US20060046898A1 - System and method for automating and controlling a waiting list - Google Patents

System and method for automating and controlling a waiting list Download PDF

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US20060046898A1
US20060046898A1 US11/214,612 US21461205A US2006046898A1 US 20060046898 A1 US20060046898 A1 US 20060046898A1 US 21461205 A US21461205 A US 21461205A US 2006046898 A1 US2006046898 A1 US 2006046898A1
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machine
exercise
exercise machine
patron
waiting list
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US11/214,612
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Jonathan Harvey
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Harvey Jonathan N
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    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B71/00Games or sports accessories not covered in groups A63B1/00 - A63B69/00
    • A63B71/06Indicating or scoring devices for games or players, or for other sports activities
    • A63B71/0697Reservation devices
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B21/00Exercising apparatus for developing or strengthening the muscles or joints of the body by working against a counterforce, with or without measuring devices
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2225/00Other characteristics of sports equipment
    • A63B2225/15Other characteristics of sports equipment with identification means that can be read by electronic means
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2225/00Other characteristics of sports equipment
    • A63B2225/30Maintenance
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2225/00Other characteristics of sports equipment
    • A63B2225/50Wireless data transmission, e.g. by radio transmitters or telemetry
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B2225/00Other characteristics of sports equipment
    • A63B2225/72Means preventing unauthorised use, e.g. by lowering a tennis net
    • AHUMAN NECESSITIES
    • A63SPORTS; GAMES; AMUSEMENTS
    • A63BAPPARATUS FOR PHYSICAL TRAINING, GYMNASTICS, SWIMMING, CLIMBING, OR FENCING; BALL GAMES; TRAINING EQUIPMENT
    • A63B24/00Electric or electronic controls for exercising apparatus of preceding groups; Controlling or monitoring of exercises, sportive games, training or athletic performances
    • GPHYSICS
    • G16INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY [ICT] SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR SPECIFIC APPLICATION FIELDS
    • G16HHEALTHCARE INFORMATICS, i.e. INFORMATION AND COMMUNICATION TECHNOLOGY [ICT] SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR THE HANDLING OR PROCESSING OF MEDICAL OR HEALTHCARE DATA
    • G16H40/00ICT specially adapted for the management or administration of healthcare resources or facilities; ICT specially adapted for the management or operation of medical equipment or devices
    • G16H40/20ICT specially adapted for the management or administration of healthcare resources or facilities; ICT specially adapted for the management or operation of medical equipment or devices for the management or administration of healthcare resources or facilities, e.g. managing hospital staff or surgery rooms

Abstract

A system and method is provided for an automated system for managing health equipment. The system can include an exercise machine having a control component. A user interface can be configured to enable a user of the exercise machine to enter a request on a waiting list to use the exercise machine when the exercise machine is not occupied. A computing device can be included that is in communication with the user interface and the exercise machine. The computing device can be configured to manage the control component of the exercise machine in order to enable or disable the exercise machine in response to the waiting list.

Description

    CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS AND CLAIM OF PRIORITY
  • Priority of U.S. Provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/605,285 filed on Aug. 27, 2004 is claimed.
  • FIELD OF THE INVENTION
  • This invention relates to a system and method for automating and controlling a waiting list for exercise machines.
  • BACKGROUND
  • In the recreation and fitness industry there is often more demand for exercise machines than there is availability. The demand for exercise machines is often addressed one of four ways (or a combination thereof).
  • Optimally, fitness centers facilitate demand by adding more exercise machines and facilities to accommodate them. Unfortunately, many fitness centers cannot afford this option. Even well funded gyms are not exempt from demand surges. For example, during the winter months, the coupling of “New Year's Resolutions” together with the reliance on exercising indoors often causes demand for exercise machines to outweigh supply in even the best-outfitted gyms. Smaller fitness centers are hit especially hard, resulting in lost sales, overcrowding and general patron displeasure.
  • Many fitness centers do not use exercise machine waiting lists nor do they actively monitor or enforce violations of time limits for exercise machines. In these facilities, exercise machines are used on a first-come-first-serve basis. This often results in informal queuing, congestion of waiting patrons, arguments between the patrons, and overall bad customer relations.
  • Some fitness centers address the demand for exercising machines by employing an attendant to manage the machines. Adding an additional employee is a costly alternative to a budget-minded fitness center. Also, the tedious nature of managing a waiting list and enforcing time limits on the exercise machines often results in boredom and ineffectiveness. The attendant's lack of fairness and variation in enforcement of time limits and the waiting list may lead to customer complaints as well.
  • Some fitness centers use a sign-up sheet or dry erase board as an exercise machine waiting list. Patrons often oversee and enforce these exercise machine waiting lists and time limits. Inherent problems exist with these waiting lists. List maintenance is one such problem, as sometimes machines sit idle while patrons wait for the next person on the list. If the next person on the waiting list has left the area or failed to remove their name from the list, the machine may sit idle for long periods of time. Sometimes, a patron will attempt to notify the next person on the waiting list by yelling their name across the room. In addition, other patrons do not know about or do not heed the waiting list. These patrons render these lists ineffective by using the first available machine. These “cutting in line” incidents cause other patrons to patrol or enforce the list, which often leads to patron confrontations, bad customer relations and an overall negative exercising experience. Some patrons do not honor the time limits on exercise machines. Also, these waiting lists may not allow the patron to choose their desired machine. Dry erase and chalk board style waiting lists allow patrons to remove their names from the top of the list, inadvertently allowing a newcomer to apply their name to the vacant spot atop the waiting list, effectively “cutting in line.” These problems make this style of waiting list particularly ineffective and can often lead to patron confrontation and bad customer relations.
  • The prior art FIG. 1A lists more of the problems associated with common exercise machine waiting lists in use today. Designator A shows that the waiting list may become quite crowded depending on how many types of exercising machines it lists. Sometimes fitness centers use two or more lists that cause clutter and confusion. Also, the font size on the list may vary and may cause crowding around the board. B shows that a patron's handwriting may not be legible. C shows that prior art did not filter out inappropriate words and drawings. D demonstrates a patron that has correctly removed their name from the list when their turn arises or they wish to discontinue waiting. However, this leaves an empty spot at the top of the list which a newly arriving patron may fill to effectively “cut in line”. E designates that patrons do not follow rules of the waiting list. F shows that patrons can list their names more than once for the same machine, or for different types of machines (may be against the rules). G shows that patrons may use different data formatting. H designates a patron that never removed their name from the waiting list.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • Additional features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the detailed description which follows, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, which together illustrate, by way of example, features of the invention; and, wherein:
  • FIG. 1A is a drawing of a prior art exercise machine waiting list on a dry erase board.
  • FIG. 1 is a layout of basic components in an example of the invention.
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram of exercise node(s) in an example of the invention.
  • FIG. 3 is a flow chart of operating procedure in an example of the invention.
  • FIG. 4 is another flow chart of operating procedure in an example of the invention.
  • FIG. 5 is an example of a stand alone (non-networked) exercise machine programmed with a wait list.
  • FIG. 6 lists some components that may be configured to work with existing standalone (non-networked) exercise equipment.
  • FIG. 7 is another embodiment of the invention in which the computerized waiting list and components controls a single machine.
  • FIG. 8 is another embodiment of the invention in which the computerized waiting list and components control multiple exercise machines from one “master” exercise machine.
  • Reference will now be made to the exemplary embodiments illustrated, and specific language will be used herein to describe the same. It will nevertheless be understood that no limitation of the scope of the invention is thereby intended.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXAMPLE EMBODIMENT(S)
  • The present invention solves the above problems by using a computer-controlled waiting list for exercise machines. The waiting list is programmed into a computer system. The waiting list is programmed with waiting list rules and exercise machine time limits that may be customized to the fitness center. The waiting list controls the operation of the exercise machines. It may allow or disallow usage of the machines based on the rules and time limits coded in the waiting list software. The waiting list software may control the electricity flow to the exercise machines. This control allows the waiting list to ensure that the exercise machines are used in accordance with its programmed rules. In another embodiment of the invention, the waiting list may use and/or control some other electronic or physical ‘key’ (instead of electricity) to control the operation of the exercise machines. This control or key may be activated by a software command originating from the waiting list program which the exercise machine requires for partial or full operation.
  • When the user-selected workout time or the machine's pre-determined time limit expires, the computer program may remove the electricity or the ‘key’ and terminate the exercise session on the machine. Thus, the patron must request to continue using the exercise equipment through the wait list program (or the wait list program may allow them to continue exercising, if no one is waiting).
  • The waiting list program allows patrons to sign on to wait for their desired exercise machine, if it is currently in use. The program lists currently available machines and/or time remaining in the current workout session for each of the exercise machines. In addition, after the patron signs onto the waiting list for an exercise machine, they may workout in a different area, knowing that when their turn arises, the computer will alert them with an audible and/or visual message that their exercise machine is now available. When combined with an external mixer device(s), the current audio and/or video signals can be interrupted for the alert and then resume the interrupted programming. Additionally, the waiting list program may issue an alert to a waiting patron's cell phone or pager, based on data supplied by the patron. The computer can also remove patrons from the waiting list when they begin use of the machine or if they do not respond to their alert(s) within an allotted time. This frees the exercise machine for general use or whoever is next on the machine waiting list. The present invention also provides a way whereby the patron may remove their name from the exercise machine waiting list.
  • The invention may provide sensors that monitor if the current machine is in motion and/or if a patron is currently on the machine. These sensors may provide feedback to the waiting list program on the computer whereby the exercise machine waiting list may be fully automated and managed. The present invention can include a password protected management module, which compiles exercise machine usage statistics into a file or database by the computer program. These statistics may include tracking of trends such as which exercise machine is most desired, or which machine is most used during a certain period. This module may also allow the facility manager to temporarily or permanently override the waiting list program and allow the machines to operate fully without the waiting list software.
  • Another password protected maintenance module may store editable machine maintenance schedules and logs. This module may also allow the technician or manager to specify that a machine is out-of-order, removing or “graying out” the machine from the waiting list program. Information from the waiting list may be saved, edited, printed or transferred.
  • Each exercise machine may be controlled by its own computer and waiting list. Alternately, one computer and waiting list program may control multiple machines. In this case, the computer and machines may be connected via a bi-directional wired or wireless communication network. Parts or all of the computer and system may be integrated into an exercise machine's electronics or as an attachable module that does not void the exercise machine's warranty, or as a system external to the exercise machine.
  • Each exercise machine may have a physical identifier (such as a number) posted on it whereby a patron may correlate the machine's identifier with the identifier in the waiting list software. The waiting list enforces maximum time limits for the machines, and other rules necessary to running the automated waiting list. The waiting list software is designed to be fully automated, but may be used as an aid to an attendant.
  • The present invention has a clear and concise graphical user interface. This interface may have marked graphical buttons and automated labels that show if a machine is available, or the time remaining before it is available and if there is already a patron or multiple patrons waiting for the desired machine. A color-coded interface may be used (green is available, red is in use, blue is program procedure/instructions etc.) to tell at a glance if the machine is available. The user interface may also provide an easy to use popup on-screen keyboard that loads a form for the patron to insert their waiting name. In some embodiments, this may be substituted for or used in addition to another form of waiting identifier entry device such as a barcode scanner, magnetic strip reader, camera, microphone, or a biometric device. The user interface may have many forms for user controls or to relay information to the user. In one example, a form with time increment buttons pops up after the patron selects an exercise machine. This form allows the patron to select the duration of their workout session on the exercise machine causing the program to enable the exercise machine (via electricity flow or command, etc.). The form may display buttons in increments up to the maximum allowed exercise session upon the machine. All user interaction forms may be on timers, so if a patron does not respond within an adequate amount of time, the program will remove the form and show the main screen, essentially keeping the interface clutter-free. Each type of exercise machine may have its own waiting list on different forms, linked by labeled buttons on the main program form. This allows multiple machines of many types to be displayed without squeezing all the information onto one form or page. Maintenance and management forms may be accessed, via password, using buttons on the waiting list's main screen. All user input through the on-screen keyboard may be filtered to prevent the posting of inappropriate words into the waiting list. A waiting patron's identification (ex. name) may also be filtered and may be unique to prevent a patron from signing up for two machines at once (a popup form would notify the patron of this rule at this point). The on-screen keyboard may consist of alphanumeric keys that do not allow a patron to access the operating system or other programs outside of the waiting list program. Also, the waiting list program may have no process whereby a patron may terminate the application without an appropriate password and/or access to a physical keyboard.
  • The present invention's waiting list software may allow patrons to use the next available machine by putting them in a general exercise machine waiting queue. Alternately, the waiting list software may allow them to select and wait for their desired exercise machine.
  • The present invention (software, interface buttons etc.) may be implemented in hardware instead of software.
  • The present invention automates the fair usage of exercise machines via a computer programmed waiting list. It also promotes maximum usage of the exercise machines by making patrons abide by machine time limits and rules (by controlling the electricity or some other ‘key’ to operating the machine), and alerting them of machine availability. Finally, the invention is easier to use than conventional waiting lists. The computer maintains the waiting list in a clear, concise manner and automatically queues, alerts and removes names.
  • In one example embodiment, an exercise machine's power cord is plugged into an X10 electrical outlet. The outlet is wired into the building's electrical wiring (communication network). The controlling computer is coupled to an X10 wired/wireless transceiver which is plugged into an outlet wired into the building's electrical wiring. A patron who attempts to use the exercise machine will find that the machine has no electricity and will not work. The patron then approaches the computer and instructs it, via a touch screen or some other input means, to start the desired exercise machine. The patron then enters the time duration of the workout using an on-screen keyboard on the touch screen. The duration of the workout is limited by the maximum time duration that the fitness center will allow for one session on the exercise machine. The computer then communicates an X10 “electricity on” command through its X10 transceiver, over the electrical wiring to the X10 electrical outlet for the desired exercise machine. This command activates a switch in the outlet, which allows electricity to flow through the outlet to the machine. The exercise machine then powers on and is ready to use. The patron then uses the machine.
  • The computer meanwhile has started a countdown timer based on the patron's selected time duration. The time duration is increased slightly to allow time for the patron to walk to the exercise machine and prepare to use it. The patron then uses the machine. When the countdown timer expires, the waiting list program issues an “electricity off” command to the electrical outlet of the corresponding machine through the building's wiring. This command turns the outlet's switch off, causing electricity flow through the machine's outlet to cease. The machine then powers off (terminates the current exercise workout session).
  • If the patron would like to continue, they must get off the exercise machine and again instruct the computer to start the exercise machine they desire. In the event that the machine the patron wants is in use or currently being waited for, the patron may enter identification data such as their name into the computer to wait for their desired machine. When the countdown timer for the waited for machine expires, the computer program issues an “electricity off” command to the waited for exercise machine, which powers down the machine (forcing the current patron to terminate their workout session).
  • Simultaneously, the computer issues an audible alert message to a mixer device. The mixer device mutes existing music or audio playing through the speakers and allows the alert message to broadcast over the speaker system. The message states that the waited for exercising machine is now available. The computer specifies that it is reserving the exercise machine for the waiting patron. When the waiting patron hears the alert, they walk to the computer and instruct it to start the waited for exercise machine. The computer simultaneously removes the patron's identification data (such as their name) from the machine's waiting list. The patron then enters the duration of the workout and the process continues as stated above.
  • The waiting list program gives the waiting patron an allotted time to respond to the audible alert and start a new exercising session on the computer. If the waiting patron does not respond before the allotted time expires, the waiting patron's name is removed from the waiting list for that exercise machine, freeing it for general use or for the next patron waiting in line for the exercise machine (if applicable). The invention also determines if the exercise machine is occupied and/or is in use.
  • An X10 motion sensor may determine that a patron has stopped the exercise machine or has vacated the machine before the workout duration countdown timer expires. The X10 sensor(s) will wirelessly communicate (using radio frequency) to the computer's X10 transceiver. The waiting list polls the transceiver and receives the information and then initiates an activity/occupancy countdown timer on the computer. If the activity/occupancy countdown timer expires without the X10 sensor(s) detecting that the patron resumed their workout session, the computerized waiting list will then terminate the session (via an X10 “electricity off” command). The waiting list will then make the exercise machine available for general use or to whoever is on the waiting list for the machine (if applicable). If the patron again occupies/uses the machine before the activity/occupancy countdown timer expires they may finish their workout as per the time remaining on the workout duration countdown timer.
  • In another embodiment, some or all of the computerized waiting list and its controlling components (e.g., keying equipment) may be added to the exercise machines. This may include existing exercise machines, from one or multiple manufactures. Ideally, these additions would be external to the existing exercise machine, thereby not voiding the exercise machine's warranty. Retrofitting existing exercise machines in this way may minimize the investment for fitness centers.
  • In another embodiment of the invention some or all of the computerized waiting list components may be integrated into the exercise machine itself. For example, instead of switching off the electricity externally to treadmill, the switch may be integrated into the machine's existing electronics. Optimally, an operation control switch (like a switch controlling electricity) would not be used; instead a request from the controlling computer would act as a ‘key’ to enable the machine for patron use. Sensor(s) which determine if the exercise machine is active (in motion) and/or if someone is currently on the machine may be integrated into the exercise machine. For example, an induction sensor may determine if an exercise machine is active via its electricity draw. Also, a contact sensor or switch may determine if someone is on the machine. These sensor(s)/switches (or similar devices) may provide feedback to the waiting list program on the computer. This feedback allows the computer to terminate the workout and reissue the machine if it is inactive or not occupied.
  • In another embodiment of the invention, the computerized waiting list may control a single machine only. A patron can approach and use the waiting list at the exercise machine. Thus, communication to a networked computer may not be required.
  • FIG. 1 depicts a drawing of components of an example of the invention. An exercise machine waiting list programmed into a computer 105 is displayed on a touch screen with software on-screen controls and keyboard (responds to touch) 104. Users interact with the program via the touch screen 104, like selecting their desired machine, or adding their name to their desired machine's waiting list (the exercise machine identifiers on the waiting list program correlate to the identifiers on the exercising machines 109). The computer program communicates over a wired or wireless network 107 with the exercise machines it controls 108. These machines 108 may also communicate information back to the computerized waiting list 105.
  • The exercise machines 108 may communicate machine status information collected by sensor(s) 108 (e.g., if the machine is occupied or if it is currently operating). These sensor(s) and communication aid in the automation of the computerized exercise machine waiting list 105. When a patron's exercise session expires and another patron is on the waiting list for that particular machine, the computer terminates the current exercise session.
  • Next the computer sends an audio alert to a mixer 102 and/or a video alert to the video display 106. The video display may also be connected to a video mixer which allows the display to be used for other uses as well (e.g., viewing television broadcasts). The alerts serve a message to the waiting patron that their desired machine is available. The mixer 102, mutes the original audio (the video may use a mixer as well, in a similar fashion) and broadcasts the alert over the speaker system 103. After the alert is finished, the original audio programming is again broadcast through the speaker system 103. An alert may also be provided to a wireless device 112 that is carried by the user such as a cell phone, PDA, pager, or similar personal wireless device. Notification can also take place using a visual method such as a video screen or LCD display.
  • FIG. 2 depicts a system level block diagram of an example of the invention. An exercise node 200 is comprised of an exercise machine 201, inactivity and occupancy sensor(s) 211, and a communication interface 202. The exercise machine 201 is connected to the inactivity and occupancy sensor(s) 211 and the communication interface 202. The communication interface 202 is connected to the communication network 203 which in turn allows bidirectional communication between an Exercise Node such as Exercise Node #1 200, with the Controller of Exercise Machines 207. In another embodiment, the connections between the communication interface 202 and the controller of exercise machines are wireless connections which may provide further geographic flexibility or increased rates of data transmission.
  • The exercise machine 201 is any conventional exercise machine configured to transmit exercise machine control and status information to the communication interface 202 and receive information relating to the control and status of the machine from the communication interface 202. Some examples of the exercise machines are treadmills, rowing machines, bicycles, elliptical machines, rotating climbing walls, and stair machines.
  • Machine control and status information is any information, data or file that relates to the status of an exercise node such as 200. The control and status information could be in audio, video, data or combination of audio, video and data format. Some examples of exercise machine control and status information are control information from the controller of exercise machines 207 to an exercise machine 201 to terminate the current exercising session. Another example consists of an exercise machine's 201, inactivity and occupancy sensor(s) 211 detecting that the status of the exercise machine 201 is inactive and/or not occupied and communicating this information to the controller of exercise machines 207, via the exercise machine's 201 communication interface and the bi-directional communication network 203.
  • FIG. 3 depicts a flowchart of operation of an example of the invention. FIG. 3 begins in step 300. In step 301, the patron determines if their desired exercise machine is in use or if it is on hold for a waiting patron by viewing the waiting list on the touch screen. If it is, then the patron can add their name to the waiting list (via an on-screen keyboard) for the machine 302 or choose another machine 303. If another machine is available 301, then the patron selects it 304 using the computer's touch screen. The patron then enters the length of their workout on the exercise machine 305. The computer will enforce a maximum time limit on the exercise machine, which may be set to the fitness center's rules. The computer then starts a workout countdown timer based on the patron's selected duration 306. This duration is increased by a predetermined amount to allow for the patron to walk to the exercise machine and other preparatory activities to use the machine. The computer program issues a command that allows electricity to flow to the machine or some other key that allows the exercise machine to function 307. The exercise machine obeys the command or key from the computer, enabling the exercise machine to function for the patron 308. Additionally, the computer marks the machine as in-use on the touch screen and shows the time remaining in the workout (workout countdown timer) as well 308.
  • As the countdown timer decrements, it is updated on the touch screen and/or external display to enable other patrons to effectively determine when the machine will become available, and to compare its wait time with other in-use machines. This allows the patron to choose a machine based on its waiting time, or on personal preference for a machine. The patron is now free to use the machine 309.
  • If the patron stops the machine and/or exits the machine before the workout countdown timer expires 310, then a sensor(s) initiate a communication with the controlling computer instructing it to start an inactivity countdown timer 311. This timer's duration may be set to the fitness center's preference. If the inactivity timer expires without further activity and/or reoccupation of the exercise machine 312, then the computer checks to see if another patron is waiting for this machine 315. If not, the machine's operating ‘key’ or electricity is terminated by the computer and the machine is designated as available for use on the computer's touch screen 325. The process now restarts 300.
  • If the patron reoccupies the machine and or resumes using the machine (activity), the inactivity countdown timer 311 is reset and the patron continues their workout. The workout continues until the either the sensor(s) detect further inactivity and/or exiting of the exercise machine (follow previous flow) or the workout countdown timer reaches zero 313. In the latter case, the computer checks to see if a patron is waiting for the machine 314. If a patron is not waiting for the machine, the computer marks the exercise machine as available on the computer but allows the current occupant to continue usage of the machine until someone requests the machine 321. Upon another patron's request for the machine (see 304), or if the current occupant stops or exits the machine (see 310) the current workout session is terminated by the computer. The computer disables the machine by terminating the electricity flow to the machine or commanding the machine to stop responding to the patron and prohibits further exercising by the current patron (removes the software ‘key’) 322.
  • The process restarts at 300 or at 304 if another patron has requested the exercise machine. In the event a patron is waiting for a particular machine (315, 323, or 324) and it becomes available, an audio and/or visual message is issued from the computer to alert the patron waiting for that particular machine, that the exercise machine is available 316. The computer then starts a patron response countdown timer for this machine that may be set to the fitness center's specification 317. If the waiting patron responds to the response timer before it expires 318, the waiting patron may then select the machine on the computer (see 304) and the patron's name is removed from the exercise machine's waiting list 320 (go to 304). If the patron fails to respond to the patron response countdown timer before it expires 318, the patron's name is removed from the machine's waiting list and the machine is marked as available on the computer 319. The process then restarts at 300.
  • FIG. 4 is another flow chart of operating procedure in an example of the invention. This flow chart differs from FIG. 3 in step 405. Step 405 enables the patron to start the exercise machine from the machine itself (instead of starting it from the computer). Thus, a patron may see that the machine is vacant and enter the duration of the workout on the machine, and then this information is transferred to the computer. Step 405 assumes that the machine is vacant and not waiting for a patron to respond to an availability alert 401. The exercise machine may display that the machine is currently waiting for a patron on the waiting list.
  • FIG. 5 is an example of a standalone (non-networked) exercise machine interface programmed with a wait list. Label 501 demonstrates how a switch or a sensor may be used to determine if the exercise machine is in use. This may be an induction coil to measure current flow or another process whereby the waiting list may be aware if the exercise machine is in use and update itself accordingly. Preferably, this sensor would be integrated into the exercise machine's electronics.
  • Label 502 demonstrates a visual display that allows a patron to view the time remaining in the current workout (waiting time) and to sign-on to wait for the machine. It may be touch-sensitive allowing the entering of alphanumeric characters to facilitate signing into the waiting list. The display may also give a visual alert when it is another patron's turn to use the machine. The computer and waiting list may be integrated into this display or may be elsewhere on the exercise machine.
  • Label 503 is the main console where a patron may enter the duration of their workout. Label 504 shows that a speaker system may be integrated into the exercise machine to announce audible alerts. Label 505 shows that alternate input devices may be used for entering and/or validating a waiting patron's identification, for the exercise machine. For example a camera may take a photo of the person waiting and add them to the waiting list. Label 506 illustrates a switch and/or sensor that may determine if a patron is currently on the machine. This may be used in conjunction with an activity sensor 501 to determine if the treadmill is or may be marked available by the waiting list.
  • FIG. 6 lists some components that may be configured to work with existing standalone (non-networked) exercise equipment. Label 601 is a visual display that allows a patron to view the time remaining in the current workout (waiting time) and may allow the patron sign-on to wait for the machine. It may be touch sensitive allowing the entering of alphanumeric characters to facilitate signing into the waiting list. The display may also give a visual alert when it is another patron's turn to use the machine. A computer and waiting list may be integrated into this display.
  • Label 602 is a sensor and/or switch to determine if the machine is in use. It may include a switch to allow or disallow electricity flow to the exercise machine. It may interface directly with the computer. Label 603 is a switch and/or sensor to determine if a patron is on a machine. It may interface directly with the computer. Label 604 shows a speaker system for audible alerts that may be integrated into another component (like the display) or an external attachment. Label 605 illustrates an alternate input device for entering or validating that a patron is waiting for the machine. It may interface directly with the computer.
  • FIG. 7 is another embodiment of the invention in which the computerized waiting list and components controls a single machine. This embodiment of the invention and is either integrated into the exercise machine's existing electronics or externally as an add-on option. Exercise node 700 contains inactivity and occupancy sensor(s) 701 which interface with the exercise machine 702. The inactivity and occupancy sensor(s) may also directly interface the controller of the exercise machine 703 (not shown on illustration) instead of through the exercise machine 702. This interface is bidirectional allowing for full communication between the sensors and the computerized waiting list stored in memory 704. The memory 704 and the processor 705 store and execute the waiting list program which automates the exercise node 700.
  • FIG. 8 is another embodiment of the invention in which the computerized waiting list and components control multiple exercise machines from one “master” exercise machine. This embodiment shows that a master exercise node 800 may control multiple exercise nodes 808 from the controller of exercise machine 803 attached to one of the exercise machines 802. A bidirectional communication network 807 links the master exercise node 800 with other exercise nodes 808 via a wired or wireless communication interface 806 and 810. Inactivity and occupancy sensor(s) 801 and 809 may or may not interface directly with the exercise machines 802 and 811. One advantage to this embodiment is that a separate area devoted to a controller of exercise machine 803 and supporting components is not required. This may be useful in small or crowded exercise rooms.
  • While the forgoing examples are illustrative of the principles of the present invention in one or more particular applications, it will be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that numerous modifications in form, usage and details of implementation can be made without the exercise of inventive faculty, and without departing from the principles and concepts of the invention. Accordingly, it is not intended that the invention be limited, except as by the claims set forth below.

Claims (4)

1. An automated system for managing health equipment, comprising:
an exercise machine having a control component;
a user interface configured to enable a user of the exercise machine to enter a request on a waiting list to use the exercise machine when the exercise machine is not occupied;
a computing device in communication with the user interface and the exercise machine, the computing device being configured to manage the control component of the exercise machine in order to enable or disable the exercise machine in response to the waiting list.
2. An automated system as in claim 1, wherein the exercise machine is a plurality of exercise machines that are configured to receive electronic communication from the computer device.
3. An automated system as in claim 1, wherein the control component is selected from the group consisting of an electrical switch, a software instruction, an electronic key code and an electronic instruction.
4. An automated system as in claim 1, wherein the computing device is a centralized server.
US11/214,612 2004-08-27 2005-08-29 System and method for automating and controlling a waiting list Abandoned US20060046898A1 (en)

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US20070265139A1 (en) * 2006-05-11 2007-11-15 Glick David B Non-strenuous under furniture exercise device
EP1878473A1 (en) * 2006-07-12 2008-01-16 TECHNOGYM S.p.A. Gymnastic machine
US20080015087A1 (en) * 2006-07-12 2008-01-17 Negrin Barry E Exercise Equipment Abuse Prevention Control System and Network Employing Same
US20140107974A1 (en) * 2009-07-27 2014-04-17 Rhoderick Euan MCGOWN Exercise Equipment Usage Monitoring Method and Apparatus
US8849689B1 (en) * 2012-01-23 2014-09-30 Intuit Inc. Method and system for providing dynamic appointment scheduling and tracking
US20170100636A1 (en) * 2015-10-08 2017-04-13 Seiko Epson Corporation Exercise content setting system, exercise content setting apparatus, exercise content setting method, and exercise content setting program
US20170368442A1 (en) * 2008-03-05 2017-12-28 Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc. Programmable Exercise Bicycle
US10188890B2 (en) 2013-12-26 2019-01-29 Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. Magnetic resistance mechanism in a cable machine
US10220259B2 (en) 2012-01-05 2019-03-05 Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. System and method for controlling an exercise device
US10226396B2 (en) 2014-06-20 2019-03-12 Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. Post workout massage device
US10272317B2 (en) 2016-03-18 2019-04-30 Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. Lighted pace feature in a treadmill
US10279212B2 (en) 2013-03-14 2019-05-07 Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. Strength training apparatus with flywheel and related methods

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Cited By (15)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20070265139A1 (en) * 2006-05-11 2007-11-15 Glick David B Non-strenuous under furniture exercise device
EP1878473A1 (en) * 2006-07-12 2008-01-16 TECHNOGYM S.p.A. Gymnastic machine
US20080015088A1 (en) * 2006-07-12 2008-01-17 Alessandro Del Monaco Gymnastic machine
US20080015087A1 (en) * 2006-07-12 2008-01-17 Negrin Barry E Exercise Equipment Abuse Prevention Control System and Network Employing Same
US7601096B2 (en) * 2006-07-12 2009-10-13 Negrin Barry E Exercise equipment abuse prevention control system and network employing same
US20170368442A1 (en) * 2008-03-05 2017-12-28 Mad Dogg Athletics, Inc. Programmable Exercise Bicycle
US20140107974A1 (en) * 2009-07-27 2014-04-17 Rhoderick Euan MCGOWN Exercise Equipment Usage Monitoring Method and Apparatus
US9618527B2 (en) * 2009-07-27 2017-04-11 Rhoderick Euan MCGOWN Exercise equipment usage monitoring method and apparatus
US10220259B2 (en) 2012-01-05 2019-03-05 Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. System and method for controlling an exercise device
US8849689B1 (en) * 2012-01-23 2014-09-30 Intuit Inc. Method and system for providing dynamic appointment scheduling and tracking
US10279212B2 (en) 2013-03-14 2019-05-07 Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. Strength training apparatus with flywheel and related methods
US10188890B2 (en) 2013-12-26 2019-01-29 Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. Magnetic resistance mechanism in a cable machine
US10226396B2 (en) 2014-06-20 2019-03-12 Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. Post workout massage device
US20170100636A1 (en) * 2015-10-08 2017-04-13 Seiko Epson Corporation Exercise content setting system, exercise content setting apparatus, exercise content setting method, and exercise content setting program
US10272317B2 (en) 2016-03-18 2019-04-30 Icon Health & Fitness, Inc. Lighted pace feature in a treadmill

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