EP1371424A2 - Optically-guided indicia reader system - Google Patents

Optically-guided indicia reader system Download PDF

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Publication number
EP1371424A2
EP1371424A2 EP20030020263 EP03020263A EP1371424A2 EP 1371424 A2 EP1371424 A2 EP 1371424A2 EP 20030020263 EP20030020263 EP 20030020263 EP 03020263 A EP03020263 A EP 03020263A EP 1371424 A2 EP1371424 A2 EP 1371424A2
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Prior art keywords
scanner
parcel
conveyor
indicia reader
spot
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Granted
Application number
EP20030020263
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German (de)
French (fr)
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EP1371424A3 (en )
EP1371424B1 (en )
Inventor
Catherine Alexander
Johannes A.S. Bjorner
Henri Bonnet
Bennett Pardee
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United Parcel Service of America Inc
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United Parcel Service of America Inc
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    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B07SEPARATING SOLIDS FROM SOLIDS; SORTING
    • B07CPOSTAL SORTING; SORTING INDIVIDUAL ARTICLES, OR BULK MATERIAL FIT TO BE SORTED PIECE-MEAL, e.g. BY PICKING
    • B07C3/00Sorting according to destination
    • B07C3/10Apparatus characterised by the means used for detection ofthe destination
    • B07C3/14Apparatus characterised by the means used for detection ofthe destination using light-responsive detecting means

Abstract

An optically-guided indicia reader system includes a conveyor (212) carrying a parcel (214) bearing a destination address. A moving light illumination source (224) defines a spot (230) that moves at the same speed as the conveyor (212) to assist the positioning of the parcel (214). Multi-conveyor systems are disclosed as well as methods of use.
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Description

    Technical Field
  • The present invention relates to image processing and more particularly relates to over-the-belt optical character recognition (OCR) systems. Specifically, the invention relates to an indicia reader system that includes a projected optical guide to assist the-positioning of parcels on a conveyor.
  • Background of the Invention
  • For years, machines have been used to scan parcels as they travel along a conveyor. Over-the-belt optical character recognition (OCR) systems have been recently developed that can read indicia, such as a typed or hand-written destination address on parcels to be shipped. Parcel delivery companies, such as United Parcel Service, ship millions of parcels every day. These parcel delivery companies make extensive use of OCR systems to read the destination address labels on parcels to facilitate sorting and routing the parcels to their proper destinations.
  • The fundamental physical components of an OCR system are a scanner and a character recognition system including a central processing unit (CPU), a computer memory, and a sophisticated character recognition program module. The scanner is typically an optical camera, such as a charge-coupled device (CCD) array, that captures an image of the destination address on the parcels as they travel past the scanner on the conveyor. Generally, a continuous video image of the conveyor carrying the parcels is captured by the scanner, which video image is converted into digital format and transmitted to the character recognition system. But only a small part of the video image, such as the portions including the destination addresses of the parcels, needs to be processed by the character recognition system. The OCR system, therefore, must have some way to identify the portions of the video image that need to be processed by the character recognition system.
  • One approach is to store the entire video image created by the scanner, and later parse out the portions of the video image that need to be processed by the character recognition system. But a continuously running scanner generates an enormous amount of video data. This data is formatted as a continuous bit map of the conveyor as the conveyor carries parcels past the scanner. This bit map inherently conveys information about the spatial relationship of the pixels of the image. Storing this continuous bit map requires an enormous amount of computer memory. It is therefore advantageous to reduce the memory storage requirement.
  • Data compression is one technique for reducing the memory storage requirement. The video data may be compressed for storage using any of a variety of well known data compression methods, such as run length encoding. These data compression techniques, however, alter the bit-map format of the data. This is undesirable because it is advantageous for the character recognition program module to operate on bit maps that allow easy access to information regarding neighborhoods around individual pixels. The compressed data must therefore be uncompressed, typically into a frame buffer, for processing by the character recognition program module. Compressing the video data for storage, and then uncompressing the video data for processing, burdens the CPU and slows the character recognition process.
  • Real-time extraction of the desired portions of the video data is another technique for reducing the memory storage requirement. Indeed, real-time data extraction is a very effective technique because most of the video data created by the continuously running scanner is a useless image of the conveyor and the non-indicia bearing areas of the parcels moving along the conveyor; only a small percentage of the data includes the destination addresses of the parcels to be shipped. Therefore, extracting only small portions of the video data, such as relatively small areas covering the destination addresses, greatly reduces the memory storage requirement and speeds up the character recognition process.
  • Systems have been developed for triggering a video camera system so as to store only desired video images. For example, Tonkin, U.S. Patent No. 4,742,555, describes a mechanical limit switch, optical sensor, or magnetic sensor that triggers a video system to capture and store an image of a parcel as the parcel reaches a predetermined location along a conveyor. But the system described by Tonkin would have a significant drawback if applied to a parcel shipping system. This is because the system described by Tonkin captures an image of the entire parcel; is not operative for capturing only a specific portion of the image, such as the destination address. In a parcel shipping system, the destination address must be captured for sorting and routing purposes, but other indicia on the parcel, such as the return address, is not needed to route the parcel to its proper destination. It is therefore advantageous to identify the destination address prior to storing the image of the parcel, so that only the portion of the image containing the destination address may be stored in the computer memory.
  • Several difficulties are encountered, however, in attempting to identify the destination addresses on various parcels traveling on a conveyor. First, the destination addresses may vary in size, and may be in different locations on different parcels. Second, the parcels themselves may vary in size, shape, and position on the conveyor. Thus, the exact position of a destination address on a parcel cannot be determined by simply detecting the edge of the parcel using a limit switch or sensor, as described by Tonkin.
  • Systems have been developed for storing video images of selected portions of parcels traveling of a conveyor. For example, Kizu et al., U.S. Patent No. 4,516,265, describes a two-camera system that reads the postal (zip) codes on envelopes traveling on an envelope transport system. The system includes a low resolution prescanner that coarsely scans the surface of the envelope. The position of the destination address block is determined from the coarse scan, and the coordinates of the destination address block with respect to the leading edge of the envelope are then passed to a second, high-resolution camera system. The second camera system stores an image of the destination address block by first detecting the leading edge of the envelope. The second camera system begins storing an image of the destination address block when the block reaches the second camera, and stops storing the image when the block moves past the second camera. A postal code reader subsequently processes the high-resolution scan to read the postal code.
  • Another example is disclosed in Morton et al., U.S. Patent No. 5,642,442. This patent describes a two-camera system that reads the destination addresses on parcels traveling on a conveyor. A fluorescent ink fiduciary mark is superimposed relative to the destination address on a parcel.. A first camera captures an image of the fiduciary mark, the position and orientation of which is ascertained. The position and orientation of the fiduciary mark is then used to extract an image of the destination address from a video data signal created by a second camera, which is positioned downstream from the first camera. The image of the destination address is stored in a computer memory for subsequent processing by a character recognition system.
  • The two-camera systems described above are very effective at minimizing the amount of video data that must be stored in an OCR system. They are, however, rather expensive systems that are best suited for very high-speed parcel handling systems. The cost associated with these systems may not be justified for many lower-speed parcel handling systems. The IBM Technical Disclosure Bulletin, Vol. 15 Nr. 4, Pg. 1170-1171 describes a moving-light parcel positioning scanning and sorting system that captures images of addresses on parcels. But this system does not describe further techniques for obtaining sharp image of the addresses, nor does it describe a non-moving-light parcel positioning system. In addition, the IBM disclosure document does not describe a multi-conveyor parcel positioning system.
  • There is, therefore, a need for a less expensive and more effective system for minimizing the amount of video data that must be stored in an OCR system. In particular, there is a need for an inexpensive yet effective indicia reader system that is suited to low- to medium-speed parcel handling systems.
  • Summary of the Invention
  • The invention seeks to provide a low-cost system for minimizing the amount of video data that must be stored in an OCR system. In particular, the invention seeks to provide an inexpensive indicia reader system suited to low- to medium-speed parcel handling systems.
  • According to the invention there is provided an optically guided indicia reader system comprising a conveyor, for transporting a parcel from an upstream location of the conveyor to a downstream location of the conveyor, and a moving-light indicia reader system comprising an illumination source for defining a spot that moves at the same speed 5 as the conveyor to assist in positioning the parcel on the conveyor, a scanner located downstream of the illumination source and positioned to capture an image of the parcel, and a computer memory for storing the images; wherein
       means are provided for operating the computer memory and the scanner so as to store an image of a region of a parcel defined with respect to the spot defined by the illumination source.
  • The invention also provides a method of obtaining an image of parcel indicia using this system.
  • In use an operator positions a parcel on the conveyor so that indicia to be imaged, such as the destination address on the parcel, coincides with a moving spot light defined by an illumination source. A scanner located downstream of the illumination source captures an image of a region that is defined with respect to the spot defined by the illumination source. For example, the optical guide may include a moving light, such as a narrow-beam spot light, that is projected onto the conveyor, and that travels at the same speed as the conveyor. Positioning a parcel on the conveyor so that the spot light is located in the center of the city and state address lines of the destination address allows a scanner to efficiently capture an image of the destination address for processing by a character recognition reader.
  • The moving-light indicia reader system includes a conveyor for transporting a parcel from an upstream location of the conveyor to a downstream location of the conveyor. A moving-light system, which is preferably positioned above the conveyor, includes an illumination source for defining a spot that moves at the same speed as the conveyor to assist in positioning the parcel on the conveyor. A scanner, which is located downstream from the moving-light illumination source, and a processing module are operated so as to store an image of a region of the parcel defined with respect to the spot defined by the moving-light illumination source. For example, the illumination source may define a spot that is substantially smaller than the region to be imaged by the scanner of the indicia reader system. An operator may then position a parcel so that the spot defined by the moving-light illumination source is located approximately in the center of the city and state lines of the destination address on the parcel.
  • A moving-light indicia reader system may also include a reflectivity sensor located upstream of the scanner and positioned to determine reflectivity data associated with the parcel. Reflectivity data from the reflectivity sensor is obtained for the spot defined by the moving-light illumination source so that reflectivity data is collected regarding the parcel at the region to be captured and stored for subsequent processing by a character recognition system. A communication link transmits this reflectivity data from the reflectivity sensor to the scanner, and the gain of the scanner is adjusted in response to the reflectivity data. In addition, a moving-light indicia reader system may include a height sensor located above and upstream of the scanner and positioned to determine height data associated with the parcel at the location of the destination address. Height data from the height sensor is obtained for the spot defined by the moving-light illumination source so-.that height data is collected regarding the parcel at the region to be captured and stored for subsequent processing by the character recognition system. A communication link transmits this height data from the height sensor to the scanner, and the scanner is focused in response to the height data.
  • According to another aspect of the invention, a multi-conveyor indicia reader system includes a plurality of moving-light indicia reader systems, wherein each moving-light indicia reader system includes an illumination source for defining a spot that moves at the same speed as its respective conveyor to assist in positioning parcels on the conveyor. The processing module and the scanner of each moving-light indicia reader system are operated so as to store an image of a region of the parcel defined with respect to the spot defined by the illumination source. In addition, the illumination sources are operated so as to time-division multiplex the storage of the images generated by the several moving-light indicia reader systems.
  • The invention also provides a method of obtaining an image of parcel indicia using such a multi-conveyor system.
  • That the present invention improves over the drawbacks of the prior art and accomplishes the objects of the invention will become apparent from the following detailed description of the preferred embodiment and the appended drawings and claims.
  • Brief Description of the Drawings
    • FIG. 1 including FIGS.1A-1E illustrates a moving-light indicia reader system.
    • FIG. 2 illustrates a parcel with the spot defined by the moving-light system located approximately in the center of the city and state address lines of the destination address.
    • FIG.3 illustrates a multi-conveyor indicia reader system.
  • Detailed Description
  • FIGS.1A-1E illustrate an embodiment of the invention, a single-conveyor moving-light indicia reader system in which a moving-light illumination source defines a spot that moves at the same speed as a conveyor to assist the positioning of a parcel on the conveyor. FIG.2 illustrates a parcel in this moving-light indicia reader system with the spot defined by the moving-light illumination source located approximately in the center of the region to be captured. More specifically, the parcel is preferably positioned on the conveyor so that the center of the spot defined by the moving-light illumination source is approximately in the center of the city and state lines of the destination address. FIG. 3 illustrates a multi-conveyor indicia reader system, in which the illumination sources of a plurality of moving-light indicia reader systems are operated so as to time-division multiplex the storage of the images generated by the several moving-light indicia reader systems. These embodiments of the invention are described below.
  • FIGS. 1A-E illustrate a moving-light indicia reader system 200 including a conveyer 212 carrying a parcel 214 from an upstream location 216 to a downstream location 218 of the conveyor 212. The parcel 214 includes indicia to be read by the moving-light indicia reader system 200, such as a destination address 220. The parcel 214 may include other indicia, such as the return address, that the moving-light indicia reader system 200 preferably avoids reading.
  • The moving-light indicia reader system 200 includes a moving-light illumination source 224 that includes a plurality of discrete illumination sources 226a through 226n, such as light-emitting diodes (LEDs), that project columnar beams of light represented by the beam 228. The illumination source 224 is positioned a sufficient distance above the conveyor 212 so that the parcel 214 may be positioned on the conveyor 212 to pass beneath the moving-light illumination source 224. An operator may therefore view the spot 230, which is defined by light projected by the moving-light illumination source 224, directly on the parcel 214 as the operator positions the parcel 214 on the conveyor 212. The spot 230 thus provides an optical guide to assist the operator in positioning the parcel 214 on the conveyor 212.
  • A sensor assembly 232, including a height sensor and reflectivity sensor, is located toward the downstream end of the illumination source 224. A communication link 234 functionally connects the sensor assembly 232 to a scanner 236 that is located downstream from the sensor assembly 232. The scanner 236 includes internal components 233 well known to those skilled in the art to automatically focus the scanner 236 in response to height data from the height sensor, and to automatically adjust the gain of the scanner 236 in response to reflectivity data from the reflectivity sensor, so that the scanner 236 generates a clear image of the top of the parcel 214 at the region to be captured and stored for subsequent processing by a character recognition system 240 as the parcel 244 passes beneath the scanner 236. The scanner 236 is aligned with the spot 230 so that the scanner may be operated to capture an image of the destination address 220 on the parcel 214.
  • A belt encoder 238 measures the displacement of the conveyor 212. A communication link 240 functionally connects the belt encoder 238 to the scanner 236 and to a character recognition system 240 that includes a processing module 241 and a computer memory 242. A second communication link 244 functionally connects the character recognition system 240 to the scanner 236, and a third communication link 246 functionally connects the character recognition system 240 to the moving-light illumination source 224. The signal from the belt encoder 238 is used to determine the speed of the conveyor 212, which is used to synchronize the operation of the moving-light illumination source 224, the scanner 236, and the character recognition system 240 so that an image of a region 250 defined with respect to the spot 230 is stored in the computer memory 242. The height data from the sensor assembly 232 indicates the presence of a parcel 214 in association with a spot 230 so that an image of a region 250 is only stored in the computer memory 242 when a parcel 214 is present in association with a spot 230 defined by the moving-light illumination source 224.
  • To use the moving-light indicia reader system 200, an operator positions the parcel 214 on the conveyor 212 so that the spot 230 defined by the moving-light illumination source 224 is centered with respect to the destination address 220 on the parcel 214. For example, FIG. 1A illustrates the parcel 214 positioned so that the spot 230 defined by the first discrete illumination source 226a is centered with respect to the destination address 220. From this position, the parcel 214 travels on the conveyor 212, and the spot 230 travels at the same speed as the parcel 214, so that the spot 230 remains stationary relative to the parcel 214. Thus, as illustrated in FIG.1B, the parcel 214 is later positioned so that the spot 230' defined by the third discrete illumination source 226c is centered with respect to the destination address 220. Later still, as illustrated in FIG. 1C, the parcel 214 is positioned so that the spot 230" defined by the last discrete illumination source 226n is centered with respect to the destination address 220.
  • FIGS.1D and 1E illustrate the scanning of the parcel 214 by the scanner 236, which includes a CCD array that repeatedly generates an image of a scan line 252 to generate a video signal. The operation of the scanner 236 and the processing module 241 of the character recognition system 240 are synchronized with the movement of the spot 230 so as to store in the computer memory 242 an image of the region 250, which is defined with respect to the spot 230. When the region 250 reaches the scan line 252, which happens shortly after the parcel 214 is in the position shown in FIG.1D, the processing module 241 causes the computer memory 242 of the character recognition system 240 to begin storing the video data generated by the scanner 236. The video data generated by the scanner 236 continues to be stored until the region 250 passes the scan line 252, which happens shortly before the parcel 214 is in the position shown in FIG. 1E.
  • It will be understood that, when the parcel 214 is positioned as shown in FIGS.1D-E, the spot 230 is not visible to an operator because the parcel 214 is not under the moving-light illumination source 224. Nevertheless, the character recognition system 240 uses the signal from the belt encoder 238 to keep track of the spot 230 after the parcel 214 travels past the moving-light illumination source 224. Thus, an image of the region 250, which is defined with respect to the spot 230, is stored in the computer memory 242 of the character recognition system 240.
  • FIG. 2 illustrates a parcel 214 with the spot 230 defined by the moving-light illumination source 224. The spot 230 is typically a round or oval area that is somewhat smaller that than the region 250 to be imaged by the scanner 236. For example, the area associated with the spot 230 may be approximately one 1 inch (2.5 cm) across, whereas the region 250 may be approximately 4 inches (10 cm) by 4 inches (10 cm). The parcel 214 is preferably positioned so that the center of the spot 230 is approximately in the center of the city and state address lines of the destination address 220. This allows the scanner 236 to capture an image of the destination address 220 by imaging the region 250.
  • It will be appreciated, however, that the spot 230 may have virtually any size or configuration, and that multiple spots may be used to identify indicia on the parcel, such as four spots defining the corners of a rectangular region to be imaged. For example, the spot 230 may be defined by an illuminated area, or by an illuminated border, or by two illuminated spaced-apart parallel lines, etc. In addition, the spot 230 could be configured to correspond to the width of the region 250 to be stored in the computer memory 224. This would assist an operator in orienting a parcel 214 so that the destination address 220 can be effectively scanned by the indicia reader system 200 as configured. Alternatively, the operator may determine that the parcel 214 cannot be oriented so that the destination address 220 can be effectively scanned by the indicia reader system 200 as configured. This may happen if the destination address 220 is larger than the region 250 to be stored in the computer memory 242. In this case, the operator can divert the parcel 214 for hand sorting or imaging using a differently configured indicia reader system.
  • To capture the image of the region 250, the character recognition system 240 is operative to selectively trigger the storage of an image in the computer memory 242. Triggering the storage of the image of the region 250 in the computer memory 242 may be accomplished in several different ways. For example, the scanner 236 may be toggled on and off by the processing module 241 in response to the signal from the belt encoder 238. Or the scanner 236 may run continuously, and the processing module 241 may respond to the signal from the belt encoder 238 by latching a control line to an input buffer of the character recognition system 240. Alternatively, the signal from the belt encoder 238 may be used as an input to a software-based algorithm running on the processing module 241, which triggers the storage of video data from the scanner 236 in the computer memory 242. Many other means known to those skilled in the art may equivalently be employed to operate the character recognition system 240 and the scanner 236 so as to store an image of the region 250 in the computer memory 242.
  • Acceptable performance is experienced when moving-light indicia reader system 200 is configured as follows. The belt encoder 238 is a standard belt-driven, opto-mechanical encoder that provides a signal indicating the linear displacement of the conveyor 212. The CCD array of the scanner 236 is cycled in response to the signal from the belt encoder 238 to generate a series of analog images of the scan line 252 that are transmitted to an analog-to-digital converter within the scanner 236. The analog-to-digital converter of the scanner 236 uses a standard thresholding or similar process to convert the analog signal produced by the CCD array of the scanner 236 into an eight-bit digital video signal that is transmitted via the communication link 246 to the character recognition system 240, which is operable for storing the video data in the computer memory 242 for subsequent processing.
  • The scanner 236 is preferably a monochrome, 4,096 pixel line-scan type CCD array such as one using a Thompson TH7833A CCD chip. As the field of view of the scanner 236 is approximately 16 inches (41 cm) at the conveyor 212, the resolution of the image created by the scanner 232 is approximately 256 pixels or "dots" per inch (DPI) (101 dots per cm) across the field of view of the scanner 236. The belt encoder 238 preferably triggers the CCD array of the scanner 236 at a rate of approximately 256 cycles per inch (2.54 cm) so that the resolution of the image created by the scanner 232 is approximately 256 pixels or "dots" per inch (DPI) (101 dots per cm) in the direction of conveyor travel. It will therefore be appreciated that a digital image with a correct aspect ratio (i.e., the ratio of the length of the image to the width) may be generated by the scanner 236 and stored in the computer memory 242 of the character recognition system 240 by synchronizing the cycling rate of the scanner 236 with the linear speed of the conveyor 212.
  • The conveyor 212 may be approximately 24 inches (61 cm) wide and travel at linear speeds up to 20 inches per second or 100 feet per minute (51 cm per second or 30 meters per minute) or more. The moving-light illumination source 224 is preferably positioned approximately 18 inches (46 cm) above conveyor 212 and defines a spot 230 that is approximately 1 inch (2.5 cm) wide and 1 inch (2.5 cm) long at the conveyor 212. The moving-light illumination source 224 may be operated so that successive moving spots 230 are spaced virtually any distance apart. For example, acceptable performance is experienced when the moving-light indicia reader system 200 is operated with the conveyor 212 traveling at 50 feet per minute (25 cm per second or 15 meters per minute), and with the moving spots 230 spaced 22 inches (56 cm) apart, which allows the moving-light indicia reader system 200 to handle approximately 1,636 parcels per hour if the operator places a parcel under each moving spot.
  • The scanner 236 is preferably mounted to have an optical path of approximately 120 inches (305 cm) to the conveyor 212, with a 16 inch (41 cm) field of view at the conveyor 212. To save space, the scanner 236 is positioned approximately 30 inches (76 cm) above the center of conveyer 212 and is pointed towards a complex of mirrors (not shown) that increases the optical path from the scanner 236 to the conveyor 212 to approximately 120 inches (305 cm). These parameters may be varied somewhat without unduly affecting the performance of the disclosed embodiment of the present invention.
  • It should also be understood that the scan line 234 may be longer than the width of the region stored in the computer memory 242. For example, the scanner 232 may be positioned to have a field of view (i.e., the scan line 234) equal to approximately 16 inches (41 cm) at the conveyor 212. The region stored in the computer memory 242, however, may only be approximately 4 inches (10 cm) wide. This may be accomplished by only storing the output of a portion of the cells of the scanner 232 (e.g., the center 1,024 pixels of a 4,096 pixel scanner) in the computer memory 242.
  • It will be appreciated that the moving-light illumination source 224 should be long enough to allow an operator to position the parcel 214 on the conveyor 212 while the spot 230 travels from the upstream end to the downstream end of the moving-light illumination source 224. For example, a moving-light illumination source 224 having a length of 36 inches (91 cm) and 72 LEDs spaced 1/2 inch (1.3 cm) apart is appropriate for the conveyor 212 traveling at 10 inches per second or 50 feet per minute (25 cm per second or 15 meters per minute), as described above. The LEDs 226a-n of the moving-light illumination source 224 may be any of a variety of commercially available LEDs, such as a model AND190W0P manufactured by AND. The sensor assembly 232 may include any of a variety of commercially available height sensors, such as a model NR-40 manufactured by Innova Labs, Inc.
  • FIG. 3 is a diagram of a multi-conveyor indicia reader system 400 that includes a plurality of moving-light indicia reader systems 210a through 210n, which are virtually identical to those described above with respect to FIGS. 1A-.E. Each of the moving-light indicia reader systems 210a through 210n are synchronized by, and provide their video data to, a single character recognition system 240. The character recognition system 240 synchronizes the moving spots 230a through 230n of the moving-light indicia reader systems 210a through 210n so as to time-division multiplex the storage of the regions 250a through 250n from the several scanners 236a through 236n. In other words, the spots 230a through 230n are spaced relative to each other so that only one of the regions 250a through 250n captured by the scanners 236a through 236n needs to be stored in the computer memory 242 of the character recognition system 240 at any time. This allows the single character recognition system 240 to store the images generated by several moving-light indicia reader systems 210a through 210n, as shown in FIG. 3.
  • In view of the forgoing, it will be appreciated that the moving-light indicia reader system 400 allows the video data stored in the computer memory 242 of the character recognition system 240 to be reduced to a standard-sized region that is only large enough to capture the text of the destination addresses 220a-220n on the various parcels carried on the conveyors 212a-212n. The use of projected illumination allows the operator to view the spot 230a-230n defined by each moving-light illumination source 224a-224n directly on the top of the parcels 214a-214n. Thus, there is no displacement between each spot 230a-230n and the top of each parcel 214a-214n that could cause parallax-related alignment errors with tall parcels. In addition, the moving-light indicia reader system 400 allows the angle of the field of view of the scanners 236a-236n to be relatively narrow so that the scanners generates sharp images of the top of the parcels 214a-214n.
  • It should be understood that the foregoing relates only to specific embodiments of the present invention, and that numerous changes may be made therein without departing from the scope of the invention as defined by the following claims.

Claims (10)

  1. An optically guided indicia reader system comprising a conveyor (212), for transporting a parcel (214) from an upstream location (216) of the conveyor to a downstream location (216) of the conveyor, and a moving-light indicia reader system (210) comprising an illumination source (224) for defining a spot (230) that moves at the same speed as the conveyor (212) to assist in positioning the parcel (214) on the conveyor (212), a scanner (236) located downstream of the illumination source (224) and positioned to capture an image of the parcel (214), and a computer memory (242) for storing the images; wherein
       means (241) are provided for operating the computer memory (242) and the scanner (236) so as to store an image of a region (250) of a parcel (214) defined with respect to the spot (230) defined by the illumination source (224).
  2. An indicia reader system according to claim 1 and further comprising:
    a height sensor (232) located upstream of the scanner (236) and positioned to determine height data associated with the parcel (214) at the location of the spot (230);
    a communication link (234) for transmitting the height data from the height sensor (232) to the scanner (236); and
    means (233) for focusing the scanner (236) in response to the height data.
  3. An indicia reader system according to claim 1 or claim 2 and further comprising:
    a reflectivity sensor (232) located upstream of the scanner (236) and positioned to determine reflectivity data associated with the parcel (214) at the location of the spot (230);
    a communication link (234) for transmitting the reflectivity data from the reflectivity sensor (232) to the scanner (236); and
    means (233) for adjusting the gain of the scanner in response to the reflectivity data.
  4. An indicia reader system according to any of claims 1-3 and comprising a plurality of conveyors each for transporting a parcel from an upstream location to a downstream location, and a respective plurality of moving light indicia reader systems (210a-210n) each having associated therewith an illumination source (224), a scanner (236) and a computer memory (242), wherein
       means (241) are provided for operating the illumination source (224) so as to time-division multiplex the storage of the images generated by the plurality of moving-light indicia reader systems (210a-210n).
  5. A method for obtaining an image of indicia on a parcel in a conveyor indicia reader system comprising a conveyor (212), for transporting parcels (214) from an upstream location (216) of the conveyor to a downstream location (216) of the conveyor, and a moving-light indicia reader system (210) comprising an illumination source (224) for defining a spot (230) that moves at the same speed as the conveyor (212) to assist in positioning the parcel (214) on the conveyor (212), a scanner (236) located downstream of the illumination source (224) and positioned to capture an image of the parcel (214), and a computer memory (242) for storing the images; the method comprising the steps of
       operating the computer memory (242) and the scanner (236) of said indicia reader system (210) so as to store an image of a region (250) of the parcel (214) defined with respect to the spot (230) defined by the illumination source.
  6. The method of claim 5, further comprising the steps of,
    positioning a height sensor (232) upstream of the scanner (236) to determine height data associated with the parcel (214) at the location of the spot (230);
    transmitting the height data from the height sensor (232) to the scanner (236); and
    focusing the scanner (236) in response to the height data.
  7. The method of claim 5 or claim 6 and further comprising the steps of,
       positioning a reflectivity sensor (232) upstream of the scanner (236) to determine reflectivity data associated with the parcel (214) at the location of the spot (230);
       transmitting the reflectivity data from the reflectivity sensor (232) to the scanner (236); and
       adjusting the gain of the scanner (236) in response to the reflectivity data.
  8. A method for obtaining images of indicia on parcels in a multi-conveyor indicia reader system (400) comprising a plurality of a conveyors (212), each for transporting parcels (214) from an upstream location (216) of the conveyor to a downstream location (216) of the conveyor, and a plurality of moving-light indicia reader systems (210), wherein each moving light indicia reader system comprises, an illumination source (224) for defining a spot (230) that moves at the same speed as the conveyor (212) to assist in positioning the parcel (214) on the conveyor (212), a scanner (236) located downstream of the illumination source (224) and positioned to capture an image of the parcel (214), and a computer memory (242) for storing the images, the method comprising the steps of:
    operating the computer memory (242) and the scanner (236) of each moving light indicia reader system (210a-210n) so as to store an image of a region (250) of the parcel (214) defined with respect to the spot (230) defined by the illumination source; and
    operating the illumination source (224a-224n) so as to time division multiplex the storage of the images generated by the plurality of moving-light indicia reader systems (210a-210n).
  9. The method of claim 8, further comprising the steps of, for each moving-light indicia reader system (210a-210n)
       positioning a height sensor (232) upstream of the scanner (236) to determine height data associated with the parcel (214) at the location of the spot (230);
       transmitting the height data from the height sensor (232) to the scanner (236); and
       focusing the scanner (236) in response to the height data.
  10. The method of claim 8 or claim 9 and further comprising the steps of, for each moving-light indicia reader system (210a-210n):
    positioning a reflectivity sensor (232) upstream of the scanner (236) to determine reflectivity data associated with the parcel (214) at the location of the spot (230);
    transmitting the reflectivity data from the reflectivity sensor (232) to the scanner (236); and
    adjusting the gain of the scanner (236) in response to the reflectivity data.
EP20030020263 1997-01-23 1998-01-23 Optically-guided indicia reader system Expired - Lifetime EP1371424B1 (en)

Priority Applications (5)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US787974 1997-01-23
US08787974 US5920056A (en) 1997-01-23 1997-01-23 Optically-guided indicia reader system for assisting in positioning a parcel on a conveyor
US788852 1997-01-23
US08788852 US5923017A (en) 1997-01-23 1997-01-23 Moving-light indicia reader system
EP19980902706 EP0954387B1 (en) 1997-01-23 1998-01-23 Optically-guided indicia reader system

Related Parent Applications (1)

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EP19980902706 Division EP0954387B1 (en) 1997-01-23 1998-01-23 Optically-guided indicia reader system

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EP1371424A2 true true EP1371424A2 (en) 2003-12-17
EP1371424A3 true EP1371424A3 (en) 2004-04-28
EP1371424B1 EP1371424B1 (en) 2006-09-06

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EP19980902706 Expired - Lifetime EP0954387B1 (en) 1997-01-23 1998-01-23 Optically-guided indicia reader system
EP20030020263 Expired - Lifetime EP1371424B1 (en) 1997-01-23 1998-01-23 Optically-guided indicia reader system

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EP19980902706 Expired - Lifetime EP0954387B1 (en) 1997-01-23 1998-01-23 Optically-guided indicia reader system

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JP (2) JP3476836B2 (en)
CA (1) CA2271063C (en)
DE (4) DE69835840T2 (en)
DK (1) DK0954387T3 (en)
ES (2) ES2221148T3 (en)
WO (1) WO1998032545A1 (en)

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EP2384825A1 (en) * 2010-05-06 2011-11-09 Eurosort B.V. A sorting device and a method of operating the sorting device
CN104307758A (en) * 2014-09-25 2015-01-28 浙江海洋学院 Express item sorter

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JP4251312B2 (en) * 2002-03-08 2009-04-08 日本電気株式会社 Image input device
CA2485660C (en) 2002-05-16 2012-04-17 United Parcel Service Of America, Inc. Systems and methods for package sortation and delivery using radio frequency identification technology
US6878896B2 (en) 2002-07-24 2005-04-12 United Parcel Service Of America, Inc. Synchronous semi-automatic parallel sorting
JP2005064633A (en) * 2003-08-08 2005-03-10 Hitachi Ltd Business form reader
EP2882650A4 (en) * 2012-08-13 2017-01-18 Laitram, L.L.C. Parcel handling methods

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EP2384825A1 (en) * 2010-05-06 2011-11-09 Eurosort B.V. A sorting device and a method of operating the sorting device
US9186706B2 (en) 2010-05-06 2015-11-17 Eurosort B.V. Sorting device and method of operating the sorting device
US9511954B2 (en) 2010-05-06 2016-12-06 Eurosort B.V. Sorting device and a method of operating the sorting device
CN104307758A (en) * 2014-09-25 2015-01-28 浙江海洋学院 Express item sorter

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CA2271063A1 (en) 1998-07-30 application
JP2000509655A (en) 2000-08-02 application
ES2271447T3 (en) 2007-04-16 grant
ES2221148T3 (en) 2004-12-16 grant
EP0954387B1 (en) 2004-05-26 grant
EP1371424A3 (en) 2004-04-28 application
DE69824149T2 (en) 2004-10-28 grant
DE69835840T2 (en) 2007-04-26 grant
CA2271063C (en) 2003-05-20 grant
EP1371424B1 (en) 2006-09-06 grant
WO1998032545A1 (en) 1998-07-30 application
DK954387T3 (en) grant
DE69824149D1 (en) 2004-07-01 grant
EP0954387A1 (en) 1999-11-10 application
DK0954387T3 (en) 2004-09-27 grant
DE69835840D1 (en) 2006-10-19 grant
JP3476836B2 (en) 2003-12-10 grant

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