GB2373613A - Ordering and action system using portable data collection device - Google Patents

Ordering and action system using portable data collection device Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2373613A
GB2373613A GB0106913A GB0106913A GB2373613A GB 2373613 A GB2373613 A GB 2373613A GB 0106913 A GB0106913 A GB 0106913A GB 0106913 A GB0106913 A GB 0106913A GB 2373613 A GB2373613 A GB 2373613A
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gt
sep
system according
references
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GB0106913D0 (en
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Mark Vincent Goodacre
John Douglas Hatton
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ADAXIAL Ltd
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ADAXIAL Ltd
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Priority to GB0106913A priority Critical patent/GB2373613A/en
Publication of GB0106913D0 publication Critical patent/GB0106913D0/en
Publication of GB2373613A publication Critical patent/GB2373613A/en
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    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q30/00Commerce, e.g. shopping or e-commerce
    • G06Q30/06Buying, selling or leasing transactions

Abstract

Enabling a user to compile an order for goods and services, or requests that actions can be carried out on their behalf, without having to be connected to the Internet or even using their computer. A portable data collection device e.g. barcode scanner 112 is used to collect references, by scanning product barcodes to order goods, or scanning functional codes which may be published in advertising material, Fig. 3, for requesting information, provision of services, etc. The scanned codes are stored in the data collection device and then transferred to a client program executing on a local computer 110 either by a wired or a wireless (e.g. infra-red or radio) link. The codes are then transferred to remote servers over the Internet 114. The remote server may be an e-commerce system 120, typically for product ordering, or a functional server 122 to process the functional references which may be passed to a third party for action. Further information may be required from the user for the processing of functional references (Fig. 4).

Description

<img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00010001" />

<tb>

Ordering <SEP> and <SEP> action <SEP> system <tb> This invention relates to an ordering and action system. It particularly relates to a computer-based system that can operated over a network such as the Internet.

At present, there is increasing interest in providing systems whereby customers can order goods and services from home using their computer. A first type of system allows a user to interact with a supplier's web site over the Internet, and order goods and services while on line. Such a system can be convenient where a user wishes to order just a few items on an occasional basis, but can be very inconvenient where a large order for many different items is to be submitted. The need to select items from web pages, and the slowness of many peoples'Internet connection, can make such systems unwieldy. In general, it has been found that such systems have met with limited success for use as, for example, a supermarket shopping system.

An alternative type of system allows a user to build up a list of items using a catalogue application executing on their local computer, and then dispatch a compiled list to a vendor's server computer system over the Internet. Most typically, such a system will download a catalogue file from the vendor's server to maintain an up-to-date stocklist on the user's computer. Such systems still suffer from the disadvantage that they require a large amount of catalogue data to be downloaded over what might be a slow Internet link. Moreover, if the user is to be presented with an up-to-date catalogue, each placing each order requires the user to connect to the Internet twice: once to download the catalogue and once again to place the order.

In general, in known systems, the user must compile their list while using their computer. In many cases, this may not be convenient. For example, a user will normally wish to compile a food shopping list in their kitchen, but few people will actually have a computer installed there. Therefore, a user might first have to compile a list on paper, and then transfer this to their computer. This is neither a convenient nor attractive process.

An aim of this invention is to provide a system whereby a user can select and order products by computer from a vendor, that is more convenient and accessible for use than known systems.

From a first aspect, this invention provides an ordering and/or action system comprising a portable data collection device, a local computer to which the data collection device can be connected; a remote computer system to which the local computer can connect over a wide-area network link; wherein the data collection device is operable to capture and store a plurality of references, and then, upon connection, to transmit these references to the local computer, the local computer being operable to transmit the references to the remote computer system wherein they can be interpreted as references to goods or services to be provided to a user.

Such a system has, amongst many advantages, the benefit that the local computer and remote computer system need not be connected while the data collection device is being used to gather references without the need to be at a computer, thereby minimising the amount of time that a local and remote computers need be connected.

The references are typically product references. For example, they may be product codes, such as standard product codes.

The system may include more than one remote computer system. For example, the system may route references to one of these systems based upon the nature of the reference and/or a preference expressed by a user.

In a typical system, the reference is an identifier suitable for decoding by a computer.

For example, it may be used as a key with which to look up a product database. Advantageously, such action of decoding the reference may be performed by a remote computer system. In this case, the database need not be downloaded in its entirety to the local computer so not resulting in unnecessary network traffic. The collection device need not have any ability to process references, beyond the ability to store and transfer them to the local computer. <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00030001" />

<tb> As <SEP> will <SEP> be <SEP> realised, <SEP> most <SEP> consumer <SEP> products <SEP> now <SEP> on <SEP> sale <SEP> carry <SEP> a <SEP> product <SEP> code <SEP> applied <tb> in <SEP> the <SEP> form <SEP> of <SEP> a <SEP> barcode. <SEP> Therefore, <SEP> in <SEP> most <SEP> preferred <SEP> embodiments, <SEP> the <SEP> data <SEP> collection <tb> device includes a barcode reader. This allows a user to place an order for a product by simply reading its barcode with the barcode reader. The barcode may optionally appear independently of the product, e. g. on literature, advertisements, etc. Similarly, a user request or action may be initiated by a user reading a barcode with the code being translated.

In order that the collection device can be used independently of the local computer, it may be provided with a memory within which several references can be stored. In such cases, all of the stored references can be transferred to the local computer.

Most preferably, the collection device may be able to transmit references (optionally, and other data e. g. time-related data) to the local computer over a wireless communication link. For example, the link may include an infra-red link or a radio link. In embodiments that use an infra-red link, the link may make use of an infra-red port built into the local computer, such as a portable computer IrDA port. Alternatively, it may make use of an external infra-red port. The communication link may implement a simple serial link or, in alternative embodiments, may make use of a network protocol.

The radio link may be a wireless network type link, or may use a proprietary such as DECT or Bluetooth.

In some embodiments of the invention, the data is encrypted or encoded before it is transferred to the local computer. In such embodiments, the encryption or encoding (as the case may be) process may be reversed on the local computer. Such an arrangement can help to ensure that the system cannot be used other than with an authorised collection device.

In typical embodiments, transfer of the references from the collection device and transmittal of the references to a remote computer system is controlled by a client application executing on the local computer. The application may present the user with a choice of remote computer systems (for example, on-line shopping systems of several vendors) to which to send the references, and may be programmed to send references to another computer. The application may send additional data to the remote computer system, that additional data including, for example, data that identifies a user. The application may execute in a web browser.

Advantageously, the remote computer system may execute a front-end process that operates to receive the references. In typical embodiments, the front-end process first informs the client of the destination (e. g. by sending an IP address) to which the references should be sent. Such a front-end process may operate to pass the references to an e-commerce system such as an Internet-based shopping system. More specifically, the front-end process may operate to identify the product or action identified by each reference and add them to a list of items (for example, in a virtual shopping basket) maintained by the e-commerce system. In this way, the invention may be implemented as an addition to an existing e-commerce system, that may continue to operate in parallel as a conventional web-based system.

Systems embodying this invention can provide a user with functionality in addition to ordering of goods and services from a vendor's e-commerce system. In addition, the data collection device may be operative to read references to items other than goods or services for purchase direct from a vendor's e-commerce facility (these being referred to as"functional references"in contrast to references that will be forwarded to a vendor, which will be referred to as"vendor references"). Conveniently, the functional references can be of a similar general type as other references (for example, barcodes), being identified as functional references by their value. For example, codes (e. g. encoded as barcodes) within a predetermined value range may be defined as being functional references. The functional references can, for example, be interpreted as a request for an action to be carried out on behalf of a user. For instance, the request may include a request for information, a request for provision of a service, supply of a product from a vendor that does not have or does not wish to use an existing ecommerce facility, or a request that an action be performed on behalf of the user.

Alternatively or additionally, the request may specify a preference of the user. In a system embodying the invention, at least some of the interpreted references are passed to a third party for action.

In order that additional information can accompany a functional request, the client may cause a data input form, specified by the functional server, to be displayed. The data <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00050001" />

<tb> input <SEP> form <SEP> may <SEP> conveniently <SEP> be <SEP> displayed <SEP> in <SEP> a <SEP> web <SEP> browser <SEP> window. <SEP> For <SEP> example, <SEP> the <tb> data input form may be returned to the client encoded in a mark-up language.

It should be noted that a system embodying the invention might process only functional references and not vendor references, depending on the codes that a user has scanned.

In systems according to the last-preceding paragraph, references may be identified as functional references by the local computer, for example by a client program executing thereon, and more particularly, by the client application referred to above. In the event that a reference is identified as a functional reference, the reference may typically be sent to a remote server specifically intended to handle such references. Functional references may be used, for example, to enable a user to request information, for example in the form of brochures. The functional references are advantageously encoded in barcodes that may be distributed within printed publications, in advertisements, catalogues, and so forth.

From another aspect, the invention provides an information provision method in which a machine-readable code is presented in combination with published human-readable information, and a system, optionally embodying the first aspect of the invention, is used to read the machine-readable code, to translate the code into a request for information or action, and to forward the request to an information provider.

Typically, the human-readable information is printed matter, for example, contained in a publication such as a newspaper or a magazine. Most conveniently, the machinereadable code includes a barcode.

From a third aspect, the invention provides a publication (such as a newspaper or magazine) including one or more functional barcodes for use in a method according to the second aspect of the invention.

From a fourth aspect, the invention provides a service, product or information provision system comprising a portable data collection device, a local computer to which the data collection device can be connected; a remote computer system to which the local computer can connect over a wide-area network link; wherein the data collection device is operable to capture and store a plurality of references, and then, upon connection, to <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00060001" />

<tb> transmit <SEP> these <SEP> references <SEP> to <SEP> the <SEP> local <SEP> computer, <SEP> the <SEP> local <SEP> computer <SEP> being <SEP> operable <SEP> to <tb> transmit the references to the remote computer system wherein they can be interpreted as an action to be carried out, which may include requesting further information from a user, or instructions for data to be downloaded that are transferred to a third party on behalf of a user.

In embodiments of the invention, the local computer system may be operable to display a data input form through which a user can enter data to be transmitted to the remote computer with the reference.

Most typically, this aspect of the invention is provided in combination with any preceding aspects of the invention. Moreover, the preferred and optional features of previous aspects of the invention are equally applicable to this aspect of the invention.

Although embodiments will be described herein in relation to an Internet-based system, this invention is not limited to such systems. The wide-area network link could be any suitable bi-directional data link. The wide area network link might alternatively or additionally include a digital broadcast link, for example, as associated with digital television broadcasts. It might also be a fixed link (such as a dial-up link over a PSTN, <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00060002" />

<tb> ISDN <SEP> or <SEP> other <SEP> telecommunications <SEP> channel). <tb>

Moreover, <SEP> the <SEP> local <SEP> computer <SEP> need <SEP> not <SEP> be <SEP> a <SEP> general-purpose <SEP> computer. <SEP> It <SEP> might <tb> alternatively be a terminal unit exclusively or specifically intended to implement a system embodying the invention.

An embodiment of the invention will now be described in detail, by way of example, and with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which: Figure 1 is a schematic diagram of a system being an embodiment of the invention; Figure 2 is a block diagram of a barcode reader being a data collection device of the system of Figure 1; Figure 3 illustrates schematically a printed advertisement for use with a system embodying the invention; and <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00070001" />

<tb> Figure <SEP> 4 <SEP> is <SEP> a <SEP> flowchart <SEP> illustrating <SEP> operation <SEP> of <SEP> an <SEP> embodiment <SEP> of <SEP> the <SEP> invention. <tb>

With <SEP> reference <SEP> to <SEP> the <SEP> drawings, <SEP> a <SEP> system <SEP> embodying <SEP> the <SEP> invention <SEP> enables <SEP> an <SEP> on-line <tb> shopping and information service that can be accessed by a user using a local computer connected to the Internet.

The principle components of the system are as follows: at the user's premises-a local computer 110, a barcode reader 112, and a connection to the Internet 114 over, for example, a PSTN telephone line, an ISDN line or an ADSL connection; at a product vendor's computer centre-a commerce server system 120 connected to the Internet 114; and at a service provider's computer centre-a functional server system 122.

The barcode reader 112 is a portable hand-held device that constitutes a data collection device for the system. The reader 112 includes an optical barcode scanner 210, which may operate using a laser, a charge-coupled device or other suitable technology, that can read standard product barcodes and other barcodes. The reader further includes a control and memory module 212 that controls operation of the reader and within which a number of scanned product codes can be stored. In order that the reader 112 can communicate with other apparatus, it is provided with a bi-directional infra-red data link module 214. The barcode reader 112 may also be provided with a display that can indicate to a user the number of codes stored in the memory and other status information relating to the device. The reader 112 is powered by an internal battery 218 in order that it need not be connected to an external power supply for use.

The local computer 110 can be any computer suitable for executing client software and a web browser, equipped with an infra-red communication device that can interact with the reader 112. In this example, the local computer 110 is a desktop computer, equipped with infra-red (IrDA) communication port. The computer executes a client application, as will be described later.

The commerce server system 120 acts as a remote computer system in this embodiment. The commerce server system 120 includes an Internet shopping system with which a user can interact over the Internet by way of a web browser. While operating in this interactive mode, a user can select items to buy and place them in a virtual shopping basket. Once the user has completed their selections, they may provide payment and <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00080001" />

<tb> delivery <SEP> details, <SEP> and <SEP> buy <SEP> the <SEP> articles <SEP> in <SEP> their <SEP> shopping <SEP> basket. <SEP> This, <SEP> as <SEP> will <SEP> be <tb> recognised, <SEP> is <SEP> a <SEP> well-known <SEP> mode <SEP> of <SEP> operation <SEP> in <SEP> an <SEP> Internet <SEP> shopping <SEP> system. <SEP> To <tb> implement the invention, the commerce server system provides an alternative interface, the functionality of which will be described below.

In order to use the system (see the flowchart of Figure 4), the user takes the reader 112 and scans the barcode of a product that the user wants to buy, each of which are decoded into a code that is a reference to the scanned product. The scanned codes are stored in the memory of the reader 112. This can be repeated, over an arbitrarily long period, until all required items have been selected. For example, the user may scan the barcode on a food product when the product is used, thereby ensuring that a replacement is ordered. This may be carried out over a period of several days, for example to compile a weekly shopping order.

First, the user starts their computer 110. The computer is configured such that a client <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00080002" />

<tb> application <SEP> is <SEP> started <SEP> and <SEP> runs <SEP> as <SEP> a <SEP> background <SEP> process <SEP> or <SEP> as <SEP> a <SEP> service. <SEP> The <SEP> user <SEP> then <tb> places the reader 112 into a position in which the infra-red devices on the computer 110 and the reader 112 can exchange infra-red signals. then starts a client application on their local computer 110. The client application uses the infra-red link to exchange control signals with the reader 112, in order to instruct the reader to send all of the codes stored in its memory to the local computer 110.

Once all of the codes have been transferred to the local computer, the client application can send a signal to the reader 112 instructing it to clear the contents from its memory so that the user can re-start the code-reading process. As they are received from the reader 112, the client then sorts the data into vendor and functional codes and stores them in respective files.

If appropriate, the client application then requests the user to select which one of several known vendors are to be used in order to fulfil the user's order. Alternatively, the client application may be configured as a proprietary application that will communicate only with the server operated by the provider of the client application.

The client application may also store information about the user, including, for example, the user's name, address and payment details. Alternatively, the user's details may be <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00090001" />

<tb> stored <SEP> on <SEP> the <SEP> server, <SEP> the <SEP> user <SEP> being <SEP> identified, <SEP> for <SEP> example, <SEP> by <SEP> a <SEP> cookie <SEP> stored <SEP> in <SEP> the <tb> user's web browser.

The client application then connects with the appropriate commerce server system 120. In order to do this, the client application may cause the local computer 110 to connect to the Internet, for example by dialling a modem, if an internet connection is not already present.

The client application then initiates a session with the commerce server system 120, and the server system 120 sends session and/or configuration information to the client application. This information includes a URL or an IP address that specifies where the product codes should be sent. For example, the URL may include a session identification code that the server system 120 can use to identify a particular order.

The session can then proceed by the client application sending all of the codes to the server system 120. If appropriate, the client application also sends the user's details to the server system 120. The codes may be sent in a file or as data within a URL sent to the server.

Once all of the codes have been sent, the client application then starts an instance of a web browser on the local computer 110. The web browser is directed to a URL that loads a page that is generated by a server-side application to act as an interface to the server system 120. The page contains details of the user's order, and may be presented as a virtual shopping basket with which many users will be familiar. The user can then proceed to add to or amend the contents of their shopping basket, and complete their order in a manner consistent with a conventional Internet shopping system.

As will be seen, the ordering process is concluded using a web browser. This allows the server system to identify the user by means of a cookie (or other file) stored on the local computer. In embodiments that operate in this way, the need to transmit personal details with each order is removed, thereby reducing the amount of network traffic.

As an enhancement to the system described above, the system may interact with functional references. In this example, these are embodied as barcodes that can be read with the reader 112. Since the functional codes and product codes are separated by the client, there is no restriction upon the order in which functional and product codes are read: they may be intermixed freely.

A code can be identified as functional if it is within a pre-defined range of codes, and in particular, within a range of codes that are not used as product codes.

The functional codes are transferred to the local computer along with the product codes described above. If a code is identified by the client application as being a functional code, it is stored in a functional code file. Once all of the codes have been received from the reader 112, the client obtains a description of the function of each of the codes from a functional server system 122. The client then displays a list of the codes, for example, by the server 122 constructing a web page and sending it to the client for display in a web browser) and allows the user to select which of them should be acted upon. Once the user makes the selection, the selection data is sent to the functional server system 112, together with data that identifies the user (which may be textual information or a reference to a user database on the functional server system). In the latter case, the user may be required to enrol with the functional server system before making use of functional codes. Optionally, some codes may be acted upon without requiring a user's confirmation.

Within the list of codes, some items can be displayed with an icon to indicate that further information is required from the user. When the user clicks on the icon, a data input form is displayed. In this embodiment, the form is a page encoded in HTML that is returned to the client from the functional server. The form can include several input fields into which a user can enter data, and a button that the user can click to confirm that the data should be sent. This data is returned to the functional server system 122 together with the functional reference. Examples of the data that might be requested include data that relates to a competition entry, information required to generate a quotation, amongst many other possibilities.

Within the functional server system 122, each code is associated with a pre-defined function. For example, a code may specify that the user's personal data is forwarded to a third party, together with a predetermined request. The request might specify that the third party should contact the user in some specific way. At the request of the third <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00110001" />

<tb> party, <SEP> such <SEP> information <SEP> may <SEP> be <SEP> forwarded <SEP> each <SEP> time <SEP> it <SEP> is <SEP> received, <SEP> or <SEP> it <SEP> may <SEP> be <SEP> stored <tb> on the functional server system 122 prior to several requests being transferred to the third party in a batch.

For instance, an advertisement in a printed publication may be produced as illustrated in Figure 3. Included in the advertisement, as well as the normal advertising content, is a functional barcode, and instructions to the user explaining the function of the barcode.

For example, the user may be told to scan the barcode if they wish to obtain a sales brochure relating to the advertised article.

When processing codes transferred from the reader 112, the client application detects that the code is a functional code and forwards it to the functional server system 122, optionally having first presented it to the user in a list, as described above. The functional server system 122 translates the code into a request, such as a request for a brochure on a specific product, and sends the request to the advertiser, together with the <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00110002" />

<tb> user's <SEP> personal <SEP> data. <tb>

As will be appreciated, the message sent to the advertiser can be essentially arbitrary; they just need be agreed between the advertiser and the maintainer of the functional server system. It is therefore possible to arrange for a functional barcode to perform a very wide range of actions, for example, requesting a service, a request for further information, asking for contact from a person representing the advertiser, and so forth, The range of possibilities is clearly extensive.

It should be noted that the system may process functional codes before vendor codes, or may process them in an order selected by the user. This choice is indicated by the dotted lines in Figure 4, which are presented as alternative paths that can be followed through the flowchart.

In a modification to the above system, the reader 112 performs encryption or encoding of the references before transmitting them to the local computer 110, and the client application reverses the encoding or encryption (as the case may be). The data transferred may also be encoded within an error detection and/or error correcting protocol. Systems embodying the invention can be used in a large range of applications. Some applications have codes that are handled by a vendor's server, others by a functional server, and some by either server, depending upon circumstances. A selection of these applications is presented in the table below. <img class="EMIRef" id="024181418-00120001" />

<tb>

APPLICATION <SEP> ROUTE <SEP> FOLLOWED <SEP> SUPPLEMENTAL <SEP> DATA <tb> BY <SEP> THE <SEP> CODE <SEP> SENT <SEP> WITH <SEP> THE <SEP> CODE <tb> Home <SEP> shopping-ordering <SEP> Direct <SEP> to <SEP> vendor's <SEP> e-User <SEP> data <SEP> if <SEP> known <SEP> (cookie <SEP> of <tb> using <SEP> existing <SEP> product <SEP> codes <SEP> commerce <SEP> server <SEP> file) <tb> Catalogue <SEP> shopping <SEP> Direct <SEP> to <SEP> vendor's <SEP> e-User <SEP> data <SEP> if <SEP> known <SEP> (cookie <SEP> of <tb> commerce <SEP> server <SEP> or <SEP> to <SEP> file) <tb> functional <SEP> server <tb> Advertisement <SEP> response <SEP> Direct <SEP> to <SEP> vendor's <SEP> e-User <SEP> data <SEP> if <SEP> known <SEP> (cookie <SEP> of <tb> shopping; <SEP> e. <SEP> g. <SEP> flyer, <SEP> leaflet, <SEP> commerce <SEP> server <SEP> or <SEP> to <SEP> file) <tb> on-page <SEP> advertisement <SEP> functional <SEP> server <tb> Data <SEP> requests-e. <SEP> g. <SEP> Functional <SEP> server <SEP> Personal <SEP> data <tb> competition <SEP> rules, <SEP> recipes, <tb> instructions, <SEP> information, <tb> etc. <tb>

Quotation <SEP> request <SEP> Functional <SEP> server <SEP> Personal <SEP> data <SEP> plus <tb> supplemental <SEP> form <SEP> data <tb> specifying <SEP> response <SEP> required <tb> Action <SEP> request-e. <SEP> g. <SEP> call <SEP> Functional <SEP> server <SEP> Personal <SEP> data <SEP> plus <tb> engineer, <SEP> ask <SEP> representative <SEP> supplemental <SEP> form <SEP> data <tb> to <SEP> visit, <SEP> request <SEP> service <SEP> specifying <SEP> response <SEP> required <tb> Market <SEP> research, <SEP> opinion <SEP> Functional <SEP> server <SEP> Personal <SEP> data <SEP> plus <tb> collecting, <SEP> voting <SEP> supplemental <SEP> form <SEP> data <tb> Web <SEP> site <SEP> link <SEP> Functional <SEP> server <SEP> None <tb> Competitions <SEP> Functional <SEP> server <SEP> Personal <SEP> data <SEP> plus <SEP> optional <tb> entry <SEP> form <SEP> data <tb> Bidding <SEP> Functional <SEP> server <SEP> Personal <SEP> data <SEP> plus <SEP> bidding <tb> form <SEP> data <tb>

Claims (56)

Claims
1. An ordering and/or action system comprising a portable data collection device, a local computer to which the data collection device can be connected; a remote computer system to which the local computer can connect over a wide-area network link; wherein the data collection device is operable to capture and store a plurality of references, and then, upon connection, to transmit these references to the local computer, the local computer being operable to transmit the references to the remote computer system wherein they can be interpreted as references to goods or services to be provided to a user.
2. A system according to claim 1 in which the product reference is an identifier suitable for decoding by a computer.
3. A system according to claim 1 or claim 2 in which some or all of the references are product references.
4. A system according to claim 3 in which the product reference is a standard product code.
5. A system according to any preceding claim in which the product reference is used as a key with which to look up a product database.
6. A system according to claim 5 in which the action of decoding the product reference is performed by the remote computer system.
7. A system according to any preceding claim in which the collection device has the ability to store references and transfer them to the local computer.
8. A system according to any preceding claim in which the data collection device includes a barcode reader.
9. A system according to claim 8 operative to enable a user to place an order for a product by reading its barcode with the barcode reader.
10. A system according to any preceding claim in which the collection device can be <img class="EMIRef" id="024181419-00140001" />
<tb> used <SEP> independently <SEP> of <SEP> the <SEP> local <SEP> computer. <tb>
11. A system according to claim 10 in which the collection device is provided with a memory within which several product references can be stored.
12. A system according to any preceding claim in which the collection device can transmit references (optionally, and other data) to the local computer over a wireless communication link.
13. A system according to claim 12 in which the link includes an infra-red link.
14. A system according to claim 13 in which the link makes use of an IrDA port built into the local computer
15. A system according to claim 13 in which the link makes use of an external infra red port.
16. A system according to claim 12 in which the link includes a radio link.
17. A system according to any one of claims 12 to 16 in which the communication link implements a simple serial link.
18. A system according to any one of claims 12 to 16 in which the communication link implements a network protocol.
19. A system according to any preceding claim in which data is encrypted or encoded before it is transferred to the local computer.
20. A system according to claim 19 in which the encryption or encoding (as the case may be) process is reversed on the local computer.
21. A system according to any preceding claim in which transfer of the references from the collection device and transmittal of the references to the remote <img class="EMIRef" id="024181419-00150001" />
<tb> computer <SEP> system <SEP> is <SEP> controlled <SEP> by <SEP> a <SEP> client <SEP> application <SEP> executing <SEP> on <SEP> the <SEP> local <tb> computer.
22. A system according to claim 21 in which the application presents the user with a choice of remote computer systems to which to send the references.
23. A system according to claim 21 or claim 22 in which the application sends additional data to the remote computer system.
24. A system according to claim 23 in which the additional data includes data that identifies a user.
25. A system according to any one of claims 21 to 24 in which the application executes in a web browser.
26. A system according to any preceding claim in which the remote computer system executes a front-end process that operates to receive the references.
27. A system according to claim 26 in which the front-end process operates to pass the references to an e-commerce system such as an network-based shopping system.
28. A system according to claim 26 or claim 27 in which the front-end process operates to identify the product identified by each reference and add them to a list of items.
29. A system according to claim 28 in which the list of items is implemented as a virtual shopping basket maintained by the e-commerce system.
30. A system according to any preceding claim in which the remote system can operate as a conventional web-based shopping system.
31. A system according to any preceding claim which can provide a user with functionality in addition to ordering of goods and services from a vendor's e commerce system.
32. A system according to claim 31 in which the data collection device can be operated to read references to items other than goods or services for purchase, referred to as"functional references".
33. A system according to claim 32 in which the functional references are of a similar general type as other references, being identified as functional references by their value.
34. A system according to claim 33 in which the functional references are encoded as barcodes.
35. A system according to claim 33 or 34 in which the functional references can be interpreted as a request for an action to be carried out on behalf of a user.
36. A system according to claim 35 in which the request may include a request for information, a request for provision of a service, a product, or a request that an action be performed on behalf of the user.
37. A system according to claim 35 in which the request specifies a preference of the user.
38. A system according to any one of claims 35 to 37 which is operable to display to a user a form for input of data relating to the functional reference.
39. A system according to claim 38 in which the form is a page encoded in a mark up language and is displayed in a web browser window.
40. A system according to any one of claims 31 to 39 in which some or all of the interpreted references are passed to a third party for action.
41. A system according to any one of claims 32 to 40 in which codes within a predetermined value range are defined as being functional references.
42. A system according to claim 41 in which references are identified as functional references by a client process executing on the local computer <img class="EMIRef" id="024181419-00170001" />
<tb>
43. <SEP> A <SEP> system <SEP> according <SEP> to <SEP> any <SEP> one <SEP> of <SEP> claims <SEP> 32 <SEP> to <SEP> 44 <SEP> in <SEP> which, <SEP> in <SEP> the <SEP> event <SEP> that <SEP> a <tb> reference is identified as a functional reference, the reference is sent to a remote server specifically intended to handle such references.
44. A system according to any one of claims 32 to 43 in which functional references are used to enable a user to request information.
45. A system according to any one of claims 32 to 44 in which the functional references are encoded in barcodes that may be distributed within printed publications and/or in advertisements.
46. A system according to any preceding claim in which the wide-area network link includes the Internet.
47. A system according to any preceding claim in which the wide-area network link includes a bi-directional digital broadcast channel.
48. An ordering and/or action system substantially as herein described with reference to the accompanying drawings.
49. An action provision method in which a machine-readable code is presented in combination with published human-readable information, and a system according to any preceding claim, is used to read the machine-readable code, to translate the code into a request for information, and to forward the request to an information provider.
50. An action provision method according to claim 49 in which the human-readable information is printed matter.
51. An action provision method according to claim 50 in which the human-readable and machine-readable information is contained in a publication such as a newspaper or a magazine.
52. An action provision system according to claim 50 or claim 51 in which the machine-readable code includes a barcode. <img class="EMIRef" id="024181419-00180001" />
<tb>
53. <SEP> An <SEP> action <SEP> provision <SEP> system <SEP> substantially <SEP> as <SEP> herein <SEP> described <SEP> with <SEP> reference <SEP> to <tb> the accompanying drawings.
54. A publication (such as a newspaper or magazine) including one or more functional barcodes for use in a method according to any one of claims 49 to 53.
55. A service, action or information provision system comprising a portable data collection device, a local computer to which the data collection device can be connected; a remote computer system to which the local computer can connect over a wide-area network link; wherein the data collection device is operable to capture and store a plurality of references, and then, upon connection, to transmit these references to the local computer, the local computer being operable to transmit the references to the remote computer system wherein they can be interpreted as an action to be carried out or instructions for data to be downloaded that are transferred to a third party on behalf of a user.
56. A system according to claim 55 provided in combination with any one of claims 1 to 51.
GB0106913A 2001-03-20 2001-03-20 Ordering and action system using portable data collection device Withdrawn GB2373613A (en)

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