EP1178440A1 - Apparatus and method for the automatic acceptance and processing of mail - Google Patents

Apparatus and method for the automatic acceptance and processing of mail Download PDF

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Publication number
EP1178440A1
EP1178440A1 EP20010830477 EP01830477A EP1178440A1 EP 1178440 A1 EP1178440 A1 EP 1178440A1 EP 20010830477 EP20010830477 EP 20010830477 EP 01830477 A EP01830477 A EP 01830477A EP 1178440 A1 EP1178440 A1 EP 1178440A1
Authority
EP
European Patent Office
Prior art keywords
mail
apparatus
according
unit
preceding
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.)
Withdrawn
Application number
EP20010830477
Other languages
German (de)
French (fr)
Inventor
Laura Longo
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.)
CONSULTBANK DOTT GIOVANNI LONG
Consultbank Dott Giovanni Longo Sas di Longo Laura
Original Assignee
CONSULTBANK DOTT. GIOVANNI LONGO S.A.S. DI LONGO LAURA
CONSULTBANK DOTT GIOVANNI LONG
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
Priority to ITRM20000414 priority Critical patent/IT1319399B1/en
Priority to ITRM000414 priority
Application filed by CONSULTBANK DOTT. GIOVANNI LONGO S.A.S. DI LONGO LAURA, CONSULTBANK DOTT GIOVANNI LONG filed Critical CONSULTBANK DOTT. GIOVANNI LONGO S.A.S. DI LONGO LAURA
Publication of EP1178440A1 publication Critical patent/EP1178440A1/en
Application status is Withdrawn legal-status Critical

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Classifications

    • 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
    • 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
    • G07B2017/00032Determining the location of apparatus
    • 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
    • G07B17/00185Details 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
    • G07B2017/00266Man-machine interface on the 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
    • G07B2017/00491Mail/envelope/insert handling system
    • 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
    • G07B2017/00612Attaching item on mailpiece
    • G07B2017/0062Label
    • 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
    • G07B2017/00685Measuring the dimensions 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
    • G07B17/00661Sensing or measuring mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00701Measuring the weight 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
    • G07B17/00661Sensing or measuring mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00709Scanning mailpieces
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07BTICKET-ISSUING APPARATUS; FARE-REGISTERING APPARATUS; FRANKING APPARATUS
    • G07B17/00Franking apparatus
    • G07B17/00459Details relating to mailpieces in a franking system
    • G07B17/00661Sensing or measuring mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00709Scanning mailpieces
    • G07B2017/00717Reading barcodes

Abstract

Apparatus (1; 100) for the automatic accepting and processing of mail, comprising a user interface (2; 20), apt to provide indications about the workable type of mail sending operations, mail accepting means (3), to allow the receiving of a mail (10) in the apparatus, payment reception means (4), to allow the user to pay for the requested sending operation, and mail processing means (6, 7, 9), comprising an automatic postage unit (8) (Fig. 1).

Description

  • The present invention relates to an apparatus and to a related method for the automatic accepting and processing of mail.
  • It is known that offices receiving mail for the sending thereof observe a pre-set opening time, often limited to the sole workday morning hours.
  • Such opening times generally coincide with the normal daytime working hours. This causes remarkable inconveniences for the users, which are unavoidably forced to absent from work when needing to carry out postal sendings which, due to their very nature, require a personalised intervention for the postage and for arranging the sending modes.
  • An extension of such opening times, besides entailing considerable costs for the managing companies, could not solve the problem in case open offices were few and scattered over a wide area, as it usually happens in rural areas, where often merely mailboxes receiving pre-postaged envelopes are available.
  • Moreover, postal offices are often overcrowded, forcing the users to prolonged waits prior to getting to talk to a clerk and to carry out the desired postal operation.
  • The technical problem underlying the present invention is that of providing an apparatus and a method for the automatic accepting and processing of mail allowing to overcome the drawbacks mentioned above.
  • This problem is solved by an apparatus for the automatic accepting and processing of mail, comprising:
    • a user communication interface, apt to provide indications about the type of workable mail sending operations;
    • mail accepting means, to allow the receiving of a mail into the apparatus;
    • payment reception means, to allow the user to pay for the requested sending operation; and
    • mail processing means, comprising an automatic postage unit.
  • According to the same inventive concept, the present invention further relates to a method for the automatic accepting and processing of mail, comprising the steps of:
    • providing to a user, by a communication interface, indications about the workable types of mail sending;
    • receiving a mail sending command sent by the user;
    • accepting a payment means by automatic payment reception means; and
    • applying a postage onto the mail.
  • The present invention also relates to an envelope for a mail, apt to be processed by an automatic accepting and processing apparatus, bearing at least one graphic code, to allow the localisation of the data of the sender and/or of the receiver by said apparatus.
  • The present invention provides several relevant advantages.
  • The main advantage lies in the fact that the apparatus of the invention allows to automatically, quickly and effectively carry out the processing of a mail, even at post offices closing hours and on sites remarkably crowded round the clock, like, e.g., airports.
  • Other advantages, features and the operation modes of the present invention will be made apparent in the following detailed description of some embodiments thereof, given by way of example and without limitative purposes. Reference will be made to the attached drawings, wherein:
    • Fig. 1 is a perspective view of a first embodiment of the apparatus for the accepting and the processing of mail according to the present invention;
    • Fig. 2 is a perspective view of a standardised mail apt to be processed by the apparatus of Fig. 1;
    • Fig. 3 shows a block diagram of the apparatus for the automatic accepting and processing of mail of Fig. 1;
    • Figs. 4A and 4B show a flow chart illustrating the operation modes of the apparatus of Fig. 1; and
    • Fig. 5 shows another embodiment of the apparatus for the accepting and processing of mail according to the present invention.
  • With reference to Fig. 1, an apparatus for the automatic accepting and processing of mail is generally indicated by 1.
  • According to the invention, the apparatus 1 comprises an interface 2 for communicating with the user, apt to provide to the latter indications about the workable types of postal sending operations. In the present embodiment, this interface comprises a visualisation unit 21, in particular a screen, preferably a 15" colour one, to inform the user about the workable types of mail sending. The interface 2 further comprises an alphanumeric keypad 22, to allow the user to select the desired operation. These components will be well-known to those skilled in the art, therefore a further description thereof will be omitted.
  • Of course, a variant to this embodiment can provide the selection to be carried out directly onto the screen, according to the so-called 'touch-screen' technology.
  • Always according to the invention, apparatus 1 further comprises mail accepting means 3, to allow the reception of such mail in the apparatus. In the present embodiment, such mail accepting means 3 comprises an outside receiving pocket 31 and a handling system (not shown in the Figs.), to automatically transfer the mail from the pocket 31 to the inside of the apparatus 1.
  • This handling system is based on conveyors of traditional type, therefore a further description thereof will be omitted.
  • The receiving pocket 31 further comprises one or more contact sensors to automatically sense the presence of mail.
  • In the present embodiment, the mail accepting means 3 further comprises additional components, not shown in Fig. 1, which will be described later on with reference to Fig. 3.
  • The apparatus of the invention also comprises payment reception means, generally indicated with 4, to allow the user to pay for the requested sending operation. In the present embodiment, such means in turn comprises a card terminal 41, for card payments. In this specific embodiment, the apparatus 1 can also comprise two terminals for cash payments, in particular a notes terminal 42 and a coins terminal 43. Of course, alternate embodiments could provide the mere presence of said card terminal 41.
  • The card terminal 41 can receive credit cards, ATM cards, or suitable pre-paid cards, e.g., of the magnetic strip type, issued by the company managing the apparatus 1.
  • In case of cash payment, the dispensing of a possible change takes place by an output pocket 5, schematically depicted in Fig. 1.
  • Each of the payment terminals described above comprises a contact sensor, to automatically sense the insertion of a card or cash in the terminal itself, as well as automatic transferring devices of the card or cash inside the apparatus 1, according to modes well-known to those skilled in the art. Moreover, said terminals incorporate means, also known, to check the validity of the payment means provided.
  • The card terminal incorporates further means, also known, to communicate the amount of the transaction to a credit institution or to deduct the mailing amount directly from a pre-paid card.
  • Since the implementation modes of the payment terminals will be well-known to those skilled in the art, a further description thereof will be omitted.
  • Moreover, in order to indicate whether the terminal is active, i.e., operative, or inactive, beside each said terminal a pilot light, generally indicated by 40 in Fig. 1, is provided.
  • Fig. 2 shows an enlarged view of a standardised mail apt to be processed by the apparatus 1, generally indicated by 10. Therein, the mail 10 is depicted in form of an envelope apt to contain documents. It is understood that the invention also applies to packages, parcels and, in general, to any type of mail.
  • The standardisation of the mail 10 consists in the fact that its envelope, it also indicated by 10, has graphic codes to localise the sender and/or receiver indications. In fact, each of such graphic codes, indicated by 103 and 104, respectively, marks a respective box, and precisely a sender box 101 and a receiver box 102, within which the data of the sender and of the receiver, respectively, are to be reported.
  • Thus, each of the boxes 101 and 102 is localisable by a unit for sender/receiver localisation 34 which will be described hereinafter. Said graphic codes can be, e.g., bar codes.
  • In the present embodiment, the graphic codes 103 and 104 are directly printed onto the mail envelope, and reported onto the same face thereof. Of course, alternate embodiment could provide the codes to be applied in form of one or more adhesive labels onto the envelope itself, as it will also be recalled hereinafter. Moreover, such codes could be reported onto opposite faces of the latter.
  • In the present embodiment, the envelope 10 further has standardised front sizes, ranging from a minimum to a maximum, and precisely a length indicated by a reference height 105 in Fig. 2 and a width indicated by a reference height 106. Preferably, such standardised sizes correspond to those presently in use in the postal systems of the various countries.
  • With reference now to the diagram of Fig. 3, the mail accepting means 3 also comprises a size measurement unit 32, apt to sense the sizes of the mail 10, a weighing unit 33, apt to weigh the mail 10, and the aforementioned unit for sender/receiver localisation 34, apt to localise said boxes 101 and 102 of the mail 10. As it will also be recalled hereinafter, it is provided that the weighing unit returns the mail when the weight thereof exceeds a certain upper threshold.
  • The size measurement unit 32 and the weighing unit 33 are based on contact sensors and on one or more load cells of traditional type, respectively, therefore a further description thereof will be omitted.
  • As mentioned above, the unit for sender/receiver localisation 34 is meant to work with standardised mail 10, bearing the sender and the receiver data in a position recognisable by the unit itself. In particular, in the present embodiment the localisation unit 34 comprises optical sensors, apt to recognise said graphic codes 103 and 104.
  • Those skilled in the art will appreciate that alternate embodiments could provide the localisation unit 34 to work with mail of standardised sizes, recognised by the size measurement unit 32, in which the sender /receiver indications lie in a predetermined position. In that case, said codes 103 and 104 could be absent.
  • The apparatus 1 according to the invention further comprises mail processing means. In the present embodiment, such processing means comprises a control unit 6, to operate all components of the apparatus 1, communicating with such components by electrical connections of traditional type. In particular, in the present embodiment the control unit 6 comprises an electronic calculator incorporating logical-mathematical computing means and a timer of traditional type.
  • In particular, the control unit 6 controls the opening of the receiving pocket 31 and of the output pocket 5, by an automatic control mechanism of a type well-known to those skilled in the art.
  • In the present embodiment, the processing means further comprises a registration unit 7, to register information related to each sending carried out with the apparatus 1. Therefor, this unit incorporates means for writing onto a magnetic medium of traditional type. In particular, the registration unit 7 can merely consist of a memory unit of a computer implementing the control unit 6 and of the related control programs.
  • The processing means further provides an automatic postage unit 8 and a printing unit 9, the role of which will hereinafter be illustrated with reference to the operation modes of the apparatus of the invention. The printing unit 9 in turn comprises an impact printer 91 and a scanner 92.
  • The processing means further comprises a unit 12 for filling sending report, i.e. sending minutes or a sending certificate, and return receipt, i.e. return postcards. This filling unit 12 provides a supply of express and registered mail sending reports and a supply of return receipts.
  • As it will hereinafter be detailed, the filling unit 12 comprises means for automatically applying, e.g., by glueing, onto said sending reports and return receipts the indications of the sender and of the receiver printed by the printer 91. Said means can, e.g., comprise roller conveyors of traditional type.
  • The apparatus 1 further comprises a standardised label dispenser 11, in communication with the output pocket 5 for the outside dispensing of said labels.
  • As it is schematically shown in Fig. 3, each of such labels 111 bears graphic codes to identify boxes inside which the sender and/or the receiver data should be reported. In particular, each label 111 bears two boxes, each one identified by a graphic code, analogous to the ones described above with reference to the standardised mail 10 and therefore indicated by the same reference numbers already used.
  • The operation modes of the apparatus 1 will hereinafter be described with reference to Figs. 3 and 4.
  • In a so-called waiting or 'stand-by' condition of the apparatus 1, the control unit 6 controls the visualisation unit 21 so that a list of the workable types of mail sending, the associated codes to be typed in onto the keypad 22 to carry out a selection and the code to be typed in to obtain a standardised label 111 be displayed thereon.
  • Therefore, a user wishing to send a non-standardised mail, i.e., lacking said boxes 101 and 102, can send to the apparatus 1, by the keypad 22, a command for the dispensing of a standardised label 111.
  • As it is reported in Fig. 4A, in the present preferred embodiment it is provided that the apparatus 1 ignores any selection or label dispensing command until the user provides, by the payment reception means 4, a valid payment means. This prevents an improper use of the apparatus 1 by persons lacking a suitable payment means.
  • Upon receiving said command, the control unit 6, by the visualisation unit 21, communicates to the user the due amount.
  • Since the payment modes by the terminals 41, 42 and 43 of the payment reception means 4 and the associated validity checks of the provided payment means are of traditional type, a further description thereof will be omitted.
  • Of course, if the payment cannot correctly be carried out due to any reason, e.g., an invalidity of the payment means or a non-correspondence between the requested amount and the one paid out or available on the payment card, the control unit 6 commands the restitution of the payment means provided, and sends to the user, always by the visualisation unit 21, an error message.
  • Optionally, if the amount paid or available onto the payment card is insufficient, it can be provided that the user be allowed a maximum time interval, computed by the timer of the control unit 6, within which to provide a supplementary payment means. If no supplementary payment means is provided within said interval, the control unit 6 sends an error message to the user and operates the components of the apparatus 1 to restart the operation cycle, restoring the apparatus 1 itself in said 'stand-by' condition.
  • If instead the payment is correctly carried out, or if it is provided that the label 111 be dispensed free of charge, the control unit 6 enables the label dispenser 11 to dispense a label 111 through the output pocket 5, then restores the apparatus 1 to said 'stand-by' condition.
  • Then, the user can apply the label 111 onto the mail and report in the dedicated boxes 101 and 102 the data of the sender and of the receiver, respectively, thus obtaining a standardised mail 10 apt to be processed by the apparatus 1.
  • Hence, it will be appreciated that, by virtue of the dispenser 11 of standardised labels 111, the user can make use of the apparatus 1 even employing a common commercially available postal envelope, with no need to previously purchase a specific envelope therefor.
  • Upon obtaining said standardised mail 10, the user can use the apparatus 1 to carry out the desired type of postal sending, selecting the type of sending to be carried out among those indicated on the visualisation unit 21, always upon having provided a valid payment means. In the present embodiment, the apparatus of the invention allows to select any type of postal sending among those provided by the managing company, e.g., ordinary mail, priority mail, express mail, registered express mail, and, in general, any type of registered mail, with or without return receipt.
  • As said above, the selection is carried out typing in a suitable code onto the keypad 22, according to the instructions shown onto the visualisation unit 21.
  • Upon receiving said selection command, the control unit 6 commands the opening of the receiving pocket 31 of the mail accepting means 3.
  • Of course, a further preferred embodiment can provide the receiving pocket to automatically open right after the checking of the validity of the provided payment means, prior to the carrying out of a selection of a type of sending.
  • Concomitantly to the opening of the pocket 31, the control unit can also indicate to the user, by the visualisation unit 21, the sense of insertion of the mail 10 in said pocket 31.
  • Alternately, such sense of insertion can be signalled to the user in a suitable instruction panel applied onto the outside casing of the apparatus 1, near to the receiving pocket 31.
  • Of course, in the present embodiment the sense of insertion is standardised as a function of the position of the boxes 101 and 102.
  • Hence, the user has a predetermined time interval, computed by the timer of the control unit 6, to insert the mail 10 into the pocket 31. If the user does not insert the mail into the pocket within the predetermined time interval, the control unit 6 commands the closing of the pocket 31 and the restoring to the 'stand-by' condition. This step, it being a check of traditional type for automatic apparatuses, was not reported in Fig. 4.
  • When the mail 10 is laid into the pocket 31, the contact sensor/s sense its presence and therefore the control unit 6 commands the closing of the pocket 31. Then, the handling means automatically transfer the mail inside of the apparatus 1, towards the subsequent units of the accepting means 3.
  • In particular, the size measurement unit 32 measures the size of the mail 10, and then the latter is weighed with the weighing unit 33. The sizes and weight data thus obtained are sent to the control unit 6, which checks whether they be compatible to the mail types processable by the apparatus 1.
  • Moreover, the unit for sender/receiver localisation 34 sends to the control unit 6 a signal related to the detection of the sender 101 and receiver 102 boxes, or to the lack thereof, so that the control unit can check the mail processability. It has to be pointed out that, in case the mail has been inserted in a wrong direction, in particular upturned, the localisation unit analyses the face of the mail lacking the boxes 101 and 102, and therefore the mail is refused.
  • In case any one of said checks yields a negative result, the control unit 6 commands the restitution of the mail 10 via the receiving pocket 31, and it further enables the restitution of the payment means provided and the sending of an error message by the visualisation unit 21.
  • In this case as well, the steps and the associated checks carried out via the accepting means 3 controlled by the control unit 6 are represented by an individual block in Fig. 4.
  • Instead, in case of a positive outcome yielded by such checks, the control unit 6 computes, by the computing means, the amount to be paid by the user in light of the selected type of sending and of the measured data of size and weight transmitted by the size measurement unit 32 and by the weighing unit 33.
  • Then, the due amount is communicated to the user by the visualisation unit 21.
  • In this case as well, it is provided that the mail 10 be returned to the user jointly to an error message and, optionally, to the provided payment means, if the payment is not correctly being carried out, or if a supplementary payment means is not provided within a predetermined time interval.
  • Then, the control unit 6 enables the automatic postage unit 8 to apply the due postage onto the mail. Such postage, in form of a stamp or of a postmark certifying the payment, is applied onto the mail in a predetermined relative location with respect to the boxes 101 and 102 thereof.
  • In case the user has requested a priority mail delivery, the control unit 6 further enables the postage unit 8 to apply also a priority mail indication, e.g., a label or a postmark, onto the mail 10.
  • Moreover, in case of a request of registered or express mail delivery, the control unit 6 enables the scanning of the boxes 101 and 102 by the scanner 92, on the basis of the signals transmitted by the unit for sender/receiver localisation. The data thus scanned are then printed by the impact printer 91. These printed copies of the sender/receiver data are then applied, in the filling unit 12, on a registered or express mail sending report.
  • In case a registered mail with return receipt is requested, an additional copy of said data is produced which, always in the filling unit 12, is applied onto a suitable return receipt.
  • Upon processing, the mail is conveyed to the collecting unit 13, whereat it is periodically collected by postal clerks.
  • The delivery data, and in particular the requested type of delivery, the size and the weight of the mail, the paid amount, the type of payment means provided, the time and the date of the operation, a serial sending number assigned by the control unit 6 and, if scanned, the files containing the sender and the receiver data, are transmitted from the control unit 6 to the registration unit 12 and stored therein for future reference of postal clerks.
  • This same data, jointly to an identification code of the apparatus at which the operation has been carried out, are printed by the impact printer 91 on a receipt R issued to the user with the output pocket 5. Preferably, this receipt R will be printed on paper apt to certify the authenticity thereof, having a control key apt to confirm the authenticity of the receipt itself.
  • The same data reported on the receipt R, except those related to the sender and to the receiver, can also be printed on the mail by the same printer 91. In fact, the impact printing mode allows to print even onto surfaces which are not completely flat. Alternatively, this printing can be carried out on an adhesive non-removable paper strip which will be applied onto the mail 10 by conveyors of traditional type.
  • According to a variant operation mode, the optional reports and return receipt can also be printed at a subsequent time, on the basis of the registrations onto the registration unit 7, under the supervision of a postal clerk.
  • Those skilled in the art will appreciate that several variants can be effected to the hereto described embodiment of apparatus, always falling within the scope of the same inventive concept. Hereinafter, some further embodiments of the apparatus of the invention will summarily be described, with sole reference to the components differentiating it from said first embodiment.
  • According to a second embodiment, the optical sensors of the unit for sender/receiver localisation can be associated with character detecting means, in order to detect not merely the presence of standardised boxes, but also the effective presence of a sender and/or receiver indication therein. In an even more advanced embodiment, the localisation unit could also comprise character recognition means. The latter could comprise a recognition program loaded onto the control unit and associated with the scanner managing programs.
  • Moreover, in a third embodiment it is provided that the user supplies to the apparatus a mail void of any sender and/or receiver indication. Then these data can be directly typed in by the user onto the keypad and printed by the impact printer directly onto the mail or onto an adhesive member to be applied thereon. In that case, the control unit will be a computer of traditional type incorporating a word processing program visualised on the display. Of course, according to this embodiment even the optional return receipts or sending reports are automatically compiled with no need for a scanner.
  • A fourth embodiment of the apparatus of the invention is shown in Fig. 5. According to this fourth embodiment, an apparatus according to the invention, generally indicated by 100, provides a main body 120 comprising a user interface 20. This interface 20 in turn comprises a printed panel 201 bearing the instructions to operate the apparatus 100 and a plurality of selection buttons 202, each associated with a type of sending. The interface 20 further comprises a display, e.g., of digital type, to indicate the due amount to the user.
  • The apparatus 100 further comprises a dispenser 110 of standardised labels 111, disjoint from the main body 120 of the apparatus 100 and provided with its own payment reception means 400 analogous to those described with reference to the first embodiment. This dispenser further comprises a label output pocket 50.
  • Hence, in light of this fourth embodiment, the apparatus of the invention can concomitantly serve two users, one requesting the dispensing of a standardised label, and another one the sending of a mail already in a standardised format. Thus, the flow of users is managed more effectively with respect to the first embodiment.
  • Moreover, according to a fifth simplified embodiment, the apparatus of the invention can directly provide to the user the sending reports for the sending by express or registered mail and the return receipts, analogously to what was hereto described for the labels 111. Therefore, this simplified embodiment provides that such reports and receipts be compiled by the user. Upon compiling, these reports and receipts are provided to the apparatus via an input pocket, e.g., the same receiving pocket 31. Thus, the presence of the scanner and of the filling unit in the apparatus becomes superfluous.
  • In light of a sixth embodiment, the user interface comprises an acoustic signal emitting unit, to provide the operating instructions of the apparatus with vocal messages to a user.
  • It will also be understood that the present invention relates to an extremely simplified embodiment, in which an automatic apparatus is merely capable of carrying out an automatic applying of postage onto mails of a single standardised format, to be delivered by ordinary or priority mail.
  • In this simplified embodiment, the user interface can consist of a mere panel, bearing information about the workable type of sendings and the related price, which in this case is fixed. Moreover, in this embodiment the receiving pocket of the accepting means could be shaped so as to allow only the insertion of mail having sizes acceptable by the apparatus. Hence, also the size measurement unit can be omitted.
  • Moreover, due to the type of sending, no compilation of sending reports or return receipts is required, and also the issuing of a receipt to the user can become superfluous. Therefore, also the printing, filling, and the localisation unit can be omitted.
  • It will presently be appreciated that the apparatus of the invention not only provides an additional service to the postal service users, but, by relieving the workload of postal clerks over the working hours of the post offices, improves the service quality of the latter and abates the risk of human errors in the treatment of the sendings.
  • The present invention further relates to a method for the automatic accepting and processing of mail, comprising the steps of:
    • providing to a user, by an interface as hereto described, indications about the type of workable postal mailings;
    • receiving a mail sending command sent by the user;
    • accepting a payment by automatic payment reception means as hereto described; and
    • applying the postage onto the mail.
  • The present invention has hereto been described with reference to preferred embodiments thereof. It is understood that other embodiments thereof may exist, all afferent to the same inventive concept, all falling within the protective scope of the appended claims.

Claims (37)

  1. An apparatus (1; 100) for the automatic accepting and processing of mail, comprising:
    a user communication interface (2; 20), apt to provide indications about the type of workable mail sending operations;
    mail accepting means (3), to allow the receiving of a mail (10) in the apparatus;
    payment reception means (4), to allow the user to pay for the requested sending operation; and
    mail processing means (6, 7, 9), comprising an automatic postage unit (8).
  2. The apparatus (1) according to claim 1, wherein said interface (2) comprises a visualisation unit (21).
  3. The apparatus (1) according to claim 1 or 2, wherein said interface (2) comprises an alphanumeric keypad (22), to allow the user to select the desired mail sending operation.
  4. The apparatus (100) according to claim 1 or 2, wherein said interface (20) comprises a plurality of selection buttons (202), each associated with a type of mail sending.
  5. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said accepting means (3) comprises a size measurement unit (32), apt to sense the size of the mail (10).
  6. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said accepting means (3) comprises a weighing unit (33), apt to weigh the mail (10).
  7. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said accepting means (3) comprises a unit for sender/receiver localisation (34), apt to localise the indication of the sender and/or of the receiver onto the mail (10).
  8. The apparatus (1; 100) according to the preceding claim, wherein said unit for sender/receiver localisation (34) comprises graphic code detectors, apt to identify graphic codes (103, 104) applied onto the mail (10) at the indication of the sender and/or of the receiver.
  9. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said accepting means (2) comprises character detecting means, to detect the actual presence of an indication of the sender and/or of the receiver onto the mail (10).
  10. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said accepting means (2) comprises character recognising means.
  11. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said payment means (4) comprises a card terminal (41) for the payment by a pre-paid card.
  12. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said processing means comprises a control unit (6), to operate all the components of the apparatus, in turn comprising an electronic calculator.
  13. The apparatus (1; 100) according to the preceding claim, wherein said control unit (6) comprises a word processing program, to receive the sender and/or the receiver data from the user.
  14. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said processing means comprises a registration unit (7), to automatically register information related to the sending operation carried out.
  15. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said processing means comprises a printing unit (9).
  16. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said printing unit (9) comprises an impact printer (91).
  17. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said printing unit (9) comprises a scanner (92), to scan the sender and/or the receiver data reported onto the mail (10).
  18. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said processing means comprises a unit (12) for filling sending reports and/or return receipts.
  19. The apparatus (1; 100) according to claims 16, 17 and 18, wherein said scanner (92) is in communication with said impact printer (91) to print said scanned data and said filling unit (12) comprises means to apply said printed data onto said reports and/or return receipts.
  20. The apparatus (1; 100) according to any one of the preceding claims, comprising a dispenser (11; 110) of standardised mail labels (111), bearing graphic codes (103, 104) to identify the location of the sender and/or of the receiver data.
  21. The apparatus (1; 100) according to the preceding claim, wherein said graphic codes are bar codes.
  22. The apparatus (100) according to any one of the preceding claims, wherein said label dispenser (110) is disjoint from the main body (120) of the apparatus and has its own payment means (400).
  23. A method for the automatic accepting and processing of mail, comprising the steps of:
    providing to a user, by a communication interface (2; 20), indications about the workable types of mail sending;
    receiving a mail sending command (10) sent by the user;
    accepting a payment means by automatic payment reception means (4); and
    applying a postage onto the mail.
  24. The method according to claim 23, wherein said sending command is sent by the user by an alphanumeric keypad (22) of said interface (2).
  25. The method according to claim 23, wherein said sending command is sent by the user by pressing a button (202) of a plurality of selection buttons, each associated with a type of mail sending.
  26. The method according to any one of the claims 23 to 25, comprising a step of displaying on a visualisation unit (21) a list of the workable types of mail sending.
  27. The method according to any one of the claims 23 to 26, comprising a step of controlling the acceptability of the mail (10), wherein the weight and the size of the latter are automatically measured.
  28. The method according to any one of the claims 23 to 27, comprising a step of computing, in light of the weight and of the size of the mail, the due amount for the selected type of sending.
  29. The method according to any one of the claims 23 to 28, comprising a step of dispensing at least one standardised label (111), apt to be applied onto the mail and bearing graphic codes (103, 104), (10) to render the location of the sender and/or of the receiver data identifiable.
  30. The method according to any one of the claims 23 to 29, comprising a step of identifying graphic codes (103, 104) to localise the sender and/or the receiver data.
  31. The method according to any one of the claims 23 to 30, comprising a step of scanning the sender and/or the receiver data reported onto the mail.
  32. The method according to the preceding claim, comprising a step of printing said scanned data.
  33. The method according to claim 32, comprising a step of compiling a sending report and/or a return receipt, wherein said printed data are applied on said report and/or on said return receipt.
  34. The method according to any one of the claims 23 to 28, comprising a step wherein the user provides the sender and/or the receiver data by an alphanumeric keypad (22) associated with a word-processing program.
  35. The method according to any one of the claims 23 to 34, comprising a step of printing a receipt for the user.
  36. The method according to any one of the claims 23 to 35, comprising a step of automatically registering information related to the sending operation carried out.
  37. An envelope for a mail (10), apt to be processed by an apparatus (1;100) for the automatic accepting and processing of mail, having at least one graphic code (103, 104), to allow the localisation by said apparatus of the sender and/or of the receiver data.
EP20010830477 2000-07-26 2001-07-19 Apparatus and method for the automatic acceptance and processing of mail Withdrawn EP1178440A1 (en)

Priority Applications (2)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
ITRM20000414 IT1319399B1 (en) 2000-07-26 2000-07-26 Apparatus and method for the acceptance and processamentoautomatico of postal items.
ITRM000414 2000-07-26

Publications (1)

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DE102004036191A1 (en) * 2004-07-26 2006-03-23 Deutsche Post Ag Method and apparatus for creating and selling of brand fee for sending mailpieces
WO2007053047A1 (en) * 2005-11-04 2007-05-10 Piotr Baltruszewicz Method and device automatically accepting documents, in particular paper or similar ones
WO2010119465A1 (en) * 2009-04-17 2010-10-21 Elsag Datamat Spa Self-service apparatus for acceptance of post

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ES2247932A1 (en) * 2004-06-08 2006-03-01 Ignacio Espasa Sanchez Machine for reception, identification and classification of packages for mail, has entrance zone including device in package, and transporter composed of chain or endless tape fixed on platform, where transporter includes guidance element
DE102004036191A1 (en) * 2004-07-26 2006-03-23 Deutsche Post Ag Method and apparatus for creating and selling of brand fee for sending mailpieces
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WO2007053047A1 (en) * 2005-11-04 2007-05-10 Piotr Baltruszewicz Method and device automatically accepting documents, in particular paper or similar ones
WO2010119465A1 (en) * 2009-04-17 2010-10-21 Elsag Datamat Spa Self-service apparatus for acceptance of post

Also Published As

Publication number Publication date
ITRM20000414D0 (en) 2000-07-26
ITRM20000414A1 (en) 2002-01-28
IT1319399B1 (en) 2003-10-10

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