The present invention relates to a method and a system for implementing an
auction process involving at least one user with a cellular telephone and an
Auctions as a sales process are well known. In auctions a group of participants has
the possibility to buy an offered good by successively issuing price offers, so
called bids. At the start of an auction a minimum selling price is frequently
presented by the organizer of the auction. Then, every participant of the auction
has the possibility to place an offer for this good. The offers of the participants
increase, either by predetermined amounts or by free amounts. If no participant
wants to increase his price offer anymore, the participant with the highest offer
obtains the good for the offered price.
To buy goods in an auction requires physical presence at a certain location. This is
true for personal auctions, where the participants physically gather, as well as for
online auctions on the internet, where each of the participants still must be present
around a computer connected to the internet. Furthermore, these auctions require
permanent monitoring of the auctioning process in order to know the status of the
auction and the necessity for further action. Finally, online auctions regularly
require identification and registration processes of the participants, since the
identity and authorization of an internet user cannot be clarified as easily as this
can be done in auctions requiring physical presence. This identification and
registration process may deter potential participants of the auction.
Therefore, one object of the present invention is to enable individuals to
participate in an auction at an arbitrary location, without being bound to the
availability of a certain computer or internet equipment. It is another object of the
invention to allow such participant to follow the relevant portions of an auction
without the need to monitor the whole bidding process. Finally, it is an object to
provide a simple and convenient method for carrying out auctions and for
participating in such auctions.
These and other objects are achieved by a method for determining a final leading
price offer for a good using an auction center and a plurality of cellular telephones
of a plurality of users, wherein each of said plurality of cellular telephones is
assigned to one of said plurality of said users, and wherein further each of said
plurality of cellular telephones has a telephone number, comprising the following
- a) sending a bidding invitation for said good from said auction center to said
plurality of cellular telephones,
- b) informing said plurality of users about said bidding invitation for said good by
means of an acoustical or optical display function of said plurality of cellular
- c) returning from at least one of said plurality of cellular telephones price offers
for said good to said auction center in response to said bidding invitation on
demand of at least one of said plurality of users,
- d) registering in said auction center each of said price offers and the arrival time
at said auction center for each of said price offers,
- e) determining a present leading price offer for said good by identifying the
highest of said price offers having the earliest arrival time at said auction
- f) communicating said present leading price offer to said plurality of cellular
- g) repeating at least the above steps c) to f) until a closing criterion is reached,
- h) fixing a final leading price offer, which is identical with said present leading
price offer which was last determined in a repetition of step e) before said
closing criterion was reached.
The cellular telephones used in the present invention may be any standard mobile
phones. The cellular telephones must be able to display acoustically or visually
messages, such as a bidding invitation or a leading price offer. SMS messages
may also be supported by these cellular telephones.
Each cellular telephone naturally has a telephone number. Furthermore, each
cellular telephone is assigned to a user, that means behind each telephone is a
user. It is understood that a user may have more than one cellular telephone
assigned to him or her. It may also be possible for several users to share one
telephone in the sense that this group of users is collectively responsible for the
use of this telephone.
The auction center of the present invention organizes and administrates the
auction. Its tasks include sending bidding invitations, receiving price offers,
administrating these price offers, informing participants in the auction about other
price offers, determining leading price offers, acknowlegding a final leading price
offer, and closing the auction. For this purpose the auction center comprises the
respective means for sending bidding invitations, etc.. These means may be
realized by any suitable technology. Typically, the auction center will comprise a
computer system on which a software program is implemented in order to perform
the above mentioned steps and tasks.
The auction center is connected to the cellular telephones of the users via a
cellular telephone network supported by a network provider. The price offers
returned from cellular telephones may be manually input into an auction center's
computer system by telephone operators or automatically by using means for
converting messages of cellular telephones to computer compatible information.
The auction center may further be connected or connectable to the internet, to
other auction centers or to outside databases, in order to accomplish various
business goals. For example, the auction center may be connected with the
internet, so that an auction may be carried out partially via cellular telephones and
partially via the internet. In another example, the auction center may communicate
with another auction center in order to coordinate several auctions, which are, for
example, conducted in different territories. Furthermore, in yet another example,
the auction center may contact outside databases, for example, in order to provide
information about possible customers or about actual bidders, like marketing
information or even bank account numbers.
When a new auction starts the auction center issues a bidding invitation to
customers. This bidding invitation may contain a description of the good to be
auctioned, the starting price and the closing time of the auction, or payment
The customers, that means the plurality of users receiving the bidding invitation,
may be chosen from the totality of users of cellular telephones. This group of
users may be determined according to any suitable criterion. For example, only
users of a certain cellular telephone network may be chosen, based on business as
well as technical requirements. Furthermore, the present location, the interests,
the age, the credit card ownership or any other marketing relevant information
about individual customers may be used as the chosing criterion. However, the
customer need not be registered with the auction center, although it is possible to
provide such a registration for ease of payment or even for business purposes, like
the implementation of discount schemes.
The cellular telephone of the user will present the user the content of the message
in an acoustical or in an optical way. For example, the offered good can be
described by words displayed in a display of the cellular telephone. However, the
describing words can also be read by a natural or a computer voice to the user, so
that the user may even take part in an auction while driving his car. If the data line
allows, it is also imaginable to display a picture of the good on the display of the
Each addressed customer, i.e. user of a cellular telephone, has the possibility to
give a bid, that means a price offer, for the good which is auctioned. This bid can
exceed the last offer for this good by an allowed predetermined value or by any
other value, depending on the auction scheme used. The user's actual price offer is
returned to the auction center.
The auction center registers all incoming bids, in particular the amount of the bid
and its arrival time. The arrival time is important if two bids having the same
amount are received. The registration step may also include a registration of the
telephone number of each cellular telephone from which a price offer was
returned to the auction center and which transmits its telephone number to said
auction center. The auction scheme may provide that only cellular telephones may
be used for the wireless auction which actually send their own telephone number
with the price offer to the auction center, because otherwise identification of users
utilizing the cellular telephone for participating in the auction may become
difficult. However, it is also imaginable that the users do not have to send their
telephone numbers and that only the user with the highest final leading price offer,
that means the user who wins the auction, is asked for identification. This
identification request may be made by any suitable means, including messages to
be displayed on the user's display.
In this context, the user who gave the final leading price offer or who initiated any
other price offer of interest may be identified by contacting a database containing
correlated information about the plurality of users to which at least one of the
cellular telephones is assigned, wherein the users can be identified by means of
the telephone number of the cellular telephones.
This identification may be performed automatically, that means the bidder does
not have to apply with the auction center in order to take part in the auction. For
this purpose of identification the auction center may be connected to a customer
database of the cellular network provider which provides the auction center with
the necessary information about the bidder, in particular his name, address and
billing information, like credit card number or bank account number, based on the
telephone number of the user.
If the cellular telephone of a user does not send its telephone number with a bid, a
special identification process may be initiated, depending on the business scheme
of the auction. This identification process may be initiated at the time of closing
the auction and may require a direct contact of the user with the auction center,
via his cellular telephone or via any other means, in order to convey his or her
relevant identification information, like name, address, credit card number.
However, the identification process may also be performed at an earlier stage, for
example after first returning a price offer, and consist in sending the telephone
number of the cellular telephone to enable the auction system to communicate
with this cellular telephone, i.e. the user. The information gained in this
identification process may then be stored in a user database. If such identification
schemes are used, rather than the above automatic identification schemes using
sent telephone numbers, it is also possible to assign access code numbers to
registered users of an auction system.
The auction center processes all incoming bids. The bids for an auction are sorted
according to price and arrival time. The arrival time is important if two or more
price offers are identical in price. This sorting process allows the determination of
a present leading price offer. This is the highest price offer, and, if more than one
price offer with the highest price exist, the price offer with the earlier arrival time.
This present leading price offer is then communicated to the cellular telephones of
the above mentioned customers, or only to the sub-group of such customers who
have responded to the bidding invitation by sending in a price offer. This
communication may have several forms. For example, a message may be sent
showing the present leading price offer in this auction. Instead or in addition, a
message may be sent individually to all bidders, except for the bidder having
given the present leading price offer, which tells the bidder that his bid has been
topped by a higher or earlier bid. The latter would give the participants the
possibility to return a higher offer. It is also possible to send the bidder with the
present leading price offer a message that he is leading the field presently.
Such a bidding process can be carried out several times, that means several rounds
of bidding may be carried out. When a certain closing criterion is reached, the
auction center does not accept any new bids. It then specifies the final leading
price offer, which is the present leading price offer last determined in a bidding
round. The closing criterion may be the expiration of a time period, the number of
bids, a desired price, or any other suitable criterion.
Thereafter, the auction center may initiate an automatic delivery and debiting
process if the user having given the final leading price offer has already been
identified and if the auction center thereby has obtained the required billing and
delivery information. Otherwise, the auction center and this user must
communicate in order to pay and deliver the auctioned good.
In one embodiment of the present invention the auction center sends a
confirmation request after the fixing of the final leading price offer to the cellular
telephone which returned the final leading price offer. This confirmation request
informs the user that he has returned the final leading price offer, i.e. that he has
won the auction. The confirmation request may be combined with a request
concerning the payment modalities, if necessary. For example, the bank account
or the number of the credit card may be requested by the auction center.
If a confirmation request is sent, a reminder message may be sent from the auction
center to the cellular telephone which returned said final leading price offer in
case the auction center has not received a confirmation from said cellular
telephone within a certain time period. The auction center may also send more
than one reminders, with the same or different content.
The auction center may then also send a bid acceptance message to the cellular
telephone which returned the final leading price offer, if said cellular telephone
has positively reacted to said confirmation request.
If finally no reaction is obtained from this cellular telephone in response to a
confirmation request, the user who gave the final leading price offer may be
contacted directly by telephone or mail and requested to fulfill the obligations of
his or her bid. However, it is also imaginable, and in instances where this user has
not and cannot be identified, to exclude the final leading bid and to contact the
user who submitted the next closer bid.
In the scope of the present invention it may be desirable to auction several pieces
of the same item, for example, ten discmen, at the same time. In this case the
method according to the present invention could include the step of determining in
the auction center a sequence of a number of final price offers for the good by
identifying the highest price offer, excluding the final leading price offer, having
the earliest arrival time, and by repeating this process until the desired number of
final price offers has been determined, for example, the ten highest price offers for
discmen. The auction center will then inform the ten winning bidders accordingly
and initiate debiting and delivery, as described above for a single item bidding
Regardless of whether the bidding process is carried out for one or for several
pieces of a good, it may be desirable to send a message to the user who had sent
the last present leading price offer that his price offer has been topped, if a higher
present leading price offer has been determined. By means of such a message the
user who had shown particular interest in the bidding may be selectively contacted
so that he or she may return another, higher price offer.
In an embodiment of the present invention the auction center and the plurality of
cellular telephones communicate via the Cell Broadcast Center (CBC) system.
This system enables the auction center to communicate in an advantageous way
with the cellular telephones. In particular, the users do not have to lock-in to a
In another embodiment of the present invention the auction center may be an
interface to an online auction server. In this case, the online auction server is a
server in which an auction on the internet is generated and proceeded. The
interface function of the auction center enables the user of the cellular telephone
to participate in this online auction. The auction center may monitor any of the
actions of the bidding process and inform and communicate with the user of a
cellular telephone as described above for wireless auctions.
Other features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent in
the following detailed description of an embodiment.
In order to sell a good the auction center will initiate an auction. This good may
be, for example, a certain new music CD. The auction center may be a computer
system comprising a processor, storage medium and an i/o interface. Via this i/o
interface the auction center may be connected to a telephone provider. The auction
center comprises or is connected to a customer database. This database comprises
information about the customers which have already returned a bid to the auction
center. Within this database or in an separate database information about potential
customers, like all customers of a telephone provider may be stored.
First, the auction center will generate a message, which describes the offered
music CD. This may be made by the auction center automatically as well as with
support of the administrator of the auction center. This message, the so called
bidding invitation, may be sent to cellular telephones assigned to a certain group
of customers. The decision which customers will get a bidding invitation may be
made based on all information available to the auction center or the administrator
thereof. It is also possible that several different bidding invitations may be
generated, for example, one for a certain group of customers and a special one for
all customers which have returned a bid in the last auctions with music CDs. The
bidding invitation may comprise information about the number of offered goods,
in this example, the number of offered samples of this music CD. This will be
interesting for the user in order to know that, if, for example, five CDs are offered,
he will get a CD even if his price offer is only the fifth highest offer.
The bidding invitation may be a data message, which comprises all kind of data
which could be presented to the user of the cellular telephone in an acoustical or
in an optical way. This means written text messages, spoken messages and
pictures as well as a film, for example, wherein the acoustical and the optical way
are combined. This bidding invitation may include specific identification
information of this specific auction. For example, a telephone number and/or a
certain key may accompany the bidding invitation in order to distinguish the
incoming price offers of different auctions. This bidding invitation may be sent
from the auction center to the addressed cellular telephones via a suitable channel.
Such channels may be SMS, CBC, WAP, GPRS and UMPS.
The addressed cellular telephones may receive the sent message and may inform
the user about this bidding invitation in the foreseen way. The user may listen to
or otherwise access this information immediately or at a later point of time,
depending on his or her desires and upon the technical possibilities.
In addition, the bidding invitation may include the information that additional
descriptions about the offered good, in this example the music CD, are available.
This allows the user in this special example to ask the auction center to present,
for example, a sample piece of music from the offered music CD.
After receiving the bidding invitation the cellular telephone may be able to return
a price offer to the auction center. For this returning of the price offer several
different ways are possible. In order to simplify this bidding process the cellular
telephone may offer the user a bid which is higher than the last present leading
price offer or the starting price. Then the user of the cellular telephone has only to
press one or more buttons on his cellular telephone to return this new price offer.
This returning of the price offer can be sent via all possible channels between the
cellular telephone and the auction center.
This returning message may furthermore comprise information about the specific
auction, if there are several auctions going on at the same time, for example, by
using a certain telephone number for contacting the auction center and/or by using
a key. It may also contain information which allows to identify the user, for
example, the telephone number of the cellular telephone from which the message
of the user was sent if this telephone number permits the identification of the user,
for example, via a database. At any rate, the telephone number is unique and can
be employed by the auction center to distinguish the incoming price offers. If the
cellular telephone transmits no telephone number the user of the cellular
telephone will have to carry out an identification process. In this process the user
may determine or may get assigned an access code. In this case the access code
will be transmitted by the cellular telephone in order to distinguish this user from
The auction center may register the incoming returned message including the new
price offer. The auction center will be able to store this incoming message in any
suitable way, so that the auction center can process the information.
This processing of the incoming information can comprise an analyzing of the
bidding user by comparing the identification information with a corresponding
entry in a customer database. If in this database, for example, several open bills
are registered in connection with this user, the auction center may be able to
ignore this new price offer. If the user participates for the first time in an auction
and there is no information about the user in the customer database, it is also
possible that the auction center processes the incoming new price offer, but asks
parallelly the new user for additional information, like the age or the bank account
in order to allow an easy debiting in the future.
Each incoming price offer is registered with respect to its value and its arrival
time. In the next step the auction center determines the present leading price offer.
If a number of goods are offered in one auction, frequently a certain number of
price offers are determined by the auction center which are all leading the auction
in the sense that they all entitle to a purchase of one piece of the auctioned good.
The auction center communicates regularly with the plurality of cellular
telephones in order to inform them about the present leading price offer. This may
be a message to all customers with the information that a new present leading
price offer with a certain value has reached the auction center. In addition or
alternatively the auction center may send a message to the user who returned the
last leading price offer, in which the auction center informs this user that his price
offer has been topped. Other comparable communication between the auction
center and the cellular telephones may be also possible.
After a certain closing criterion has been reached the auction center may not
accept new price offers anymore. Such a closing criterion may be a certain point
in time, but other suitable criterions may also be possible. After closing the
auction the auction center will fix at least one final leading price offer.
In this embodiment the auction center will determine the user to whom this
cellular telephone is assigned and will debit the amount of the final leading price
offer to the bank account specified in the customer database. In another
embodiment the user may first be informed by a confirmation request about the
end of the auction and that he has returned the final leading price offer. The user is
asked to confirm this request in order to confirm that he wants to buy the good for
the offered price. This confirmation communication can be realized in various
All described functions of the auction center may be realized in a common
computer system, but other solutions are possible as well.
In another embodiment of the present invention the auction center does not initiate
auctions on its own. However, it is able to monitor other auctions, like online
auctions via the internet. The auction center may provide the customers with the
relevant information about these auctions and may be able to forward the bids
returned from the customers in the above mentioned way to the corresponding
Therefore, the present invention provides an auction system which enables the
user of this system to participate at any location where his cellular telephone may
be reachable together with an improved user-friendly method for communicating
the relevant information.