GB2427051A - System for communicating with available users - Google Patents

System for communicating with available users Download PDF

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Publication number
GB2427051A
GB2427051A GB0611354A GB0611354A GB2427051A GB 2427051 A GB2427051 A GB 2427051A GB 0611354 A GB0611354 A GB 0611354A GB 0611354 A GB0611354 A GB 0611354A GB 2427051 A GB2427051 A GB 2427051A
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Prior art keywords
user
users
group
processing unit
data processing
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GB0611354D0 (en )
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Neil Auty
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AVAILABLE 4 COMMUNICATIONS Ltd
AVAILABLE 4 COMM Ltd
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Available 4 Comm Ltd
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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
    • G06Q10/00Administration; Management

Abstract

A system and method of facilitating communication between one person or entity and another is disclosed. The system includes a central data processing unit and associated memory 1, a telecommunications network 2 and a plurality of users 5, 6, 7, 8, the plurality of users having a user telecommunications means suitable for communication with the telecommunications network 2. Users provide time dependent information via their telecommunication means and telecommunications network 2 to the central data processing unit and associated memory. The information is searchable and viewable by other users, who may in turn decide to contact the previously mentioned users in dependence on the information they have provided. The information may relate to a user's availability to be contacted during a particular period, or may be the user's availability to be in a particular location at a particular time. The invention maybe used to recruit workers for certain shifts.

Description

1 2427051 System and Method of Facilitating Communication The invention

relates to a system and method of facilitating communication between one person or entity and another. In particular, but not exclusively, the invention relates to a system and method of allowing users to provide information viewable by other users, who in turn may decide to contact the first-mentioned users in dependence on the information they have provided.

The present invention has a wide variety of applications, one of which relates to the employment industry. It is common in certain industries, for example the care industry including hospitals and nursing homes, for the required staffing levels to fluctuate at relatively short notice. This may be as a result of an increased demand for certain services, such as hospital beds during a cold spell requiring more nursing staff to look after people, or as a result of workers intending to, or being scheduled to work being unable to due to illness or other reasons. Workers in these industries have specialised skills that are necessary to perform their work. When an employer or manager needs to employ workers to fill certain shifts, it is necessary to identify one or more workers who possess the necessary skills for the job and then contact one or more of those workers, usually by telephone, in order to ascertain whether or not they are both available and prepared to work the shift. This process can take a large amount of time, and the untargeted nature of the process means that there may be a lot of wasted calls to people that are unavailable to fill a certain shift, or not prepared to work in a certain location, or that for whatever reason are not suitable for the job or shift in question. One alternative is to use an employment agent (or "agency"), but that increases costs.

The invention provides a method of electronically communicating within a telecommunications network, the method comprising the steps of: a) providing a central data processing unit and an associated memory, and a central telecommunications means associated with the central data processing unit, the central data processing unit and central telecommunications means forming part of a telecommunications network, the telecommunications network being accessible by a plurality of users, each of the users being having user telecommunication means for communication with the central telecommunication means of the central data processing unit, the plurality of users being categorised into a first user group and a second user group, there being stored in the memory a database of information concerning the users in the first group, the fields of the database including an identification field for a unique identifier for each user, a user updatable field and one of more further fields for further information relating to the user, b) storing information regarding each user of the first group in respective records of the database, the information including a unique identifier for each user and further information relating to the user, c) each user of a plurality of users of the first group sending, from said user telecommunication means via said central telecommunication means to the central data processing unit, time-dependent information in combination with their unique identifier, the central data processing unit subsequently storing the time dependent information in the user updatable field of the record of each user in the database, d) at least one user in the second group of users sending a query to the central data processing unit, the query including details of criteria to be met in relation to at least the time-dependent information stored in respect of the users of the first group, e) the central data processing unit processing the query and selecting a subgroup of users from the first user group meeting the criteria of the query, and f) the central data processing unit sending a notification from the central telecommunication means to the user telecommunication means of a plurality of users in said subgroup of first users.

Embodiments of the present invention have the advantage that they are more efficient than the existing methods of facilitating communication between different people, because in the embodiments there is focussed targeting of the people to communicate with each other. Thus, the notification from the central telecommunication is sent to those users that meet certain specified criteria. A further advantage of such embodiments is that the nature of the time dependent information provided by the first group of users means that the information will always be up to date.

The central data processing unit and associated memory may form at least part of a central server. A collection of users made up of a first group of users and a second group of users, as described above, may be known as a community.

The central server may include a plurality of central data processing units and associated memories, each data processing unit and associated memory relating to different communities of users. The telecommunication means associated with the central data processing unit may comprise an internet connection. The telecommunication means associated with the central data processing unit may comprise a means for sending an electronic text message.

The electronic text message may be in the form of an instant message, and/or a SMS message, and/or an email. The communication means of the plurality of users may be mobile telephones, internet connected computer terminals, or personal digital assistants (PDAs), or any other means capable of sending and/or receiving electronic communications.

In order to distinguish between the plurality of users in the first group of users, each user may have a unique identifier. The unique identifier may be an email address, a mobile telephone number, or a unique identification code, such as an identification number. There may be a unique identifier for each of the first group of users available only to the central data processing unit and associated memory, for example so that the identifier is in the form of an internal reference code.

The user updateable field may relate to the

availability of the first group of users during specified time periods. The availability may relate to the user's availability to be contacted at a particular time concerning a particular matter, for example, to be contacted regarding possible work shifts, or be contacted regarding a time restricted special offer, or be contacted to express an interest in a particular matter. The availability may concern the availability to attend a particular location at a particular time, for example, being able to accept work shifts at a particular time.

Further information stored by the central data processing unit and associated memory relating to the first group of users may include any one, and preferably any three or more, of the user's name, job title, job skills and qualifications, preferred locations to work, home telephone number, mobile telephone number and email address.

Further information stored by the central data processing unit and associated memory relating to the first group of users may include information provided by the second group of users. The information provided by the second group of users may be used by the central data processing unit when selecting a subgroup of users that satisfy a query being processed from the second group of users.

Each of the users in the first group of users may be assigned a fairness account, the fairness account being stored in the memory of the central data processing unit. A user's fairness account may act as a measure of the reliability of the user. A user's fairness account may be used when selecting said subgroup of users from the first user group. For example, the fairness account may be a single variable comprising a tally of the points. Such points may be earned or lost by the user by various means.

For example, points may be added to the account when a user makes themselves available to be contacted. Further points may be added when a user has accepted an offer and subsequently complies with the offer made. Such points may be added as a result of the user in the second group of users sending verification that the user has complied with the offer via an electronic message to the central server.

Alternatively, or additionally, the method of this example of the invention may be such that the user in the first group of users who complies with the offer sends a verification message via an electronic message to the central server. The method may be such that should a user accept an offer and not comply with the terms of the offer, then a number of points are removed from his/her fairness account. The fairness account of a user may therefore provide an objective measure of the reliability of the user.

For example, in the case where the fairness account is in the form of a number of points, if the user accepts and complies with a lot of offers, the user's fairness account will have a large number of points, whereas if the user accepts but does not comply with one or more offers then the user's fairness account will have fewer points.

As mentioned above, the central data processing unit runs queries for the second group of users regarding the first group of users. Once the central data processing unit has run a query some, or all, of the first group of users that satisfy the criteria specified by the second group of users may be compiled into a list. The list may be sent to the user in the second group of users that sent the query to the central data processing unit. Preferably the list is sent electronically, for example via email or any other electronic communication means available over the Internet.

The list may contain selected information about the users in the first group of users that match the query, which may include one or more of the user's name, their address, job skills and their preferred location of work. The list may further contain information about the users in the first group of users provided by the second group of users. For example, such information may include comments on the suitability of the individual users in relation to certain activities as provided the second group of users.

Preferably the list does not contain the mobile telephone number of the users.

The plurality of users within said subgroup of users in the first user group to whom the notification is sent may be selected automatically by the central data processing unit.

Such a selection may be random. Such a selection may be made in dependence on information concerning the users in said sub-group, such information being additional to the criteria of the query. For example, in the case where the criteria of the query relates to minimum criteria the users may be ranked according to the amount by which they exceed the minimum criteria with higher ranking users receiving the notification and lower ranking users not. Such information may comprise the fairness accounts of the users. Such information may be provided by the second group of users.

The automatic selection may be performed by the central data processing unit choosing a specified number of users from the top of a list of the subgroup, the list compiled being ordered with respect to a ranking system. The ranking system may for example depend on the fairness accounts of the users of the sub-group. Thus, the notification may automatically be sent to the most reliable users in the subgroup of users.

Alternatively, the user in the second group of users to whom the list of the subgroup of users in the first group of users matching the criteria of the query is sent, may select the plurality of users within the subgroup of users, this selection being passed on to the central data processing unit, the central data processing unit then sending the subgroup notification of their selection as described above.

The central data processing unit may send notification to said plurality of users in said subgroup of first users via electronic message including SMS message, email or instant message. The notification may take the form of a message including information about the user in the second group of users, such information comprising of at least one of the user's name, the location of the user, contact information for the user, and requirements of the user as specified in the query sent to the central data processing unit.

The present invention also provides a central data processing unit and associated memory arranged such they are suitable for facilitating the method of any aspect of the invention as described above. For example, the memory is arranged to be loaded, during use, with the database of information concerning the users in the first group. The central data processing unit may, for example, be in the form of a computer, such as a server, programmed with software to perform the method of the invention. The central data processing unit may be associated with a central telecommunications means, or is at least able to be arranged to communicate with such a central telecommunications means. The central telecommunications means may be in the form of an internet connection. Thus, the central data processing unit may effectively send and receive electronic communications, such as instant messages, SMS messages, emails and the like, via the internet connection.

The central data processing unit and associated memory and the central telecommunications means, when provided, may be so arranged as to form part of a telecommunications network. The telecommunications network may for example further comprise a plurality of communication devices, such as the user telecommunication means mentioned above, which facilitate communication within said telecommunications network.

The present invention further provides a computer program, for example in the form of a software product (for example stored on physical media or electronically within the memory of a computer) for programming a central data processing unit to perform the steps performed by the central data processing unit during the method of any aspect of the present invention.

The present invention yet further provides a database product, for example stored on physical media or electronically within the memory of a computer, for use as the database of information concerning the users in the first group as used during the method of any aspect of the present invention.

The present invention also further provides a method of facilitating communication between a first person within a first group of a multiplicity of individuals and a second person. This method comprises the steps of: i) providing a computer including memory (for example, a server), there being stored in the memory a database of information concerning the first group of individuals, the database including contact details (for example, a mobile telephone number and/or an email address) for each individual in the first group, ii) each of the individuals of the first group sending an electronic text message (for example via email or by SMS) to the computer providing an indication of his/her availability over a period of time in the future (for example, over a period of less than ten days in the future), iii) said second person causing a query to be sent to the computer (for example, by entering a query via a keyboard connected to the computer or by sending an electronic text message to the computer via email or SMS), the query relating to a request to be contacted by one or more individuals of the first group, such individuals meeting certain criteria set by the second person, such criteria including the availability of the individual, iv) the computer selecting a subgroup of individuals from the first group that meet the criteria of the query in view of the information stored in the database, and v) the computer causing a notification, in the form of an electronic text message, to be sent to each of a plurality of individuals of said subgroup of individuals in accordance with the contact details stored in the database (for example, said plurality of individuals being selected automatically by the computer or being manually selected by the second person). It will of course be appreciated that this aspect of the invention shares many features of the other aspects of the invention described herein. As such, features of this aspect of the invention may be incorporated into those other aspects of the invention described herein and vice versa.

Embodiments of the invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings of which: Fig 1 shows a first, generalised embodiment of the invention, where no specific groups of users,

nor user updateable field is specified, and

Fig 2A-2E show a second embodiment of the invention relating to an emergency shift cover management system for hospitals, where the different diagrams correspond to different steps of the method, as described below.

Figure 1 shows a first, generalised embodiment of the invention, which will be described to provide a general outline of the functionality of the second and other embodiments of the invention. Thus, Figure 1 shows a central server 1, which comprises part of a telecommunications network 2 including an internet connection 19. There is a first group of users 5, 6, 7, 8 which have mobile telephones that are suitable for communication with the telecommunication network 2 and so also suitable for communication with the central data processing unit and associated memory 1. The telecommunications network 2 is capable of both sending and receiving SMS messages and interfaces with the central server 1, channelling all the necessary information to and from the second group of users. This type of telecommunications network will be familiar to those skilled in the art, and exact details of the telecommunication network shall not be given. There is a second group of users 3, 4 which have computer terminals suitable for communication with the central server 1 via the telecommunications network 2. The central server 1 includes a database of information concerning the first group of users 5, 6, 7, 8, including a unique identifier which is the users mobile telephone number, a user updateable field and one or more other fields relating to the user. Each of the members of the first group of members 5, 6, 7, 8 send via their mobile telephones time dependent information 9, 10, 11, 13 to the central server 1 via the telecommunications network 2, which in combination with their unique identifier, in this case their mobile phone number, results in the time dependent information being stored in the user updateable field. One of the users in the second group of users 3 sends a query 15 to the central server 1 which includes criteria to be met in relation to at least the time dependent information stored in respect of users of the first group. The central server 1 processes the query and selects a sub-group of users from the first user group meeting the criteria of the query 5, 6, 7. The central data processing unit then sends a notification 12, 14 from the central telecommunication means 2 to a plurality of the users in the said subgroup of first users, in this case selecting two of the plurality of users in the said subgroup 5, 6.

Figures 2A to 2E relate to a second embodiment of the invention where the first group of users are hospital workers and the second group of users are hospital managers and the system facilitates the emergency cover of work shifts in hospitals. A central server 201 is connected to the internet via an internet connection (not shown) . The central server (201) includes more than one community of users. For example, one community includes the hospital managers and workers; another community includes be care- home managers and care-home workers. In one particular community, in this example the Gloucester Primary Care Trust hospitals, there exists a plurality of users 202, 203, 204, 205, 206, the users possessing communication means suitable for communication with the central server via an internet connection to the central server that forms part of a telecommunications network. For some users the communication means is in the form of a home computer which is arranged to send an email to the central server 201, for other users the communication means is in the form of a mobile telephone or other device able to send an SMS message to a telephone number that is linked to the central server 201, and for other users the communication means is in the form of a portable device such as a PDA that is able to connect to the internet. The embodiment comprises two types of users, hospital managers 202 and hospital workers 203, 204, 205, 206, and the system provides for both a plurality of hospital managers (not shown) and hospital workers. A database in a central server 201 holds details of each of the employees, including the employee's name, job title, skills, preferences of places to work, home and mobile telephone numbers, postal address and email address. The central server also includes a unique identifier, which is associated with each employee, which in this case is a worker identification number. In this particular embodiment workers are added to the database by a third party, the third party possibly being a hospital manager or an employment agency, after certain checks have been carried out on the workers to ensure they possess the medical skills that they claim. In order to add a worker the third party, whether an employment agency or a hospital manager, or some other party, has a special status in the community, which enables them to add records to the central server 1.

Furthermore, new managers may be added to the system, in this case by a community administrator, which has the necessary status in the community to perform such a task.

The community administrator may also add workers to the central server. The community administrator may also remove any of the users from the central server if they see fit.

The database also includes details about the locations of the hospitals at which the hospital managers need to fill a shift. The database further includes details about the availability of a worker for accepting work, up to a week in advance of the actual date.

The availability data about an employee is updatable by the employee in a variety of ways. An employee may send a SMS message to the central server updating their availability to accept work. The SMS message includes at least three keywords, which specify the user's availability, or conversely non-availability. For example, the first keyword relates to the selection of the community to which the employee wishes to make themselves available. The second keyword relates to the day, or days that the employee wishes to make themselves available. The third keyword further specifies the period over which they wish to make themselves available, for example, which shift, in this case one of "day", "night", "early" and "late", they are available for. Figure 2A shows the transmission of said data to the central server. The table below gives examples of the text messages which may be sent, and their meaning.

The first keyword is Glos (the keyword that selects the Gloucester Primary Care Trust hospitals community), the second keyword selects either a day, or the whole week they are available for, and the third keyword selects the shift they are available for. It is possible for an employee to make themselves available for all shifts in a period by sending the text message "glos Tuesday day night early late". It is not possible in this case to set up availability for multiple days, other than for a whole week, and individual SMS messages must be sent for each day.

Key word 1 Key word 2 Key word 3 Explanation glos seven day Available for the next seven days glos seven night Available for the next seven nights glos seven early Available for the next seven earlies glos seven - late Available 4 the next seven lates glos seven no Not available at all for these days glos today day Available today glos today night Available tonight glos today early Available for an early tonight glos today late Available for a late tonight glos today no Not available at all for this day glos monday day Available/not available Monday day shift glos monday night Available/not available Monday night shift glos monday early Available/not available for a Monday ____________ early glos monday late Available/not available for a Monday late monday flO Not available at all for this day In the present example, "today" means selects the day on which the message is sent to the central server 1.

"Tomorrow" selects the day after the day on which the message is sent to the central server. Should "Monday" be sent on a Monday, then the selection is for the following Monday. However, if "Tuesday" is sent on a Monday (as opposed to "Tomorrow") the selection is the same as if the keyword "Tomorrow" had been sent.

Should an error be made in the SMS message, the system will SMS back the employee to advise them of the error, and so they can send a correctly formatted SMS message.

When the central server receives a message from the employee it recognises the mobile telephone number which serves as the employee's unique identifier. The employee's record is then updated to show the employee's availability over the time they have specified.

An alternative way for an employee to update their availability is via an online interface with the central server. After logging into the system with their unique worker ID number and a password they are presented with an interactive interface consisting of forms where they may check or uncheck boxes, the boxes corresponding to the periods of time over which shifts may be offered. Once the required boxes have been checked the forms are submitted to the central server, the central server updating the worker's availability as a result.

The hospital managers communicate with the central server 201, via a computer connected to the internet, although alternatively it could be a mobile telephone or a PDA. When a hospital manager wishes to cover a work shift at short notice the manager logs onto a webpage run by the central server and conducts a worker search by sending a query to the central server (201), see figure 2B. The query contains information about which location needs cover, which day needs cover, and which shift needs covering, together with the job skills that the employee must possess. The database is then searched to find which employees have details which match all of the specified criteria, and also have made themselves available for work at the specified time. A list of suitable employees is then shown on screen.

Only those employees that have made themselves available for work at the specified time are included in the list. It is not possible for the hospital to view those employees that are not available for work 203. The list of suitable employees is presented in such a way that those employees with the highest fairness points, allocated as described above are presented at the top of the list, the details of the fairness points detailed below. The list includes the name of the employees, but not their mobile telephone numbers.

Once the hospital has received the list of suitable employees it has two options. it may either elect to send out SMS messages to the top 15 employees on the list, as according to their fairness points, or may individually select which employees to contact, up to a limit of 15. The SMS message may read "Hi [employee's name] phone [hospital telephone no] for a shift at [hospital name] on [date], please ensure that you arrival is authenticated." Once the hospital has made their choice, the central server sends out the SMS messages to the selected employees, see figure 2D. Once the employees have received the SMS messages they have the option to contact the hospital and confirm they are prepared to work the shift specified, see figure 2E. The hospital then arranges with the one or moreemployees that contact the hospital, which of them will work the shift. The hospital may use its own discretion as to how to select which employee to employ for the shift in question if more than one employee should contact the hospital concerning the shift, and may for example utilise a "first-come, first-served" basis or may operate an informal selection process. Should the employee contact the hospital, and the hospital accept the employee for the shift, then the hospital sends an authentication message to the central server, informing it of the acceptance of the offer, and turning off the employee's availability for that duty. The employee gains fairness points for the number of shifts that he accepts.

When the employee turns up for their shift they send a further SMS message to the central server, confirming that they have turned up for the shift. This further adds to their fairness points as it gives a measure of reliability of number of shifts accepted and number of accepted shifts that have turned up for. If they accept a shift and do not turn up for it, then their fairness points are reduced due to their unreliability. In this embodiment the number of fairness points is reduced to zero in that event.

A further feature of the above embodiment is that employees may search for other employees to cover a shift that they can no longer work. This may be done in a similar way to how a hospital searches for employees. The employee sends a SMS query to the central server in a similar format to text message that is used to update their availability.

The table below gives examples of the SMS messages that could be sent.

Coimnunity Action Day(s) Shift Location Job skills glos find today day Glos A&E general glos find today night Glos A&E general glos find today early Glos A&E general glos find today late Glos A&E general glos find monday day Glos A&E general glos find monday night Glos A&E general glos find monday early Glos A&E general glos find tuesday late Glos A&E general The first key word specifies the community to be searched, the second tells the server that a search is required, the third key word specifies the day the shift it on, the fourth keyword is the particular shift that needs covering, the fifth keyword gives the location of the shift and the sixth gives the job or skills that are required by someone covering the shift. There is further a list of the types of job or skill that may be searched for, together with the representative keyword. Rather than present the employee making the query with a list of other employees to which they can choose who to send SMS messages to, the central data processing unit sends the SMS message automatically to the top 15 of those found in the search, as according to their fairness points. If someone accepts the shift, the employee who has performed the search must then turn off the availability of the employee that has accepted that shift.

The following is a list of possible jobs which may be searched for, together with the associated keyword: Clinical Nurse = clinical Community Nurse = community Dietician = dietician Elderly Care Nurse = elderly General Nurse = general General practitioner = gp Health Visitor = health Learning Disability Nurse = learning Marie Curie Nurse = marie Medical Services Nurse = medical Mental Health Nurse = mental Midwife = midwife Nursing Lecturer = lecturer Occupational Health Nurse = occupational Paediatrjc Nurse = paediatrjc Podiatrist = podiatrist Physiotherapist = physiotherapist Research Nurse = research School Nurse = school Social Services Nurse = social Speech Therapist = speech Theatre Nurse = theatre A user may be part of one or more communities, and it is not possible in the above embodiment for a user from one community to change the availability of a user in another community. Therefore, should a user accept a shift in one community, which makes them unavailable in another community, they must update their availability status in the latter community themselves.

A third embodiment of the invention relates to restaurants. The third embodiment utilises the technology of the second embodiment and so only the differences will now be described. The first group of users consists of customers, and the second group of users consists of restaurant owners. The customers send information to a central server via email or mobile telephone, which includes their availability to eat out on a particular night. The information further includes the location of the customer and their food preferences, ranging from the style of food preferred, such as Chinese, Italian, or Indian, to whether or not the customer is vegetarian.

The restaurant owner is able, for example when his/her restaurant has low bookings for a particular night, to send a query to the central server, via email, mobile telephone or PDA, specifying details of what date, and possibly time, they wish to get more bookings. The central server searches the database for customers (who have previously sent details of their availability to eat out and optionally other preferences such as location, food-preference, number of people wishing to eat out, and preference for smoking/non- smoking) who are available at the specified date. The central server optionally searches other criteria, such as location and/or food preference. The central server then sends the restaurant a list of available customers, who are ranked according to his/her fairness points (the fairness points being allocated as detailed below). The restaurant owner can then pick either the top 15 of those customers on the list, or may specify a particular 15 customers. The central server then sends out an SMS message to those customers selected, which may read as follows.

"Hi customer's name, would you like to eat out at restaurant's name on date and take advantage of a special offer. Call telephone no in order to book your table now" The special offer may be a free bottle of wine with the meal or a discount off the final bill. Should a customer wish to accept the offer, they phone the number given and book a table with the restaurant. The restaurant then removes the customer's availability from the central server, by sending an appropriate electronic message to a predetermined SMS number or email address. When the customer turns up at the restaurant they send a confirmatory message to the central server, which increases their fairness points as they have turned up when they said they would. The SMS message sent to the customer including the details of the (time-restricted) special offer is shown by the customer to the restaurant owner in order to validate/redeem the special offer made.

A fourth embodiment of the invention relates to the sale of a consumable, such as oil for central heating. The fourth embodiment also utilises the technology of the second embodiment and so only the differences will now be described. The first group of users is made up of customers that use oil, and a second group of users is made up of suppliers of oil. The customers are registered on a central server, which maintains a database of user details including information concerning the user such as the mobile phone or other immediate contact details, name and address to which the oil should be delivered, and the user's central heating requirements. The central server may also specify the maximum price at which each user wishes to purchase the oil.

This price information may be updated by the user from time to time. The central server also includes time-dependent information, updated by the first group of users, regarding whether or not a customer is available to receive telephone calls from the suppliers selling oil. When the customer wishes to purchase oil, they send, via an SMS message, email or instant message, notification to the server that they are available for telephone sales calls from the oil suppliers.

When an oil supplier is looking for customers to sell oil to, for example in times of poor sales, he/she sends a query, including the conditions under which they wish to sell the oil, to the central server. The central server performs a search of the available customers and sends back a list of at least some of the customers that meet the required criteria. The criteria may include details of the location to which, and/or the date on which, the supplier wishes to deliver the oil, or a price at which they wish to sell it. The list of customers includes details via which the suppliers may contact the customers in order to make an offer of sale. The customer may then accept or decline the offer of sale in a normal manner. If the supplier completes a sale to a customer, they then send notification to the central server in order to remove that customer from the availability list.

A fifth embodiment of the invention relates to a similar short term employment system, as described above in the second embodiment, but where a worker searches a plurality of employers details in order to see what work is available that fits their requirements. Given that the fourth embodiment is similar to the second embodiment, only the differences will now be described. The fifth embodiment

has application in the field of logistics and more

particularly relates to finding lorry drivers to make deliveries at short notice.

In accordance with the fifth embodiment, a lorry driver sends a query to a central server via an SMS message or email. The central server contains details of a plurality of lorry driver employers, the details including time dependent information, in this case vacant shifts in the near future, up to and including a week from the present day. The central server also includes at least some of the following details; the location of the employers, the type of work available and the classification of the lorry concerned, as related to the HGV licence necessary to drive the lorry. The query by the lorry driver may specify the location they wish to work in, the type of work they wish to do, and the type of HGV licence they possess. The central server performs a search of the employers who have work available that satisfies the criteria specified by the driver, compiles a list of at least some of the employers.

There are two ways in which this information may then be used. The central server may send this list to the driver, who may then contact whichever employers they wish and offer their services. Alternatively, the drivers details may then be sent to the employers compiled in the list, and the employer may then contact the driver if they wish to offer them work. It will be appreciated that in this case, the types of users of the system are effectively switched, in that the worker is the person who queries the systems and the persons employing a worker are invited to contact the Whilst the present invention has been described and illustrated with reference to particular embodiments, it will be appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that the invention lends itself to many different variations not specifically illustrated herein. For that reason, reference should be made to the claims for determining the true scope of the present invention.

For example, embodiments of the present invention may relate to many varied and different applications. For example, the invention may be applied to any application that eventually requires a transaction between two people, where a first person in the transaction has certain requirements and where there are a group of other people, who have registered their details with the system, and who might be able to meet certain requirements of a type likely to be requested by the first person. By way of further example, a generalised, sixth embodiment of the invention is described briefly below.

The sixth embodiment of the invention relates to a system and method which can be used by individuals or groups of individuals, (previously referred to as users) to opt-in and opt out of a service which advertises their availability to be contacted by an individual or group of individuals who have available such opportunities as, but not limited to, employment, discounted products and services or any item of specific interest to those individuals or groups of individuals who have expressed an interest and have made themselves available on a database operated as a part of the system and method.

In this sixth embodiment, the database that controls this service holds one or more communication addresses for each individual or group of individuals that have the ability to control their availability within the database to be contacted at the address(s) provided. The addresses may include, but are not limited to, a telephone number, a mobile telephone number, e-mail address, and instant message address. Some or all of these addresses are held discreetly behind a user ID and password to be discreet to the individual or groups of individuals and are not at any time visible or available to either the service provider or any individual or group of individuals searching for available individual or groups of individuals.

The service may operate as an ASP (Application Service Provider) where the individual or groups of individuals can control their availability by sending a message to the service as an SMS text message, voice message, email, instant message or any other form of electronic communication and where the party that searches for an individual or group of individuals to whom the searching party wishes to promote an opportunity is charged for the opportunity to make contact with the available party at the moment the search is initiated. When a search is undertaken the service will provide the searcher with appropriate information for all those individuals or groups of individuals who have shown themselves as available to be contacted and provided one or more addresses to which the information the searcher wishes to make available can be sent.

At its highest level market sector verticals which could include employers in a business sector, manufacturers, retailers, service and entertainment providers, and within these verticals could be communities, sub-communities and sub-communities of sub-communities.

Claims (26)

CLAI MS
1. A method of electronically communicating within a telecommunications network, the method comprising the steps of: a) providing a central data processing unit and an associated memory, and a central telecommunications means associated with the central data processing unit, the central data processing unit and central telecommunications means forming part of a telecommunications network, the telecommunications network being accessible by a plurality of users, each of the users having user telecommunication means for communication with the central telecommunication means of the central data processing unit, the plurality of users being categorised into a first user group and a second user group, there being stored in the memory a database of information concerning the users in the first group, the fields of the database including an identification field for a unique identifier for each user, a user updatable field and one of more further fields for further information relating to the user, b) storing information regarding each user of the first group in respective records of the database, the information including a unique identifier for each user and further information relating to the user, c) each user of a plurality of users of the first group sending, from said user telecommunication means via said central telecommunication means to the central data processing unit, timedependent information in combination with their unique identifier, the central data processing unit subsequently storing the time dependent information in the user updatable field of the record of each user in the database, d) at least one user in the second group of users sending a query to the central data processing unit, the query including details of criteria to be met in relation to at least the time-dependent information stored in respect of the users of the first group, e) the central data processing unit processing the query and selecting a subgroup of users from the first user group meeting the criteria of the query, and f) the central data processing unit sending a notification from the central telecommunication means to the user telecommunication means of a plurality of users in said subgroup of first users.
2. A method according to claim 1 wherein the central data processing unit and associated memory form at least part of a central server.
3. A method according to claim 1 or claim 2 wherein the telecommunication means associated with the central data processing unit comprises an internet connection.
4. A method according to any preceding claim wherein the telecommunication means associated with the central data processing unit comprises a means for sending an electronic message.
5. A method according to any preceding claim, wherein the communication from at least some of the users to the central telecommunication means of the central data processing unit is via electronic message.
6. A method according to any preceding claim, wherein the user updateable field relates to the availability of the users in the first group of users.
7. A method according to any preceding claim, wherein the user updateable field relates to the availability of a user to do something in a particular time period.
8. A method according to any of claims 1 to 6, wherein the user updateable field relates to the availability of a user to be contacted in a particular time period.
9. A method according to any of claims 1 to 6, wherein the user updateable field is the user's availability to accept a communication concerning working at a particular time.
10. A method according to claim 13, wherein the user updateable field is the user's availability to accept a time restricted retail offer.
11. A method according to any of claims 1 to 6, wherein the availability is the user's availability to attend an establishment of a particular given type at a particular time.
12. A method according to any preceding claim, wherein the further information stored relating to the first group of users includes information provided by the second group of users.
13. A method according to claim 12, wherein the central data processing unit selects a subgroup of users with regard to the information relating to the first group of users provided by the second group of users.
14. A method according to any preceding claim, wherein each user has an associated fairness account, whereby the fairness account is a record of the number of points accumulated by a user, points being awarded for reliable behaviour and points being removed for unreliable behaviour.
15. A method according to any preceding claim, wherein information about the subgroup of users selected from the first user group meeting the criteria of the query is compiled into a list whereupon the list is sent to the user in the second group of users that sent the query to the central data processing unit.
16. A method according to any preceding claim wherein the selection of the plurality of users within the subgroup of users from the first user group meeting the criteria of the query to whom notification is sent is done automatically by the central data processing unit.
17. A method according to claim 16 wherein the automatic selection of the plurality of users within the subgroup of users in done by choosing a specified number from the top of the list of the subgroup, the list compiled with respect to a ranking system.
18. A method according to any preceding claim wherein the selection of the plurality of users within the subgroup of users from the first user group meeting the criteria of the query is conducted by the user from the second group of users that sent the query.
19. A method according to any preceding claim, wherein sending a notification from the central telecommunication means to the user telecommunication means is via electronic messaging.
20. A method according to any preceding claim, wherein the notification from the central telecommunication means to the user telecommunication means includes information regarding at least one user in the second group of user.
21. A method according to claim 20, wherein the information regarding at least one user in the second group of users includes at least one of the users name, the location of the user, contact information for the user, and the requirements of the user as specified in the query sent to the central data processing unit.
22. A central data processing unit and associated memory so arranged as to be able to perform the method as claimed in any of claims 1 to 21.
23. A central data processing unit and associated memory according to claim 22, and a central telecommunications means associated with the central data processing unit, the central data processing unit, associated memory and the central telecommunications means being so arranged as to be able to perform the method as claimed in any of claims 1 to 21.
24. A computer program for programming a central data processing unit to perform the steps performed by the central data processing unit during the method of any of claims 1 to 21.
25. A database product for use as the database of information concerning the users in the first group as used during the method of any of claims 1 to 21.
26. A method of facilitating communication between a first person within a first group of a multiplicity of individuals and a second person, the method comprising the steps of: i) providing a computer including memory, there being stored in the memory a database of information concerning the first group of individuals, the database including contact details for each individual in the first group, ii) each of the individuals of the first group sending an electronic text message to the computer providing an indication of his/her availability over a period of time in the future, iii) said second person causing a query to be sent to the computer, the query relating to a request to be contacted by one or more individuals of the first group, such individuals meeting certain criteria set by the second person, such criteria including the availability of the individual, iv) the computer selecting a subgroup of individuals from the first group that meet the criteria of the query in view of the information stored in the database, and v) the computer causing a notification, in the form of an electronic text message, to be sent to each of a plurality of individuals of said subgroup of individuals in accordance with the contact details stored in the database.
GB0611354A 2005-06-09 2006-06-08 System and method of facilitating communication Withdrawn GB0611354D0 (en)

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Citations (2)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20030144862A1 (en) * 2001-04-24 2003-07-31 Peggy Smith Automated employment fulfillment system
US20050114195A1 (en) * 1999-08-20 2005-05-26 Bernasconi Charles E. System and method for performing substitute fulfillment information complication and notification

Patent Citations (2)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20050114195A1 (en) * 1999-08-20 2005-05-26 Bernasconi Charles E. System and method for performing substitute fulfillment information complication and notification
US20030144862A1 (en) * 2001-04-24 2003-07-31 Peggy Smith Automated employment fulfillment system

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