EP1410651A4 - System for real-time location of people in a fixed environment - Google Patents

System for real-time location of people in a fixed environment

Info

Publication number
EP1410651A4
EP1410651A4 EP20010996980 EP01996980A EP1410651A4 EP 1410651 A4 EP1410651 A4 EP 1410651A4 EP 20010996980 EP20010996980 EP 20010996980 EP 01996980 A EP01996980 A EP 01996980A EP 1410651 A4 EP1410651 A4 EP 1410651A4
Authority
EP
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
identification
group
member
user
tag
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Withdrawn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
EP20010996980
Other languages
German (de)
French (fr)
Other versions
EP1410651A1 (en )
Inventor
Patrick W Giraldin
Regan E Kelly
Timothy W Giraldin
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.)
GUEST TECHNOLOGIES, LLC
Original Assignee
SAFETZONE TECHNOLOGIES CORP
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

Links

Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07CTIME OR ATTENDANCE REGISTERS; REGISTERING OR INDICATING THE WORKING OF MACHINES; GENERATING RANDOM NUMBERS; VOTING OR LOTTERY APPARATUS; ARRANGEMENTS, SYSTEMS OR APPARATUS FOR CHECKING NOT PROVIDED FOR ELSEWHERE
    • G07C9/00Individual entry or exit registers
    • G07C9/00007Access-control involving the use of a pass
    • G07C9/00111Access-control involving the use of a pass the pass performing a presence indicating function, e.g. identification tag or transponder
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07CTIME OR ATTENDANCE REGISTERS; REGISTERING OR INDICATING THE WORKING OF MACHINES; GENERATING RANDOM NUMBERS; VOTING OR LOTTERY APPARATUS; ARRANGEMENTS, SYSTEMS OR APPARATUS FOR CHECKING NOT PROVIDED FOR ELSEWHERE
    • G07C11/00Arrangements, systems, or apparatus for checking, e.g. the occurrence of a condition, not provided for elsewhere
    • G07C2011/02Arrangements, systems, or apparatus for checking, e.g. the occurrence of a condition, not provided for elsewhere related to amusement parks

Abstract

A system is provided for tracking in real-time the location of a group of individuals (101) within a defined environment (eg. theme park), for providing information to an individual user about the location of any other individuals of the group and for gaining assistance to locate and reunite lost individuals. The system uses an identification tag (102) with a serial number worn by each individual of the group, has means for communication (104 and 105) with each tag as it moves with the individual through the environment and means (107) for using the communication to determine the position of the tag in the environment. The system also uses strategically placed identification stations (108) distributed within the environment for users to activate a request that the system locate members and for displaying a map indicating the location of members of the group.

Description

SYSTEM FOR REAL-TIME LOCATION OF PEOPLE IN A FIXED ENVIRONMENT

RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] The present application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119(e) to U.S. Provisional

Patent Application Serial No. 60/248,188, filed November 14, 2000, which is hereby incorporated by reference in its entirety.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Field of the Invention

[0002] The present invention relates generally to tracking systems, and more specifically to

track in real time the location of individuals of a group within a defined environment

such as a theme park or other such fixed activity environment.

Related Art

[0003] Systems and equipment necessary for tracking a group of individuals in real-time within

a defined environment such as a theme park provide several challenges. The system should be able to distinguish every individual in the park and separately track their

movement continuously or as needed within the environment and ideally should be able to locate members of the group within seconds of separation if either becomes lost or separated. For this purpose, the system should provide convenient access anywhere within the environment no matter how large and should operate effectively regardless of the extent of crowding. The system also should be accurate and provide updates on location every second or so as desired. This is particularly important in tracking fast moving children who become separated from their parents.

[0004] Systems and equipment for tracking the location of moving objects such as people in

real time have been described (see, e.g., U.S. Patent nos. 5,764,283 and 5,973,732),

however, the inventor is not aware of any description that satisfies the requirements discussed above. Many prior systems are based on tracking by comparing video frames taken at different times. A video directed approach, however, is suited only for

tracking individuals in a very limited space such as the threshold of a store. Systems

that use a tagging device attached to the individual for communication via radio frequency transmission and receipt also have been described, however, such devices are

used primarily for controlling portal entry to a secured area.

[0005] Thus, it would be useful to have a system and equipment for tracking individuals of a

group in real time within a confined environment and to provide information to any of the group members as to the whereabouts of the other members of the group. Such system would be advantageous particularly in large areas such as theme parks, casinos,

and the like.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0006] In the following the invention will be explained in further detail in conjunction with embodiment examples depicted in the drawings, in which: [0007] Fig. 1 is a diagrammatic view of a tracking system according to one embodiment of the present invention illustrating monitoring sites, cell controllers ("cell cont."), host computer, identification stations and tags and an example of communication

therebetween;

[0008] Fig. 2 is a diagrammatic view of a graphical user interface (GUI) showing a video screen and selection buttons according to an embodiment of the invention;

[0009] Fig. 3 depicts a dialog box displayed on a GUI of an identification station according to

an embodiment of the invention, showing an entered tag serial number and various selection buttons;

[0010] Fig. 4 depicts a dialog box displayed on a GUI of an identification station according to an embodiment of the invention, providing buttons for indicating whether the user is lost or whether the user is looking for another individual of a group;

toon] Fig. 5 depicts a dialog box displayed on a GUI of an identification station according to an embodiment of the invention, showing an example of a map of an environment

covered by the tracking system; [0012] Fig. 6 depicts a dialog box displayed on a GUI of an identification station according to an embodiment of the invention, showing an example of a map of an environment

indicating the locations of individual members of a group on the map by a picture of the

individual; [0013] Fig. 7 is a flow chart illustrating the flow of information from an identification station

to a host computer when an individual selects a "Find" function at the identification

station;

[0014] Fig. 8 is a flow chart illustrating the flow of information from an identification station

to a host computer when an individual selects a "Lost" function at the identification

station;

[0015] Fig. 9a illustrates a dialog box in a group building mode displayed on a GUI at a

registration station according to the present invention;

[0016] Fig. 9b is a flow chart illustrating the building of a group on the GUI of Fig. 9a;

[0017] Fig. 10a illustrates a dialog box in a group finding mode displayed on a GUI at a

registration station according to the present invention;

[0018] Fig. 10b is a flow chart illustrating the finding of a group on the GUI of Fig. 10a;

[0019] Fig. 11a illustrates a dialog box in a tag returning mode displayed on a GUI at a

registration station according to the present invention;

[0020] Fig. 1 lb is a flow chart illustrating the turning in of a tag on the GUI of Fig. 1 la;

[0021] Fig. 12a illustrates a dialog box in a tag swapping mode displayed on a GUI at a

registration station according to the present invention;

[0022] Fig. 12b is a flow chart illustrating the swapping of a tag on the GUI of Fig. 12a;

[0023] Fig. 13a illustrates a dialog box in a group changing mode displayed on a GUI at a

registration station according to the present invention; [0024] Fig. 13b is a flow chart illustrating the moving of an individual from one group to another on the GUI of Fig. 13a;

[0025] Fig. 14 is a pictorial illustration of a closed environment implementing an embodiment

of the present invention; [0026] Fig. 15 is pictorial illustration of a wrist identification band according to one embodiment of the invention;

[0027] Fig. 16 is a pictorial illustration of an identification tag according to an embodiment of

the invention; and [0028] Fig. 17 is a schematic illustration of a system according to an embodiment of the present invention.

DESCRIPTION OF CERTAIN EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION [0029] The present invention provides a system for tracking in real-time the location of a group of individuals within a fixed environment and providing individuals of the group with the ability to locate any other individuals of the group. In general, a system according to one embodiment of the invention includes: (a) an identification tag worn

by each individual of a group; (b) means for communicating with each tag as it moves with the individual through the environment and means for using the communication to determine the position of the tag in the environment; (c) identification stations distributed within the environment, the stations providing a "Locate" function or other means for activating a request that the system locate members of the group; (d) means for receiving the activation request from each location and for generating a map showing the location of each group member on the map; and (e) means for displaying

the map at the ID station.

Briefly, an individual who carries an identification tag and is interested in determining

the location of another individual of the group approaches an identification station

which acts as a kiosk for participants of the system. The individual user provides the system with his/her tag serial number, which activates a search to retrieve the tag

information, along with information relating to all other tags in the group and locate the position of each tag in the environment. This is accomplished by sending the desired tag serial numbers, or other tag identifier information, to cell controllers which send

out a radio signal containing the tag serial number through a monitoring site and

antenna. The person wearing the proper identification tag receives the signal and the

tag responds with a radio signal (at different frequency from that first sent) that includes the tag serial number, for example. The signal is received at the monitoring sites and relayed to the cell controllers. A tag-to-antenna distance based on the time between

sending the signal and receiving the signal from the Tag is calculated and used to

deterarine the location of each individual in the environment. This information is sent to the identification station which displays the location of each individual on a map. Further details and various other embodiments of the present system are provided in

Figs. 1-8 as discussed below. [0031] Fig. 1 is a diagrammatic view of an embodiment of the tracking system as applied to theme park. Individual 101 with an identification tag 102 walking on path 103 in the park comes in contact with radio signal 104 sent by antenna at monitoring site 105.

The identification tag 102 responds with a radio signal (not shown) that is received by

monitoring site 105 that communicates with a cell controller 106. The cell controller

106 communicates with a host computer 107, which communicates with an

identification station 108.

[0032] Identification stations 108 may act as a kiosk for tagged users of the system to access and use its service properties. The identification stations 108 are strategically placed in

the environment to provide ready access by identification tag users. The identification station 108 has a CPU and a graphical user interface (GUI), preferably a touch screen monitor or a display with a control such as a mouse. The identification station 108 provides the user with the ability to locate and view the position of any identification tag in the group, to post messages on a private message board or to contact security, for

example.

[0033] Suggested platform requirements of an identification station include:

ViewPoint 2.0 with Service Pack 3

Win 95

Win 98

NT 4 (Service Pack 5)

Win 2000 [0034] Suggested minimum hardware requirements of an identification station include:

233 Pentium III with 128 MB RAM 800 by 600 resolution

[0035] Tags suitable for use in the system of the invention are well known in the art and are

available commercially such as the "3-D -Id" tag system sold by Pinpoint Corporation,

having a place of business at Billerica, Mass. Such tags can receive spread spectrum

radio signals from monitoring site antennae and respond with a signal that includes the

tag serial number. The tag can be read at long ranges compared to conventional radio

frequency identification (RFID) systems. The tags are worn on the person preferably

with a safety latch to impede easy removal.

[0036] Tags are provided to each participating member of a group when they arrive at the

environment. Each individual is given an individual identification tag with its unique

serial number. The identification tag serial number of the individual as well as the

identification tag serial numbers of the other members of the individual's group are

stored in the host computer or a server connected thereto. This aspect of the invention

is described in further detail below. In a preferred embodiment, a digital picture is

taken of the individual and stored in the computer along with the tag serial number of

the individual. The software of the host computer stores each identification tag serial

number with a link or in a table with all the other identification tag numbers of the

other members of the group. [0037] Fig. 2 is a schematic of a graphical user interface (GUI) 201 provided at each identification station 108, for example, for communication between the host computer and the individual user requesting location information. The GUI includes a large

video screen 202 showing an opening screen that is displayed when the identification

station is not in use. The opening screen may include the trade name of the product

which is exemplified by the name "ID stations" shown in Fig. 2. "Locate" button 203 and "Lost" button 204 are shown below the video screen. These are "soft" buttons that are activated by pointing and clicking with a mouse or by use of a "touch screen. " An

alternative embodiment uses "hard" buttons that can be physically depressed by the

individual user. When approaching the GUI, the individual user will select one of the two buttons before providing information on the identification of the individual.

[0038] Fig. 3 depicts a dialog box 301 displayed on the video GUI of the identification station

following the user selection of either the Locate or Lost buttons. The dialog box

includes prompt 302 requesting entry of the tag serial number or scanning of the tag; a

display 303 shows the identification number entered or scanned. Actuation of the "OK" button 304 completes the action while actuation of the "cancel" button deletes

the dialog box. These are preferably soft buttons that can be selected using mouse or

by a touch screen.

[0039] Fig. 4 depicts a further GUI video display 401 of the identification station. The GUI includes a large video screen 402 with map 403 of the environment where tracking is occurring. "Locate" button 404 and "Lost" button 405 are located below the video screen. As the system identifies the location of individuals of the group, an icon with a picture of the individuals is displayed on the map at their location. In an alternative embodiment, the picture can be replaced by symbol and the GUI can display a key that

links the symbol with the name or picture of the individual.

[0040] Fig. 5 depicts another GUI video display 501 of the identification station. The GUI includes a large video screen 502 with map 503 of the environment where tracking is occurring showing the identities and location of individuals 504 on the map. "Locate" button 504 and "Lost" button 505 are shown below the large video display.

[0041] Fig. 6 depicts a dialog box 301 displayed on the video GUI of the identification station

when the user selects the "Lost" button. The box includes prompt 602 requesting the individual to decide if he/she is looking for someone or is lost. Actuation of the "I'm Lost" button 603 prompts the individual to stay put and sends for security. Actuation of

the "I'm Looking" button 604 activates the process to obtain assistance in meeting an

individual of the group as described in more detail in Fig. 7.

[0042] Fig. 7 is a flow chart describing the flow of information from the identification station to the host computer when an individual user selects the "Locate" button at the identification station display. The user approaches the identification station seeking

location information about a member of his/her group (shown as 701) and selects the

"Locate" button from the selection display (shown as 702) of the GUI at the identification station. The identification station prompts the user with a dialog box (see e.g.. Fig. 3) requesting entry of his/her tag serial number using a keyboard or using a scanning device (shown as 703). The scanning device is preferably a bar code scanner for scanning a bar code unique to each individual tag.

[0043] An identification station CPU sends the user tag serial number to the host computer

(shown as 704) which uses the tag serial number to look up serial numbers of the tags

of the other members of the group (shown as 705). The identification station then displays a bit map of the environment which is supplemented later by the information showing the location of individuals of the group. In an alternative embodiment, the bit

map is displayed only with the location of the individuals of the group.

[0044] The host computer then sends the tag serial numbers of each individual of the group to the cell controller CPU (shown as 706) which then sends out a radio signal with the tag serial number for each individual from the antenna of each connected monitoring site (shown as 707). The individual wearing the tag with the corresponding serial number

designated in the radio signal receives the signal and the tag responds by transmitting a return signal containing the tag serial number (shown as 708). The tags receive the radio signal at one frequency and the signal is returned by the transmitter in the tag at a different frequency.

[0045] The monitoring sites receive the return signal which is sent to the cell controller CPU

(shown as 709), which calculates a tag-to-antenna distance (TAD) for each tag based on the time elapsed between sending the signal from the antenna and receiving a return signal from the tag (shown as 710). In an alternative embodiment, TAD data is calculated at the host computer. Cell controllers with monitoring sites and antennae are well known in the art and are available commercially such as the "Local Positioning System (LPS) cell controller system sold by Pinpoint Corporation, having a place of business at Billerica, Mass.

[0046] Cell controllers send the TAD distance information to the main server which computes

the location of the tags having the specified tag serial numbers in the environment (shown as 711). The host computer then sends the location information of each

individual to the requesting identification station CPU which displays a map showing

the location of each individual of the group as an icon with their picture (shown as 712). The map may be displayed for about one to two minutes before reverting to the opening screen. The map will be removed earlier if a user selects the "Locate" or "Lost" buttons. The system may be calibrated to provide an accuracy of 10 feet or less

and can update the location within seconds.

[0047] In another embodiment, each tag transmits a unique chirp at a regular interval of, for example, 7 seconds. The chirps are received by the antennae of the monitoring sites

throughout the environment. The position of each user of a tab may, therefore, be continuously monitored by the host computer. When a user requests location

information about other members of his/her group, the information is retrieved from a temporary storage, for example, of the host computer and is provided to the user at the identification station.

[0048] In one embodiment, the system retains the location information for each user for a fixed

period. For example, the system may store the location information for a floating 10- minute period. Thus, if a user becomes lost or a tag ceases to function properly, the user's location may be retrieved for anytime within the fixed period. Further, a last

known position may be stored in the event of a lost or malfunctioning identification tag.

[0049] Fig. 8 is a flow chart describing the flow of information from the identification station

to the host computer when an individual selects the "Lost" button at the identification station display. The individual user who becomes lost or is seeking assistance in

meeting with another individual of the group approaches an identification station

(shown as 801) and selects the "Lost" button from the option display (shown as 802). The identification station prompts the user with a dialog box (see e.g. Fig. 3) requesting entry of his/her tag serial number using a keyboard or by using a scanning

device, for example (shown as 803).

[0050] The identification station then prompts the individual with a second dialog box (see, e.g. Fig. 6) displaying buttons "I'm Lost" or "I'm Looking." If the individual selects the "I'm Lost" button, then the identification station displays a third dialog box (see e.g. Fig. 6) that asks the individual to confirm that they are lost or just looking to meet

another individual ("I'm lost" or "I'm Looking") (shown as 804). If the user selects

"Lost," the system will instruct the lost user in accordance with the procedures and guidelines of the facility as to how to proceed in this situation. This may include display of a text message and audio message that both of which tell the user to wait by the identification station until security arrives (shown as 805). The host computer preferably simultaneously alerts security by providing the identity of the contacting identification station and the tag serial number of the lost individual (shown as 805).

[0051] If the user selects "I'm Looking," then the host computer uses the system as described

and shown above with reference to Fig. 7 to determine the identity of all members of

the group and sends a map for display at the identification station (shown as 806). The

user then selects the individual they wish to meet by clicking or touching the icon of the

appropriate individual on the map (shown as 807). The identification station responds with a voice and text message instructing the user that a security guard is being dispatched to the lost party and that the user should wait at the identification station

(shown as 808).

[0052] The assignment of tags to individuals and of groups may be performed, for example, at

an entrance to the environment. When individuals arrive at the environment, they may register their participation in the tracking system at a registration station. The registration-station is preferably a module that enables quick setup of groups and entry

of individuals into that group. The subject module may be designed as a completely

self-service station. An applet may be written to interface with a main software application on a main server The applet may reside in a Windows platform environment. The subject computer system may have pre-established grouping ability with simple function input of the individuals and their identification tag association.

[0053] Alternatively, the registration-station may be a Winterm station in a thin client configuration; thereby, providing easy maintenance and support. Its function is to provide an end user interface for users- o set up and enter groups and eventually give

access to allow customization of individual identities. Preferably, it should have one display button "Group Setup" on the first screen.

[0054] A method of "breaking out" or aborting may also be provided. Preferably, the

program should only be aborted from the host computer. The registration station may

provide a point-and-click user interface or may utilize touch screen technology.

[0055] Figs. 9a through 13b illustrate the operation of a registration station according to one embodiment of the present invention. Figs. 9a and 9b illustrate the operation of the registration station during a group building mode. Referring first to Fig. 9a, a dialog

box 900 on a graphic user interface (GUI) at a registration station is shown in a group

building mode. The dialog box 900 comprises a menu portion 910 with a plurality of

buttons for executing various functions. A "Build Group" button 91Qa s illustrated as highlighted in the group building mode. An instruction portion 920 provides assistance to the user by providing instructions on steps required from the user. A group identifier portion 930 is provided to identify the current group name, and an individual

identifier portion 940 is provided to indicate the current individual user. Additionally, an individual demographic block 950 may be provided to allow specification of certain characteristics of the individual user. This information may be used for marketing

purposes as will be described in detail below.

[0056] Referring now to Fig. 9b, the "Build Group" mode begins when an operator (an employee of an amusement park, for example) presses or selects the "Build Group" button 910a of the dialog box 900 shown in Fig. 9a (block 970). In a self-service embodiment, this step may be performed by a user who is a member of a group, for

example. At block 972, a group of users of the location system approach the

registration system seeking to register as a group of users. A member of the group

requests an identifier tag for each member of the group (block 974). The operator

scans a tag for each member of the group, entering the individual's information and the group's name into the appropriate portions of the dialog box 900 (block 976). The

scanning may be a bar code scanning or other appropriate scanning. The individual's information may be associated with an icon or a digital picture of the individual, for

example.

[0057] Preferably, one member of the group is designated as the group master. Only the group master may be allowed to make changes to the group information such as the name of the group and the designations for the individuals.

[0058] Once all the members have been assigned an identifier tag, the operator presses a

"Finish Group" button of the dialog box 900, thereby causing the group and individual information and the associated tag serial numbers to a system database server (block 978). The tags are distributed to the members of the group (block 980), and the locator

system allows the members to obtain location information for the other members of the

group (block 982).

[0059] In a preferred embodiment, only members of the group can obtain location information for other members of the group. No other visitors may obtain access to this information. Similarly, the members of the group may only obtain information regarding members of their group.

[0060] In another embodiment of the invention, a group may be divided into subgroups within

the group. Thus, certain members may create a smaller subgroup within the group.

[0061] In another embodiment, two or more groups may be merged at a later time. For example, some members of a group may arrive separately from other members and may register separately. At a later time, the two groups may be merged into a "super group" . The original groups may be retained as "sub groups" of the "super group" .

Additional individual members may also be added to a group at a later time.

[0062] Figs. 10a and 10b illustrate the operation of the registration station during a group

finding mode. A "Find Group" button 910b in the dialog box 900 is illustrated as highlighted in the group finding mode. The instruction portion 920 provides

information specific to the group finding mode.

[0063] Referring now to Fig. 10b, the "Find Group" mode begins when an operator presses or selects the "Find Group" button 910b of the dialog box 900 shown in Fig. 10a (block 1010). In a self-service embodiment, this step may be performed by a user who is a member of a group, for example. At block 1020, a user approaches the registration

system seeking to find members of a group and requests the operator to display the location information of the members of his group (block 1030). The operator scans the user's tag (block 1040), and the system uses database information relating to the group, including the tag serial numbers, to display the positions of the members on a monitor (block 1050). If desired and/or permitted by the group master, for example, the operator may modify the group information, including adding or deleting members of the group. Once completed, the operator presses the "Finish Group" button (block

1070). As described above, the group finding function may be performed at self-

service stations.

[0064] Figs. 11a and lib illustrate the operation of the registration station during a tag returning mode. This function may be used if, for example, the user desires to leave

the park at the end of the day. A "Turn In Tags" button 910c in the dialog box 900 is

illustrated as highlighted in the tag returning mode. The instruction portion 920 provides information specific to the tag returning mode.

[0065] Referring now to Fig. lib, the "Turn In Tags" mode begins when an operator presses or selects the "Turn In Tags" button 910c of the dialog box 900 shown in Fig. 11a

(block 1110). At block 1120, a user approaches the registration system seeking to

discontinue his/her use of the identification tag and returns the tag to the operator (block 1130). The operator scans the user's tag (block 1140), and the system updates the database information to delete the user from the group (block 1150). The user is no

longer displayed as a member of the group (block 1160), and all tracking of the tag

ceases (block 1170).

[0066] Figs. 12a and 12b illustrate the operation of the registration station during a tag swapping mode. This mode may be used if, for example, an issued tag is malfunctioning or low on battery. A "Replace a Tag" button 910d in the dialog box 900 is illustrated as highlighted in the tag swapping mode. The instruction portion 920 provides information specific to the tag swapping mode.

[0067] Referring now to Fig. 12b, the tag swapping mode begins when an operator presses or

selects the "Replace a Tag" button 910d of the dialog box 900 shown in Fig. 12a (block

1210). At block 1220, a user approaches the registration system seeking to exchange his identification tag and presents his tag to the operator (block 1230). The operator

scans the user's returned tag (block 1240) and scans a new tag (block 1250). The

system updates the database information to modify the tag serial number associated with the user. The user continues to be displayed as a member of the group (block 1260).

All tracking of the returned tag ceases (block 1270), and the system now tracks the newly issued tag.

[0068] Figs. 13a and 13b illustrate the operation of the registration station during a group

changing mode. This mode may be used if, for example, a member of one group seeks

to disassociate with the group and instead become associated with a second group. A "Move a Member" button 910e in the dialog box 900 is illustrated as highlighted in the group changing mode. The instruction portion 920 provides information specific to the

group changing mode.

[0069] Referring now to Fig. 13b, the group changing mode begins when an operator presses or selects the "Move a Member" button 910e of the dialog box 900 shown in Fig. 13a (block 1310). At block 1320, a user approaches the registration system seeking to

disassociate with his current group and become associated with a second. In a preferred embodiment, the user is accompanied by a member of the second group. In another embodiment, the masters of both groups must be present to approve the change.

[0070] The user and the accompanying second group member present their tags to the operator

(block 1330). The operator scans the user's returned tag (block 1340) and scans the tag

belonging to the member of the second group (block 1350). Both tags are returned to their respective wearers. The system updates the database information to modify the

group information of both groups by deleting the user from his original group and

adding him to the new group. The user is now displayed as a member of the second group (block 1360). The user is no longer displayed as a member of his original group (block 1370).

[0071] The demographic information collected during the registration process (e.g. , the group

building mode) may be used in a variety of ways. The information may be collected

either during the registration process or may be collected beforehand if the user is, for example, a season pass holder. Collecting the information beforehand may accelerate the registration process for the user.

[0072] The demographic information may be combined with tracking information for

marketing purposes, for example. In this regard, the system may store the user's position in the environment for an entire day. The information may be used, for example, to determine where certain individuals go for entertainment within the environment and how long they stay at each attraction. Such information may be useful

for targeted advertising at each attraction. For example, the information may be used to determine which attraction draws a younger age group so that products targeting that group may be advertised at that attraction.

[0073] One embodiment of the present invention allows users to transmit messages to the other

members of the group. A user may use an identification station, for example, to enter a

message for the other members of the group. The system then transmits a signal to the identification tags of each of the other members causing the tags to, for example, light

up or beep, indicating an awaiting message. The other users may proceed to the

nearest identification station to view the message.

[0074] Another embodiment of the invention allows tracking of specific personnel or equipment. For example, the location of all security guards or custodians may be made

available to a park administrator. Thus, the park administrator may efficiently dispatch

the closest security guard to a required location.

[0075] U.S. Patent Application Serial No. 09/687,062, filed October 12, 2000, incorporated herein by reference in its entirety, discloses a system for real-time location of people in a fixed environment. One embodiment of the present invention provides an

identification tag for use with such a system.

[0076] Fig. 14 illustrates a closed environment in which an embodiment of the invention may be implemented. The closed environment 10 may be an area such as an amusement park or a cruise ship. An entrance 12 to the closed environment 10 is provided with a registration station 14 at which users of a location system may register. The registration system 14 may comprise one or more input terminals through which the names of the users, for example, may be input into the system, and one or more servers to store and provide the information as requested.

[0077] Throughout the closed environment 10, stationary readers 16 may be installed for

receiving signals from identification tags issued to users. Identification tags according

to the present invention are described below in further detail with reference to Figures

15 and 16. The readers 16 may be strategically placed throughout the closed

environment 10 so that coverage is provided to every location in the environment 10.

The readers 16 may take the form of any conventional antennas or receivers.

[0078] One or more locator stations 18 may be provided throughout the amusement park as well. The locator stations 18 serve to provide the users access to the information regarding the location of other users, as described below in detail. The locator stations

18 comprise at least one terminal through which a user may interface with a location

system.

[0079] Fig. 15 illustrates a user identifier according to one embodiment of the invention. A

wrist identification band 21 is illustrated to be worn by a user on his/her wrist similar to a wrist watch. The wrist identification band 21 comprises a strap 23 for securing the

wrist identification band 21 to the user. A logo or indicia 25 may be provided on the

wrist strap to identify the name of the amusement park or cruise ship, for example, or to provide advertisement space. The wrist identification band 21 also comprises an

identification tag 27 for communication with an identification system. The identification tag 27 is described in further detail below and is more clearly illustrated in Fig. 16.

[0080] As illustrated in Fig. 16, the identification tag 27 comprises at least two components.

The first component is a long-range transmitter 29 for allowing communication between

the identification tag 27 and the readers 16 illustrated in Fig. 14. The long-range

transmitter 29 is configured to transmit a signal identifying the tag and/or the user wearing the tag. The long-range transmitter 29 may be, for example, a model produced by RF Code, Inc., of Phoenix, Arizona, Model # 05101297-06. The range of the long- range transmitter may be customized for particular uses. Preferably, the long-range

transmitter has a range of 200-250 feet for use in most amusement parks or cruise

ships.

[0081] In one embodiment, the long range transmitter 29 transmits a chirp every 7.5 seconds. The chirp may be unique to each individual identification tag 27 and, therefore, unique

to each individual user. Thus, an identification system installed in a closed area such as

an amusement park is provided with a signal from each individual user every 7.5 seconds. It is noted that the various identification tags 27 are not required to transmit a chirp simultaneously. The chirp signal is used by the system not only to identify the user, but also to pinpoint the user's location within the closed environment 10. This

may be accomplished in several ways including triangulation from two readers 16.

[0082] Again referring to Fig. 16, the identification tag 27 also comprises a short-range passive component 32. As the name implies, the passive component 32 does not transmit a signal on a regular basis. Rather, information from the short-range passive component 32 may be read by another device. Information in the passive component 32 identifies the identification tag 27 as well as the user, similar to the information

transmitted in the chirp by the long-range transmitter 29 described above. This

information may be identical to that associated with the long-range transmitter 29 or

may be different. If different, the location system associates the information with the user and/or the identification tag 27. In one embodiment, the short-range passive component 32 is an RFID Texas Instruments Model Number RI-TRP-REPH-ø ø.

[0083] The short-range passive component 32 offers immediate information to the user.

Rather than waiting 7.5 seconds for the user's long-range transmitter to transmit a chirp, for example, the short-range passive component 32 may provide immediate identification to a locator system, as described below in greater detail.

[0084] Fig. 17 illustrates the communication paths between the different components of an

identification system. The registration station 14 described above in Fig. 14

communicates with an identification server 34. When an individual or a group of individuals enters the closed environment 10, wrist identification bands 21 are issued to each individual. Information relating to the issued wrist identification bands 21 and the

individual is input into the registration station 14. This information is supplied to the identification server 34. The information may identify the group of individuals by a selected designation such as a group name or number. Thus, the identification server 34 is provided with data which includes a group comprising the individuals and the . wrist identification bands 21 issued to those individuals.

[0085] As the individuals move through the closed environment 10, the long-range transmitters

29 in the wrist identification bands 21 transmit chirps regularly, such as every 7.5

seconds. The chirps are read by the readers 16 placed throughout the closed

environment 10. The readers 16 transmit information relating to the chirps to the identification server 34, and the identification server 34 determines the location of the user based on that information. Alternatively, the readers 16 may be provided with

software to determine the location based on the chirp and provide only the location to the identification server 34. Thus, the identification server 34 is provided with

information relating to the location of each wrist identification band 21 and, therefore, the user wearing it.

[0086] When an individual user desires to locate other members of his/her group, he/she may

use a locator station 18 to acquire the desired information. At the locator station 18,

the user may present the wrist identification band 21 to a locator terminal. The locator terminal of the locator station 18 may communicate with the short-range passive component 32 to obtain the information on the particular wrist identification band 21 worn by the user. The communication between the terminal and the short-range passive

component 32 may be accomplished in several ways. In a preferred embodiment, a signal from the locator terminal causes the short range passive component 32 to transmit a signal identifying the particular wrist identification band 21. [0087] Once the locator terminal of the locator station 18 has obtained the information from the short-range passive component 32, the locator station 18 communicates with the identification server 34 to obtain information identifying the group to which the

individual belongs. Additionally, the identification server 34 may access the last

known position of each member of the group obtained through the chirps from the individual group members long range transmitters 29. Thus, the locator station 18 may

be provided with the locations of each member of the users group. This information may be provided to the user in several ways. In a preferred embodiment, the locator

station 18 has display which includes the a map of the amusement park 10 on which the

locations of the individual groups members may be displayed. The information displayed to the user may be updated as the identification server 34 receives updated locations of the other members of the group through the reception of chirps by the readers 16.

[0088] The present system can be used to improve safety of children particularly at large facilities such as theme parks or casinos because it can locate children, parents and even

employees on a real time basis. These and other benefits include:

• Safer environment for children which gives parents peace of mind during their visit.

• Allows patrons access to the system and its information and the ability to locate a person quickly and easily through the ID stations. This saves valuable time, effort and energy.

• Provides authorities with the ability to determine quickly if a patron has wrongly entered a restricted area. • Useful to track individuals in a large group (e.g. groups of tourists or large parties) who often separate from one another during their visit. Members of the group can quickly locate other members of their party to meet or in the case of an emergency.

• Provides security personnel with the ability to quickly come to the aid of missing children or parents and to assist in reuniting them.

• Assists in compliance with regulatory agencies and insurance firms and in lowering insurance premiums

• Provides data for market research by being able to track the movement of customers in the business.

While particular embodiments of the present invention have been disclosed, it is to be understood that various different modifications and combinations are possible and are contemplated within the true spirit and scope of the appended claims. There is no

intention, therefore, of limitations to the exact abstract or disclosure herein presented.

Claims

CLAIMS What is claimed is:
1. A method for tracking in real-time the location of a group of members within a defined environment and for providing information to any member of the group about the location of any other members of the group, comprising: providing each member with an identification tag, each tag having a unique serial number; associating each member with the group and with the unique serial number; communicating with each tag as said members move within said defined environment, said communicating providing information indicative of said unique serial number; and determining location information of each member from said communicating.
2. A method in accordance with claim 1, further comprising: requesting location information of each member by a requesting member; and providing said location information of each member to said requesting member.
3. A method in accordance with claim 2, wherein said providing said location information comprises displaying a map of said defined environment on a monitor and an indication of each member on said map.
4. A method in accordance with claim 2, wherein said requesting comprises interaction between the requesting member and a graphical user interface.
5. A method in accordance with claim 4, wherein said graphical user interface comprises a touch screen system.
6. A method in accordance with claim 1, further comprising storing said location information of each user for a fixed period.
7. A method in accordance with claim 1, further comprising obtaining demographic information for each member of said group.
8. A method in accordance with claim 7, wherein said demographic information includes age of each member.
9. A method in accordance with claim 1, further comprising associating each member with an icon for representation on a monitor.
10. A method in accordance with claim 1, further comprising: returning a tag provided to a member; and disassociating said member from said group.
11. A method in accordance with claim 1, wherein said disassociating includes deleting said member from a member list associated with said group.
12. A method in accordance with claim 1, further comprising: returning a tag provided to a member; disassociating said member from said unique serial number of said tag; providing said member with a new tag having a new serial number; and associating said member with said new serial number.
13. A method in accordance with claim 1, further comprising: disassociating said member from said group; and associating said member with a new group.
14. A user identifier for communication with a locator system in a defined environment, comprising: a long-range transmitter adapted to transmit an identification signal to one or more readers in said defined environment, said identification signal being associated with a particular user; and a short-range passive component having identification information adapted to be read by a locator station.
15. The user identifier according to claim 14, wherein said identification signal is an intermittent chirp.
16. The user identifier according to claim 14, wherein said identification signal includes user information identifying said user.
17. The user identifier according to claim 16, wherein said user information is identical to said identification information in said short-range passive component.
18. The user identifier according to claim 14, wherein said long-range transmitter and said short-range passive component are mounted on an identification tag.
19. The user identifier according to claim 18, wherein said identification tag is attached to a wrist strap for securing said identification tag to a user's wrist.
20. A locator system for tracking the location of individuals in a defined environment, comprising: at least one user identifier, comprising: a long-range transmitter adapted to transmit an identification signal; and a short-range passive component having identification information; at least one reader adapted to receive said identification signal from said long-range transmitter; at least one locator station adapted to read said identification information from said short-range passive component; and an identification server adapted to communicate with said reader and said locator, said identification server having a database associating said identification signal of said long-range transmitter and said identification information of said short-range passive component with a particular user.
21. The locator system according to claim 20, further comprising a registration station adapted to receive user inputs and adapted to relay said inputs to said identification server.
22. The locator system according to claim 20, wherein said identification signal includes user information identifying said user.
23. The locator system according to claim 22, wherein said user information is identical to said identification information in said short-range passive component.
24. The locator system according to claim 20, wherein said at least one reader is adapted to calculate a user position based on receiving said identification signal.
25. The locator system according to claim 20, wherein said at least one reader is adapted to relay said identification signal to said identification server, and said identification server is adapted to calculate a user position based on receiving said identification signal.
EP20010996980 2000-11-14 2001-11-14 System for real-time location of people in a fixed environment Withdrawn EP1410651A4 (en)

Priority Applications (7)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US24818800 true 2000-11-14 2000-11-14
US248188P 2000-11-14
US992872 2001-11-13
US09992872 US6747562B2 (en) 2001-11-13 2001-11-13 Identification tag for real-time location of people
US09992668 US20020080198A1 (en) 2000-11-14 2001-11-13 System for real-time location of people in a fixed environment
US992668 2001-11-13
PCT/US2001/045310 WO2002041653B1 (en) 2000-11-14 2001-11-14 System for real-time location of people in a fixed environment

Publications (2)

Publication Number Publication Date
EP1410651A1 true EP1410651A1 (en) 2004-04-21
EP1410651A4 true true EP1410651A4 (en) 2005-04-13

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WO2006133487A1 (en) * 2005-06-14 2006-12-21 Adina Resources Pty Ltd Method and means for tracking people and objects with active tags
DE102006034857A1 (en) * 2006-07-25 2008-01-31 Endress + Hauser Process Solutions Ag Method and apparatus for locating people in automated systems
EP2962930A1 (en) * 2014-07-03 2016-01-06 Astrium GmbH Improving the safety on-board of large vehicles for many passengers

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EP1410651A1 (en) 2004-04-21 application
WO2002041653B1 (en) 2002-09-26 application
CA2431872A1 (en) 2002-05-23 application
WO2002041653A1 (en) 2002-05-23 application

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