|Publication number||USRE43227 E1|
|Application number||US 11/730,581|
|Publication date||Mar 6, 2012|
|Filing date||Apr 2, 2007|
|Priority date||Oct 31, 2001|
|Publication number||11730581, 730581, US RE43227 E1, US RE43227E1, US-E1-RE43227, USRE43227 E1, USRE43227E1|
|Inventors||Motoo Watanabe, Gregory Wright|
|Original Assignee||Ricoh Company, Limited|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (9), Non-Patent Citations (4), Classifications (5)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
The present application is related to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/330,813 filed Oct. 31, 2001, entitled “Method and System of Remote Monitoring of Image Forming Apparatus.”
The present reissue application is a continuation application of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/171,652 filed on Jul. 1, 2005, which is a reissue application of U.S. application Ser. No. 09/986,349 (now U.S. Pat. No. 6,587,647), filed on Nov. 8, 2001, which claims priority to U.S. Application No. 60/330,813, filed Oct. 31, 2001.
1. Field of the Invention
The invention generally relates to a method and apparatus for remotely monitoring an image forming apparatus or other apparatus. More particularly, the invention relates to evaluating machine conditions and transmitting information based on the conditions.
2. Discussion of the Background
Image forming machines such as copiers, facsimile machines, and printers experience operational problems. When operational problems arise, a dealer will typically provide repair products and services to the customer. Maintenance and repairs are managed and provided by the dealer who purchases the machine from manufacturers and who then sells the machine to the customer. Unfortunately, in such a marketplace, it is difficult for manufacturers to obtain information about machine conditions during the machine's operational lifetime. The inventors of the present invention recognized that it would be advantageous to have an image forming machine monitoring system and method which remotely monitor the image forming machines.
Accordingly, it is an object of the invention to provide a method and system for remote monitoring and/or controlling of machines, such as but not limited to, image forming machines.
This and other objects are accomplished by a method and system in which machine data is transmitted from the image machine to a remote monitoring system for evaluation. The current machine data may be of any type related to the image machine, including, for example, paper jams, paper usage, energy usage, functionality of device components and usage frequency, although other types of data may be utilized. The evaluation of the current machine data includes comparing the current machine condition data to determine possible sources that are causing the operating problem. The remote monitoring system may respond to the operating problem by adjusting the image machine, sending a notification to a dealer's help desk and to a dispatcher. The image machine may be of any type of electronically controllable device that produces images, including, for example, printers, copiers, facsimile machines, and digital cameras.
A more complete appreciation of the invention and many of the attendant advantages thereof will be readily obtained as the same becomes better understood by reference to the following detailed description when considered in connection with the accompanying drawings, wherein:
FIGS. 4A.1 and 4A.2 illustrates an alternate embodiment of a data flow diagram of communication, during a service call which requires dispatching of a technician, among the customer system, remote monitoring system, helpdesk and dispatch system of
FIGS. 4B.1 and 4B.2 illustrates an alternate embodiment of a data flow diagram of communication, during an automatic call, among the customer system, remote monitoring system, helpdesk and dispatch system of
FIGS. 4C.1 and 4C.2 illustrates an alternate embodiment of a data flow diagram of communication, during a customer call, among the customer system, remote monitoring system, helpdesk and dispatch system of
Referring now to the drawings, wherein like numerals designate identical or corresponding parts throughout the several views, and more particularly to
Server 28 is connected to the network 16 via the LAN 26, an interface 34 and workstation 22. Alternatively, server 28 may be connected directly to the network 16. Server 28 is also connected to image machines 30, 31 and 32 via a PSTN 36, a telephone line 38 and a line-adapter/multiplexer (L-ADP) 39. Images machines 30, 31 and 32 may be digital copiers/printers, facsimile machines, printers postage machines, multi-function image machines, or any other type of machine or device that displays or generates images or data, whether it be done on a printer medium or an electronic display. The image machines may be used as the machines or monitored devices. Although three image machines are shown as supported by the L-ADP, it should be appreciated that any number of image machines or monitored devices may be supported by each L-ADP. For example, up to 5 copiers or more may be supported by the L-ADP.
Additionally, a facsimile server (not illustrated) may be connected to server 28 and have a telephone, Integrated Services Digital Network (ISDN), wireless or cable connection. The image machines 30, 31 and 32 may also include connections 40 and 42, respectively, which may be conventional telephone, ISDN and/or cable. The image machines 30, 31 and 32 communicate with remote monitoring, diagnosis and server 28 via the direct telephone line, ISDN, wireless or cable connection. Server 28 may also be connected to a workstation 50 with a browser 52.
Workstations 18, 20, 22 are connected to network 16 and are located remotely from each other and other machines; however, it should be appreciated that any of the workstations may be locally located to each other or any of the machines. Workstations 18, 20, 22 include browsers 35, 37, 39 which allow obtaining and transmitting information over network 16. Workstation 20 includes a disk 44 which may be shared using proper encryption and protocols over the network with other workstations connected to the network or in communication with workstation 20. It should be appreciated that although only one workstation 20 is illustrated as including a disk 44, any workstations may include a disk for storing information. The disks used to store databases are a non-volatile memory such as a hard disk or optical disk. Alternatively, the databases may be stored in any storage device, including but not limited to, solid state and/or semiconductor memory devices. Disk 44 includes dispatch data; however, any number of databases or types of information may be stored thereon. Dispatch data is information related to service technicians, such as but not limited to, whether a dispatcher or service technician has been called for a particular call or machine notification, service technician contact information, including but not limited to service technician e-mail addresses, numeric and alphanumeric pagers numbers and telephone numbers. Workstations 18, 20 and 22 are exemplary of computers which are uses by dealers and/or service repair entities.
Workstation 50 is connected to the server 28 and allows access to the information transmitted to and/or stored at server 28, and may be provided with at least as much information and capability as workstation 18, 20 and 22.
In addition to the workstations 18, 20, 22 being connected to network 16, the workstations may also include connections 46, 48 to a telephone line, ISDN, DSL, ADSL, cable or any other appropriate connection which provides a secure connection to the machine which is monitored, diagnosed and/or controlled. Connections 46, 48 may provide automatic alternative communication among the network, telephone line, ISDN or cable, if any one connection is not operating properly.
Workstation 22 is coupled between the server 28 and the network 16. Workstation 18 and 20 are coupled to the network. Workstation 18 is exemplary of a workstation a helpdesk utilizes. Workstation 20 is exemplary of a workstation which a dispatcher would use. Workstation 22 is exemplary of a workstation a dealer or service organization would use. The workstation 22 may transmit information related to image machines 30, 32 to/from the network 16 and to/from server 28. Additionally, workstation 24 includes a browser 39 so that data may be viewed and so that a read and write capability is available. The read and write capability allows a user to view information presented on the browser 39 and also to modify it as necessary. Thus, information may not only be received, but also data may be entered and transmitted to the image machines 30, 31 and 32, server 28 or any other workstations, machines and devices in the system.
A working memory such as a RAM 112, a wireless interface 114 which communicates with a wireless device 116 is included in server 28. The communication between interface 114 and device 116 may use any wireless medium such as radio waves or light waves, for example. The radio waves may be implemented using a spread spectrum technique such as Code Division Multiple Access (“CDMA”) communication or using frequency hopping techniques, or any other transmission method.
A non-volatile memory, such as a ROM 118 and/or a flash memory 120, for example, an EPROM or EEPROM may be used to store instruction that the CPU 110 executes, for example. An input controller 122 has connected thereto a keyboard 124 and a mouse 126. Additionally, a serial interface 128 coupled to a serial device 130, a parallel interface 132 coupled to a parallel device 134, and a universal serial bus interface 136 coupled to a universal serial bus device 138 is included in server 28.
With a continued reference to
Remote monitoring system 210 includes server 28 which is connected to a network 16 via the LAN 26 and the interface 24. Remote monitoring system 210 includes email 209 which are sent to the help desk 240 and/or dispatch system 230 and include image machine information such as a tag ID number. Customer system 220 is coupled to network 16. Customer system 220 includes image forming machines 30, 32; however it should be appreciated that additional machines may be provided. The dispatch system 230 and the help desk 240 include workstations 18, 20, respectively. The dispatch system 230 and the help desk 240 may be located remotely as separate systems or may be combined as one system.
Workstations 18 and 20 include browsers 35 and 37, respectively. Each browser provides display of data including, machine condition data which is real-time data related to the monitored machines or image forming machines 32, 30, to each user at the workstation. In the one embodiment, data may be viewed over the network 16 and does not have to be downloaded from the remote monitoring system 210. This viewing feature is beneficial because data may be accessed easily and quickly. Help desk 240 may be associated with a dealer which sold the machine to the customer. The help desk assists in ascertaining and solving the problem related to machine notification. The dispatcher provides information related to dispatching a service technician.
A dealer management system 242 may be connected, for example, to the workstation 20 at the helpdesk 240. The dealer management system 242 may include product and service information, such as, but not limited to, supply order status, product usage status and service dispatch status. The information may be acquired via the network 16 using a managing application for machine dealers. One exemplary asset managing application is enterprise resource planning system which is described below with reference to
A remote workstation 21 coupled to a browser 19 may be connected to the network 16 to allow additional helpdesks, dispatchers, customers or other appropriate entities to view information and to assist in controlling the system.
During monitoring, diagnosing and controlling operation of the machines, various information is transmitted and received by the remote monitoring system 210, the customer system 220, the dispatch system 230 and the help desk 240.
With a continued reference to FIGS. 4A.1 and 4A.2, step 310 a service call (“SC”) occurs and is transmitted from the image machine to the RMS center where at step 312 the service call is received. The service call includes an identifier, such as, but not limited to a tag ID number which unique for every image machine or monitored machine which communicates with the center. At step 314, an e-mail message is sent. The e-mail message may be determined based on a unique identifier or other appropriate image machine identifying information. At step 316, the e-mail message is received by the help desk. The help desk includes a RMS client and a dispatch system which may be located either remotely or locally to each other. At the dispatch system, step 318 receives a request to check if a technician was already dispatched. At determination step 320, the dispatch system determines whether the technician was already dispatched. The determination that the technician was already dispatched is based on using the tag ID number provided in the e-mail message to search on the dispatch system at block 328. If the technician was already dispatched, then the help desk transmits a request at step 322 to close the service call.
If the technician was not already dispatched, then at step 324 the help desk opens the call list using the information of the e-mail message to search at the call list at block 326. The call list is described below with reference to
At step 338, the help desk checks the image machine or copier condition. The image machine condition is checked by activating a read and write capability via a Read/Write menu which is described below with reference to
During read and write activation, a parameter acquiring device in the RMS server requests to upload the parameters to the LADP, and the LADP requests to upload the current machine parameters which are related to the copier or image machine designated on the call list menu described below with reference to
At determination step 340, the help desk checks if the machine was reset. If the machine was reset, then at step 336 the help desk closes the service call. If the machine was not reset, then at step 344 the dispatch system dispatches a technician, and at step 336 closes the service call.
If the service call or any other call, such as a customer call, or manual call occurs, event notification is transmitted from the copier to the RMS server through the public phone line. By using the public phone line, the event notification is transmitted to the RMS server securely, although other transmission means, such as Internet may be used. If the Internet is used, encryption may be used, if desired. If the RMS server receives the call notification, it sends e-mail to an appropriate entity(s) that can resolve the problem related to the copier and/or to dispatch the service technician. Consequently, timely information reaches the appropriate entities because the notification is made via e-mail. Also, the current machine information and the reference parameters are updated and provided by the RMS server. The helpdesk, dispatcher or other entity can view detailed information regarding the copier condition from a workstation through the Internet or other appropriate network.
FIGS. 4B.1 and 4B.2 illustrate a response process to a service call with a request for a service technician dispatch and the checking of the machine condition. The service call includes but is not limited to issues related to “SC310 & 312: photoconductive drum potential sensor error”, “SC321: laser writing error”, “SC352: image density sensor error”, “SC630: Communication error between LADP and RMS server”, “SC640&643: communication error caused by electric board”, “SC738: finisher shift-tray lift motor error” and “SC990: software performance error.”
At step 410 a service call occurs. The service call is automatically activated by the image machine because there is a problem with the machine which is not easily fixed by the customer and which is critical because it may involve hardware repairs. The service call is transmitted from the copier to the RMS server through the public phone line. When the service call is transmitted, the machine condition data 409 and the service call and jam data 411 are also transmitted from the copier to the RMS server via the phone line. At step 412, the service call is received by the RMS server. The RMS server checks a table in which the e-mail address of the sales dealer (SO) is determined based on the copier identification, such as the tag ID number. The tag ID number is a number which uniquely identifies a copy machine and particular information associated with the copier, such as that described with reference to
Referring again to FIGS. 4B.1 and 4B.2, step 416 receives e-mail at the helpdesk. The e-mail may include the tag ID number and the type of machine notification which are capable of obtaining other data related to the machine problem Step 420 checks if a technician was already dispatched based on the dispatch database 420a which located at the dispatch system. Block 422 indicates that dispatching of a technician is determined by using the tag ID transmitted in the e-mail message to search on an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system or other appropriate management system. An ERP assists a manufacturer or other business to manage the important parts of its business, including product planning, parts purchasing, maintaining inventories, interacting with suppliers, providing customer service, and tracking orders. ERP can also include application modules for the finance and human resources aspects of a business. An ERP system uses or is integrated with a relational database system. The OMD is an application which manages, inventor, service and products, for example, but not limited to, the copier installation, billing, supply order information, product usage information and service dispatch information. Step 424 determines if the technician has been dispatched. If the service technician has already been dispatched, step 426 closes the service call using the information of the e-mail message to search the call list. For example, the tag ID number may assist in uniquely identifying the information. If the service technician has not been dispatched, step 430 dispatches a technician. Block 432 indicates that dispatching of a technician is based on using the tag ID transmitted in the e-mail message to search on OMD. Step 434 closes the service call.
FIGS. 4C.1 and 4C.2 illustrate a response process to a customer call (CC) with a request for a service technician dispatch. The customer call transmits a machine notification to the customer. At step 510 a customer call occurs. The customer call includes but is not limited to “door open for a predetermined period of time” and “jam occurrence frequently at the same position of the paper feed path.” The customer call is activated by a potential machine problem which occurs based on certain conditions, including, but not limited to, a duration of time and quantity. At step 512, the customer call is received by the RMS server. The customer call is transmitted from the copier to the RMS server through the public phone line. When the customer call is transmitted, machine condition data 511 and SC and Jam data report 513 are also transmitted from the copier to the RMS server via the telephone line. If the RMS server receives the customer call, the RMS server checks a table to determine e-mail addresses based on the tag ID number. Step 514 sends e-mail to the helpdesk to notify the customer call is activated.
At step 516, the message is received by the helpdesk. Step 518 checks if service technician was already dispatched. Step 520 determines if a technician is already dispatched. If the service technician has already been dispatched, step 522 step closes the customer call and no further action will be made. If the service technician has not been already dispatched, step 527 opens a browser. Step 528 opens the call list, described below with reference to
Step 532 determines if the image machine was already set. If the machine has been already reset, step 534 closes the customer call. If the machine has not been reset, then step 536 calls the customer to inquire about the problem. Step 538 requests to fix the problem with the customer's advice. The customer may assist with fixing by answering questions, adjusting the copier hardware and software, or providing supplies such as toner or paper to the machine. The helpdesk also may change the parameters based on the response from the customer. Step 540 determines whether the problem is fixed. The helpdesk may ask the customer if the problem has been fixed: If the problem is fixed, then step 542 closes the customer call. If the problem is not fixed, then step 544 dispatches a technician. Step 546 closes the customer call.
FIGS. 4D.1 and 4D.2 illustrate a response process to a manual call with a request for a service technician dispatch and checking the machine condition. At step 610, a manual call occurs. The manual call is activated when a customer enters the sequential keystrokes on an operation panel of the copier, and the manual call may be transmitted to the RSM server through the telephone line. When the manual call is transmitted, machine condition data 611 and manual call and jam data 613 are also transmitted from the copier to the RMS server via LADP. A controller of the RSM server checks the data table in which the tag ID and the service organization (SO)/service dealer (SD) are stored in order to find an appropriate dealer and/or help desk. The service organization may be associated with multiple service dealers. If the RSM server can find the appropriate helpdesk, the RSM server automatically sends e-mail to the help desk. The sample of the e-mail that is sent to the helpdesk is shown in
At step 616, the e-mail is received at the help desk. Step 618 opens the call list to see the copier information related to the manual call, using the subject and contents of the e-mail message to search the call list at block 620. Step 622 checks the copier condition. The checking of the copier condition is described with reference to
At step 622, the copier condition is checked. The checking of the copier condition is explained above with reference to
Step 628 attempts to resolve the problem. As the operator has estimated the problems of the copier, the operator may ask questions. Alternatively, the operator may attempt to solve the problem by changing the parameters based on the response from the customer. Step 630 determines if the problem is solved. If the problem is solved, then step 632 closes the manual call. If the problem is not solved, step 634 dispatches a technician using the tag ID of the subject of the e-mail message to search on the dispatch system at block 636.
A more detailed exemplary implementation of the device driver 712 of
Server 28 is connected to the network 16. The network 16 is an appropriate network, for example the Internet, that permits sending and receiving of image machine data. Alternatively, a private network such as a WAN or LAN may be utilized, or a telephone may be utilized. The reference parameters and deviations storage 1114 stores data. The data includes the reference parameters related to each image machine in the system and the deviation values which are tolerances within which machine conditions are evaluated. Individual tolerances are predetermined for the machine condition parameters. Alternatively, tolerance may be adjusted as necessary. Reference parameters are obtained when the image machine is installed and is explained below with reference to FIG 10. The machine condition parameters information 1116 includes current condition machine data which is indicative of the real-time conditions of the monitored machine. Exemplary machine condition data is described with reference to
Comparator 1112 compares current machine condition parameters to reference parameters and deviations or tolerance ranges and standard values) which are obtained from reference parameters and deviations storage 1114. Parameter processor 1110 retrieves correlated reference parameters and deviations based on the current machine condition parameters and provides the changed second parameters for updating.
Step 1220 determines if current parameters are unequal to corresponding reference parameters. If the parameters are not different, then monitoring for read/write requests continues at step 1210. If the parameters are different, then step 1221 indicates current parameters which are unequal to corresponding reference parameters. Step 1222 evaluates the current parameters based on the tolerance values. Step 1224 determines if current parameters are within the tolerance values. If current parameters are within the tolerance values, then step 1236 closes the service call. Tolerances provide a range within which current machine condition parameters may be compared. For example, if the left edge register adjustment indicates a current machine condition value of 0.5 and the reference parameter (or present value) is 0.1 with a tolerance or setting range of −90 to +90. If current parameters are not within the tolerance values, then step 1226 indicates current parameters which are out of tolerance. Current parameters are indicated by highlighting parameters out of the tolerance range. Step 1228 signals controller to display parameters on workstation.
Step 1230 determines if current parameters are received by image machine. If current parameters are not received, then step 1234 determines if request to close service call is received. The service call is received by the RMS server. If the request is received, then step 1236 closes the service call and continues monitoring the machine for read/write requests, otherwise step 1234 is iterative. If current parameters are received, then step 1232 downloads received parameters to image machine. Step 1234 determines if a request to close manual call is received. If request is received, then step 1236 closes the service call and continues monitoring the machine for read/write requests, otherwise step 1234 is iterative.
Step 1312 determines if a first mode is active. The first mode and a second mode may be available at the server, and customer and help desk workstations. The first mode allows the operators to select between a first displaying mode and a second displaying mode, the first displaying mode is the mode to display parameters with unequal flags set and highlight the parameters with out of tolerance flags set. The second mode is the mode to display all current machine parameters without regard to flags.
If the first mode is not active, then step 1316 determines if the second mode is active. If the second mode is not active then step 1312 determines if the first mode is active, otherwise, step 1318 displays all the parameters. If the first mode is active, then step 1314 compares current parameters to the corresponding reference parameters.
Step 1320 determines if the current parameters are within tolerance. If current parameters are within tolerance, then read/write request ends; otherwise step 1322 determines if a first flag is set. The first flag is set and indicates that current parameters are unequal to corresponding reference parameters. If the first flag is not set, then step 1328 suggests that the operator change to second mode, then flow proceeds step 1312 to determine if the first mode is active. If the first flag is set, then step 1324 determines if the second flag is set. Second flag is set to indicate current machine parameters which are out of the tolerance range. The unequal current machine conditions are compared by using the tolerance range which may have an upper limit value and lower limit value. If the current parameter is out of the deviation, a tolerance error indicator of a second flag is set on the current parameter. If second flag is not set, then step 1330 displays current parameters without highlighting manner. If second flag is set, then step 1326 displays current parameters with highlighting manner.
FIGS. 14B.1 and 14B.2 is machine call and jam data which may be displayed by activating service call (SC)/jam data in the call detail as shown in service call (SC)/jam data 1560 of
Obviously, numerous modifications and variations of the present invention are possible in light of the above teachings. It is therefore to be understood that within the scope of the appended claims, the invention may be practiced otherwise than as specifically described herein.
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|U.S. Classification||399/8, 399/11, 399/9|
|International Classification||B41B15/00, G03G15/00|