CUSTOMIZED TELEPHONE GREETING SYSTEM
Field of the Invention The present invention relates in general to telephone voicemail systems, and more particularly to a novel voicemail system which allows a user to create a customized message for each caller.
Background of the Invention Telephone mrss~ging and a~.hlg systems have been in exietenre for many years. Early ~y~ lls utilized a pair of magn.otir audio tapes and associated recording/playback heads which allowed a user to record a single greeting on a first one of the tapes (configured as a tape loop), and to record incolllillg messages on the second tape after a predetermined number of rings. More recent telephone answering systems utilize digital recording and storage media to allow the user to record a greeting and incoming messages. Although newer digital voicemail systems are much more sophi~tir~ted than prior art tape-based systems, and allowfor longer message lecol-ling times, the principle of operation is the same.
With Caller Line T~lrntifir~tion (CLID) now provided as a standard central office feature on analog lines, telephone subscribers are growing accustomed to a~ illg illcolllillg calls with a suitable greeting based on their knowledge of the identity of the incoming caller. In many situations, it would be desirable to provide a telephone voicemail system which is similarly capable of delivering a cu~lol,Pi~ed message to an incoming caller based on CLID h~follll~lion received from the central office.
Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to provide a user customized telephone voicemail system which is capable of providing a personalized message to an incoming caller prior to recording a message from thecaller or prior to the subscriber a~ h~g the call.
2 1 86~26 Su~ ~y of the Invention According to the present invention, a system is provided by which a telephone subscriber may create a personalized message for incoming callers based S on the caller's CLID. According to a ple~l-ed embodiment of the invention, the message comprises three colllpo~ which are assembled by the user via a proplictary software application. The first co..-pollelll is a personalized greeting (e.g. "Hi Bob"), the second component advises the caller of the user's status (e.g.
"I'm out of the office now"), and the last component is an instruction (e.g.
"Please leave a messagen).
A phonebook ~l~t~h~ce is ~ 1 with the names and numbers of callers known to the subscriber. The three components are recorded by the subscriber andstored as wave files (.WAV), wherein the first component is associated with individual entries in the phonebook ~l~t~h~ce.
For an uni~lentified caller (i.e. no CLID or caller not yet stored in phonebook ~t~k~ce), a generic first colllpollenl may be provided (e.g. "Hello, this is Annen).
Upon receipt of an incoming call with CLID, the software application searches the phonebook ~l~t~b~ce for a match between the CLID and the stored name and/or number. In the event of a match, the system then plays the three stored wave files in sequence so that a personalized message is played to the 25 inco--li~g caller.
According to the p~fe.l~d embodiment, a one-time message may be recorded for any caller, which is played only once and expires at a specific time in the event that the expected caller does not call.
Brief Introduction to the Drawings 2 1 8692~
A detailed description of the prefelled embodiment is provided herein below, with refelence to the following drawings, in which:
Figure 1 is a s~ ~m~tic illustration of a colllpulel-based telephony system capable of implementing the customized mes~gin~ system of the present invention;
Figure 2 shows a Phonebook d~t~b~e window interface genel~ted by the application according to the pIer~,.led embo~im.?nt;
Figure 3 shows a Numbers Manager window interface gel~el~t~d by the application according to the prefe.led embodiment;
Figure 4 shows a Sounds Manager window interface generated by the application according to the plef~.led embodiment;
Figure 5 shows the Greetings tab of an Assistant window interface generated by the application according to the prefe.led embodiment;
Figure 6 shows the Personal Messages tab of the ~si~t~nt windows interface gen~ ted by the application according to the plefe.led embodiment; and Figure 7 is a flowch~l showing operation of the software application according to the prerelled embodimlont Detailed Description of the P~erell~d Embodiment Turning to Figure 1, a PC-based telephony system is shown which is capable of implementin~ the personalized greeting application of the present invention. A
telephone set 1 is connected to a telephone switching system 3 (e.g. central office) via a telephone line 5. The telephone set 1 is also connected to a personal computer 7 via a serial link 9. The personal comp~ - 7 includes a monitor or display 8 as well as a mouse pointer 10 and keyboard 12, in a well known manner. The serial link may be one of either a USB or RS-232 line, although other suitable data communication links are possible. The computer 7 executes a TAPI (Telephony Application Program Interface) compliant software application for communicating with the telephone set 1 to implement various telephony functions, including the mess~ging system of the present invention. The TAPI application permits shared and interactive functionality between the col-lpuLer 7 and telephone set l for implementing the personalized greeting system of the present invention and further including, but not limited to, call management, call logging, call recording, phonebook (l~t~b~e creation and editing, and ~ lling, none of which form part ofthe present invention and all of which are discussed in greater detail with reference to the assignee's copending application no.
filed , and entitled System for Interactive Control of Computer and Telephone, the contents of which are incorporated herein by reference.
The telephone set l includes a handset l l and keypad l3, and in addition includes a plurality of programmable function keys l 5 which may be programmed for speed dial or other telephony functions.
As indicated above, the software application running on colllllul~,. 7 collllll~icates with telephone set 1 via serial link 9. In accordance with the pnnciples of the present invention, the software application implements the personalized greeting system of the present invention via a plurality of user int~ ce components for display and sound recording/playback functionality.
In Figure 2, a Phonebook ~l~t~b~ce window 17 is gene.ated by the software application for providing a GUI interface for the user to enter and edit information relating to the usér's business and personal contacts. The Phonebook cl~t~b~e isanalogous to a Personal Information Manager (PD~I). The Phonebook database window l 7 includes a directory (left-hand side) which is created by the user and may include numerous sub-directories. For each Phonebook cl~t~b~e entry, a First Name, Last Name, Company Name, Area Code, Number and #Type field are provided.
Toolbar buttons l9 are included to p~ lrullll well known functions such as delete, dial, open profile (each entry in the database has a profile associated with it, cO~ gadditional data), and close. Names can be dragged from the table or list display to any directory group using the mouse 10.
In Figure 3, a Numbers Manager window 21 is shown with which the subscriber is able to create, modify and delete numbers, locations and greetings for individual names appe~illg in the Phonebook d~qtzlb ~e (Figure 2). Only the greetings tab of window 21 is shown in Figure 3, the Numbers and Locations tabs not being shown since they are not directly relevant to the present invention. Using the Greetings tab ofthe Numbers Manager window 21, the user is able to select a greeting (i.e. the first of three m~s~ge components) which is associated with a particular number (shown hi~hlighted in table 23), select and program a one-timemessage, and play a custom sound (i.e. incoming call announce) on second ring toidentify the caller. The initial greeting, one-time mçss~ge and incoming call announce sounds are all stored as wave files which can be created and edited via a Sound Manager function which is accessed by clicking the Sounds button 25.
Specifically, upon clicking the Sounds button 25, a further user int~ ce window is displayed as shown in Figure 4. The Sound Manager window 27 allows the user to record and edit sounds, with available sounds being selected from a drop-down list. Thus, the subscriber may record a personalized greeting (e.g. "Hi Bob") or a one-time greeting (e.g. "Hi Dana, I'm running late for our meeting but should be there by 3 :00 PM. In the me~ntime please leave me with your email address"), and store the recorded wave file under a predet~rminçd file name which can then be selected via the greeting and one-time mess~ge fields in the Numbers Manager window (Figure 3).
Boxes are provided in the Numbers Manager window 21 (Figure 3) for enabling or disabling the personalized greeting and one-time message associated with a particular number. Also, with respect to the one-time mess~ge, an expiry date must be entered in the "_ntil" field and a time, after which the one-time message for a particular caller will be automatically disabled.
As discussed briefly above, each message comprises a customized combination of three components: a personalized greeting, the user's status and an instruction. The user creates this combination of components using the ~si~t~nt window interface 29 of Figure 5. Only the Greetings tab of window 29 is shown inFigure 5, the Call screening and Call blocking tabs are not shown since they are not directly relevant to the present invention, and the Personal Messages tab is discussed below with reference to Figure 6. Within the window int~ ce 29, the user is able to select a Default Greeting (e.g."You have reached ABC T imitecl"), a Status message (e.g. "We can't get to the phone right now") and an Instructions mçs.~ge (e.g. "Please leave a mçs~ge at the tone"). Each ofthese m~ss~ges must have been recorded and stored as wave files using the Sound Manager window int~ e 27 (Figure 4).
As discussed above, where there is no match between the incoming caller's CLID and the numbers stored in the user's Phonebook ~l~t~b~e~ then the Default Greeting is played. Otherwise, the personalized greeting selected for the identified incoming caller is played as the first component of the mess~ge (the personalized greeting having been recorded as a wave file using the window 27 (Figure 4) and assigned to the number in the Phonebook tl~t~b~ce using the Numbers Manager window 21 (Figure 3)).
As shown in Figure 6, a 11st of one-time m~ss~ge~ is provided under the Personal Messages tab 30 ofthe ~ t~nt window int~ e The list is arranged according to me~ge (OT), number, location and name. Any one of these messages may be selected in the list and then edited using the Sounds button 25, as discussed above.
In operation, with lcrclcnce to the flowchart of Figure 7, upon receipt of an incoming telephone call with voicemail activated (step 31), the application causes a "phone ringing" sound to be played at the al~plopl;ate local speaker device. If a "caller ID data received" notification is received by the application, the caller ID data is stored with the call's object. The application then searches the Phonebook database for a match in stored telephone number with the identified telephone number of the 2 1 86~26 calling party (step 33) . In the event of no match being found, the default greeting is played to the caller (step 35), followed by the status message (step 37), instructions message (step 39) and recording of the caller's message (step 41).
In the event of a match between the CLID information and a number in the phonebook ~i~t~ se~ the application retrieves the file name of the personalized greeting to be played to the caller and also obtains the name of a file to which the voice mail message can be saved. If no personalized greeting has been stored for the indicated caller (step 43), the default greeting file is retrieved. The application first plays the personalized greeting (step 45) or the default greeting (step 47), depending on the outcome of step 43, to the a~~ ;ate line device. Next, the application ~letermines whether an unexpired one-time mes~ge has been recorded for the identified caller (step 49). If yes, then the application retrieves the file name of the one-time message to be played to the caller and also obtains the name of the file to which the voice mail mrss~ge can be saved. These two file names are then passed to a media message control component of the application which plays the one-time message (step 51), followed by the instructions message 39 and then records any message left by the caller (step 41).
If no one-time mess~ge is located as a result of step 49, then the status message is played (step 37), followed by the instructions mesc~ge (step 39) and recording of the caller's mes~ge (step 41).
According to one altern~tive embo~limrnt step 49 may be executed before step 43 so that in the event that a one-time greeting is located for a particular caller, steps 43 through 47 are bypassed.
According to another alternative embo~liment, a schedllle of status messages may be selected to be played at predetermined times and dates. For example, a standard status message may be programmed to play from 9:00 AM to 12 Noon (e.g."We're not available to take your call right now"), at which time the status message changes to a llmrhtime message (e.g. "We're out for lunch right now"), and after the lunch hour the standard message can be played again until 6:00 PM
at which time a night status message can be played (e.g. "The office is now closed, but will re-open at 9:00 AM").
In :iUllllllaly, according to the present invention a personalized greeting system is provided by which a telephone subscriber may create customized messages for incoming callers. The system se~ches a stored Phonebook ~l~t~b~ce for a match bclweell CLID inrullllalion from an incoming call and a number in the ~t~b~ce. Where a match is found and the user has recorded a personalized greeting, the personalized greeting is played to the incoming caller followed by a status message and instructions, after which the caller has the oppollullily of leaving a message. A schedule of status messages may be programmed to autom~ti~lly change at dirrelelll times and/or dates. Also, the user can record a one-time customized m~ss~ge for any caller, in place of the personalized greeting.
The one-time message is played only once and expires after a programmable time period in the event that the caller does not call.
Other embodi ll~ and variations are possible without departing from the sphere and scope of the invention as defined by the claims appended hereto.