US20090098898A1 - Systems and methods for communicating panic messages in wireless communication networks - Google Patents

Systems and methods for communicating panic messages in wireless communication networks Download PDF

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US20090098898A1
US20090098898A1 US12/237,145 US23714508A US2009098898A1 US 20090098898 A1 US20090098898 A1 US 20090098898A1 US 23714508 A US23714508 A US 23714508A US 2009098898 A1 US2009098898 A1 US 2009098898A1
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node
mobile communication
network
communication unit
panic
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US12/237,145
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Wade C. Patterson
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Synapse Wireless Inc
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Synapse Wireless Inc
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    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04WWIRELESS COMMUNICATION NETWORKS
    • H04W28/00Network traffic or resource management
    • H04W28/02Traffic management, e.g. flow control or congestion control
    • H04W28/06Optimizing the usage of the radio link, e.g. header compression, information sizing, discarding information
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L1/00Arrangements for detecting or preventing errors in the information received
    • H04L1/0001Systems modifying transmission characteristics according to link quality, e.g. power backoff
    • H04L1/0014Systems modifying transmission characteristics according to link quality, e.g. power backoff by adapting the source coding
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04LTRANSMISSION OF DIGITAL INFORMATION, e.g. TELEGRAPHIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04L1/00Arrangements for detecting or preventing errors in the information received
    • H04L1/0001Systems modifying transmission characteristics according to link quality, e.g. power backoff
    • H04L1/0015Systems modifying transmission characteristics according to link quality, e.g. power backoff characterised by the adaptation strategy
    • H04L1/0019Systems modifying transmission characteristics according to link quality, e.g. power backoff characterised by the adaptation strategy in which mode-switching is based on a statistical approach

Abstract

Mobile nodes of a wireless network route messages from one node to another. At least one node has a user input device, such as a button, that may be activated to indicate an emergency or other event in which the immediate attention and/or assistance of users of other nodes is needed or desired. Logic senses a panic condition based on the user input device and transmits a panic message to alert users of other nodes. At least one of the nodes provides an alarm that indicates a current location of the node that originally transmitted the panic message thereby assisting a user in finding such node, referred to as the “panicking node.”

Description

    CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION
  • This application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/974,836, entitled “Wireless Communication Networks,” and filed on Sep. 24, 2007, which is incorporated herein by reference.
  • RELATED ART
  • The use of wireless networks to facilitate communication among users is increasing. For example, it may be desirable for a group of users, such as emergency responders (e.g., firefighters and policeman) and/or military personnel, to have access to a private wireless network for enabling communication among the users while responding to an emergency or performing a mission. As a mere example, it may be desirable for each soldier of a military unit to be equipped with a mobile communication unit that enables the soldier to communicate with other soldiers of the unit during a mission. Each such mobile communication unit may comprise a microphone, a speaker, and a wireless communication module. When a soldier desires to communicate with the other soldiers of the unit, he may speak into his microphone to define a verbal message that is wirelessly transmitted to the mobile communication units of the other soldiers. Upon receipt of such a message, the mobile communication units of the other soldiers play the message. Accordingly, the soldiers may communicate to one another discreetly and/or over long distances.
  • Efficiency and ease of use of the network and mobile communication units are important considerations in many applications. Techniques for improving the quality and facilitating the use of the network and mobile communication units are generally desired.
  • BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
  • The disclosure can be better understood with reference to the following drawings. The elements of the drawings are not necessarily to scale relative to each other, emphasis instead being placed upon clearly illustrating the principles of the disclosure. Furthermore, like reference numerals designate corresponding parts throughout the several views.
  • FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary wireless network in accordance with the present disclosure.
  • FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary wireless network in accordance with the present disclosure.
  • FIG. 3 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary coordinator node of a wireless network, such as is depicted by FIG. 1.
  • FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating an exemplary mobile node of a wireless network, such as is depicted by FIG. 1 or FIG. 2.
  • FIG. 5 depicts an exemplary mobile communication unit that can be used to implement a node of a wireless network, such as depicted by FIG. 1 or FIG. 2.
  • FIG. 6 depicts an exemplary map displayed by a mobile communication unit, such as depicted by FIG. 5.
  • FIG. 7 depicts the map of FIG. 6 after the map has been updated to reflect movement of nodes indicated in the map.
  • FIG. 8 is a flow chart illustrating an exemplary method for sending a panic message based on activation of a panic button of a mobile communication unit, such as is depicted by FIG. 5.
  • FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional view of the mobile communication unit depicted by FIG. 5.
  • FIG. 10 is a block diagram of an exemplary wireless network in which a mobile node functions as a coordinator for a sub-network within the wireless network.
  • DETAILED DESCRIPTION
  • Various wireless networks are described in U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/953,630, entitled “Sensor Networks,” and filed on Aug. 2, 2007, which is incorporated herein by reference. Various wireless networks are also described in U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/099,453, entitled “Systems and Methods for Controlling Wireless Sensor Networks,” and filed on Sep. 23, 2008, which is incorporated herein by reference. Wireless networks are further described in U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/114,566, entitled “Systems and Methods for Dynamically Configuring Node Behavior in a Sensor Network,” and filed on May 2, 2008, which is incorporated herein by reference. The described sensor networks or similar networks may be used for various applications, including applications that communicate voice data.
  • FIG. 1 depicts a wireless network 20 in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure. As shown by FIG. 1, the network 20 has a plurality of nodes 25. In at least one embodiment, each of the nodes 25 is mobile and is referred to hereafter as a “mobile node.” However, it is possible for any of the nodes 25 to be stationary in other examples. At least one node 33 of the network 20, referred to herein as the “coordinator node,” is responsible for coordinating and/or controlling various aspects of the network 20. As an example, in one exemplary embodiment, the network 20 is configured as a mesh network in which any of the nodes 25, 33 may communicate directly or indirectly with any of the other nodes 25, 33, and the coordinator node 33 is configured to coordinate data communication among the nodes 25, 33. For example, the network 20 may be configured to communicate voice data and other types of data, such as sensor data, and the coordinator node 33 is configured to control when each node 25 is allowed to transmit over the network 20 in an attempt to reduce data collisions. Note that the use of such a coordinator node 25 is unnecessary. For example, each mobile node 25 may be configured to listen for data transmissions before attempting transmission and implement known data collision avoidance algorithms such that each node 25 is responsible for determining when to transmit over the network 20. FIG. 2 depicts such an exemplary embodiment in which there is no coordinator node 33 that selectively authorizes the other nodes to communicate over the network 20. U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/953,630, U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/114,566, and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/099,453 describe various network and node configurations that may be employed by the networks 20 shown by FIGS. 1 and 2.
  • For illustrative purposes, assume that the network 20 is used in a military application in which each mobile node 25 is attached to, carried, or otherwise transported by a soldier or military vehicle so that soldiers can communicate to one another. For example, a commander can use one of the nodes 25, 33 to transmit information, such as orders, to or receive information from soldiers who are using other nodes 25, 33. Further, any of the soldiers using the nodes 25, 33 can transmit information to and receive information from any of the other soldiers using the nodes 25, 33. The network 20 can also be used to control and/or receive information from various devices. For example, sensors for detecting enemy personnel or vehicles may be communicatively coupled to any of the nodes 25, 33, and the network 20 may communicate sensed events from one node to another as may be desired. Further, the network 20 may communicate signals for triggering explosive devices or other weapons based on user input or sensed occurrences.
  • The mobile nodes 25 preferably communicate wireless signals, such as radio frequency (RF) signals or signals in other frequency bands, among one another and the coordinator node 33. In one exemplary embodiment, each node 25, 33 is configured to communicate with other nodes according to I.E.E.E. 802.15.4, but other types of protocols may be employed in other embodiments.
  • As described in U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/953,630, repeaters (not shown) may be used to extend the communication range of the network 20. In addition, any of the mobile nodes 25 may similarly regenerate signals and, therefore, function as a repeater.
  • Note that each node 25, 33 is associated with a unique identifier, sometimes referred to as a “node address,” that uniquely identifies such node from other nodes in the network 20. Any signal destined for a node preferably includes the node's unique identifier so that any node receiving the signal can determine whether it is the signal's destination. If it is the destination, then the node responds to the signal as appropriate. For example, if a message identifying a particular mobile node 25 defines a command to perform an action, then the identified node 25, upon receiving the signal, may be configured to further process the signal based on the node identifier and to thereafter perform the commanded action.
  • FIG. 3 depicts a coordinator node 33 in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure. As shown by FIG. 3, the node 33 has coordinator logic 52 for generally controlling the operation of the node 33. The coordinator logic 52 can be implemented in software, hardware, firmware, or a combination thereof. In the exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIG. 3, the coordinator logic 52 is implemented in software and stored in memory 55.
  • Note that the coordinator logic 52, when implemented in software, can be stored and transported on any computer-readable medium for use by or in connection with an instruction execution apparatus that can fetch and execute instructions. In the context of this document, a “computer-readable medium” can be any means that can contain, store, communicate, propagate, or transport a program for use by or in connection with the instruction execution apparatus.
  • The exemplary embodiment of the coordinator node 33 depicted by FIG. 3 comprises at least one conventional processing element 63, such as a digital signal processor (DSP) or a central processing unit (CPU), that communicates to and drives the other elements within node 33 via a local interface 66, which can include at least one bus. Furthermore, a data interface 67, such as a universal serial bus (USB) port or RS-232 port, allows data to be exchanged with external devices.
  • The coordinator node 33 also has a network interface 69 for enabling the coordinator logic 52 to communicate with the mobile nodes 25. In at least one exemplary embodiment, the interface 69 is configured to communicate wireless signals, but signals may be communicated via physical connections in other embodiments. As an example, the interface 69 may comprise one or more wireless radios (not specifically shown), each having a respective transceiver for transmitting and receiving wireless signals. As shown by FIG. 3, the network interface 69 has an antenna 71 that can be used to transmit and/or receive wireless signals.
  • The network interface 69 has a protocol stack 266 for controlling the communication of data between the network interface 69 and the mobile nodes 25. In one exemplary embodiment, the stack 266 is implemented in software. However, in other embodiments it is possible for the stack 266 to be implemented in hardware, software, firmware, or a combination thereof.
  • In addition, a wide area network (WAN) interface 72 allows the coordinator logic 52 to communicate with a WAN (not shown), such as the Internet. As an example, the WAN interface 72 may comprise a satellite modem or other types of devices commonly used for communication with a WAN. Note that the WAN interface 72 is optional and may be omitted, if desired. Various details of an exemplary coordinator node 33 are described in U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/953,630.
  • As shown by FIG. 3, the coordinator node 33 comprises a user interface 269 for enabling information to be exchanged with a user. For example, the user interface 269 may have a keypad or other device for enabling a user to enter data. The user interface 269 may have a microphone for sensing voice or other sounds and a speaker for playing voice or other audio data. The interface 269 may also have a display device, such as a liquid crystal display device (LCD), for displaying information to a user. Other types of user interface devices may be employed in other embodiments.
  • The coordinator node 33 may be configured to perform various functions and have various configurations, including several exemplary functions and configurations described in U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/953,630 and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/099,453. For example, as described in the foregoing patent applications, scripts may be used to configure the coordinator node 33 and/or mobile nodes 25, and such scripts may be downloaded via a host (not shown), if desired.
  • FIG. 4 depicts a mobile node 25 in accordance with an exemplary embodiment of the present disclosure. As shown by FIG. 4, the mobile node 25 has control logic 311 for generally controlling the operation of the node 25. The control logic 311 can be implemented in software, hardware, firmware, or a combination thereof. In an exemplary embodiment illustrated in FIG. 4, the control logic 311 is implemented in software and stored in memory 314. Note that the control logic 311, when implemented in software, can be stored and transported on any computer-readable medium for use by or in connection with an instruction execution apparatus that can fetch and execute instructions.
  • The exemplary embodiment of the mobile node 25 depicted by FIG. 4 comprises at least one conventional processing element 323, such as a digital signal processor (DSP) or a central processing unit (CPU), that communicates to and drives the other elements within node 25 via a local interface 326, which can include at least one bus. Furthermore, a data interface 329, such as a USB port or RS-232 port, allows data to be exchanged with external devices.
  • The mobile node 25 also has a network interface 334 for enabling the control logic 311 to communicate with other nodes, such as coordinator node 33 or other mobile nodes 25. In one exemplary embodiment, the interface 334 is configured to communicate wireless signals, but wired signals may be communicated in other embodiments. As an example, the interface 334 may comprise one or more wireless radios (not specifically shown), each having a respective transceiver for transmitting and receiving wireless signals.
  • As shown by FIG. 4, the network interface 334 has an antenna 336 and a protocol stack 339. The stack 339 controls the communication of data between the network interface 334 and the other nodes 25, 33. In one exemplary embodiment, the stack 339 is implemented in software. However, in other embodiments it is possible for the stack 339 to be implemented in hardware, software, firmware, or a combination thereof.
  • As shown by FIG. 4, the mobile node 25 comprises various user interface devices for enabling information to be exchanged with a user. For example, the node 25 comprises a user input interface 344, such as a keypad, buttons, and/or other types input devices, for enabling a user to enter data or otherwise provide inputs. The node 25 also has a user output interface 347, such as a liquid crystal display device (LCD), for displaying or otherwise indicating information to a user. In addition, the node 25 has a microphone 352 for sensing audible sounds, such as voice, and a speaker 355 for generating audible sounds. Other types of user interface devices may be employed in other embodiments. The node 25 also has a location sensor 357, such as a global positioning system (GPS) sensor, for sensing a location of the node 25 and providing location data indicative of the node's sensed position.
  • In one exemplary embodiment, any of the mobile nodes 25 can be configured, at least to some extent, by the coordinator node 33 or other node 25. In this regard, the coordinator node 33 or another mobile node 25 may transmit scripts and/or data that is used by a mobile node 25 for controlling its operation. Exemplary techniques for controlling the mobile nodes 25 via the coordinator node 33 are described in U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/953,630 and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/099,453. However, configuring of the mobile node 25 according to such exemplary techniques is unnecessary.
  • In one exemplary embodiment, communication groups are defined such that data may be transmitted to a predefined group, referred to herein as a “talk group,” of listeners but nodes 25, 33 outside of the predefined group discard the data without conveying it to their users. Various techniques for achieving the foregoing are possible. Exemplary techniques for establishing and communicating among different talk groups will be now be described in further detail below. For simplicity, the use of talk groups will be described in the context of the network 20 of FIG. 2, which is without a coordinator node 33. However, similar techniques may be used in other types of networks, such as the network 20 shown by FIG. 1.
  • For illustrative purposes, assume that the network 20 of FIG. 2 is packet-based. Each packet has a header, which includes various control information, such as the identifiers of the node or nodes that are to respond and process the packet, and a data portion, which includes payload data, such as voice data. The packets may be communicated via any desired protocol. In one embodiment, the packets are communicated via radio frequency (RF) signals, but other types of signals may be used in other embodiments.
  • To set up a talk group, one of the users selects, enters, or otherwise provides the identifier of each node 25 to be included in the talk group. For example, the node 25 of one of the users may display, via output interface 347, a list of the nodes 25 in the network 20, and the user may select, via input interface 344, which of the nodes 25 are to be included in the talk group. The control logic 311 then chooses a group identifier for the talk group and transmits a message, including the group identifier, to each of the selected nodes 25. Each such node 25 stores the group identifier and thereafter responds to messages that have the group identifier included in the header.
  • When any user wishes to transmit a message to the talk group, the group identifier is included in the header of the message. Each node 25 of the talk group recognizes the group identifier and responds to it. For example, if the message includes voice data, each such node 25 plays the voice data via speaker 355. The non-identified nodes 25, however, discard the message without playing the voice data. Thus, the voice data is only played by the nodes 25 of the talk group. Accordingly, any user of a node 25 of the talk group can send a voice message that is heard only by the users of the other nodes 25 of the talk group. Note that the same node 25 may simultaneously be a member of multiple talk groups. If any message is communicated for any of the talk groups for which a node 25 is a member, then the node 25 plays the voice data, if any, in the message.
  • In one exemplary embodiment, each talk group is associated with a respective user input device, such as a button or other type of switch, to facilitate communication among the members of the talk group. For example, FIG. 5 depicts an exemplary mobile communication unit 500 that may be used to implement any of the nodes 25. Note that the unit 500 also may be used to implement the coordinator node 33 in embodiments in which a coordinator node is employed. For illustrative purposes, the unit 500 will be described hereafter in the context of being used for a mobile node 25.
  • The unit 500 has a housing 505 that houses various node components, such as processing element 323 (FIG. 4) and memory 314. As shown by FIG. 5, at least one speaker 355 and at least one microphone 352 are coupled to the housing 505. The exemplary embodiment shown by FIG. 5 also has a display device 511, such as a liquid crystal display (LCD), that implements at least a portion of the user output interface 347 shown by FIG. 4. The unit 500 also has a plurality of buttons 521-523 that are respectively associated with talk groups. For example, button 521 is associated with a talk group, referred to as “Group 1,” button 522 is associated with a talk group, referred to as “Group 2,” and button 523 is associated with a talk group, referred to as “Group 3.” As an example, Group 1 may include all of the members of a military unit, Group 2 may include all of the officers of the unit, and Group 3 may include the officers and sergeants of the unit. Various other types of groups are possible in other examples.
  • In one exemplary embodiment, each button 521-523 is implemented as a push-to-talk (PTT) button. Thus, if a user wishes to convey a voice message to the members of Group 1, the user pushes and holds button 521 while speaking the voice message. While the button 521 is depressed, audible sounds, such as the voice message, detected by the microphone 352 are converted into digital data and sent to the network interface 334 (FIG. 4) via the control logic 311. The stack 339 packetizes the data for transmission over the network 20 and inserts the group identifier for Group 1 in each data packet. The interface 334 then wirelessly transmits the packets over the network. Each node 25 of Group 1 receives and depacketizes such packets to recover the voice data. In addition, each such node 25 plays the voice data via speaker 355. Thus, each user of a node 25 within Group 1 hears the voice message.
  • The buttons 522, 523 associated with the other talk groups may be similarly used to communicate messages to the members of the other talk groups. Note that other types of interface devices may be used to control when messages are communicated to a talk group. For example, with a PTT button, the button is moved from a deactivated state to an activated state when pressed by the user. The button may automatically move back to the deactivated state once the user stops pressing the button. While the button is activated, audible sounds received by the microphone 352 are converted to digital data and communicated to the talk group. However, in other embodiments, other types of switches, such as toggle switches, sliding switches, or a dial, may be used that require the user to force the switch from each state to a new state. For example, assume that a talk group is associated with a toggle switch rather than a PTT button. In such an embodiment, the user moves the toggle switch from a deactivated state to an activated state. The switch remains in the activated state until the user forces the switch back to the deactivated state. Moreover, if the user wishes to speak to the members of multiple talk groups, the user may simply move the switch for each such talk group to the activated state and then speak the message without having to hold each such switch in its activation state.
  • In one exemplary embodiment of the network 20 depicted by FIG. 1, the coordinator node 33 controls when each mobile node 25 is permitted to transmit data packets to the other nodes 25. In this regard, when a mobile node 25, referred to hereafter as the “transmitting node,” desires to transmit to one or more other nodes 25, the transmitting node 25 transmits a request, referred to hereafter as a “transmit request,” to the coordinator node 33. Each node 25 is associated with a unique identifier, referred to hereafter as “node identifier,” and the transmit request includes the node identifier of the transmitting node 25 so that the coordinator node 33 is aware of the source of the transmit request.
  • When the coordinator node 33 desires to permit the transmitting node 25 to transmit, the coordinator node 33 broadcasts a command instructing each mobile node 25 to transition into a listening mode at least with respect to the channel to be used by the transmitting node 25 for communication. While in the listening mode, a node 25 refrains from making any wireless transmissions in at least the channel that is to be used by the transmitting node 25. In this regard, the node 25 listens for data packets on the foregoing channel. If more than one channel is used by the network 20, then the command may include an identifier of the channel that is to be used by the transmitting node 25 so that each node 25 is aware of which channel is to be used for the transmission.
  • After broadcasting the command, the coordinator node 33 then transmits a message to the transmitting node 25 indicating that such node 25 may now transmit. The foregoing message includes the node identifier of the transmitting node 25. In response, the transmitting node 25 wirelessly transmits data packets that can be received by the other nodes 25. When the transmitting node 25 has completed the transmission, the transmitting node 25 transmits, to the coordinator node 33, a message indicating that the transmission is complete. Based on such message, the coordinator node 33 may permit transmission by another node 25 or may permit at least some of the nodes 25 to transition out of the listening mode.
  • Note that, if transmission is to occur to only a subset of the nodes 25, the transmit request may include the group identifier of the group of nodes 25 that are to receive the transmitted data. If desired, the coordinator node 33 may include such group identifier in the foregoing command so that only the nodes 25 within the identified group wait or listen for data from the transmitting node 25.
  • Since communication between nodes 25 does not occur without authorization of the coordinator node 33, the coordinator node 33 can prevent data collisions on the network 20. In this regard, the coordinator node 33 can ensure that multiple nodes do not communicate over the same channel at the same time.
  • In another embodiment, the transmitting node 25 may be configured to include, in the transmit request, the data that is to be transmitted. Upon receiving the transmit request, the coordinator node 33 may transmit the data to the mobile nodes 25 identified in the transmit request. Since any data destined for any of the mobile nodes 25 is transmitted by the coordinator node 33, the coordinator node 33 can ensure that data collisions do not occur.
  • In one exemplary embodiment, all communications from one node 25, 33 to another node 25, 33 occur over the same channel. In such embodiment, simplex communication with the coordinator node 33 may be enabled. However, in other embodiments, multiple channels may be used. For example, transmissions to the coordinator node 33 may be at one frequency, and transmissions from the coordinator node 33 may be at another frequency. In such an embodiment, frequency division multiplexing may be used to enable full duplex communication with the coordinator node 33.
  • In addition, the network 20 may be configured such that different mobile nodes 25 communicate at different frequencies. For example, one node 25 may transmit at one frequency, and another node 25 may transmit at another frequency such that the two nodes 25 can simultaneously transmit data without any data collisions. In such a case, the two nodes 25 are transmitting over different frequency channels.
  • In one exemplary embodiment, at least one of the mobile nodes 25 has an input device 525 (FIG. 5) for indicating an emergency or other types of events that warrant the immediate attention of the users of other nodes. In one exemplary embodiment, such an input device 525 is implemented as a button and is referred to hereafter as the “panic button.” The configuration and operation of the input device 525 will be described hereafter in the context of the panic button embodiment. However, it is to be understood that the input device 525 may be implemented via other types of devices in other embodiments. Further, for simplicity, the use of the panic button will be described in the context of the network 20 of FIG. 2, which is without a coordinator node 33. However, similar techniques may be used in other types of networks, such as the network 20 shown by FIG. 1.
  • When the panic button 525 of a mobile node 25 is activated, such node 25, referred to hereafter as the “panicking node,” automatically transmits a message, referred to hereafter as a “panic message,” to at least one other node 25, 33. In one exemplary embodiment, the panic message is broadcast to all of the other nodes 25 via a “multicast” message, as described in U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/099,453. The panic message may trigger an alarm condition, such as activation of a light source (e.g., a light emitting diode), a predefined text warning message, or an audible indication (such as one or more beeps or a predefined audio message), on the receiving node 25 to warn the user of the receiving node 25 that the user of the panicking node 25 is involved in an emergency or some other event that warrants immediate attention. The transmitted panic message may also include a text message or a pre-recorded audio message that is displayed or played by the receiving node 25. The data defining such a text or audio message may be retrieved by the panicking node and inserted into the panic message or otherwise communicated by the panicking node. Alternatively, the receiving node 25 may store the data defining the message to be conveyed to the user of such nodes 25 and the panic message may trigger the receiving node 25 to retrieve such data.
  • As an example, for a military application, assume that the panic button 525 is used when a soldier has encountered enemy troops who are so close that a voice message cannot be uttered by the soldier without alerting the enemy to his presence. The soldier may use the panic button 525 of his mobile unit 500 to silently transmit a panic message to one or more other nodes 25 in an effort to silently alert (relative to the panicking node) the users of the other nodes 25 that he has encountered the enemy and/or desires assistance. The panic button 525 may be used in other situations as well. For example, a wounded soldier may use the panic button 525 when he has been wounded or is unable to use the unit 500 in a normal manner. In other applications, policeman may use the panic button 525 when he has located a perpetrator of a crime or is in a situation for which the assistance of other policemen is desired. A firefighter may use the panic button 525 if he becomes trapped in a burning house or otherwise desires the assistance of other firefighters. Many other uses of the panic button 525 would be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art upon reading this disclosure.
  • In one exemplary embodiment, the panic message includes the identifier of the panicking node 25. Information about this node 25, such as the identity of the user of the panicking node 25, is conveyed to the users of the other nodes 25. For example, each node 25 may store in memory 311 the identifiers of the other nodes 25 in the network 20. Correlated with each identifier is information about the identified node 25, such as the name and/or rank of the node's user. In one embodiment, such information is defined when a node 25 joins the network 20.
  • For example, the user of a node 25, referred to hereafter as the “joining node,” may enter various information about the joining node 25, such as the user's name and rank, via the user input interface 344 or otherwise. Such information, referred to hereafter as “personal information,” is stored in memory 314 by the control logic 311. At some point the node 25 joins the network 20. Known techniques for joining networks may be employed. For example, the joining node 25 may be configured to broadcast a message indicating the node's presence. Node's 25 within range of the joining node 25 may respond and exchange information with the joining node 25. Based on the exchanged information, the routing table of the joining node 25 for the network 20 may be initialized, and the routing tables of at least some of the other nodes 25 may be updated to account for the joining node 25. Further, the identifiers and personal information of the network nodes may be transmitted to the joining node 25. After joining the network 20, the joining node 25 may broadcast the node's personal information to the other nodes 25 of the network 20. Thus, each node 25 of the network 20 stores the identifiers of the other nodes and correlates each identifier with the personal information provided by the identified node. Therefore, when a node 25 receives a panic message, the node 25 can display or otherwise convey the personal information for the panicking node to the user via the display device 511 or otherwise. Alternatively, the panic message may include the personal information about the panicking node such that storage of such information at the other nodes 25 is unnecessary prior to transmission of the panicking node.
  • Note that the personal information may be used in other contexts as well. For example, the personal information about the node 25 that originally transmitted a message may be displayed or otherwise conveyed to the user of the receiving node 25 when the receiving node 25 is playing the message or otherwise interfacing the message with such user. Thus, if the user is unable to recognize the voice of the message being played, then the user of the receiving node 25 can identify the source of the message based on the personal information being conveyed about the transmitting node 25. As an example, when a voice message is received from a transmitting node 25, the receiving node 25 may display the name and rank of the user of the transmitting node. The personal information may be stored in the receiving node 25 before receiving the message, or the personal information may be included in the message received by the receiving node 25.
  • In one exemplary embodiment, the panicking node 25, based on the location sensor 357, includes location data in the panic message. The location data identifies the current location of the panicking node 25. In this regard, in response to activation of the panic button 525, the control logic 311 reads location data from the location sensor 357 and inserts such location into the panic message. Based on such location data, each receiving node 25 indicates the location of the panicking node to the user. For example, in one exemplary embodiment, each node 25 stores map data 534 (FIG. 4) defining a map of the geographic location of at least the panicking node and possibly other nodes of the network 20. When a node 25 receives a panic message, the node's control logic 311 retrieves the map data 534 and displays such data 534 via the display device 511 or otherwise thereby rendering a map of the area in which the panicking node is located. Further, the control logic 311 indicates within the displayed map, the current location of the panicking node based on the location data included in the panic message. For example, the control logic 311 may display a graphical symbol, such as a dot or square, marking the location of the panicking node on the displayed map. In addition, to help the user to determine the location of the panicking node to the user's current location, the control logic 311 may also indicate the current location of the receiving node 25 based on location data from the location sensor 357 of the receiving node 25. Thus, by viewing the displayed map, the user of the receiving node 25 may visually discern the panicking node's location relative to the user's current location. Using the displayed map, the user of the receiving node 25 may then try to physically locate the user of the panicking node in order to provide assistance. In particular, using the displayed map as a guide, the user of the receiving node 25 may attempt to travel to the location of the panicking node.
  • To assist the user of the receiving node 25 in finding the panicking node, the control logic 311 of the receiving node 25 is configured to determine directional information indicative of the panicking node's location relative to the receiving node 25. For example, in one exemplary embodiment, the logic 311 compares the location data for the receiving node 25 to the location data for the panicking node and determines a direction of the panicking node from the receiving node. In one embodiment, the direction is indicated in degrees from North. Thus, if the panicking node is directly south of the receiving node 25, the direction is expressed as 180 degrees. Other types of directional information may be indicated in other embodiments. The logic 311 displays or otherwise conveys the direction information to the user of the receiving node 25. In one exemplary embodiment, the logic 311 calculates a distance of the panicking node from the receiving node 25, and the directional information conveyed to the user includes a value indicative of such distance. In one exemplary embodiment, the directional information conveyed to the user includes a coordinate, such as degrees latitude and/or degrees longitude, of the panicking node. Various other types of information may be included in the directional information.
  • In addition, the displayed map may be updated with the current locations of the receiving node 25 and the panicking node as the user of the receiving node 25 searches. In this regard, after sending a panic message, the panicking node may be configured to automatically and periodically broadcast a message indicating the current location of the panicking node based on the node's location sensor 357. Based on the location data included in such message, the control logic 311 of the receiving node 25 may update the displayed map to indicate the current location of the panicking node. Similarly, the receiving node 25 may automatically and periodically update the displayed map based on the node's location sensor 357 to update the current location of the receiving node 25. Thus, as the user of the receiving node 25 is searching for the panicking node, the displayed map is updated to reflect the current locations of the receiving node 25 and the panicking node thereby facilitating the user's search.
  • As an example, refer to FIG. 6, which depicts an exemplary map 601 displayed by the display device 511 of a node 25 that receives a panic message. As shown by FIG. 6, the map 601 may display topological features of the area represented by the map 601. For example, the map 601 of FIG. 6 includes a graphical river 606 and a graphical building 607 representative of an actual river and building that are close to the panicking node, as indicated by the map 601. Such displayed features are defined by the map data 534.
  • In FIG. 6, a graphical indicator 611, such as a dot, represents the location of the receiving node 25, and a graphical indicator 612, such as a dot, represents the location of the panicking node. In one exemplary embodiment, the graphical indicator 612 for the panicking node is highlighted or otherwise distinguished from the graphical indicators of other nodes shown in the map. The dark coloring of the graphical indicator 612 relative to indicator 611 illustrates such a feature. In other examples, other techniques for distinguishing or drawing attention to the panicking node are possible. For example, the graphical indicator 612 may blink or change color. In one example, the graphical indicator 612 for the panicking node is colored differently from the graphical indicators for the other nodes.
  • In the exemplary map 601 depicted by FIG. 6, a text box 622 includes text indicative of the name and military rank, e.g., private (pvt.), sergeant (sgt.), lieutenant (It.), of the user of the receiving node 25, and a text box 623 includes text indicative of the name and military rank of the user of the panicking node. Such text may be defined by predefined personal information, as described above. In addition, the map 601 also includes directional information 642 indicating a direction of the panicking node from the receiving node 25. In the example shown by FIG. 6, the directional information 642 provides a directional value expressed in degrees from North (N). The information 642 also indicates the distance (in miles) of the panicking node from the receiving node 25. Note that the map 601 shows only the receiving node 25 and the panicking node. However, if the locations of the other nodes 25 in the network 20 are known by the receiving node 25, then the map 601 may be updated to similarly indicate the positions of other nodes in the network 20.
  • FIG. 7 depicts the displayed map 601 after it has been updated once the user of the receiving node 25 has moved closer to the panicking node.
  • In one exemplary embodiment, the user input interface 344 comprises a keypad or some other type of user interface device that allows the user to enter a text message. The data defining the text message may be included in the panic message. The nodes 25 receiving the panic message are preferably configured to display or otherwise convey to their users any data included in the panic message.
  • In one exemplary embodiment, the mobile communication unit 500 has multiple panic buttons 525, 526 and each panic button 525, 526 is associated with a particular event. Further, the panic message includes predefined data about the event so that the users of the receiving nodes are informed about the event. As an example, one panic button 525 is used when a soldier is wounded, and the other panic button 526 may be used when a soldier has encountered the enemy. In such an example, the panic button 525 may be associated with predefined text data or other type of data indicating that the user of the node 25 has been wounded. The other button 526 may be associated with predefined text data or other type of data indicating that the user of the node 25 has encountered the enemy. When one of the buttons 525, 526 is activated, the associated data is retrieved and included in the panic message. Thus, when the button 525 is activated, the nodes 25 receiving the panic message display or otherwise convey a message that the user of the panicking node has been wounded. When the button 526 is activated, the nodes 25 receiving the panic message display or otherwise convey a message that the user of the panicking node has encountered enemy troops. Other types of messages may be conveyed in other embodiments.
  • In one embodiment, the panic button 525 is recessed into the housing 505 of the unit 500 in an effort to prevent accidental activation of the panic button 525. Thus, it is less likely that the control logic 311 will sense a panic condition for which a panic message is transmitted in response. In a further effort to prevent accidental detection of a panic condition, the control logic 25 is configured to sense an occurrence of a panic condition only if the panic button 525 is continuously activated for a predefined time period, such as about 3 seconds. In this regard, in response to activation of the panic button 525, the control logic 311 begins to track the amount of time that the panic button 525 remains in the activation state (e.g., is being pressed by the user). If the panic button 525 remains in the activated state for at least the predefined time period, then the control logic 311 senses an occurrence of a panic condition and broadcasts a panic message, as described above. However, if the panic button 525 transitions to a deactivated state (e.g., the user releases the panic button 525) before expiration of the predefined time period, then the control logic 311 does not sense a panic condition and, therefore, does not broadcast a panic message.
  • As shown by FIG. 4, each node 25 comprises a timer 651 to assist with the detection of panic conditions. In this regard, when the panic button 525 is initially pressed thereby transitioning this button 525 to an activated state, the control logic 311 is responsive to such activation in order to activate the timer 651 such that it expires in a predefined time period, as shown by blocks 661 and 662 of FIG. 8. If the panic button 525 transitions to a deactivated state prior to expiration of the timer 651, the control logic 311 does not sense a panic condition but rather returns to block 661, as shown by block 665 of FIG. 8. When the timer 651 expires, it transmits a notification to the control logic 311. If the timer 651 expires before deactivation of the panic button 525, then the control logic 311 senses a panic condition. In response, the logic 311 reads the location sensor 357 and broadcasts a panic message that includes the location data read from the location sensor 357, as shown by blocks 666-668 of FIG. 8.
  • FIG. 9 shows a cross-sectional view of the exemplary housing 505 and panic button 525 shown by FIG. 5. As shown by FIG. 9, the button 525 is recessed in the housing 505. In the embodiment shown FIG. 9, the button 525 is positioned in a hole 683 formed by the housing 505. Further, a top surface of the button 525 is below a rim 688 formed by the housing 505 at the entrance of the hole 683. As described above, recessing the button 525 in the housing 505 helps to prevent accidental activation of the button 525. In other embodiments, other configurations are possible. In fact, as described above, input devices other than buttons may be used to sense occurrences of panic conditions.
  • In addition, it should be noted that the mobile communication unit 500 is described above as a hand-held unit. However, other configurations of the unit 500 are possible. For example, it is possible for the unit 500 to comprise a headset (not shown) worn by a user wherein the speaker 355 and microphone 352 are incorporated into the headset. Other components, such as the display device 511 may be incorporated into the headset. In one embodiment, the speaker 355, microphone 352, and/or the display device 511 are incorporated into a helmet (not shown) worn by the user. In such embodiments, the components incorporated into a headset or helmet may be separated from the housing that houses the control logic 311 and/or other components. Such housing may be attached to the user. For example, the housing may be attached to a belt or other clothing or equipment of the user. Wireless communication between the control logic 311 and the components separated from its housing may be achieved via Bluetooth protocols or other types of wireless protocols. Various other designs would be apparent to one of ordinary skill in the art upon reading this disclosure.
  • In one embodiment, at least one of the mobile nodes 25 is used as a coordinator for a sub-network. For example, FIG. 10 shows an exemplary embodiment in which one of the mobile nodes 25 is used as a coordinator for a sensor sub-network 811. The sensor sub-network 811 has two sensors 815, but the sub-network 811 may have other numbers of sensors and/or other devices in other embodiments. For example, a soldier using the node 25 of sub-network 811 may place one or more sensors 815 at various locations, and the node 25 may be used to monitor and/or control such sensors 815. As a mere example, a soldier may be ordered to hold or clear a particular area or building. Such soldier may place a sensor 815, such as an infrared or motion sensor within the area. If the sensor 815 detects motion or the presence of a person, the sensor 815 may transmit a message to the node 25 alerting the soldier of the detected motion or presence. Such information may be useful for helping the soldier to achieve the assigned task. For example, after receiving the message, the soldier may take appropriate action assuming that the sensor 815 has detected the presence of an enemy soldier.
  • In addition to sensors 815, the sub-network 811 may comprise other devices, such as explosive devices or other types of weapons. The node 25 of the sub-network 811 may be used to configure, control, or detonate such other devices. For example, the node 25 may be used to configure an explosive device to automatically detonate based on a sensed event by one of the sensors 815. In such an embodiment, the sensor 815 may communicate with the explosive device directly. Alternatively, the sensor 815 may communicate the sensed event to the node 25, which then triggers the explosive device. Further, the soldier using the node 25 of the sub-network 811 may manually trigger or otherwise control the explosive device. Moreover, U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/953,630 describes exemplary techniques that may be used by a coordinator to control, configure, and/or communicate with remote devices, such as sensors. Such techniques may be used by the node 25 of the sub-network 811 to control, configure, and/or communicate with the devices, such as sensors 815, of the sub-network 811.

Claims (19)

1. A wireless network having a plurality of nodes, including a first node and a second node, the first node comprising a first mobile communication unit and the second node comprising a second mobile communication unit, each of the mobile communication units configured to route messages through the network, the first mobile communication unit comprising:
a user input device; and
logic configured to sense a panic condition based on an input received via the user input device, the logic configured to wirelessly broadcast through the network a panic message in response to a detection of the panic condition, wherein the panic message is received by at least the second mobile communication unit, and wherein the second mobile communication unit is configured to provide an alarm in response to the panic message, the alarm indicating a current location of the first mobile communication unit.
2. The network of claim 1, wherein the user input device comprises a button.
3. The network of claim 1, wherein the logic is configured to make a determination whether the user input device remains continuously activated for at least a predefined time period, and wherein the logic is configured to sense the panic condition based on the determination.
4. The network of claim 3, wherein the first mobile communication unit comprises a housing, and wherein the user input device is recessed into the housing.
5. The network of claim 4, wherein the user input device comprises a button.
6. The network of claim 1, wherein the first mobile communication unit comprises a housing, and wherein the user input device is recessed into the housing.
7. The network of claim 1, wherein the second mobile communication unit is configured to display a map in response to the panic message, and wherein the second mobile communication unit is configured to indicate on the map a current location of the first mobile communication unit.
8. The network of claim 7, wherein the second mobile communication unit is configured to indicate on the map a current location of the second mobile communication unit.
9. The network of claim 7, wherein the second mobile communication unit is configured to display a name of a user of the first mobile communication unit in response to the panic message.
10. The network of claim 9, wherein the second mobile communication unit is configured to display a military rank of the user in response to the panic message.
11. The network of claim 1, wherein the first mobile communication unit comprises a first user input device associated with a first talk group and a second user input device associated with a second talk group, and wherein the logic is configured to transmit at least one message to nodes of the first talk group in response to activation of the first user input device and to transmit at least one message to nodes of the second talk group in response to activation of the second user input device.
12. A mobile communication unit for communicating in a wireless network, comprising:
a user input device;
a location sensor; and
logic configured to sense a panic condition based on an input received via the user input device, the logic configured to wirelessly broadcast a panic message to nodes of the wireless network in response to a detection of the panic condition, the logic further configured to include in the panic message location data based on the location sensor, the location data indicative of a current location of the mobile communication unit.
13. The mobile communication unit of claim 12, wherein the logic is configured to make a determination whether the user input device remains continuously activated for at least a predefined time period, and wherein the logic is configured to sense the panic condition based on the determination.
14. The mobile communication unit of claim 13, wherein the user input device comprises a housing, and wherein the user input device is recessed into the housing.
15. The mobile communication unit of claim 12, wherein the logic is configured to include in the message data indicative of a name of a user of the mobile communication unit.
16. The mobile communication unit of claim 12, wherein the logic is configured to include in the message data indicative of a military rank of a user of the mobile communication unit.
17. A method for use in a wireless network having a plurality of nodes, including a first node and a second node, each of the plurality of nodes configured to route messages through the network, comprising the steps of:
receiving a user input via the first node;
sensing a panic condition in response to the user input; and
transmitting a panic message through the network in response to the sensing step, wherein at least one of the nodes is configured to provide an alarm in response to the panic message, the alarm indicating a current location of the first node.
18. The method of claim 17, further comprising the step of inserting location data into the panic message, the location data indicating a current location of the first node.
19. A method for use in a wireless network having a plurality of nodes, including a first node and a second node, each of the plurality of nodes configured to route messages through the network, comprising the steps of:
receiving a user input via the first node;
sensing a panic condition in response to the user input; and
transmitting a panic message from the first node through the network in response to the sensing step; and
inserting location data into the panic message, the location data indicating a current location of the first node.
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