WO1991001538A1 - Improvements in and relating to non-cash payment means - Google Patents

Improvements in and relating to non-cash payment means

Info

Publication number
WO1991001538A1
WO1991001538A1 PCT/GB1990/001104 GB9001104W WO1991001538A1 WO 1991001538 A1 WO1991001538 A1 WO 1991001538A1 GB 9001104 W GB9001104 W GB 9001104W WO 1991001538 A1 WO1991001538 A1 WO 1991001538A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
card
code
means
unit
payment
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB1990/001104
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Malcolm Davies
Michael David Wilson
John Douglas Tolmer
Original Assignee
Cash Card Systems Limited
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

Links

Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F17/00Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services
    • G07F17/42Coin-freed apparatus for hiring articles; Coin-freed facilities or services for ticket printing or like apparatus, e.g. apparatus for dispensing of printed paper tickets or payment cards
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q20/00Payment architectures, schemes or protocols
    • G06Q20/30Payment architectures, schemes or protocols characterised by the use of specific devices
    • G06Q20/34Payment architectures, schemes or protocols characterised by the use of specific devices using cards, e.g. integrated circuit [IC] cards or magnetic cards
    • G06Q20/343Cards including a counter
    • G06Q20/3433Cards including a counter the counter having monetary units
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q20/00Payment architectures, schemes or protocols
    • G06Q20/30Payment architectures, schemes or protocols characterised by the use of specific devices
    • G06Q20/34Payment architectures, schemes or protocols characterised by the use of specific devices using cards, e.g. integrated circuit [IC] cards or magnetic cards
    • G06Q20/343Cards including a counter
    • G06Q20/3437Cards including a counter the counter having non-monetary units, e.g. trips
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F11/00Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles
    • G07F11/02Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles from non-movable magazines
    • G07F11/44Coin-freed apparatus for dispensing, or the like, discrete articles from non-movable magazines in which magazines the articles are stored in bulk
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F7/00Mechanisms actuated by objects other than coins to free or to actuate vending, hiring, coin or paper currency dispensing or refunding apparatus
    • G07F7/02Mechanisms actuated by objects other than coins to free or to actuate vending, hiring, coin or paper currency dispensing or refunding apparatus by keys or other credit registering devices

Abstract

A method and apparatus for the production of non-cash payment means, in which the payment means is issued in a disabled state, incapable of use, and is subsequently enabled for use. When disabled, the payment means has no value and can therefore be stored and transported without elaborate security measures. When enabled, the payment means is usable on a variety of vending machines including, for instance, a pool table. A ball release mechanism suitable for a pool table is also disclosed.

Description

IMPROVEMENTS IN AND RELATING TO NON-CASH PAYMENT MEANS

This invention relates to non-cash payment means and, in a particular aspect, relates to non-cash payment means for vending machines.

The term 'vending machine' as used in this specification is intended to encompass all machines that perform an action, provide a service or dispense goods upon activation by an operator. In most cases, activation will involve advance payment by the operator for the goods and services to be provided.

As will be clear, the above definition of the term 'vending machine' encompasses drink dispensers, public telephones, pool tables, amusement machines, gaming machines and cigarette dispensers. This list is, of course, far from comprehensive and many other types of vending machine will be known to readers skilled in the art.

Known vending machine systems suffer from several disadvantages. Firstly, the majority of existing vending machines are cash operated and therefore may require security measures such as alarms or multiple locks to discourage theft of cash from the machine's cash receptacle. These security measures increase the machine's complexity and cost. Secondly, it is common for several vending machines located in various establishments to be owned and operated by a single company, which derives its income from the machines' takings and which therefore employs collectors to empty cash from the machines. The wages paid to these collectors and the support systems needed to facilitate collection are major overheads which reduce profits markedly.

The disadvantages outlined above have led to the ongoing replacement of many cash-operated vending machines by machines operated by non-cash payment means such as pre-paid cards bearing credit units. The cards may be purchased in a variety of establishments such as newsagents and groceries and may then be used in particular vending machines as and when required, one or more credit units being used up in the process.

Perhaps the clearest illustration of the trend towards non-cash operation is in the field of public telephones, in which numerous coin-operated units have been converted to card operation in recent years.

Card operation overcomes many of the disadvantages inherent in cash-operated vending machines and, in particular, obviates the need for cash collection. In particular, there is relatively little likelihood that a card-operated vending machine will be attacked as it contains no cash. Nevertheless, significant disadvantages remain because pre-paid cards have a value equal to their face value and therefore must be transported and stored with similar care to an equivalent quantity of cash. This security problem detracts from the clear theoretical advantages of card operation in relation to cash operation.

Another disadvantage of existing card-operated machine systems is that conversion of a cash-operated machine to card operation often involves replacement of the entire machine. This represents a waste of existing resources and therefore acts as a bar to further adoption of card operation. It is an object of this invention to overcome or at least to mitigate these and other disadvantages of known systems.

With this object in view, this invention embodies the novel principle of a system for non-cash payment using payment means that can be purchased in a form suitable for use, in which the payment means is issued or distributed in a disabled state, incapable of use, and is subsequently enabled at or before the point of sale.

A particular aspect of this invention may thus be expressed as a method for producing non-cash payment means, wherein the payment means is issued or distributed in a disabled state and is then enabled for use. In another particular aspect, the invention may also be expressed as a production means for the production of non-cash payment means, the production means comprising means for producing disabled payment means, means for issuing or distributing the payment means while in a disabled state, and means for enabling the payment means prior to sale or at the point of sale.

It is preferred that the payment means is a card bearing, or capable of bearing, encoded and encrypted information upon a magnetic strip. In a first embodiment, the payment means can be enabled by being given an enabling code. Thus, the invention is also embodied in enabling means arranged to provide non-cash payment means with an enabling code. Alternatively, in a second embodiment, *the payment means can be enabled by programming a vending machine to accept a code borne by the payment means when issued. Another part of this invention provides a .ball release mechanism for pool tables and the like, the mechanism comprising a paddle member for retaining playing balls in a rack, which member is pivotable in one principal direction to release the playing balls from the rack.

In an advantageous embodiment, the paddle member includes at least one flap portion arranged to drive the playing balls out of the rack as the paddle member pivots in use.

This invention also provides a self-contained, removable activation device for a vending machine, the device being arranged to replace or to supplement an existing activation device to convert the vending machine to non-cash, or cash- and non-cash, operation.

In a still further aspect, this invention provides an activation device for a vending machine, in which the activation device has an independent primary power supply. The power supply is preferably rechargeable in situ.

In order that this invention may be more readily understood, reference will now be made, by way of example, to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 is a partially-sectioned side view of a card acceptor unit according to a specific aspect of this invention;

Figure 2 is a flow diagram illustrating the operation of one embodiment of the invention; Figures 3(a), (b) and (c) are schematic end views showing the operation of a known ball release mechanism for pool tables and the like; and

Figures 4(a) and (b) are schematic end views illustrating the operation of a ball release system according to an aspect of this invention.

Figure 1 illustrates a card-operated control mechanism for vending machines, which mechanism in the form of a discrete card acceptor unit 10. The unit 10 is designed for fitment to an existing coin-operated vending machine in place of the coin handling mechanism currently used, and it is envisaged that the unit could be fitted directly into the space vacated by the coin handling mechanism. To this end, the unit

10 has a facia panel 12 shaped to close the aperture in the vending machine that normally accepts the coin handling mechanism, and may also have a protective rear housing 14 as shown.

The card acceptor unit 10 has a card slot 16 which, as a security measure, is of smaller than ISO (credit card) size in order to prevent insertion of a credit card. The unit 10 is suitably arranged to read cards bearing a narrow magnetic stripe, the stripe being slightly off centre in a configuration not shared by common magnetic cards such as travel passes or credit cards.

The facia panel 12 has a display 18 comprising three indicator lights, which indicate the response of the unit 10 to a given card. One light indicates 'card accepted', another light indicates 'unacceptable card/no credit units on card' and the third light indicates 'insufficient credit units on card'. The components within the card acceptor unit 10 include an optical sensor 20 arranged to sense insertion of a card into the card slot 16, a printed circuit board (PCB) 22, and a motor-driven card reader/writer 24. The reader/writer 24 suitably incorporates a punch for visually marking a card. With this in mind, a further optical sensor may be provided to discriminate between position markers carried by a card, thereby accurately to control the position of the punch head relative to the card's surface.

It is preferred that the punch, where fitted, is positively driven by a solenoid and has a* spring to return the punch head to a rest position. This ensures that the movement of the punch head is independent of gravity, and thereby allows the card acceptor unit 10 to be used in any orientation.

Advantageously, all of the components within the card acceptor unit 10 are readily removeable and replaceable in order to facilitate servicing.

In an advantageous variant, the power supply to the card acceptor unit 10 is self-contained. This obviates the need for mains supply cables or the like. To this end, the unit 10 may contain batteries or may be connectable to batteries situated elsewhere within the vending machine.

The self-contained power supply is particularly useful where the invention is applied to pool tables or to other vending machines requiring island positioning, i.e. away from a wall. Otherwise, cables might have to be laid across the floor between the vending machine and a suitable power socket situated, for instance, on an adjacent wall. It is known to overcome this problem by providing a power socket on the floor directly underneath the table in order to eliminate cable runs. However, installation of suitable power sockets is expensive and inconvenient, particularly where it may be desired to move the pool table between several locations because each location would require a dedicated power socket.

At the end of their operational life, say every six months, the batteries can be removed and replaced by new or recharged batteries. However, it is preferred that the batteries are rechargeable in situ, in which case a connector and charging circuit is provided in the card acceptor unit 10 or in the vending machine itself to allow connection of a mains supply cable during recharging. In either case, it is envisaged that the unit 10 will have a battery charge level indicator, preferably with further means for indicating when battery charge exceeds an upper threshold level or falls below a lower threshold level.

It is of course entirely possible in many cases to derive power for the card acceptor unit 10 from the vending machine to which the unit is fitted, or indeed to connect the unit directly to a mains power supply. It is, therefore, preferred that the unit 10 is capable of being powered directly from various supplies, including 12 volts DC and AC, 24 volts DC and AC, 120 volts AC, and 230 volts AC.

The PCB 22 carries a voltage regulator, an interface circuit to facilitate interaction with the card reader/writer 24, a microprocessor (including a real-time clock facility), an EPROM, a RAM and, optionally, a port for further expansion of memory or a data-transmission port (e.g. RS232 type) allowing load or download of data. The PCB 22 also has outputs 26 and inputs 28 for interaction with the vending machine into which the card acceptor unit 10 is fitted.

The components on the PCB 22 are of the low power consumption CMOS type and draw a constant trickle current of about 2mA. A back-up battery may be provided to maintain memory should power supply from the primary batteries fail for any reason.

The first embodiment of the invention employs an enabling means which is used to provide a card with an enabling code. This enabling means takes the form of a validator unit which is broadly similar in hardware layout to the card acceptor unit 10 described above, having a reader/writer, a display, a microprocessor with a real-time clock facility, a memory, and optional ports for memory expansion and data load/download. The display provided on the validator unit is preferably an LCD dot matrix type in contrast to the indicator lights of the display 18 provided on the card acceptor unit 10. Moreover, the memory capacity of the validator unit is suitably somewhat greater than that of the card acceptor unit 10 in order to allow for audit records, with particulars of each occasion of use being recorded in the memory to allow periodic auditing. The validator may also be connected (by means of the optional download port) to a central data bank, possibly by use of modem links and telephone lines as is well known. The central data bank could be used for auditing purposes and/or to monitor validator usage in a given area.

The validator unit will generally be used adjacent to an existing cash register and therefore will usually be mains powered as there is unlikely to be a problem in finding a suitable mains power socket. For both the card acceptor unit 10 and the validator unit, data load/download may be effected by use of a two-way infra-red data link between the card acceptor or validator unit and a portable transmitter/receiver unit. To this end, the card acceptor or validator unit is provided with infra-red data transmitting/receiving circuitry arranged to emit infra-red pulses from a transmitter and to receive infra-red pulses via a sensor. The transmitter and sensor are suitably located adjacent the card slot of the card acceptor or validator unit. The infra-red data link allows convenient auditing and programming of the card acceptor and/or validator units with no need for wired connections.

In the first embodiment of this invention, payment means in the form of cards are issued in batches to retail establishments such as public houses. The cards are issued in a disabled state, lacking a code enabling use in a vending machine. Thus, the cards can be blank or, preferably, can carry a partial code. The partial code could include any of the following codes:

(i) an identification code, identifying the card as originating from a particular supplier or that the card is associated with a particular retailer, thereby indicating that the card is of the appropriate type for use in a given vending machine;

(ii) an initial credit code, representing the credit units borne by the card when issued;

(iii) a usage code, limiting use of the card to machines of a certain organisation, of a particular type, or of particular premises. Thus, an 'under 14' card for sale to children could bear a usage code preventing use of the card with gaming machines. Moreover, a 'local' card could be usable only with vending machines in a certain town or in a single establishment, thereby acting as an incentive to customers to frequent that town or that establishment;

(iv) an expiry code which, in conjunction with the real-time clock facility of the unit 10, prevents use of the card after a certain date, or even after a certain time each day; and

(v) a check code derived from the other codes carried by the card and acting as a security measure. It is envisaged that the check code can be compared with the other codes carried by the card whenever the card is read, thereby to ensure that the card is genuine and has not been tampered with by, for example, reprogramming credit units thereon.

The check code is preferably a CRC (Cyclic Redundancy Check) code. The method used to derive the check code can, and should, be varied from time to time in order to maintain security, and is not disclosed herein for this reason.

It is preferred that, when issued, the card bears a partial code comprising an initial credit code, an identification code and a check code, this partial code being supplemented or replaced by an enabling code (including a usage code) when enabled. This arrangement allows flexible distribution because, when issued, the card is potentially usable in any location allowed by the identification code, with any vending machine. It is only when the enabling code is added that the usability of the card is restricted. The partially-coded or uncoded card is unusable when issued in the disabled state. The card is therefore distinguished from existing pre-paid cards which can be used from the moment they are produced and which, as a result, present a security risk during storage and distribution prior to sale. The card is also distinguished from existing credit cards, cheque guarantee cards or ATM cards, which are simply issued without a signature, or which are issued separately from the corresponding PIN number. Existing credit cards, cheque guarantee cards or ATM cards can be used without authorisation if intercepted during distribution, by for instance forging a signature or guessing a PIN number. By way of illustration, there is a substantial black market in stolen cards of the above types.

When required for use, a card is inserted into the validator unit and, where the card bears a partial code, that code is read to ascertain the validity of the card. This involves comparing the check code with the other codes carried by the card. If • valid, the card is given an enabling code and is ejected from the validator unit. The enabling code will include a new check code, derived from the other codes carried by the enabled card. If invalid, the card can simply be ejected without being given an enabling code, or can be retained.

The card can be given a punch mark by a punch located within the validator, when the enabling code is written onto the card. This acts as a visual indication so that enabled cards and disabled cards are readily distinguishable from one another.

Once given an enabling code, the card has value and can be sold, preferably immediately, to a customer in exchange for appropriate payment. The audit memory is updated upon each validation as a cross check and back-up for the retailer's own audit records.

In an advantageous arrangement, the validator unit can be programmed to vary the enabling code. Programming may be effected by inserting a program card, this card bearing program information which can replace part of the data held in the memory of the validator unit. In another arrangement, programming can be effected directly by, for example, using a keyboard or computer connected to the validator unit via the aforementioned optional port. Programming may also be effected by means of an infra-red data link as mentioned above.

The enabling code can be added to the partial code (if a partial code is already present) or can replace all or part of the partial code. Where all or part of the partial code is to be replaced, the validator fully or partially erases the partial code between reading the partial code and writing the enabling code.

In a preferred embodiment, the card carries, or is capable of carrying, the following codes when enabled:

(i) Identification code (24 bits);

(ii) Usage code (8 bits);

(iii) Initial credit code (8 bits);

(iv) Credits used code (8 bits);

(v) Cash winnings code (8 bits); (vi) Credit winnings code (8 bits); and

(vii) Check code (16 bits).

Codes (i), (ii), (iii) and (vii) have been introduced above. The remaining codes will be described below.

In use, an enabled card is inserted into the card slot 16 of the card acceptor unit 10. Until insertion, the electronics within the unit 10 are in a stand-by mode in order to minimise power consumption. The optical sensor 20 detects insertion of the card and causes the PCB 22 to power up to an active state. The card is then drawn in to the reader/writer 24 to be read, so that its acceptability can be determined.

The card acceptor unit 10 is pre-programmed to accept only those cards that meet certain criteria. Firstly, the identification code must be a particular binary number, or must fall within a particular set or range of binary numbers. Secondly, the usage code must be appropriate to the vending machine to which the unit 10 is fitted. This may be assessed by means of a bit mask so that, for example, bit 3 of the eight usage code bits must be set at logic 0 for the card to be acceptable in gaming machines. Any card that has this bit set at logic 1 such as, say, an under 14's card, will be rejected as invalid for use in that particular vending machine. The third check is to ensure that there is a difference between the initial credit code and the credits used code. Removal of credit units involves incrementing the credits used code. Of course, any expiry code must also be checked to ensure that the card can be us^d at the time of insertion. If the card is acceptable, the "card accepted' light on display 18 flashes and one or more credit units are removed by incrementing the credits used code. A new check code, based upon the new code thus carried by the card, is applied to the card and the card is ejected. The vending machine is then activated as will be described below, and the circuitry within the card acceptor unit 10 reverts to the stand-by mode. It is also possible to keep a record of the activation in memory for audit purposes, or to download data concerning the activation via a modem .as described above in relation to the activator.

Conveniently, the card is marked before ejection in order to indicate the number of credit units remaining, so that the owner of the card can have a ready record of the number of credit units in his possession. This may be effected by punching out or otherwise marking or printing a pre-marked portion of the card as each credit unit is used. Suitably, the card has a row of indicia (representing credit units) marked thereon which can be punched by a punch head when marking is desired. The punch head may be controlled by software or may be controlled by use of an optical sensor arranged in such a way that the punch head punches the next position in a row of indicia once the last punched position is detected. Of course, as an alternative, it is also possible simply to mark the card with a numeral representing the number of credit units remaining.

Any card that is not acceptable can be either ejected or retained. It is preferred that a card of the wrong type e.g. ' a travel pass should be ejected, because there is a possibility that the card could have been used inadvertently. However, a card of the correct type but with no credit units remaining, or a card bearing an anomalous check code, indicates potentially fraudulent use and therefore the card should be retained in order to remove it from circulation. In either case, the 'unacceptable card' light will flash to tell the user what has happened.

Where the card carries some credit units, but not enough to activate the vending machine in question, it is envisaged that the card will be ejected and that the 'insufficient credit units' light will flash for a short period, for example ten seconds. If during this period the card is reinserted, the remaining credit units on the card are removed and the card can then be retained or ejected. The 'insufficient credit units' light will then continue to flash until a further card is inserted, credit units up to the required value being removed from that card so that the vending machine can be operated.

Any variation such as, for example, a change in charges can be effected simply by reprogramming the memory of the card acceptor unit 10. Programming may be effected in similar fashion to the methods described above in relation to the validator unit. Alternatively, dedicated switches may be" provided at the rear of the unit 10 to vary, for example, the number of credit units deducted per insertion, the characteristics of the usage code bit mask, and the range of acceptable identification codes.

By use of the real-time clock, charging can be made time-dependent so that, for example, charging is relatively low at off-peak times (i.e. less credit units removed at each insertion of a card) in order to encourage off-peak trade. Many other charging regimes may be devised by those skilled in the art. Activation of the vending machine can be effected in a variety of different ways, depending upon the nature of the vending machine. Thus, the aforementioned outputs 26 provide different signals when one or more credit units are removed from a card. For example, one output produces a pulse whose duration can be adjusted between about 100ms and one second. This pulse can be used to activate further logic circuitry, for example to activate a video game. The pulse can also be used to activate a solenoid or motor, for use in releasing playing balls in a pool table or the like.

A further set of outputs can be arranged to mimic the pulses generated by existing coin mechanisms when coins are received, thereby allowing direct replacement of a coin mechanism by unit 10. Thus, for example, separate outputs may be provided for 1, 2, 5 and 10 credit units, each output being pulsed with a pulse length of 100ms and a period of 600ms (as is conventional) each time a corresponding number of credit units are removed from a card by the card acceptor unit 10. It is also possible for the card to bear different types of credit unit, one type representing cash and another type representing tokens.

Advantageously, the card acceptor unit 10 can be arranged so as partially to eject the card after each insertion, whereby the card is supported in a rest position protruding from the card slot 16. Once in this position, the card can be removed from the slot 16 entirely or can be re-inserted immediately for the removal of further credit units, whereupon the card is returned to the rest position. It is envisaged that this feature will be particularly advantageous where the unit 10 is used to control a gaming machine, in which at present a player inserts coins or tokens one after another in rapid succession. By means of this feature, the existing mode of use of coins or tokens is mimicked by a pre-paid card.

In the second embodiment of this invention, the payment means is enabled by programming a vending machine in advance to accept an identification code borne by the payment means when issued. Thus, there is no need for a separate enabling means because nothing need be done to the card itself in order to enable it. This embodiment utilises two different types of magnetic card to facilitate operation of the pool table, namely:

(i) The 'user card' . A batch of user cards are sent to the retail premises, to be sold to customers for the purpose of operating pool tables and other vending machines located at the premises or elsewhere. Each user card bears trade marks, advertising or other visual information and also carries encrypted identification codes on its magnetic strip. One code, an identification code, uniquely identifies the card, and corresponding indicia may be marked upon the card's surface. Another code, a credit code, represents the number of credit units carried by the card. Other information may be included as a validation code, this code representing, for example, a retail site number, a number indicating geographic origin, or a number indicating any organisation (such as a particular brewery) with which the retail site is associated. The validation code may also represent a limited range of vending machines with which the user card can be used, thereby preventing use with, for example, gaming machines. There may also be an expiry code limiting the period during which the user card remains usable. (ii) The 'validation card' . This is sent to the retail premises by secure mail (e.g. recorded delivery) and corresponds to a batch of user cards. The retailer fills in and returns a reply-paid postcard which firstly acknowledges receipt of the validation card and secondly places an order for the next batch of user cards. Prompt re-ordering is important in order to maintain supply because there is a lead time associated with the production of user cards.

The purpose of the validation card is to program one or more of the vending machines on the retail site to accept the range of identification codes contained within the corresponding batch. Until that is done, the batch of user cards is unusable and can therefore be transported and stored without strict security measures as the cards have no value. This security is of course a major advantage of the present invention. Another facility of the validation card is to program the vending machines in order to modify the range of user cards that will be accepted. For example, one could program a vending machine to accept all user cards of a particular brewery, or one could restrict use of user cards originating from outside a given geographical area. Many other permutations may be devised making use of the information carried by the user card.

The operation of a pool table control mechanism in relation to this second embodiment will now be described with reference to Figure 2 of the drawings. In this respect, the card acceptor unit .10 as described in relation to the first embodiment above could be used with the second embodiment simply by reprogramming the processor, as will be clear to those skilled in the art. Thus, the second embodiment will be described in relation to the unit 10 and the same reference numerals will be used.

In use, the unit 10 remains in a low power consumption standby mode until an operator inserts a card into the card slot 16. The optical sensor 20 senses insertion of the card and this initiates an active mode in which the PCB 22 is powered up and the reader/writer 24 is switched on.

Once inserted into the card slot 16, the card is drawn in to the reader/writer 24 under motor drive and the codes thereon are read. The processor compares the codes with parameters of validity held in memory within the unit 10, and provided by a real-time clock therein. The codes borne by the card indicate whether the card is appropriate for use with the unit 10 and, if inappropriate, the card may be ejected back through the card slot 16 or may be retained by the unit 10. In either case, the lights of display 18 give an appropriate indication to the user.

Assuming that the card is valid, the next test is to ascertain its type by reading the identification code marked thereon. If the card is a validation card, the card is ejected and the system then expects the first user card of a batch. When this first card is inserted, its identification code is read to ascertain the start of the new number range and the card is then ejected. Similarly, the last card of a batch is inserted, read to ascertain the end of the number range and is ejected. The RAM is then updated with the new number range so that all cards in that number range will be accepted by the unit 10. Previous number ranges may be retained in the memory so that previously issued cards will continue to *be accepted by the pool table, although it is also possible by means of the real-time clock to disable all cards issued before a particular date, so as to encourage prompt use of cards and thereby to enhance turnover.

If the card does not come under any of the categories outlined above, it will be a user card of a valid number range and will be checked to ensure that it carries sufficient credit units for a game, and has not expired. If there are insufficient credit units, or if the card has expired, the card may again be ejected or retained with an appropriate indication being given on the display 18.

Once a user card passes the above tests, one or more credit units are erased and the user card is ejected, preferably after being marked. The unit 10 then activates the vending machine.

One aspect of this invention provides a novel ball release mechanism for pool tables and the like and this will now be explained with reference to Figures 3(a), (b) and (c) and Figures 4(a) and (b) .

Referring to Figures 3(a), (b) and (c), an existing ball release mechanism comprises an elongate stop member 34. The stop member 34 is pivotally attached at both ends to a pool table for pivotal movement about a longitudinal axis 36. This pivotal movement is effected by a crank 38 driven by a sliding handle 40. The sliding handle 40 is firstly advanced and then withdrawn by an operator whilst inserting coins.

In a first position shown in Figure 4(a), a first wall 42 of the stop member 34 retains pool balls 44 in a rack 46. The sliding handle is then advanced by the operator as shown by the arrow 'A' into the intermediate position shown in Figure 3(b). During this movement, the stop member 34 firstly lifts the balls 44 in the rack 46 and then allows the balls to drop past the lower edge of the first wall 42.

In the intermediate position, the balls 44 are prevented from falling into the ball delivery channel 48 by the second wall 50 of the stop member 34. This is to ensure that the sliding handle must be withdrawn from the intermediate position before the balls will be delivered. Once the sliding handle is withdrawn so that the stop member 34 returns to the first position, the second wall 50 is raised as shown in Figure 3(c). The balls 44 are thereby allowed to pass into the ball delivery channel 48 so that play can begin.

The present invention does away with the bidirectional sliding handle arrangement of known devices and instead drives the stop member in one direction only by use of the aforementioned solenoid or motor. The arrangement of the present invention is illustrated in Figures 4(a) and 4(b).

In the present invention, the stop member 34 is replaced by a flat paddle member 52 which is similarly attached at both ends to a table for pivotal movement. Some alteration of the existing pivot points may be required to give the desired geometry whilst keeping the mechanism compact. This alteration may be achieved by fitting spacers or the like to the existing pivot points.

The solenoid or motor can be located anywhere on the pool table, but is preferably in the immediate vicinity of the paddle member 52. The connection between the solenoid or motor and the paddle member 52 may be direct or may be effected through a drive link such as a flexible cable. In Figure 4(a), the paddle member 52 is shown in a rest position in which the balls 44 are prevented from falling into the ball delivery channel 48 by the lower flap portion 54 of the paddle member. Once activated, the solenoid or motor turns the paddle member about its longitudinal axis 56 by a full turn so that the upper flap member 58 of the paddle member 52 sweeps the balls 44 into the ball delivery channel 48. This movement is illustrated in Figure 4(b), which shows the position of the paddle member 52 after just under half a turn from the rest position.

The ball release mechanism of the present invention is considerably simpler than known arrangements, which benefits cost and reliability. Moreover, the paddle member 52 does not need to lift the balls 44 during the first part of its movement, which reduces energy consumption during each activation. A further benefit of the present invention is that the balls 44 are positively driven out of the rack 46 without relying on gravity. This reduces the risk of balls jamming within the pool table.

As will be clear to those skilled in the art, this invention enjoys major advantages over known arrangements and, in particular, gives improved security and greater adaptability than has hitherto been possible.

It will also be clear that this invention is not limited to the preferred embodiments described herein but includes all variations and modifications falling within its scope. For instance, spare memory capacity could be employed to offer facilities such as timed pool games, a fault diagnosis system, automatic scoring, or an electronic queueing system based upon a unique identification code carried by each card.

Information-storage media other than magnetic cards can be used with this invention, such as bar-code cards, optical-scan cards, or so-called 'smart cards ' . Moreover, this invention can be embodied in original equipment as well as being added to existing equipment.

Claims

1. A method for producing non-cash payment means, wherein the payment means is issued in an unusable state.
2. A method for producing non-cash payment means according to claim 1, wherein the payment means is issued from a first site in a disabled state, incapable of use, and is then enabled at a second site for use.
3. A method according to claim 2, wherein the payment means is enabled by being given an enabling code.
4. A method according to claim 3, wherein the enabling code includes a validation code enabling use of the payment means only with a limited range of vending machines.
5. A method according to any of claims 1 to 3, wherein the payment means bears a validation code when issued, which code enables use of the payment means only with a limited range of vending machines.
6. A method according to any of claims 3 to 5, wherein the enabling code includes a credit code representing one or more credit units.
7. A method according to any of claims 1 to 5, wherein the payment means bears a credit code when issued, which code represents one or more credit units.
8. A method according to any of claims 3 to 7, wherein the enabling code includes an expiry code limiting the period of time during which the payment means remains usable once enabled.
9. A method according to any of claims 1 to 6, wherein the payment means bears an expiry code when issued, which code limits the period of time during which the payment means is capable of being enabled or, once enabled, remains usable.
10. A method according to claim 2, wherein the payment means is enabled by programming or otherwise adapting a vending machine to accept the payment means.
11. A method according to claim 10, wherein the payment means bears an identification code when in the disabled state and is enabled by programming a vending machine to accept payment means bearing that identification code.
12. A method according to claim 11, wherein the identification code forms part of a range of identification codes which the vending machine is programmed in advance to accept.
13. Production means for the production of non-cash payment means, said production means comprising issuing means for issuing the payment means in an disabled state, incapable of use.
14. Production means according to claim 13, wherein the issuing means is located at a first site, said production means further comprising enabling means located at a second site for enabling the payment means for use.
15. Production means according to claim 14, wherein the second site is a retail establishment.
16. Production means according to claim 14 or claim 15, wherein the payment means is capable of bearing a code, and wherein the enabling means includes a writer arranged to provide the payment means with an enabling code.
17. Production means according to claim 16, wherein the payment means bears an identification code when disabled, and wherein the enabling means includes: a reader arranged to read the identification code; and a processor, capable of taking input from the reader and of providing output to the writer, programmable with one or more acceptable identification codes and arranged such that when an acceptable identification code is detected by the reader, the writer is activated to provide the payment means with an enabling code.
18. Production means according to claim 17, further including means for erasing the identification code from the payment means between reading and writing.
19. Production means according to any of claims 16 to
18 and arranged such that, once enabled, the payment means can be used only in a limited range of vending machines.
20. Production means according to any of claims 16 to
19 and arranged such that, once enabled, the payment means bears a limited number of credits.
21. Production means according to any of claims 16 to 20 and arranged such that, once enabled, the payment means remains usable only for a limited period of time.
22. Production means according to any of claims 16 to 21, wherein the enabling means is arranged to provide the payment means with an enabling code incorporating a validation code, a credit code or an expiry code, or any combination of two or more of such codes.
23. Production means according to any of claims 16 to 22, wherein the enabling means is capable of being adjusted to vary the enabling code.
24. Production means according to any of claims 13 to 15, wherein the enabling means is arranged to allow operation of a normally inoperable vending machine and includes: a reader arranged to read an identification code borne by the payment means when issued; and a processor capable of taking input from the reader and capable of being programmed with at least one acceptable identification code, the arrangement being such that when the processor is so programmed and when an acceptable identification code is detected by the reader, the processor generates a signal which allows the vending machine to operate.
25. Production means according to any of claims 14 to
24, having an audit device associated with the enabling means for recording particulars of payment means enabled over a period of time.
26. Production means according to any of claims 14 to
25, having means allowing input or output of data to or from the enabling means.
27. A ball release mechanism suitable for use in game apparatus such as a pool table, wherein the mechanism includes a movable paddle member which, in at least one rest position, is capable of retaining at least one playing ball in a rack, the arrangement being such that the playing ball can be released from the rack by unidirectional angular movement of the paddle member about a pivot axis away from said rest position.
28. A ball release mechanism according to claim 27 and arranged such that the playing ball is driven from the rack by the angular movement of the paddle member.
29. A ball release mechanism according to claim 27 or claim 28, wherein the unidirectional angular movement of the paddle member can continue once the ball has been released, thereby to allow the paddle member to reach a rest position without reversing.
30. A ball release mechanism according to any of claims 27 to 29, having a rest position which the paddle member resumes by undergoing substantially one full turn.
31. A ball release mechanism according to any of claims 27 to 30, wherein the paddle member includes at least two flap members which are angularly spaced from one another about the pivot axis, and which extend outwardly from said axis.
32. A ball release mechanism according to claim 31, wherein at least one flap member is a stop member for retaining the playing balls in the rack when the paddle member is in a rest position, and wherein at least one other flap member is a drive member for driving the playing balls from the rack when the paddle member undergoes angular movement.
33. A ball release mechanism according to any of claims 27 to 32 and including a motor or solenoid for driving the angular movement of the paddle member.
34. Game apparatus including a ball release mechanism according to any of claims 27 to 33.
35. Game apparatus according to claim 34 when appendant to claim 33, including activating means for activating the motor or solenoid upon receipt of payment.
36. Game apparatus according to claim 34 or claim 35 when appendant to claim 33, wherein the motor or solenoid is incorporated into a removable module.
37. Game apparatus according to claim 36 when appendant to claim 35, wherein the removable module also incorporates the activating means.
PCT/GB1990/001104 1989-07-20 1990-07-18 Improvements in and relating to non-cash payment means WO1991001538A1 (en)

Priority Applications (6)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
GB8916607.8 1989-07-20
GB8916607A GB8916607D0 (en) 1989-07-20 1989-07-20 Improvements in and relating to non-cash payment means
GB9002624.6 1990-02-06
GB9002624A GB9002624D0 (en) 1989-07-20 1990-02-06 Improvements in and relating to non-cash payment means
GB9008816A GB9008816D0 (en) 1989-07-20 1990-04-19 Improvements in and relating to non-cash payment means
GB9008816.2 1990-04-19

Publications (1)

Publication Number Publication Date
WO1991001538A1 true true WO1991001538A1 (en) 1991-02-07

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US7730310B2 (en) 1997-02-21 2010-06-01 Multos Limited Key transformation unit for a tamper resistant module
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