and its associated multiplexing channel 14 are free again and can be used together with another or the same pump when calling.
The. actuation of reset switch 25 also causes the temporarily darkened indicating means 29 to be switched on again while indicating volume, whereby the customer next in'turn can be served.
If, by mistake, a wrong acknowledge switch 30 is actuated, which means that a wrong flip flop 38 is set into its 1 state (provided that the associated AND-gate 44 emits an output signal), the cashier merely actuates the same wrong acknowledge switch 30 once more, whereby said wrong flip flop 38 is reset into its 0 state and the control panel is returned into its state before the wrong acknowledgement.
The reinstatement of the darkened indicating means (while indicating volume) at the actuation of the reset switch 25 and at a repeated actuation of one and the.
same acknowledge switch 30 is not realized on the drawings. However, it should be obvious to those skilled in the art how these functions easily can be accomplished.
Referring now to FIG. 3, there is shown a preferred design of the control panel 23. The control panel includes two columns of each six display units. Each display unit includes indicating means 28 and 29 and an acknowledge push botton switch 30. At its lower right side the control panel is providedwith a reset push button switch 25. At its lower left side the control panel is provided with a blocking key switch 24, a price push button switch 26 and a volume push button switch 27.
Switches 24, 25, 26,27 eachhave an associated signal 1 lamp 24, 25', 26 and 27', respectively.
Moreover, at its upper side controlpanel 23 is provided with additional greater dimensioned and more easily readable indicating means 50, 51 and 52 for indicating pump number, volume and price, respectively.
Said additional indicating means 50, 51, 52 are arranged to show the pump number, the volume dispensed and the price of the volume dispensed of the survayability, the control panel could, of course, also be stationary for instance in a desk.
While the preferred form of the present invention has been described, it is obvious that changes and modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope ov the invention as defined by the appended claims.
What we claimis: 1. A self service system comprising: a first number of dispensing units;
a second number of storage and display devices at a cashier location; and
means for automatically connecting a dispensing unit, when it becomes occupied,'to any free one of the storage and display devices, such that data re- I garding the dispensing operation of said dispensing unit can be transferred to the selected storage and display device, said means being arranged to break said connection between said dispensing units and said storage and 1 display device automatically as soon as the. occupation of said dispensing unit is terminated, whereby said dispensing unit is free to be used againimmediately together with any other free storage and display device.
each storage and display devive being arranged after a connection to remain in an occupied state while retaining dispense data received during said connection at least until an acknowledgement corresponding to said dispense data has taken place.
2. A system according to claim 1, wherein said means include a multiplexing unit.
3. A system according to claim 2, wherein the number of storage and display devices is less than the number of dispensing units.
4. A system according to claim 2, wherein each storage and display device includes means for defining the dispensing unit from which data is received, and meanslfor indicating at least one quantity representative of the dispensing from said dispensing unit.
5. A system according to claim 4, wherein each storage and display device includes first storage means for storing received data and for supplying said indicating means.
6. A system according to claimS, wherein each storage and display device further includes second storage means for storing data received from a calculation of i said data stored in said first storage means, means being arranged for selectively supplying said indicating means either from said first storage means or said second storage means.
7. A system according to claim 6, wherein said first storage means are arranged to store data of dispensed amount and wherein said second storage means are arranged to store data of the price of the amount dispensed.
8. A method of operating a self service system that includes a number of dispensing units and a cashier location having a number of storage and display devices, the method comprising the following steps:
when a dispensing unit is occupied by a customer the dispensing unit is connected to any of the storage and display devices which are free,
when, after the dispensing operation, the occupation of said dispensing unit is terminated, the connection between said dispensing unit and the storage and display device involved is broken, while maintaining said storage and display device in an occupied state, dispense data fed into the storage and display device during the dispensing operation also being maintained in the storage and display device, whereby said dispensing unit is free to be used immediately again together with any other free storage and display device; and
when an acknowledgement corresponding to the dispense data fed into the storage and display device has taken place, said storage an display device is reset into a free state.
9. A method according to claim 8, wherein when a dispensing unit becomes occupied the status of the storage and display devices are sampled sequentially, the dispensing unit being connected to the first free storage and display device found.
10. A method according to claim 8, wherein the occupied dispensing unit is activated by a signal transmitted from the storage and display device connected to said dispensing unit as long as said dispensing unit is occupied.