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Publication numberUSRE38741 E1
Publication typeGrant
Application numberUS 09/018,358
Publication dateJun 7, 2005
Filing dateFeb 4, 1998
Priority dateFeb 26, 1993
Also published asUS5526408, US20060034435
Publication number018358, 09018358, US RE38741 E1, US RE38741E1, US-E1-RE38741, USRE38741 E1, USRE38741E1
InventorsBarak M. Yekutiely
Original AssigneeSound Communications, LLC
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet
Audio communication system
US RE38741 E1
Abstract
A communication device capable of receiving, processing and sending analog signals, characterized in that the device is coupled to the audio input/output ports of a built-in or external sound board attached to a computer, through standard audio plugs. The device may be installed as a stand-alone unit between the audio board and a telephone line, or as a part of the audio board. During its operation the device is constantly under the control of software operating in the computer side. Signals entering through the audio inport andare digitized, filtered, and analyzed by software modules, and the software then manages the information-outputs information and/or saves voice messagemessages, etc. in accordance with the contents of these signals.
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Claims(44)
1. An apparatus for bi-directional analog communication of telephone data with a host computer, the host computer having an A/D converter for converting analog data received from the apparatus to digital data and a D/A converter for converting digital data to analog data to be sent to the apparatus, the apparatus comprising:
a data access arrangement having a telephone line interface for connection to a telephone line, the data access arrangement also having a bi-directional interface, the data access arrangement outputting signals responsive to signals received from the telephone line interface to the bi-directional interface;
an audio mixer connected to the bi-directional interface of the data access arrangement for receiving the signals output to the bi-directional interface by the data access arrangement, wherein the audio mixer has a first analog output for connection with the host computer, for forwarding signals received by the bi-directional interface of the audio mixer to the host computer, the audio mixer additionally having a second analog output;
a DTMF decoder connected to the second analog output of the audio mixer, the DTMF decoder for generating a signal representative of a DTMF signal in response to receiving a DTMF signal from the audio mixer; and
a logical unit operatively connected to the DTMF decoder for receiving the signal generated by the DTMF decoder, the logical unit being coupled to the data access arrangement to provide instructions to the data access arrangement.
2. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein the audio mixer additionally comprises a first analog input to receive signals from the host computer.
3. The apparatus claimed in claim 2, wherein the audio mixer sends DTMF signals received over the first analog input of the audio mixer to the DTMF decoder via the second analog output.
4. The apparatus claimed in claim 2, wherein the audio mixer sends signals received over the first analog input of the audio mixer to the data access arrangement via the bi-directional interface.
5. The apparatus claimed in claim 2, wherein the audio mixer is adapted to receive power from the host computer via the first analog input.
6. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein the data access arrangement is configured to receive power from a telephone line connected to the telephone line interface when said telephone line is “OFF-HOOK”.
7. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein the instructions that the logical unit provides to the data access unit includes an instruction to seize a telephone line.
8. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein the instructions that the logical unit provides to the data access unit includes an instruction to release a telephone line.
9. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein the audio mixer additionally comprises a speaker, and wherein signals received from the bi-directional interface with the data access arrangement are sent to the speaker.
10. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein the audio mixer additionally comprises a microphone, and wherein the audio mixer forwards signals received from the microphone to the bi-directional interface.
11. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein the data access arrangement sends signals received from the audio mixer to the telephone line interface.
12. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, wherein the data access arrangement sends a telephone ring signal received at the telephone line interface to the audio mixer via the bi-directional interface, and the audio mixer forwards the telephone ring signal to the host computer via the first analog output.
13. The apparatus claimed in claim 1, further comprising a host computer, the host computer having an A/D converter for converting analog data received from the audio mixer to digital data.
14. The apparatus claimed in claim 2, further comprising a host computer, the host computer having an A/D converter for converting analog data received from the audio mixer to digital data, the host computer also having a D/A converter for converting digital data to analog data to be sent to the audio mixer.
15. The apparatus claimed in claim 14, wherein the host computer has a bus, the A/D converter is adapted to receive analog signals from the audio mixer and convert it to digital data on the bus.
16. The apparatus claimed in claim 15, wherein the D/A converter is adapted to convert digital data received on the bus to analog data, and transmit the analog data on the audio mixer.
17. The apparatus claimed in claim 16, further comprising host software, the host software configured to transmit DTMF signals via the D/A converter, the DTMF signals including an instruction that the data access arrangement seize the telephone line.
18. The apparatus claimed in claim 16, further comprising host software, the host software configured to monitor the digital representation of the analog data received by the A/D converter and transmit DTMF signals via the D/A converter instructing the data access arrangement seize the telephone line in response to a digital representation of a telephone ring.
19. A system for providing telephone communications in cooperation with a host computer, wherein said host computer generates and processes signals including audio and control signals, said system comprising:
a data access arrangement having a telephone line interface and a second interface, said data access arrangement for interfacing signals at said telephone line interface with signals at said second interface;
a mixer adapted to receive a plurality of input signals and provide said input signals to said host computer, wherein said input signals include audio signals received from said second interface, said mixer adapted to receive audio signals from said host computer and provide a plurality of output signals, wherein said output signals include audio signals transmitted to said second interface;
a DTMF decoder for receiving at least one of the control signals and for generating a first signal representative of a DTMF signal in response thereto; and
a logical unit for receiving said first signal, said logical unit coupled to said data access arrangement to control operations of said system according to said first signal.
20. The system of claim 19 wherein said system provides a type of telephone service according to a type of software installed in said host computer.
21. The system of claim 19 wherein said logical unit controls operations of said data access arrangement according to said control signals.
22. The system of claim 19 wherein said control signals define signaling operations on said telephone line.
23. The system of claim 19 wherein said input signals and said output signals comprise analog signals and said host computer transmits and receives digital signals, said system further comprising a digital to analog and analog to digital converter for converting between said digital signals and analog signals.
24. The system of claim 19 wherein said telephone line interface connects to at least one telephone.
25. A system for interfacing to a telephone in cooperation with a host computer, wherein said host computer generates and processes signals including audio and control signals, said system comprising:
a data access arrangement having a telephone interface and a second interface, said data access arrangement for interfacing signals at said telephone interface with signals at said second interface;
a mixer adapted to receive a plurality of input signals and provide said input signals to said host computer, wherein said input signals include audio signals received from said second interface, said mixer adapted to receive audio signals from said host computer and provide a plurality of output signals, wherein said output signals include audio signals transmitted to said second interface;
a DTMF decoder for receiving at least one of the control signals and for generating first signals representative of DTMF signals in response thereto; and
a logical unit for receiving said first signals, said logical unit coupled to said data access arrangement to control operations of said system according to said first signals.
26. A system for providing telephone communications in conjunction with a host computer, wherein said host computer generates and processes signals including audio and control signals, said system comprising:
a first interface for audio signals and control signals that are routed between said computer and said system;
a second interface for audio signals that are routed to or from a data access arrangement;
a DTMF decoder for receiving at least one of the control signals and for generating first signals representative of DTMF signals in response thereto;
a logical unit for receiving said first signals from said computer via said first interface, said logical unit coupled to said second interface to control operations of said data access arrangement according to said first signals; and
an audio mixer adapted to receive a plurality of input signals and provide said input signals to said computer via said first interface, wherein said input signals include audio signals received from said second interface, said audio mixer adapted to receive audio signals from said computer via said first interface and provide a plurality of output signals, said output signals including audio signals transmitted to said second interface.
27. The system of claim 26 further comprising a data access arrangement having a telephone line interface and a system interface, said system interface adapted to be connected to said second interface, said data access arrangement for interfacing signals at said telephone line interface with signals at said system interface.
28. The system of claim 26 further comprising a data access arrangement having a telephone interface and a system interface, said system interface adapted to be connected to said second interface, said data access arrangement for interfacing signals at said telephone interface with signals at said system interface.
29. An audio device for providing telephone communications in conjunction with a host computer, wherein said host computer generates and processes signals including audio and control signals, said audio device comprising:
a first interface for audio signals and control signals that are routed between said computer and said audio device;
a second interface for audio signals that are routed between said audio device and a data access arrangement;
a DTMF decoder for receiving at least one of the control signals and for generating first signals representative of DTMF signals in response thereto;
a logical unit for receiving said first signals from said computer via said first interface, said logical unit coupled to said second interface to control operations of said data access arrangement according to said first signals; and
an audio mixer adapted to receive a plurality of input signals and provide said input signals to said computer via said first interface, wherein said input signals include audio signals received from said second interface, said audio mixer adapted to receive audio signals from said computer via said first interface and provide a plurality of output signals, said output signals including audio signals transmitted to said second interface.
30. A board for providing telephone communications in conjunction with a host computer, wherein said host computer generates and processes signals including audio and control signals, said board comprising:
a first interface for audio signals and control signals that are routed between said computer and said board;
a second interface for audio signals that are routed to or from a data access arrangement;
a DTMF decoder for receiving at least one of the control signals and for generating first signals representative of DTMF signals in response thereto;
a logical unit for receiving said first signals from said computer via said first interface, said logical unit coupled to said second interface to control operations of said data access arrangement according to said first signals; and
an audio mixer adapted to receive a plurality of input signals and provide said input signals to said computer via said first interface, wherein said input signals include audio signals received from said second interface, said audio mixer adapted to receive audio signals from said computer via said first interface and provide a plurality of output signals, said output signals including audio signals transmitted to said second interface.
31. The board of claim 30 further comprising a data access arrangement having a telephone line interface and a board interface, said board interface adapted to be connected to said second interface, said data access arrangement for interfacing signals at said telephone line interface with signals at said board interface.
32. The board of claim 30 further comprising a data access arrangement having a telephone interface and a board interface, said board interface adapted to be connected to said second interface, said data access arrangement for interfacing signals at said telephone interface with signals at said board interface.
33. An audio board for providing telephone communications in conjunction with a host computer, wherein said host computer generates and processes signals including audio and control signals, said audio board comprising:
a first interface for audio signals and control signals that are routed between said computer and said audio board;
a second interface for audio signals that are routed to or form a data access arrangement;
a DTMF decoder for receiving at least one of the control signals and for generating first signals representative of DTMF signals in response thereto;
a logical unit for receiving said first signals from said computer via said first interface, said logical unit coupled to said second interface to control operations of said data access arrangement according to said first signals; and
an audio mixer adapted to receive a plurality of input signals and provide said input signals to said computer via said first interface, wherein said input signals include audio signals received from said second interface, said audio mixer adapted to receive audio signals from said computer via said first interface and provide a plurality of output signals, said output signals including audio signals transmitted to said second interface.
34. The audio board of claim 33 further comprising a data access arrangement having a telephone line interface and a board interface, said board interface adapted to be connected to said second interface, said data access arrangement for interfacing signals at said telephone line interface with signals at said board interface.
35. The audio board of claim 33 further comprising a data access arrangement having a telephone interface and a board interface, said board interface adapted to be connected to said second interface, said data access arrangement for interfacing signals at said telephone interface with signals at said board interface.
36. A communication system comprising:
a host computer for executing software programs that provide host-based audio signal processing services, wherein said host computer transmits and receives audio signals and control signals according to said host-based audio signal processing services;
a data access arrangement having a telephone line interface and a second interface, said data access arrangement for interfacing signals at said telephone line interface with signals at said second interface;
a mixer adapted to receive a plurality of input signals and provide said input signals to said host computer, wherein said input signals include audio signals received from said second interface, said mixer adapted to receive audio signals from said host computer and provide a plurality of output signals, wherein said output signals include audio signals transmitted to said second interface;
a DTMF decoder for receiving at least one of the control signals and for generating first signals representative of DTMF signals in response thereto; and
a logical unit for receiving said first signals, said logical unit coupled to said data access arrangement to control operations of said system according to said first signals.
37. A method for providing telephone communications in cooperation with a host computer, said method comprising the steps of:
processing an audio signal by said host computer;
generating a control signal by said host computer according to said processing step;
sending said control signal to a DTMF decoder and providing first signals representative of DTMF signals in response to the control signal to a logical unit;
controlling a data access arrangement with said logical unit according to said control signal;
routing said audio signal through a mixer; and
interfacing said audio signal to a telephone line using said data access arrangement.
38. The method of claim 37 further comprising the step of installing software into said host computer to select a host-based audio signal processing operation to be provided by said system.
39. The method of claim 37 further comprising the step of decoding said control signal from said host computer and providing a decoded control signal to said logical unit.
40. The method of claim 37 further comprising the step of controlling, by said logical unit, operations of said data access arrangement according to said control signal.
41. The method of claim 37 further comprising the step of defining a signaling operation on said telephone line according to said control signal.
42. The method of claim 37 wherein said signal interfaced to said telephone line comprises an analog signal and said host computer transmits and receives digital signals, said method further comprising the steps of converting a digital signal received from said host computer to an analog signal and converting an analog signal being sent to said host computer to a digital signal.
43. The method of claim 37 wherein said processing step comprises performing at least one of an answering machine, a fax, a modem, a record greeting, a voice mail, a speakerphone, a call screening, a message forwarding, a hold, a music on hold, a mute microphone, a dial from directory, a dial manual, an auto dial and repeat, a go-off-hook, or a go-on-hook operation.
44. The method of claim 37 wherein said telephone line connects to at least one telephone.
Description
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to the utilization of the I/O ports of the audio boards and audio capable computers (built-in sound cards) for communication purposes.

The audio board, also referred to as “voice card” or as “line card”, is a component in a proprietary or pc-based multimedia system. The audio board accepts input from an analogue source (e.g., a microphone, or a CD player) and turns it into a file that can be stored on a hard disc. This file can be played back later on, with the board turning the digital data back into analog signals receivable by headphones, speakers, an amplifier, or any such kind devices.

Hence, audio boards convert analogue speech into digital characters, store the information for retrieval, and synthesize the information back into human voice capable of being listened by a caller.

Conventionally, the I/O terminals of such boards are standard audio plugs, namely of the kind provided on audio microphones, audio headsets, etc.

The accuracy of the sound reproduction by the sound board is governed by two factors. The sampling rate, which is the rate by which the sound board samples the incoming audio signals; and the resolution, that is the number of bits used to store each sample. The higher the sample rate and the higher the resolution, the better the quality of the audio reproduction. However, each of these factors requires considerable disk space.

The traditional voice processing function has been the voice mail function which employed computers to store messages electronically. Since then, voice processing systems evolved to more sophisticated capabilities, such as automated call routing and distribution, interactive voice response, collection of voice and data messages from a single source, and voice recognition systems that allow users to interact with computers by speaking certain commands into their telephones.

The currently commercially available products which offer those capabilities are controlled by digital I/O such as the RS232 or RS422 port, which means the utilization of valuable and expensive computer resources.

A further drawback of the existing systems resides in that they are not compatible with all computer platforms. Still another drawback of the existing systems is that they need allocation of COM ports with ADD-IN boards, and are not self configuring.

It is therefore the general object of the invention to utilize the audio I/O ports of the existing sound boards and sound capable computers to offer a direct telephone/PABX communication channel in addition to the regular capabilities of those boards, such as voice synthesis applications.

It is further object of the invention to provide a low cost alternative to an expansive, multi-features phone, such as including the functions of flashhook, hold, speed dialing, pulse dialing, speakerphone, etc.

It is a still further object of the invention to provide a computer based answering machine, a computer based fax, a computer based data modem, etc., that is, a computer based communication device that operates as one of the above mentioned machines depending on the software installed in the computer.

It is a still further object of the invention to provide for easy installation, self configuring, and easy usage of a computer system.

It is a still further object of the invention to enable upgradability of communication features by software. Such as: 1. caller I.O.; 2. ANI—Automatic Number Identification; 3. Audio TEX for telephone. The computer can “say” the contents of a file or user input data, upon request from user or caller; 4. voice recognition capabilities can also be used with the device to allow users to dial just by “saying” “Dial” or for controlling the devices mode of operation etc.

It is a still further object of the invention to optionally substitute the external power source of the system by the telephone line power supply.

It is a still further object of the invention to provide a device that is compatible with all computer platforms, and is annexable to all computers/portable computers via the audio I/O ports of the sound board.

It is a still further object of the invention to provide a device of small size so that it would not take desktop space, and can optionally be merged into and become an integral part of the sound board.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

According to a broad aspect of the invention there is provided a communication system comprising a computer with a built-in/external sound board connectable through audio input/output ports, and a communication device capable of receiving, processing and sending analog signals, characterized in that the device is coupled to the said ports.

The device may be installed as a stand-alone unit between the audio board and a telephone line, or as a part of the audio board.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Further objects and advantages of the present invention will become better understood in the light of the ensuing description of a few preferred embodiments thereof taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which

FIG. 1 is a diagram of the device in its environment;

FIG. 2 is a block diagram of the device's main components; and

FIG. 3 isFIGS. 3A and 3B are a flowchart of the algorithm of the system operating as an answering machine, illustrating one of the various possible options of the system.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

Referring to FIG. 1, there is schematically illustrated a unit, generally denoted 10, representing main functional features of the system provided according to present invention. The unit 10 is connected to a sound board 11 incorporated in a computer 19, coupled thereto by means of input/output terminals 12 and 13 of such sound boards via standard audio plugs 14 and 15, to the telephone line 16, and optionally to a telephone handset/headset 17.

FIG. 2 illustrates the main components of unit 10. There is provided a DTMF decoder 21, a logical unit or logic unit 22, a data access arrangement 23, a speaker 24, an earpiece 25 and microphone 26, and audio mixers/amplifiers 27.

The audio board 11 is capable of digitizing audio signals, store them in digitized form on the hard drive in the computer 19, retrieve the signals and output them in audio form by digital-to-analog conversion. These capabilities are found in conventional sound board applications.

The communication protocols used by unit 10 are via DTMF signals. Unit 10 accepts computer generated DTMF signals together with audio synthesized signals and differentiates between them in unit 27. The DTMF signals produced by the computer 19 may function both as control signal for unit 10 and as dial out signals. Unit 21 decodes the DTMF signals and transfers them to the logical unit 22, which controls the operation of unit 10. If, for instance, a stream of DTMF signals starts with control signals directing unit 10 to seize the telephone line, then the rest of the stream is dialed out in the form of DTMF signals.

During the operation of the device 10, the audio-in port 13 is constantly under the control of software operating in the computer side. The signals entering through the audio-in port are digitized, filtered and analyzed by software modules operating in the computer. DTMF and audio signals coming in are recognized by the software, and the software then either outputs information or saves a voice message, in accordance with the nature and the contents of those signals.

Unit 10 operates in conjunction with the above mentioned software, which would be classified as “high level” software, which controls the high level functions of the device 10, and with the software that “drives” the sound board.

In its standard mode of operation the device accepts signals either from the computer or through the telephone line. The computer generates DTMF signals together with synthesized audio signals, and the device is capable of differentiating between the two. The DTMF signals coming out of the computer towards the device function as control signals applied to the device. For example, control signals like place the phone line off hook, or place a conversation on hold, or determine the device mode of operation, etc. Once the phone line is seized, the DTMF signals are used for dialing out. DTMF and audio signals coming in through the telephone line are transferred to the audio-in port which is under constant software control from the computer side. Those signals are digitized, filtered, analyzed and recognized by suitable conventional software, and the software application has the capability to determine the further processing step or steps, e.g. either output the information in response, or save a voice message, or both. Due to the structure of device 10, and the nature of the software operating in computer 19, there are various possible options for the device's operation, such as answering machines; record greetings; voice mail; speakerphone; call screening; message forwarding; hold; music on hold; mute mic.; dial from directory; dial manual; auto dial and repeat; go off hook; go on hook, and the like, while several options can be chosen to function all at once, for a speakerphone plus music on hold plus call screening.

For instance, in an answering machine mode of operation, which is diagrammatically shown in FIG. 3, when a ring is received from the telephone line 16, device 10 recognizes the ring and transmits it to the audio-in plug portion 15. The scanning software is adapted to control, for instance, the number of rings, till it dials a DTMF control signal to unit 10 to seize the line. After the line is seized, the computer 19 outputs a prerecorded message to the audio out 14, which is routed, under the control of logical unit 22, to the telephone line. After the beep, the audio-in port 15 records the caller message and stores it on the hard drive for later retrieval. The computer then outputs a different DTMF signal to device 10, in order to place the device on hook.

All these operationed steps are performed in the background, which means that the computer user is not interfered during the screening of the incoming calls.

The initial power to the device 27 is supplied by the audio signals coming out of the sound board 11. After line is seized with the “off hook” signal, the device gets power from the telephone line.

Those skilled in the art to which the present invention pertains will readily appreciate that numerous changes, modifications and variations may be applied to the invention without departing from the scope thereof as defined in and by the appended claims.

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Classifications
U.S. Classification379/93.05, 379/90.01, 379/93.26, 379/93.09
International ClassificationH04M11/06, H04M11/00
Cooperative ClassificationH04M11/066, H04M1/7385, H04M11/06
European ClassificationH04M11/06, H04M11/06D, H04M1/738P
Legal Events
DateCodeEventDescription
Sep 21, 2007ASAssignment
Owner name: CORUNDUM DATASAFE LLC, NEVADA
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:SOUND COMMUNICATIONS LLC;REEL/FRAME:019850/0884
Effective date: 20041214
Oct 19, 2001ASAssignment
Owner name: SOUND COMMUNICATIONS LLC, NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:IP HOLDINGS LLC;REEL/FRAME:012272/0394
Effective date: 20010425
Owner name: SOUND COMMUNICATIONS LLC 75 MONTEBELLO ROAD MONTEB
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:IP HOLDINGS LLC /AR;REEL/FRAME:012272/0394
Sep 6, 2000ASAssignment
Owner name: IP HOLDINGS LLC, NEW YORK
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNORS:YEKUTIELY, BARAK;SOUNDESIGNS MULTIMEDIA COMMUNICATIONS LTD.;REEL/FRAME:011091/0231
Effective date: 20000829
Feb 4, 1998ASAssignment
Owner name: SOUNDESIGNS MULTIMEDIA COMMUNICATION SYSTEMS LTD.,
Free format text: ASSIGNMENT OF ASSIGNORS INTEREST;ASSIGNOR:YEKUTIELY, BARAK M.;REEL/FRAME:009074/0233
Effective date: 19980128