GB2284913A - Reading of recorded usage or operation of an item - Google Patents

Reading of recorded usage or operation of an item Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2284913A
GB2284913A GB9325773A GB9325773A GB2284913A GB 2284913 A GB2284913 A GB 2284913A GB 9325773 A GB9325773 A GB 9325773A GB 9325773 A GB9325773 A GB 9325773A GB 2284913 A GB2284913 A GB 2284913A
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United Kingdom
Prior art keywords
means
receiver
input
operation
item
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Withdrawn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
GB9325773A
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GB9325773D0 (en
Inventor
David John Harrison
Julian Herbert Winpenny
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* BUSYBODY SYSTEMS Ltd
BUSYBODY SYSTEMS Ltd
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Busybody Systems Limited
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Application filed by Busybody Systems Limited filed Critical Busybody Systems Limited
Priority to GB9325773A priority Critical patent/GB2284913A/en
Publication of GB9325773D0 publication Critical patent/GB9325773D0/en
Publication of GB2284913A publication Critical patent/GB2284913A/en
Application status is Withdrawn legal-status Critical

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Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F9/00Details other than those peculiar to special kinds or types of apparatus
    • G07F9/02Devices for alarm or indication, e.g. when empty; Advertising arrangements in coin-freed apparatus
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3202Hardware aspects of a gaming system, e.g. components, construction, architecture thereof
    • G07F17/3223Architectural aspects of a gaming system, e.g. internal configuration, master/slave, wireless communication
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/32Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for games, toys, sports or amusements, e.g. casino games, online gambling or betting
    • G07F17/3225Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users
    • G07F17/3232Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the operator is informed
    • G07F17/3234Data transfer within a gaming system, e.g. data sent between gaming machines and users wherein the operator is informed about the performance of a gaming system, e.g. revenue, diagnosis of the gaming system

Abstract

A sender 26 is provided in a machine, such as a coin-operated game machine 12, to record usage of, or operations occurring in, the machine. For example, transaction counters 24 record the amount of money paid into the machine, and the amount of money paid out in winnings. The sender emits a continuous infra-red or ultrasonic or radio frequency signal carrying information about the recorded uses or operations. The emitted signal is received by a hand-held receiver (28 Fig 2 not shown) and the information obtained from the received signal is stored/displayed by the receiver. The receiver can be coupled to external apparatus for transferring the recorded information. The system is also applicable to consumption meters. <IMAGE>

Description

METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR PROVIDING A READING OF RECORDED USAGE OR OPERATION OF AN ITEM This invention relates to a method and apparatus for providing a reading of recorded usage or operation of an item. Usage meters are fitted in certain types of equipment to provide an indication of the extent to which an item has been used or operated, or to record events which have occurred in the item; such meters include consumption meters and transaction or event meters or counters. The present invention is particularly suitable for use in money-operated or token-operated game machines or vending machines, but it is not limited exclusively to this.

A game machine or vending machine will often include one or more transaction meters to record the amount of money which has been put into the machine over a period of time, and also to record any money paid-out (in the case of a game machine) or the number of products issued (in the case of a vending machine). Commonly, a transaction meter will be an electro-mechanical counter which is incremented each time that the machine performs a particular operation.

Periodically, the owner of the machine will inspect the counters, and compare the counter values with his own inventory to confirm that the machine is operating correctly, and that no money is missing from the machine's takings.

Conventionally, such meters are concealed within the game or vending machine. In order to read the meter, a person has to open the machine, then read the meter visually and transcribe the meter reading manually. This can be a very time consuming process, especially when a machine has several meters to be read, and a large number of machines may have to be inspected. Furthermore, mistakes can easily be made when reading the meters manually and transcribing the readings manually. Finally, the fact that each machine has to be opened to gain access to the meters provides a substantial security risk if, for example, the coin box or the vendible products become vulnerable when the machine is opened.

The present invention has been devised with the above problems in mind.

In a first aspect, the invention provides apparatus for providing a reading of recorded usage or operation of an item, the apparatus comprising a sender associated with the item, the sender including input means for receiving an input representative of usage or operation of the item and transmitter means coupled to the input means for emitting an infra-red or ultrasonic signal carrying information representing recorded usage or operation of the item, and the apparatus further comprising portable receiver means for receiving the emitted signal and for recording information obtained from the received signal.

Such an arrangement can avoid any requirement for manual reading and transcription of record meters as discussed above. In particular, the reading of the information can be accomplished more quickly and accurately than by a manual reading. In the case of coin-operated or token-operated game or vending machines, the invention can also avoid any requirement to open the machine, because the invention can avoid the need for any physical interaction with the machine.

In a second aspect the invention provides a sender adapted for use in the apparatus defined above. Preferably, the transmitter means of the sender is operative to emit a signal in which the information representing the recorded usage is repeated. In a preferred embodiment, the transmitter means is operative continuously to repeat the information in the emitted signal. Such an arrangement can provide advantages in that only one-way communication from the sender to the receiver is required. In particular, the sender does have to be "triggered" to begin emitting its infra-red or ultrasonic signal. Furthermore, repeating the information can correct any errors which may occur in the information or in the emitted signal, for example, owing to noise.

Preferably, the input means comprises means receiving an input of instantaneous use or operation of the item, and recording means for aggregating the recorded use or operation. For example, the input means may comprise a count register for counting the number of occurrences of the aforesaid use or operation of the item. In the preferred embodiment, the input means comprises means for detecting an input representative of instantaneous use or operation, and means for incrementing a count register to record the use or operation.

Preferably, the input means comprises multi-channel input means for receiving inputs representing a plurality of uses or operations of the item. Preferably, the transmitter means comprises means for including information from the multiple channels in the emitted signal.

Preferably, the transmitter means comprises means for including an error checking code in the information in the emitted signal for verification by the receiver. For example, the error checking code may comprise a cyclic redundancy checksum.

Preferably, the input means comprises isolator means for protecting the inputs from dangerous voltage levels. For example, the isolator means may comprise opto-coupler means.

With such an arrangement, in the event that dangerous signal levels do occur which could damage the sender, only the isolating means should need to be replaced.

Preferably, the input means comprises means for processing the inputs to filter out noise. Preferably, the processing means comprises means for determining the duration of input pulses, and means for discarding an input pulse if the duration does not exceed a predetermined threshold. For example, the threshold may be about 25 ms.

Preferably, the transmitter means comprises means for modulating the information in the emitted infra-red or ultrasonic signal. For example, the information may be modulated on a carrier frequency.

The sender (and the means defined therein) may implemented by dedicated hardware circuits, or by a programmed computer processor (such as a microprocessor or a microcontroller), or by a combination of both. In the preferred embodiment, a microprocessor is used to detect input signals and to increment count registers, and also to generate a signal for driving an output transducer.

In a third aspect, the invention provides a moneyoperated or token-operated machine including a sender in accordance with the second aspect of the invention.

Preferably, the machine comprises a game machine or a vending machine.

In a fourth aspect, the invention provides a receiver adapted for use in the apparatus of the first aspect.

Preferably, the receiver is a hand held device.

Preferably, the receiver comprises means for obtaining all of the information in the received infra-red or ultrasonic signal, and storage means for storing the information in the receiver means.

Preferably, the receiver means comprises means for calculating an error checking code based on the received information, and for comparing the calculated error checking code with a code already contained in the received information. This enables the receiver to test the validity of the received information. If it is not valid, ie. if the error checking codes do not agree, then the information can be discarded, and a fresh information received.

Preferably, the receiver means comprises communication port means for coupling to external apparatus to enable the transfer of information between the receiver and the external apparatus. This allows the receiver to be coupled to a modem or to an external computer to off-load the information stored in the receiver. It also permits the receiver to be coupled to other devices, such a coincounters, to enable further input information to be loaded into the receiver.

The receiver (and the means defined therein) may be implemented in dedicated hardware circuits, or by a programmed computer processor (such a microprocessor or a microcontroller), or a combination of both. In the preferred embodiment, a microprocessor is used to obtain information from the received signal, and to store the information in a memory. The microprocessor also provides information input and output functions for the receiver.

In a fifth aspect, the invention provides a method for providing a reading of recorded usage or operation of an item, the method comprising receiving an input representative of usage or operation of the item, emitting an infra-red or ultrasonic signal carrying information representing recorded usage or operation of the item, and receiving the emitted signal in a portable receiver and recording information obtained from the received signal in the receiver.

In a sixth aspect, the invention provides a method of transmitting information of recorded usage or operation of an item, the method comprising receiving an input representative of usage or operation of the item, emitting an infra-red or ultrasonic signal carrying information representing recorded usage or operation of the item, and continuously repeating the step of emitting the infra-red or ultrasonic signal.

In a seventh aspect, the invention provides a moneyoperated or coin-operated machine and apparatus for providing a reading of transactions of the machine, the apparatus comprising a sender associated with the machine, the sender including input means for receiving an input representative of transaction operations of the machine and transmitter means for emitting an infra-red, ultrasonic or radio signal carrying information representing recorded transaction operations, and the apparatus further comprising portable receiver means for receiving the emitted signal and for recording information obtained from the received signal.

An embodiment of the invention is now described by way of example with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which: Fig. 1 is a schematic perspective view of a slot-machine embodying a meter reading sender; Fig. 2 is a schematic perspective view of a hand held receiver; Fig. 3 is a schematic functional diagram illustrating the general function of the sender and receiver; Fig. 4 is a block diagram of the sender; Fig. 5 is a flow diagram of illustrating operation of the sender; Fig. 6 is an illustration of a typical input pulse to the sender; Fig. 7 is an illustration of the information format emitted by the sender; Fig. 8 is a block diagram of the receiver; Fig. 9 is a flow diagram illustrating operation of the receiver; Fig. 10 is a more detailed flow diagram of a part of Fig. 9.

Figs. 11 and 12 illustrate addressing by the microprocessors in the sender and the receiver; and Fig. 13 illustrates detail of the power/standby switch in Fig. 8.

Figure 1 depicts a slot-machine in the form of a 'One Armed-Bandit' type game machine 10. The machine 10 has a conventional outward appearance and, in this embodiment, includes a front panel 12 with windows 14 behind which are mounted the conventional rotatable drums, and a control panel 16 with the conventional playing buttons 18. A coinin slot 20 is provided on the front panel 12 into which a user inserts coins (or tokens) to play the machine. A payout chute 22 is provided below the control panel 16 into which the machine ejects any winnings should a player win.

The machine 10 contains a conventional coin mechanism and game mechanism which, for the sake of clarity, are not shown in Fig. 1.

Within the machine is a conventional meter box 24 fed by signals from the conventional game mechanism of the game machine. The meter box includes electro-mechanical transaction counters for recording the number of coins or tokens entered through the coin-in slot, and for recording the number of coins or tokens paid out by the machine in winnings. The game mechanism produces a single pulse or a series of pulses to increment the appropriate counter by the appropriate value when coins or tokens are received or are paid out. The meter box would normally be inspected at periodic intervals, for example weekly, and a manual record made of the meter readings to enable an owner to monitor the use of the machines and to verify that the machine was functioning properly and that no money was missing from the machine's takings.

Referring to Figs. 1 and 3, this embodiment features an automatic meter reading system. The system includes sender apparatus 26 fitted to the machine 10 and a hand-held portable receiver 28. The sender apparatus 26 is coupled to the same pulse signals as are fed to the meter box 24, and includes a set of internal counter registers which mirror the electro-mechanical counters in the meter box 24. The sender apparatus provides a signal representative of the information recorded by the meters, and this signal is fed to an infra-red transducer 26a which emits an infra-red signal containing the recorded information. The emitted signal can be received by the hand held portable receiver 28 and the information stored in the receiver 28 for later use.

As illustrated in Fig. 1, the majority of the sender apparatus is housed in a unit 30 coupled to the transducer 26a by a cable 32, and coupled also to the meter box 24.

The sender and the receiver are described in more detail below.

Referring to Fig. 4, the sender apparatus is, in this exemplary embodiment, controlled by a microprocessor 34 which communicates via a data and address bus 36 with random access memory (RAM) 38 and with pre-programmed read only memory (ROM) in the form of an erasable programmable read only memory (EPROM) 40.

The pulse inputs to the sender apparatus are received at a set of inputs 42 which feed into an isolator in the form of an opto-coupler 44. In Fig. 4, a set of eight input lines 42 is shown as this will conveniently provide a "byte" of information for the microprocessor to process. However, it will be appreciated that more or less input lines 42 may be used if desired, or certain of the input lines could remain unconnected if the number of meters in the machine 10 were less than eight. The eight outputs 46 from the optocoupler are fed into an eight-line input buffer 48 which communicates with the data and address bus 36 to provide an input port for the microprocessor 34.

An output latch 50 is also coupled to the data and address bus 36 to provide an output port. A first output line 52 from the latch 50 is coupled through an amplifier stage 54 to the drive the infra-red transducer 26a. The signal on the output line 52 represents a binary output signal which, after amplification by the amplifier 54, drives the infra-red transducer 26a. A set of other outputs 56 from the output latch are fed to a bank of light-emitting diodes 58 mounted on an indicator panel of the unit 30. The diodes 58 provide a visual indication of status and operation of the unit 30 for test purposes. Each output line 56 represents a binary signal for driving a respective one of the light emitting diodes 58. In this exemplary embodiment, six diodes are shown.These provide indications of coin-in counter increment, coin-out counter increment, token-in counter increment, token-out counter increment, and a "tilt" or warning indicator.

The output latch 50 also provides a RAM control output 55 which is coupled to the control input of an electronic switch 57. The input pole of the switch 57 is fed with a RAM-access address signal 59 from the bus 36, and the output pole of the switch 57 provides a chip-select signal 61 for selectively activating the RAM 38. The purpose of the switch 57 is to isolate the RAM 38 to prevent data corruption when other components of the system have been turned off. This is described in more detail hereinafter.

The sender apparatus is powered mainly by electrical power tapped from conventional power supply (not shown) in the machine 10. The power input is received at power-in line 60 and will typically be in the range of 8 to 15 volts DC. The sender includes a 5 volt regulator 62 to provide a stable power supply (indicated at line 64) for the circuits in the sender apparatus. The output of the regulator 62 is also fed to the input of a reset circuit 63 which in turn is coupled to the reset input of the microprocessor 34. The function of the reset circuit is to provide a "reset" signal to the microprocessor whenever the machine 10 is turned "on". The reset circuit 63 includes a voltage reference provided by, for example, a zener diode, and a voltage comparator. In use, the reset circuit 63 provides a "reset" signal as the voltage crosses about 4.5 volts.

A special power supply connection is provided for the RAM 38 by means of a back-up battery 66 coupled through a back-up switch 68. The back-up switch includes two diodes 68a and 68b to provide an automatic switch. When the machine 10 is "on" and is supplying power through the powerin line 60, the diode 68a coupled to the output of the regulator 62 will be forward biased to feed the external power to supply the RAM 38. While the voltage from the regulator 62 remains high, the diode 68b will be reversed biased, thereby isolating the back-up battery 66. Whenever the machine 10 is turned "off" so that external power is no longer received, the voltage from the regulator 62 will fall such that the diode 68a coupled to the regulator 62 will become reverse biased, and the diode 68b coupled to the back-up battery 66 will become forward biased.Thus power is supplied to the RAM 38 from the back-up battery 66 to ensure that the memory contents are preserved. Only the RAM 38 and the electronic memory switch 57 are supplied with power from the back-up battery 66 when the machine 10 is "off"; other components in the sender will be not be powered. The power consumption is very small and, typically, the back-up battery will be able to supply backup power for a period of about 2 years.

Figure 11 illustrates the manner in which the microprocessor 34 addresses the memories 38 and 40, and the input and output ports, and the operation of the electronic switch 57. As mentioned below, in the preferred embodiment a Z80 device is used as the microprocessor. This provides various address signals for communicating with other parts of the system. In particular it provides an IORQ signal which is active low when the microprocessor 34 desires to communicate with either the input port or the output port.

It also provides a MEMRQ signal which is active low when the microprocessor 34 desires to communicate with either the ROM or the RAM. It also provides a 5 signal which is active low when the microprocessor desires to input data from either a memory or a port, and a snr signal which is active low when the microprocessor desires to output information to either a memory or a port.

Figure lia illustrates the addressing of the input buffer 48. The buffer is selected whenever the IORQ and RD lines are active simultaneously. As mentioned hereinafter, a recommended device for the input buffer 48 is a type 74HC541 octal buffer which includes an internal active-low AND-gate for addressing the chip; thus no external address decoding is necessary.

Figure lic illustrates the addressing of the output latch 50 which has an active low control input. An OR-gate is provided to decode the IORQ and WR lines to select the latch 50 whenever the IORQ and WR lines are low simultaneously.

Figure 11b illustrates the addressing of the ROM 40 which has an active low control input. An OR-gate is provided to decode the MEMRQ signal and an active high bit AH of the address signal from the microprocessor. In the preferred embodiment, the AH signal is the most significant used bit of the address signal (213). Thus the ROM 40 is selected whenever the MEMRQ line is low (active) and the address signal refers to an address less than 2000 Hexadecimal (213).

Figure 11c illustrates the addressing of the RAM 38 and the operation of the memory switch 57. The AH signal is first inverted and then fed to an OR-gate which also receives the MEMRQ signal as an input. Thus a low output is produced whenever the MEMRQ line is low (active) and the address signal refers to an address greater than 2000 Hexadecimal (213). The output from the OR-gate is fed to the input pole of the switch 57. When the machine 10 is off, only the switch 57 and the RAM 48 will be supplied with power. Therefore, there will be no signal on the control line 55 from the output latch 50, and the control input of the switch 57 is pulled low by means of a resistor 57a coupled to ground potential. With a low input, the switch 57 is effectively "off", thereby isolating the RAM 48 from the address decoding signals.The control input 61 to the RAM is pulled high by means of a resistor 57b coupled to the RAM power supply line 69, thereby ensuring that the RAM is deactivated to prevent data input or output. The RAM is only accessible when the control input is pulled low (active low). When power is again applied to the microprocessor 34, the switch 57 remains in the off condition to prevent the contents of the RAM 48 from being corrupted by spurious signals occurring on the data and address bus 36 during turn-on. Once the microprocessor 34 has been reset by the reset circuit 63, one of the first operations which the microprocessor 34 performs is to provide an output on the control line 55 from the output latch 50 to activate the switch 57 in order to permit addressing of the RAM 48.

Fig. 5 illustrates the functions performed by the microprocessor 40 under control of a program stored in the EPROM 40. When power is supplied initially to the microprocessor, for example, when the machine 10 is turned "on", the RAM 48 is first activated as explained above and a memory test step 70 is performed to verify that the contents stored in the RAM 34 have been preserved. The program then enters a main execution loop which is repeated continuously until the machine 10 is again switched "off".

Firstly, at step 72, a "byte" of input information is obtained from the input latch 48. Each data bit of the input represents an instantaneous sample of the binary state of the signals which are being fed to the electro-mechanical counters in the meter box 24. As illustrated in Fig. 6, conventionally a pulse (of duration T) will appear on the appropriate control line for an electro-mechanical counter each time that the electro-mechanical counter is to be incremented by one unit. The pulse duration T will depend on the characteristics of the particular game machine 10 and its game mechanism. Although the pulse has been shown in Fig. 6 as a positive pulse, it will be appreciated that the pulse may be of opposite polarity.Switches (not shown) may be provided to connect each channel of the opto-coupler either to ground or to the normal supply voltage so that the polarity of the control pulses can be matched.

The microprocessor 34 monitors the instantaneous binary values of the input lines to detect the presence of such pulses. Program routine 74 is a test loop which is repeated for each individual counter to be monitored. The routine operates by detecting whether the particular input line is active and, if so, updating a timer to monitor the duration for which the input line remains active. This is performed by step 76. Upon the input line then returning to its nonactive state (the falling edge 78 in Fig. 6) the routine then tests whether the timed duration exceeds a minimum threshold duration N to ascertain whether the pulse is valid. The minimum threshold is included to avoid spurious increments might otherwise be caused by noise on the control lines.Typically, the minimum threshold duration is set at about 25ms, which is sufficient to "filter" out noise, but is shorter than the usual duration of a control pulse sent to the electro-mechanical counters. This test is performed by program step 80. If the timed pulse is determined to be valid, program step 82 increments the counter register stored in the RAM 34 by one digit, to signify that the electro-mechanical counter would have been incremented. At this stage, the microprocessor 34 will also send an output to one of the light-emitting diodes 58 to signify that the counter register has been incremented.

Once the routine 74 has been completed for each counter, the program then proceeds to step 86 in which a single byte of the signal for the infra-red transducer 26a is produced.

Fig. 7 illustrates the format of a "frame" of information transmitted in the infra-red signal. The signal is transmitted serially, and it is repeated in a continuous cycle. The frame begins with a single byte "header" 88 which carries the code BB(hexadecimal). There then follows a two-byte identification code 90a and 90b. The identification code consists of two parts, a letter code (for example, the ASCII letter "A") contained in the first byte 90a, and single byte integer number (for example, the number 100) contained in the second byte 90b. The counter information data is then transmitted in the following twenty four bytes 92.Following the counter values is a single byte code 94 carrying the ASCII code for the "!" symbol, and a two byte integer number 95 which is an error checking code in the form of a cyclic redundancy checksum calculated using the information in the two-byte identification code 90a and 90b and the counter register values.

Only one byte of data is transmitted each time that the program step 86 is executed, such that it requires twenty nine further repeats of the main program loop to transmit a whole "frame" of counter information. The information is transmitted at a data rate of 2400 baud, and is modulated on a 40 kHz carrier frequency. Therefore, it will be appreciated that while the machine 10 is turned "on", the sender apparatus will continuously emit and infra-red signal carrying the counter information encoded serially on the signal. At the same time, the sender apparatus will monitor the control lines to the electro-mechanical counters and increment an internal counter register each time a valid increment pulse is detected.

Referring to Figs. 2 and 8, the receiver 28 is designed to be a hand held device which can conveniently be carried around to receive the infra-red signals emitted by each machine 10 equipped with the sender apparatus 26. The receiver 28 is housed in a small case 96, and includes a front panel presenting a liquid-crystal display (LCD) 98 on which alphanumerical characters can be displayed in two lines. A user key pad 100 below the display 98 has its keys arranged on a 4x4 matrix. The key pad 100 enables a user to control operation of the receiver as explained hereinafter.

An infra-red sensor 102 in the form of an infra-red photo diode, and a data communication port 103, are mounted in openings in side panels of the case 96.

The receiver 28 is, in this exemplary embodiment, controlled by a microprocessor 104 which communicates via a bus 106 with a RAM 108, a ROM (EPRON) 110, and also with a peripheral interface adapter (PIA) 112. The PIA 112 provides addressable input and output lines for communicating with the peripheral components of the receiver. A bus 114 couples the PIA to the LCD display 98, to the key pad 100, to a RS232-standard communication interface 116, and to an infra-red receiver 118. The communication interface 116 itself is connected to the port 103. The infra-red receiver 118 is fed with the signal received by the infra-red sensor 102.

The receiver is powered by a main battery supply 120 which is turned "on" and "off" by a power/standby circuit 122. The circuit 122 receives inputs 121 and 123 from "on" and "off" keyswitches of the key pad 100, and is also controlled by the microprocessor via the PIA 112 which is coupled to the circuit 122 by a power control line 124. The circuit 122 has an output 126 which supplies power to the receiver circuits when the receiver is turned "on". A special power supply is provided for the RAM 108 to maintain the supply of power to the RAM 108 even when the other receiver circuits are turned "off". The RAM back-up supply includes a back-up battery 125 and an automatic back-up switch 127 coupled to the supply line 126 and to the backup battery 125.The switch 127 is analogous to the corresponding switch 68 of Figure 4, and it includes two switching diodes 127a and 127b which operate in the same way as the diodes 68a and 68b described above. The output from the back-up switch 127 is coupled as the power supply to the RAM 108 and to a memory switch 131 which is analogous to the memory switch 57 in Figure 4. The function of the memory switch 131 is to isolate the RAM 108 to prevent data corruption when other parts of the receiver have been turned off.

The receiver 28 also includes a reset circuit 137 coupled to the microprocessor 104. The reset circuit 137 is analogous to the corresponding circuit 63 in Figure 4, and its function is to generate a reset signal for the microprocessor 104 when power is applied initially to the microprocessor 104.

Detail of the power/standby switch 122 is illustrated in Fig. 13. The power control input 124 from the PIA 112 is coupled through a dropper resistor 179 in parallel to the input of an optocoupler 180, and to the "off" switch of the keyboard. The key is normally open and is arranged to short circuit the input to the optocoupler 180 when the key is pressed. The output of the optocoupler 180 is coupled via a biasing resistor 182 to the positive battery supply, and to a MOS transistor 184. The output of the MOS transistor 184 is coupled to the 5 volt output 126 of the power/standby switch 122. The "on" switch is a normally-open switch and is coupled to the MOS transistor 184 so as to short circuit the transistor when the key is pressed.

In use, when the receiver is off, the MOS transistor 184 will be non-conducting, and hence there will be no current path from the positive battery connection to the 5 volt output 126 of the circuit. In order to activate the receiver, the user presses the "on" key switch which manually couples the positive battery supply to the 5 volt output 126. One of the first operations which the microprocessor 104 performs when it commences operation is to activate the power control line 124 from the PIA 112.

This causes a current to flow through the dropper resistor 179 to the light emitting diode within the optocoupler 180.

When the light emitting diode is turned on, the phototransistor begins to conduct, thus drawing a current through the biasing resistor 182, and developing a potential difference across the resistor 182. This, in turn, causes the MOS transistor 184 to conduct, thus providing a current path from the positive battery connection to the 5 volt output line 126. The above process is performed almost instanteously such that when the user releases the "on" key switch, the MOS transistor 184 will already have begun conducting, to maintain the power supply at the 5 volt output line 126.

To turn the receiver off, the microprocessor 108 can either deactivate the power control line 124 from the PIA, or a user can depress the "off" key switch. The effect of either of these actions is to turn off the LED in the optocoupler 180, which in turn causes the phototransistor to be non-conducting. When the phototransistor turns off, the current through, and hence the voltage across, the biasing diode 182 falls, thus turning off the MOS transistor 184.

With the MOS transistor 184 not conducting, no power is supplied to the output line 126.

The output line 126 is decoupled by a reservoir capacitor 186. A connector 188 is also provided (not shown in Fig. 2) to enable an external power supply or a battery recharger to be coupled to the receiver 28. A polarity safety diode 190 is provided to prevent damage caused by incorrect polarity of the external supply.

The manner in which the microprocessor 104 addresses the PIA 112 and the memories 108 and 110 is illustrated in Figure 12. It will be appreciated that this is very similar to the decoding illustrated in Figure 11 and described hereinbefore. Referring to Figure 12a, the PIA 112 is selected when the IORQ line is active low. Referring to Figure 12b, the ROM 110 is selected whenever the MEMRQ line is active low, and the most significant used bit AH of the address signal is low simultaneously with the MEMRQ signal.

In the preferred embodiment, the AH line in the receiver 28 is the sixteenth bit (215) of the address signal.

Therefore, memory addresses below 8000 Hexadecimal (215) are selected as ROM addresses.

Figure 12c illustrates addressing of the RAM 108 and operation of the memory switch 131. The details of the operation of the memory switch 131 are exactly analagous to those described above for the switch 57. The control input for the switch 131 is provided by the power control line 124 from the PIA 112. The output from the memory switch 131 is used as an active low chip select signal 133 to select the RAM 108.

Fig. 9 illustrates the various operating modes of the receiver 28. When the receiver is first turned "on", program step 129 first activates the power control line 124 to lock the power/standby switch 122 in the "on" condition and to operate the memory switch 131, as described above.

Next, program step 130 tests the RAM 108 to verify that the previous contents have been preserved. The program then proceeds to program step 132 which monitors the key pad 100 for a user input. This step is repeated until a valid key is pressed. Depending on which key has been pressed, the program then proceeds to a selected program routine.

If the "receive" key has been pressed the program proceeds to a routine to receive one or more complete message "frames" of the infra-red information signal transmitted by the machine 10. Program step 134 receives an "frame" of the signal, program step 136 then tests whether the CRC is valid, and program step 138 displays the received information and stores it in the RAM 108 for later use or retrieval. These steps are shown in more detail in Fig. 10.

The program step 134 consists of a first step 140 of assembling a byte of information from the received infrared signal. Next, step 142 tests whether the assembled byte is the header byte signifying the beginning of a "frame", ie. a byte value of BB(Hexadecimal). If the assembled byte is not the header byte, then the program branches back to step 140 to assemble a next byte of information. This is repeated until the header byte is received. Program step 146 then assembles 29 more bytes of information such that a whole "frame" of information is received.

The program step 136 includes a first step 148 of calculating a checksum value based on the information in the received data. Next, step 150 performs a test of whether the checksum calculated in step 148 matches the CRC value transmitted at the end of the "frame". If the two checksums are not equal, this indicates that an error has occurred to invalidate the data in some way, and the program performs a branch 152 back to step 140 to receive a new information "frame" without storing the current values. If the checksums are equal to each other, then the program continues to the displaying and storing program step 138.

Once the information has been displayed and stored, program step 154 tests whether the user has held down the "receive" key on the key pad. If so, then the program performs a branch 156 back to step 140 to repeat the receiving routine.

If the "receive" key has not been held down, the program jumps to a program label "A" which returns to program step 132.

If the "display" key has been pressed, the program proceeds to a routine to enable the user to view any of the stored readings. Program step 158 obtains the letter and number identification code for the machine whose data it is desired to view, and program step 160 then retrieves the stored information for that machine from the RAM 108 and displays it on the LCD display 98. The program then returns to the label "A" mentioned above.

If the "link modem" key has been pressed, the program proceeds to a routine 162 to enable the receiver to communicate via a modem which the user has coupled to the communication port 103. Information stored in the RAM 108 is retrieved and is encoded into a form for transmission by the modem. The program then returns to the label "A" mentioned above.

If the "computer link" key has been pressed, the program proceeds to a routine 164 to enable the receiver to exchange data with a local computer which the user has coupled directly to the communication port 103. Information stored in the RAM 108 is retrieved, and is sent directly to the port 103. The program then returns to the label "A" mentioned above.

If the "printer" key has been pressed, the program proceeds to a routine 166 to enable the receiver to receive or to tap into a standard RS232 printer signal. This is particularly advantageous for enabling the receiver to be coupled, in parallel with the printer, to the printer output port of a conventional coin-counter. Such a coin-counter is used for rapidly counting the number of coins of each denomination which have been collected from the machines when the money is collected. The receiver 28 can receive and interpret the coin-counter's printer output, and store a record of the coin-counter results for each machine, as well as the theoretical machine counter results obtained by the infra-red communication.

A final option in the receiver's program is a set-up option to enable the user to initialise and configure the settings in the receiver. Program routine 168 provides this option. The settings may include the receive-rate for the infra-red data, and the data-rates for the modem and computer communication.

The microprocessors 34 and 104 may, for example, be of the type Z80, or similar devices. For example, the microprocessor 34 in the sender may be a Z80A running at 4MHz. The microprocessor 104 in the receiver may a CMOS version of the Z80 for low power consumption, running at either 4MHz or 8MHz. The EPROMs may be of any suitable type sufficient to store the operating programs for the sender and the receiver. For example, the EPROM 40 of the sender may be of type 27C32, and the EPRON 110 of the receiver may be of type 27C64. Similarly, the RAMs may be of any suitable type sufficient to store the required amounts of data. For example, the RAM 38 of the sender may be type 6116/L, and the RAM 108 of the receiver may be type 65256.

The input and output latches may be of any suitable type, for example, type 74HC541 for the input latch, and type 74HC259 for the output latch. The opto-coupler may also be of any suitable type. In the preferred embodiment, two four-channel devices are used of type PID74. The PIA is preferably of a type to match the characteristics of the microprocessor in the receiver, and may be, for example, type 71055 for a Z80 microprocessor. The infra-red transducer and sensor may be of any suitable type, although they should preferably be selected to have matching characteristics. In the preferred embodiment, the infrared receiver is a "Kosendi" device used conventionally in television remote control applications.

It will be appreciated that the system described above provides an automatic, reliable and convenient technique for obtaining a record of the machine's meter readings without the owner having to open the machine to inspect the meters manually. The data transmission rate is comparatively fast, and a complete reading can be obtained simply by pointing the receiver towards the front panel of a machine, and pressing the "receive" key of the receiver. Several machines may be located together in a single room, and each can be "read" in turn by pointing the receiver towards the appropriate machine.It will be appreciated that the directionality of the infra-red transducer in the machine, and the directionality of the infra-red sensor should be selected to provide an adequate field which is wide enough to enable a reading to be taken without having to point the receiver exactly in line with the infra-red transducer, and which is not so wide that the infra-red signals from neighbouring machines will interfere with each other. It has been found that a transmission and reception "cone" of 45 provides eminently acceptable results.

Although the description of the preferred embodiment uses infra-red data transmission, it will be appreciated that ultrasonic or radio transmission could be used instead.

For ultrasonic transmission the sender would then include an ultrasonic transducer instead of the infra-red transducer, and the receiver would include an ultrasonic sensor and associated receiver instead of the infra-red sensor and receiver described above.

Although in the above description the sender apparatus supplements the existing electro-mechanical counters, it will be appreciated that the electro-mechanical counters could be omitted, and replaced by the sender apparatus which includes its own internal counter registers.

It will be appreciated that a significant feature of the above embodiment is that the RAM memories are arranged as non-volatile memories, so that the data can be retained even when the sender or the receive has been turned off. The memory switches 131 and 57 are advantageous in isolating the memories to prevent possible corruption of data by spurious signals occurring on the microprocessor buses 106 and 36.

Although battery backed-up RAM memories have been described in the preferred embodiment, it will be appreciated that other forms of non-volatile memory circuits could be used instead.

Although the preferred embodiment has been described above in relation to a 'One-Armed-Bandit' machine, it will be appreciated that the invention could be used to advantage on other types of game machine and vending machine to provide a similar meter reading function. Although the invention is particularly suitable for game and vending machines, it is not limited to this, and may find advantageous application in other fields, such as in consumption meters, for example gas, electricity and water meters.

The above description is merely illustrative of a preferred form of the invention. Modifications of detail may be made without departing from the scope and principles of the invention.

Claims (30)

1. Apparatus for providing a reading of recorded usage or operation of an item, the apparatus comprising a sender associated with the item, the sender including input means for receiving an input representative of usage or operation of the item and transmitter means coupled to the input means for emitting an infra-red or ultrasonic signal carrying information representing recorded usage or operation of the item, and the apparatus further comprising portable receiver means for receiving the emitted signal and for recording information obtained from the received signal.
2. A sender adapted for use in the apparatus of claim 1, the sender comprising input means for receiving an input representative of usage or operation of an item and transmitter means coupled to the input means for emitting an infra-red or ultrasonic signal carrying information representing recorded usage or operation of the item.
3. A sender according to claim 2, wherein the transmitter means is operative to emit a signal in which the information representing the recorded usage is repeated.
4. A sending according to claim 3, wherein the transmitter means is operative to emit a signal in which the information representing the recorded usage is repeated continuously.
5. A sending according to claim 2, 3 or 4, wherein the input means comprises means for receiving an input of instantaneous use or operation of the item, and recording means for aggregating the recorded use or operation.
6. A sending according to claim 5, wherein the recording means comprises a counter register for counting the number of occurrences of the use or operation of the item.
7. A sender according to claim 6, wherein the input means comprises means for detecting an input representative of instantaneous use or operation, and means for incrementing the counter register to record the use or operation.
8. A sender according to any of claims 2 to 7, wherein the input means comprises multi-channel input means for receiving inputs representing a plurality of uses or operations of the item.
9. A sender according to claim 8, wherein the transmitter means comprises means for including in the emitted signal information from the said multiple channels.
10. A sender according to any of claims 2 to 9, wherein the transmitter means comprises means for including an error checking code in the information in the emitted signal for verification by a receiver.
11. A sender according to claim 10, wherein the error checking code comprises a cyclic redundancy checksum.
12. A sender according to any of claims 2 to 11, wherein the input means comprises isolator means for protecting the or each input from dangerous voltage levels.
13. A sender according to claim 12, wherein the isolator means comprises opto-coupler means.
14. A sender according to any of claims 2 to 13, wherein the input means comprises means for processing the or each input to filter out noise.
15. A sender according to claim 14, wherein the processing means comprises means for determining the duration of an input pulse received as an input, and means for discarding the input pulse if the duration does not exceed a predetermined threshold.
16. A sender according to claim 15, wherein the threshold is about 25 milliseconds.
17. A sender according to any of claims 2 to 16, wherein the transmitter means comprises means for modulating the information on a carrier frequency for transmission in the emitted infra-red or ultrasonic signal.
18. A money-operated or token-operated machine including a sender as defined in any of claims 2 to 17.
19. A money-operated or token-operated machine according to claim 18, wherein the machine comprises a game machine or a vending machine.
20. A receiver adapted for use in the apparatus of claim 1, the receiver being portable and comprising means for receiving a said emitted infra-red or ultrasonic signal carrying information representing recorded usage or operation of an item, and means for recording information obtained from the received signal.
21. A receiver according to claim 20, wherein the receiver is a hand-held device.
22. A receiver according to claim 20 or 21, wherein the receiver comprises means for obtaining all of the information in the received infra-red or ultrasonic signal, and storage means for storing the information in the receiver means.
23. A receiver according to claim 20, 21 or 22, further comprising means for calculating an error checking code based on the received information, and for comparing the calculated error checking code with a code already contained in the received information, to test the validity of the received information.
24. A receiver according to claim 23, further comprising means for discarding received information if the calculated error checking code not consistent with the code already contained in the received information.
25. A receiver according to any of claims 20 to 24, further comprising communication port means for coupling to external apparatus to enable the transfer of information between the receiver and said external apparatus.
26. A method for providing a reading of recorded usage or operation of an item, the method comprising receiving an input representative of usage or operation of the item, emitting an infra-red or ultrasonic signal carrying information representing recorded usage or operation of the item, and receiving the emitted signal with a portable receiver and recording information obtained from the received signal in the portable receiver.
27. A method of transmitting information of recorded usage or operation of an item, the method comprising receiving an input representative of usage or operation of the item, emitting an infra-red or ultrasonic signal carrying information representing recorded usage or operation of the item, and continuously repeating the step of emitting the infra-red or ultrasonic signal.
28. A money-operated or coin-operated machine and apparatus for providing a reading of transactions of the machine, the apparatus comprising a sender associated with the machine, the sender including input means for receiving an input representative of transaction operations of the machine and transmitter means for emitting an infra-red or ultrasonic or radio signal carrying information representing recorded transaction operations, and the apparatus further comprising portable receiver means for receiving the emitted signal and for recording information obtained from the received signal.
29. Apparatus for use in providing a reading of recorded usage or operation of an item, the apparatus substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to any of the accompanying drawings.
30. A method for use in providing a reading of recorded usage or operation of an item, the method substantially as hereinbefore described with reference to any of the accompanying drawings.
GB9325773A 1993-12-16 1993-12-16 Reading of recorded usage or operation of an item Withdrawn GB2284913A (en)

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