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Mailing system having postal funds management

Info

Publication number
CA1265619A
CA1265619A CA 525917 CA525917A CA1265619A CA 1265619 A CA1265619 A CA 1265619A CA 525917 CA525917 CA 525917 CA 525917 A CA525917 A CA 525917A CA 1265619 A CA1265619 A CA 1265619A
Authority
CA
Grant status
Grant
Patent type
Prior art keywords
postage
mail
information
means
accounting
Prior art date
Legal status (The legal status is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the status listed.)
Expired - Lifetime
Application number
CA 525917
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Michelle S. Breault
William G. Hart
Terrence M. Doeberl
Michael P. Taylor
Ronald P. Sansone
Current Assignee (The listed assignees may be inaccurate. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation or warranty as to the accuracy of the list.)
Pitney-Bowes Inc
Original Assignee
Pitney-Bowes Inc
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date
Grant date

Links

Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00508Printing or attaching on mailpieces
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00016Relations between apparatus, e.g. franking machine at customer or apparatus at post office, in a franking system
    • G07B17/00024Physical or organizational aspects of franking systems
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00016Relations between apparatus, e.g. franking machine at customer or apparatus at post office, in a franking system
    • G07B17/0008Communication details outside or between apparatus
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00467Transporting mailpieces
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00733Cryptography or similar special procedures in a franking system
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00016Relations between apparatus, e.g. franking machine at customer or apparatus at post office, in a franking system
    • G07B17/00024Physical or organizational aspects of franking systems
    • G07B2017/00048Software architecture
    • G07B2017/00056Client-server
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00016Relations between apparatus, e.g. franking machine at customer or apparatus at post office, in a franking system
    • G07B17/0008Communication details outside or between apparatus
    • G07B2017/00088Communication details outside or between apparatus via landlines
    • G07B2017/00096Communication details outside or between apparatus via landlines via phone lines
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00016Relations between apparatus, e.g. franking machine at customer or apparatus at post office, in a franking system
    • G07B17/0008Communication details outside or between apparatus
    • G07B2017/00153Communication details outside or between apparatus for sending information
    • G07B2017/00169Communication details outside or between apparatus for sending information from a franking apparatus, e.g. for verifying accounting
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00016Relations between apparatus, e.g. franking machine at customer or apparatus at post office, in a franking system
    • G07B17/0008Communication details outside or between apparatus
    • G07B2017/00153Communication details outside or between apparatus for sending information
    • G07B2017/00177Communication details outside or between apparatus for sending information from a portable device, e.g. a card or a PCMCIA
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00185Details internally of apparatus in a franking system, e.g. franking machine at customer or apparatus at post office
    • G07B17/00193Constructional details of apparatus in a franking system
    • G07B2017/00201Open franking system, i.e. the printer is not dedicated to franking only, e.g. PC (Personal Computer)
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00185Details internally of apparatus in a franking system, e.g. franking machine at customer or apparatus at post office
    • G07B17/00193Constructional details of apparatus in a franking system
    • G07B2017/00225Vending machine or POS (Point Of Sale) apparatus
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00467Transporting mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00483Batch processing of mailpieces
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00508Printing or attaching on mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00572Details of printed item
    • G07B2017/0058Printing of code
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00508Printing or attaching on mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00572Details of printed item
    • G07B2017/00596Printing of address
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00661Sensing or measuring mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00701Measuring the weight of mailpieces

Abstract

MAILING SYSTEM HAVING POSTAL FUNDS MANAGEMENT

Abstract of Disclosure A system for processing batch mail in which the need for on-site inspection is unnecessary. The mail sender purchases postage from a central station thereby authorizing him to send mail equal to the amount of postage purchased.
The mail sender processes batches of mail each of which is accompanied by a statement summarizing the type and number of mail pieces sent and amount of postage for each batch. The statement contains data that allows mail payment verification. The system further provides for postal funds transfer between the various mailroom devices and centralized accounting for the mailing operation.

Description

5~
MAILING SYSTEM ~VING P05TAL FUNDS MANAGEMENT

REI~TED CASES
Subject matter similar to the subject matter contained in the instant application maybe found in U.S.
Patent No. 4,725,718 entitled "POSTAGE AND MAILING
INFORMATION APPLYING SYSTEM" by Ronald Sansone, et. al.
and assigned to the assignee of the instant application.

Back~round of the Invention Cer.ain organizations dispatch large amounts of mail periodically. Examples of uch organizations are: banking institutions, utility companies, insurance companies, credit companies, and the like~ With such large quantities, these mailers normally pre-package and pre-sort their mail and are given a lower postage rate by the postal ~ervice because of the time saved by the postal service. There are generally two ways in which such mail senderq apply postage to their mail. The most common way is by use of a postage meter which is leased by the mailer from a postage meter manufacturer with which the amount of postage required is applied to each mail piece. Inserter ystem~ have been developed whereby in~erts may be placed into an envelope and the envelope may be sealed, addressed and have a postage indicia applied thereto. The mail piece~ may be weighed on the fly or individual weighing may not be required if all the mail pieces are of like kind, i.e., only a sample ~ail piece need be weighed. These acts of processing mail may be performed at a relatively high rate of speed.
A second method of mailing large quantities o~ mail pieces is the permit mail system. In such a system, the mailer places a permit number on the mail pieces and prepares a manifeqt listing that shows the type and number of mail pieces being mailed on each occasion and the postage required.
"~

:;
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With both such systems, inspection at the site of the mail sender is required. In the case of the postage meter, the lessor of the postage meter, i.e., the postage meter manufacturer, is required by law to inspect the postage meter at least twice a year to assure that there is no evidence of tampering with the postage meter that will indicate an attempt to obtain unauthorized postage. In the case of permit mail, large quantities of the same type oE mail will be mailed at one time and the postal service will conduct an inspection to verify that the nnanifest listing accompanying the permit mail accurately accounts for the amount of postage due for the mail that has been processed by the postal service. This is accomplished through an inspection on the part the postal service by examining the records of the mail user on every occasion.
Obviously, each of these two systems has certain drawbacks. In the case of on-site inspection of postage meters, with the large number of postage meters in use by large mail senders it is an expensive matter for the inspection thereof. Furthermore, postage meters that process large quantities of mail must be replaced relatively frequently because of wear. With regard to the permit mail system, the shortcoming lies in the need of the postal service to send a representative frequently to the various mailer locations to assure that the sender is accurately accounting for the quantity of mail being sent. Such a scheme is not totally reliable as it relies upon on-site verification using the mailers records which are not secure.
A further disadvantage of conventional systems is that of assuring that postal funds are available for the completion of the various mailings at mailroom locations and for optimum distribution of postal funds among the various locations at a particular facility.

',ummary and Objects of the Invention ~ system has been conceived whereby a mailer will be able to send large quantities or batches of mail without the need of on-site inspections. This is accomplished by the mailer having a secure accounting unit similar to a postage ~i5~
meter in which postage value is placed by a dispensing or central station. A statement accompanies each batch of mail which statement contains information relative to the mail and the amount of postage required.
Communication between the central station and the mail sender allows postage value to be transferred to the user by the central station and mailing and verification data to be sent to the central station from the mailer.
The mailing and verification data will be the same as that contained on the mailing statements that accompany the batches of mail. This system provides a central station for a large number of mail senders whereby the postal service is relieved of its obligation of having on-site inspections and the central station acts as a clearing house for the postal service through whom verification of postage can be conveniently and inexpensively achieved.
A feature of an aspect of the instant invention is that a unique serial number may be provided to the user to be stored in permanent memory to identify the user's accounting unit.
A feature of an aspect of this invention is that the security features of a postage meter are provided while allowing a high speed, relatively inexpensive printer to be used for printing the mail pieces.
In another embodiment, the secure accounting unit is limited with other secure accounting units and then becomes a source of funds for these other "slave"
systems. Further in accordance with the invention, electronic postage meters and the "slave" systems communicate with each other through the "master"
accounting unit for the drawing down and recrediting of funds as required. The system provides for a higher level of accounting control over those previously available.
Various aspects of the invention are as follows:
A system for accounting for expenditures of postage funds comprising:
means for processing information;

.
, i:, -.

-3a-~5~
a plurality of means for securely accounting for postal transactions, each of said accounting means accounting for a batch of mail; and means for establishing communication between said information processing means and each of said plurality of secure accounting means, each of said plurality of secure accounting means being operative to communicate accounting information to said information processing means for accumulating mailing information thereat.
A system for managing postal funds comprising:
first means for processing information;
secure accounting means including secon~ means for processing information, said second means being operative for accounting for postal funds for a batch of mail;
means for communicating accounting information and data representative of said postal funds between said first information processing means and said secure accounting means;
an electxonic postage meter;
a second accounting means communicating with said electronic postage meter for accumulating accounting information with respect to transactions in said electronic postage meter; and means for communicating between said second accounting means and said first information processing means, said first information processing means being operative to transfer data representative of funds between itself and said secure accounting means and said second accounting means.
Brief Description of the Drawing Fig. l is a block diagram of a batch mailing system;
Fig. 2 is a plan view of an accounting statement that would accompany batch mail sent by the system of Fig 1.; and Fig. 3 is a plan view of an envelope containing information that would be applied thereto by the system of Fig. 1.

~2~5~

Figs. 4-6 contain flow diagrams that describe the functions of the system shown in Fig. 1.
Fiq. 7 is a block diagram of mailing system including funds management.
Figs. 8-10 are flow diagrams of the mailing system of Fig. 7.

Detailed Descri~tion of the Preferred Embodiment Referring now to Fig. L, a batch mailing system is shown generally at 10 and incLudes a po~t office 12, a central station 14 and a user location 16. The central station 1~ has a processor 18. Thi~ processor 18 would be a main frame type of computer having substantial capacity.
Communication is provided between the post of f ice 12 and a plurality of central stations 14 (only one being shown) through a line or communication link 19 having a communication device such as a telephone 20 therein.
Associated with the processor 18 and in connection therewith is a large storage memory unit 22 where large amounts of data can be stored and a register setting device 23 which includes encryption sof tware of the type required in the resetting of postage meter~ remotelyO Systems for the resetting of meters remotely are well known, see for example U.S. Patent Nos.
3,792,446, 4,097,923 and 4,447,890.
~ remote user station 16 ha~ a secure unit 25 which will hereafter be referred to as a ~servern. The server 25 is supplied by the central station 14 to the user and includes a user processor 24 which may be a processor of much smaller capacity such as an Intel ~085 processor available from Intel Corporation, Santa Clara, California. Connected ~o the proce sor 24 is a memory 26. Preferably the memory 26 will be a non-volatile memory (NVM). The user processor 24 is connec~ed to the central station processor 18 through a communication link or line 28. A telephone 30 or other communicating device may be disposed within the line 28 to thereby provide selective communication between the processors 18, 24. ~lso connected to the processor 24 are a RAM 32, a ROM 34, an encryptor 35 and a clock 36 whose respective functions will be described in detail hereinafter.

An input/proces~or 38 is connected to the user processor 24 whereby data may be supplied, either manually or through a medium such as a disc or tape, to the user processor ~or the purpose of providing data required in the processing of mail pieces. The input/processor 38 may be any of a large number of personal computers having keyboard and display which are commercially available, such as an IBM XT personal computer.
A high speed inserter 39 is in electrical communication with the server 25 and perform~ the physical acts involved in processing the mail such as the inserting of insert~ into envelopes, sealing the envelope flaps, orienting the mail pieces and conveying the mail pieces to a postage meter or printer. The term insert includes bills, advertising materials, notice~, etc., which are of a size to be received within an envelope or the like. High speed iaserter~ of this type are readily available commercially, as for example Inserter model No. 3100 serie~ from Pitney Bowes Inc., Stamford, Ct.
~ first printer 40 is in communication with the user processor 24 of the server 25 and with the Input/Processor 38 and is able to print upon mail pieces 42 such as envelopes containing inserts which it receives from the inserter 39.
This printer 40 is one provided by the user and will be an unsecured, high speed printer which may be controlled either through the processor 24 or through the input/processor 38.
A second printer 44 is provided to print upon a statement sheet 46 or other document. Thi~ second printer 44 is preferably a secure printer that is provided by the central location 1~. By secured is meant a device con~tructed in the same manner as a postage without access to the interiors thereof except by authorized personnel. ~n example of such a postage meter i8 a Model 6500 postage meter available from Pitney ~owes Inc., supra. Obviously, the se~ond printer can be an unsecured printer but this occasions greater risk in terms of verifying payment of mail~ Throughout the balance of the specification and claims thi~ statement sheet 46 will be re~erred to as a ~passport~. Detail~ of the passport 46 will be described hereinafter in conjunction with Fig. 2.

Although only one user location 16 is shown and described, it will be appreciated many user stations will be serviced by the one central station 14 as for examp]e through multiplixing. The central station 14 may be the location of a postage meter manufacturer or other accountable organization.
In operation, the user at the location 16 will be a sender oE large ~uantities of mail who will be given an identification number by the central station 14 that will be placed in the NVM 26 of the server 25. This identification number will be permanent and unique for each server 25 and the user will have no access to that portion of the NVM 26 that stores the identiEication rlumber. It will be appreciated tha-t this ~eature may be applied to postaye meters as well. Having the identification number in memory 26 eliminates the need of having a plate applied to a postage meter or a server 25. It will be appreciated that a server has many characteristics of a postage meter, i.e., security, a descending register and the like, but certain elements are absent. The most evident absent element is a printer, the advantage of which is described throughGut. Another absent member is an ascending register. In a postage meter an ascending register is accessable only by a service representative of the meter manufacturer and may be used to determine if any meter tampering has taken place. As will be appreciated from the description that follows, the need for an ascending register in the server 25 is obviated.
Following installation of the identification number, the user will communicate with the central station 14 through the telephone 30 for the purpose of indicating to the central station the amount of postage value it wishes to have accredited to its memory 26. An access code will be given to the user that can be addressed to the setting device 23 through the touch dial of the telephone 30. Upon the receipt of the access code, the user will transmit to the central station 14 the access code and his identification number and the re~uest for an amount of postage value. The setting device 23 will function to charge, or increase, the postage value into the memory 26. This memory 26 will include a descending register which is charged by the central station 14 with the selected amount oE postage value. As the user station 16 processes mail, the postage value in the descending register will be decreased in accordance with the postage required to process the mail pieces 34. Devices for charging registers such as the descending registers are well known, as for example see U.S. Patent Nos. 3,792,44 4,097,923 and 4,447,890.
The balance of the server 25 includes the ROM 34 that contains information which Eormats address signals and stores a series oE programs for controlling the functions of the server 25, a R~M 32 that will hold and supply real time data, a clock 36 that will provide the time and date and an encryptor 35 that will store the code required for the descending register setting functions. The encryptor 35 can be any one of a number of encrypting devices including devices which use the Data Encryption Standards described in FIPS P4B 46, dated January 15, 1977 and published by the U.S. Department of Commerce, National Bureau of Standards.
It will be appreciated that the printer 40 is a high speed, inexpensive, unsecured printer such as a ink jet printer or laser printer or any type of dot matrix printer which will apply the addresses of the addressee and addressor to the face of the mail pieces under command of the input/processor 38. In addition, other information can be prioted by the printer 40 upon each mail piece 42 when under command of the processor 24. This information includes a transaction number (T.~. No.), the run of the particular batch of mail, the date and time of mailing, the class of mail and a batch number. The transaction number is that number assigned to the user station by the central station everytime postage value is added to the server 2~ and will be stored in the NVM 26. This transaction number will be the same for one or more batches of mail that are sent and will remain the same until such time as the descending register of the NVM 26 is recharged with postage value, at which time a new transaction number will be assigned and stored in the NVM
in place of the preceding transaction number. By changing the transaction number upon each recharge, an element is provided for verifying pos-tage. The batch number is one assigned by the user through the input/processor 3~ whereby a given batch of mail, i.e., mail oE a par-ticular type or character, will be identified by a number assigned by the user. In addition, a run number, which is a subset of the batch, may be given to identified particular segments of the batch.
When a batch of mail is to be sent, the user will supply mailing and verification information through the input/processor 38 into the user processor 24 which will transmit at least a portion of this information to the inserter 39. This information would include the number of mail pieces to be processed and number o inserts to be placed in each envelope. The time and date may be supplied to the printer 40 through the input/processor 38 by overriding the clock 36. This overriding is useful when future mail is being processed. The user processor 24 will then command the printer 40 to print the appropriate postage, time, date, transaction number and address on the mail pieces 42 ~or a particular run. This run will be given a nurnber that is associated with the particular mail to be sent, which number will be printed on the envelopes 42 of that run. As the printer prints the appropriate in~ormation upon each mail piecer the number of mail pieces and amount of postage required will be determined by the processor 24. At the end of the run or batch, the second printer 44 will print authorization information upon a passport 46.
Referring now to Fig. 2, the passport 46 is shown after having printed thereon the total postage (Post. Total) required to mail the batch of mail, the transaction number (T.A. No.), piece count for a batch, descending register a6mount (Re~. Am.) after subtraction for the postage, the date, the time, the class, the batch number and the run number (optionally). Additionally, the server number, i.e., the identification number stored in the NVM 26, user name and any desired gxaphics can be printed~ This information on the passport 46 serves many purposes. Firstly, the register amount acts as a physical record of the postage value stored in the descending register o the ~VM 26. This amount is printed on the passport 46 on the upper right hand. The register amount will be that amount in the descending register after all postal charges have been made for the batch of mail to be sent. By placin~ this regi~ter amount on the passport 46 after the mailing of each batch, an ongoing, permanent record is maintained of the amount of postage value contained within the NVM 26. In this way, if there is a disaster wherein the server 25 is destroyed or the memory 26 therein is erased inadvertently, the user will still have a means for verifying the amount of postage value remaining from that amount of postage value originally purchased and stored. The transaction number provides an authorization check as does the identiEication or server number. By changing the transaction number with each recharge of the server, one can readily determine if more postage accompanies a transaction number than is authorized. ~lso printed on the passport 46 will be the date and time the passport 46 is printed, the piece count, i.e., the number of mail pieces mailed in the particular batch, and the class of mail. Upon the printing of the information on the passport 46, the postage amount for the batch will be subtracted from postage value stored in the descending register of the ~VM 26.
The information printed upon the passport 46 is transmitted to the central station 14 through the com~unication line 28 automatically after each batch, is processed so that a record is maintained through the processor 18 that communicates with memory 22. The memory 22 has an ascending register therein that corresponds to the descending register in the server ~5, i.e.~ one is the inverse of the other. ~s is known, an ascending register is one that accumulates charges over a long term. Optionally, the memory 22 may have a descending register that duplicates the amounts in the descending register in the NVM on an ongoing basis. By having the postage value contained within the memory 22 that corresponds to the value of the server 16, a check is constantly made to assure that there is a correspondence between the passport 46 information and the amount o~ postage paid by the user. More specifically, the total amount credited to the user station will be stored in memory 22 and if the amount in the ascending register exceeds that total amount available to the user, the user station will be notified that there are insufficient funds. When a batch of mail is sent to a post office for processing, the passport ~6 for that particular batch will accompany the mail. The postal employee can determine whether it is an authorized transmission of mail from the information contained upon the accompanying passport 46. If there is any ~uestion on the part oE the postal service as to whether the information is authentic, it will contact the central station 14 and through the line 19 obtain the information from the central station to veri~y the information contained on the passport 46. If this information is accurate, then the postal service will know that the mail is authorized, i.e., the postage for the mail has been paid. On the other hand, if there is any discrepancy, the postal service is able to act to ferret any fraud or correct any discrepancy. ~s is the usual practice in the user of postage meters, a user station 16 will send all its mail to an assigned post office.
Referring now to Fig. 3, an envelope 42 is shown as it would be prepared by the present system 10. The upper left hand corner contains the address o~ the mail sender and the upper right hand corner contains a pre-print block 43 containing the class of mail and gives the identification number or server number of the mail sender. This information may be preprinted on the envelopes 42 prior to processing of a batch. Such preprinting may be accomplished through direct communication of the input/processor 38 with the printer 44 without any participation of the other components of the user station 16.
In the processing of batch mail, the three address lines will first be printed in the address field with the name of the recipient, the street address and the city, state, zip code. The fourth line, or postage line is then printed using information supplied by the processor. This postage line, includes the postage amount $.22, the date, October 18, 1985 and the transaction number, ~hich in this case is C2J2743T56. Other information may be given on this postage line is so desired including the time the mail is processed. Although the postage line is shown in alpha-numerics it will be appreciated that the same maybe printed in bar code and, optionally, bar code address information may be printed on the envelope as desired. Additionally, the information in the pre-print block 43 may be printed in the address Eield with the other information therein and the pre-print block may be eliminated.
~ lthough an envelope 42 shown has the postage and address information printed on the face thereof the same scheme will apply to a windowed envelope. In a windowed envelope it may be preprinted as previously described but instead oE the printer 40 printing on the face of the envelope 42, an insert would be printed with the same information shown on the face of the envelope 42 and inserted so as to be viewed from the window. ~lternativelyr the postage and address information may be printed upon a label and the label may be attached to the envelope 42.
In this way what is provided is a method of allowing a organization to send large amounts of mail without having to frank every piece. In addition, the postal service is saved the problem of requiring on-site inspections at the user station 16 in order to verify that no unauthorized mail is being sent. By correlating the amount of postage, the transaction number, piece count, registration amount and the like, verification can be made without the need of encryption. The central station 14 more or less acts as a bank representing the postal service and handles the funds on its behalf as well as maintains records for verification.
The funds or postage value charged to the server 25 may be either pre-paid or charged to the user by the central station 14 on a credit arrangement. The central station 14 would be accountable to the postal service for the postage value placed in the server on a immediate basis. The central station may ~e a postage meter or server 25 manufacturer or any other reliable entity.
~ nother advantage of this system is that the printer 40 that prints the large numbers of mail pieces is not part of a secure member, i.e., the server 25, as in the case of a postage meter. Because of this, the printer may be replaced ~2~S~
frequently without the expense or inconvenience of entire replacement. It will be appreciated that one printer may be used in place of the two printers 40, 44 shown and described, but the pre~erred embodiment contemplates the use of two printers for the reason~ given.
Fig. 7 is a block diagram of a system which incorporates funds management in accordance with the invention. In this embodiment the input processor 48, which may be again a personal computer such as th~ IBM
ATTM personal computer, is placed in communication with the central station through line 28 which may include telephone set 30, like numerals being used for like elements previously shown in Fig. 1. The input processor is connected to a ser~er 50 shown here as a "master" server for reasons which will shortly be explained. In the preferred embodiment, the master server 50 may be a secure accounting board for accounting for postal transactions in a secure environment resistant to tampering and the rest of the server functions may be included with the software in the input processor 48. Suitable accounting circuits are shown, for example, in U.S. Patent No. 3,973,457.
Preferably, the processor will then communicate with the secure accounting board using the interface and protocol described in U.S. Patent No. 4,301,507.
Printer 52, which i8 an unsecure printer, is connected to the input processor 48 and is u~ed for printing passports as previou~ly described and for reports or journal printing as desired.
Input processor 48 communicates with the processor 24A
of ~slave~ server 25~. The operation of nslave" server 25A
with respect to the processing of mailpieces i5 exactly that previously described in connection with Fig. l and will not be further described here. However, with respect to the fund~ available in the server 25~, instead of communicating directly with the central s~ation 14 as previously de~cribed, the presen~ embodiment enables the transfer of funds between the server 25A and the master server 50 without the necessity of communication of funds fro~ the central station 14 to the "slave~ server 2SA.

It will be under~tood that the input processor 48 may be connected to communicate as desired with other "slaven servers tnot illustrated) associated with their respecti~e inserters. It will also be appreciated that the "slave"
s~rver may be a secure accounting board communicating with the input processor as described in the above with respect to the "master" server.
An accounting sy~tem 54 which interfaces with an electronic postage meter 56 ancl optional scale 58 is also connected to the processor 48. The accounting system 54 suitably includes features similar to the A300 accounting system marketed by Pitney Bowes. Such a system is described, for instance in Canadian Application Serial No. 526,302 of Mallo~zi, et. al for "SYSTEM FOR ACCOUNTINÇ FOR POSTAGE EXPENDED BY A POSTAGE
MET~R HAVING DATA SECURITY DURING PRINTING" and assigned to the assignee of the present invention.
Such an accounting system normally includes data entry apparatus and associated display and a memory for storing program data and account record , the memory further having a non-volatile memory for storing the records, an interface to the electronic postage meter, and a processor including a CPU
connected to the data entry apparatus, the memory and the interface. Optionally, as mentioned previously there may also be an interface to the scale. The co~munication is again preferably using th2 interface and protocol de~cribed in U.S. Paten~ ~o. 4,301,507.
The processor respond3 ~o entry of the postal informa~ion in aceordance wi~h the program data to transmit signals through the interface to set the postage meter, and then rasponds to a 3ignal specifying the postage expended transmitted back from the pos~age meter through the interface to update the account record corresponding to an account number specified by the postal information. ~he account records may of coursP be printed either by an auxiliary printer (no~ shown) or transmitted to the processor ~8 for printing by the printer 52.

The processor 48 also serves to accumulate job related information and postal accounts at a central point. The information can be collected from each of the servers or input processors associated with the inserters as well as from the accounting system 54.
Fig. 8 shows the routine for transferring funds between the master server 50 and l:he slave server 25A or postage meter 56 shown in Fig. 7.
The funds transer is initiated by a call to the block funds Transfer Request shown at lL0. It is understood that the routine will cover both the downloading of funds into the slave server and the meter as well as the uploading of funds to the master server.
The fund3 transfer may be initiated by a manual input, block 120, from the ~lave server 25A or ~lave input processor 38A or a manual input from the accounting sy~tem. The transfer may also be initiated by a command from the input processor 48, block 130. The fund~ transfer may also be initiated automatically a3 will be discussed later.
Suitable routines for handling the transfer of funds in a secure manner are described for example, in U.S. Patent No. 4,097,923. It will be understood that the secure transfer of funds between the central station 14 and master ser~er may be handled in a similar manner to that disclosed in U.S. Patent No. 4,097,923 and provided by Pitney Bowes through its remots meter resetting system. In each transfer, uploading of funds may be incorporated by the transfer of negative fund amounts. It will be understood that the system taught herei~ does not require voice answer back and may be implemented by direct transfer of data via modem, RS-232 serial transmission on dedicated lines, or by other suitable communication techni~ues well known in the art.
In accordance with procedures more completely described in U.S. Patent No. 4,097,923, the slave server 25A
or meter 56 computes an access code, block 140, and transmits the access code ~o the master server 50, block 150. The master server 50 computes a refill combination, block 160, and transmits the refill combination to the slave server 25A

~s~

or the meter 56 which required -the funds transfer, block 170.
The refill combination is verified by the server or meter, block 180t and if valid, decision block 190, the registers are incremented, block 200 and the program returns to the mail processor routine, block 210.
Fig. 9 illustrates a rout:ine for the automatic updating of ~unds in one of the sub-units. ~t the end of a run for processing mail, block 300, or at predetermined time intervals if desired, the systenl may automatically check to make sure that the level of funds in the servers and postage meters are above a predetermined level, blocks 310 and 320.
If the funds are below the predetermined level the request transEer routine of Fig. 8 is called.
Fig. 10 is a flow diagram for a routine for a demand based postage request.
In accordance with this aspect of the invention, the operator who may be at any one of the locations, i.e., at an inserter with input processor 38A, accounting system 54, or master input processor 48, inputs information as to the job characteristics, block 400. ~ased on such characteristics, which can include inEormation such as, for example, counts, job ID, operator ID, machine ID, date, class/specialities, time start, time end, total pieces, actual postage, account to be charged, and job type, the input processor can calculate costs and postage funds necessary for the job, block 410. It will be appreciated that these characteristics may be keyed into the input processor 48 and associated with a job ID or ticke~ which may later be read or keyed-in at the time of the run for calling the required information. The funds remaining in the particular apparatus is checked to determine if there is sufficient postage, block 420 and if there is a funds request, block ~10 is called. If sufficient funds are available or after the device has been refilled the mail processing is initiated, block 430. The accounting is done as shown in block 440 either in the accounting system 54 or input processor 38A and the results are transmitted for storing or printing to input processor 48, block 450.
It will be appreciated that in some circumstances it may not be necessary to include the master server 50 for ~S~
storage of f~nds, in which case the input processor 48 may serve to channel funds between the central station 14 and the appropxiate device as well as to collect and display or print mail run information.. It will also be understood that ~7hile the description of this embodiment has been made with respect to one slave server and one electronic postage meter, the system is capable of accommodating more inserters and postage meters in any of various combinations. It should also be understood that the accounting system shown at 54 may be adapted to interface with a plurality of electronic postage meters for accounting for the transactions occurring in each.
In accordance with the irlvention disclosed herein, funds may be shifted from the various devices communicating with the input processor 48 by uploading funds from one unit in-to the server 50 and then downloading the Eunds into the devices requiring more funds. It will be appreciated that the funds may be similarly uploaded from the input processor 48 to the central station 14 if desired.
If desired the amount of postage available in each device may be limited to a predetermined amount. Thus mailing systems operators who perform mailruns for multiple clients can utilize credit rating and other related information to determine the extend of mailing runs performed for the client.
The system further enables funds to be stored at the central station and placed in interest-bearing accounts.
Funds are then drawn down through the input processor 48 on an as needed basisO Unspent funds can be transferred to other devices controlled by the input processor 48 or uploaded into the central station 14 and back into the interest-bearing account.
Because of the flexibility of the input processor in conjunction with the servers and the accounting system 54 accounting can be performed for a variety of different types of devices such as inserters, mailing machines with postage meters, and manifest systems. Thus, simultaneous runs may be performed with the different devices with a much higher lever of accounting control~

Claims (16)

THE EMBODIMENTS OF THE INVENTION IN WHICH AN EXCLUSIVE
PROPERTY OR PRIVILEGE IS CLAIMED ARE DEFINED AS FOLLOWS:
1. A system for accounting for expenditures of postage funds comprising:
means for processing information;
a plurality of means for securely accounting for postal transactions, each of said accounting means accounting for a batch of mail; and means for establishing communication between said information processing means and each of said plurality of secure accounting means, each of said plurality of secure accounting means being operative to communicate accounting information to said information processing means for accumulating mailing information thereat.
2. The system of claim 1 further comprising:
means for generating a passport, said passport including accounting information relating to said batch of mail.
3. The system of claim 1 further comprising:
means for transferring funds between said information processing means and each of said plurality of secure accounting means.
4. The system of claim 3 further comprising:
an electronic postage meter, said electronic postage meter having one of said accounting means interfaced therewith, said one accounting mean being operative to communication accounting information to said information processing means and to transfer funds between said information processing means and said electronic postage meter.
5. The system of claim 3 wherein said funds are transferred between said information processing means and one of said secure accounting means automatically upon said funds in said one of the secure accounting means reaching a predetermined minimum.
6. The system of claim 5 further comprising:
an electronic postage meter, said electronic postage meter having one of said accounting means interfaced therewith, and wherein said funds are automatically transferred to said electronic postage meter upon said funds in said electronic postage meter reaching a predetermined minimum.
7. The system of claim 3 wherein said funds are transferred from said information processing means to one of said secure accounting means after calculation of the amount of postage funds based on job characteristics information inputted to said information processor means.
8. The system of claim 7 further comprising:
an electronic postage meter, said electronic postage meter having an accounting means interfaced therewith wherein said postage funds are transferred from said information processing means to said electronic postage meter after calculation of the amount of postage funds required based on job characteristics inputted to said information processing means.
9. A system for managing postal funds comprising:
first means for processing information;
secure accounting means including second means for processing information, said second means being operative for accounting for postal funds for a batch of mail;
means for communicating accounting information and data representative of said postal funds between said first information processing means and said secure accounting means;

an electronic postage meter;
a second accounting means communicating with said electronic postage meter for accumulating accounting information with respect to transactions in said electronic postage meter; and means for communicating between said second accounting means and said first information processing means, said first information processing means being operative to transfer data representative of funds between itself and said secure accounting means and said second accounting means.
10. The system of claim 9 further comprising:
means for generating a passport, said passport including accounting information relating to said batch of mail.
11. The system of claim 9 further comprises:
another secure accounting means communicating with said first information processing means, said another secure accounting means being operative to store funds transferred thereto from a central station.
12. The system of claim 9 wherein the first information processing means accumulates and stores mail run information from said secure accounting means and said second accounting means.
13. The system of claim 12 wherein said mail run information is inputted at said first information processing means.
14. The system of claim 9 wherein said first information processing means further comprises:
means for calculating the amount of postal funds for a selected mail run and selectively transferring sufficient funds to the one of said secure accounting means and said postage meter requiring the postal funds.
15. The system of claim 9 wherein funds are automatically transferred from said first information processing means to said electronic postage meter and to said secure accounting means whenever said funds in said electronic postage meter and said secure accounting means reach a particular level.
16. The system of claim 9 further comprising:
means for establishing communication between said first information processing means and a central station for transferring funds therebetween.
CA 525917 1985-12-26 1986-12-19 Mailing system having postal funds management Expired - Lifetime CA1265619A (en)

Priority Applications (4)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US06813445 US4962454A (en) 1985-12-26 1985-12-26 Batch mailing method and apparatus: printing unique numbers on mail pieces and statement sheet
US813,445 1985-12-26
US904,526 1986-09-05
US06904526 US4853864A (en) 1985-12-26 1986-09-05 Mailing systems having postal funds management

Publications (1)

Publication Number Publication Date
CA1265619A true CA1265619A (en) 1990-02-06

Family

ID=27123736

Family Applications (1)

Application Number Title Priority Date Filing Date
CA 525917 Expired - Lifetime CA1265619A (en) 1985-12-26 1986-12-19 Mailing system having postal funds management

Country Status (5)

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US (1) US4853864A (en)
CA (1) CA1265619A (en)
DE (1) DE3644245C2 (en)
FR (1) FR2592501B1 (en)
GB (1) GB2188872B (en)

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Also Published As

Publication number Publication date Type
FR2592501A1 (en) 1987-07-03 application
FR2592501B1 (en) 1993-06-18 grant
DE3644245C2 (en) 2000-10-26 grant
DE3644245A1 (en) 1987-07-23 application
GB2188872B (en) 1991-03-13 grant
US4853864A (en) 1989-08-01 grant
GB2188872A (en) 1987-10-14 application
GB8630624D0 (en) 1987-02-04 grant
CA1265619A1 (en) grant

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