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Establishing a telephone call using a hyperlink

Info

Publication number
WO2001041412A2
WO2001041412A2 PCT/US2000/042343 US0042343W WO2001041412A2 WO 2001041412 A2 WO2001041412 A2 WO 2001041412A2 US 0042343 W US0042343 W US 0042343W WO 2001041412 A2 WO2001041412 A2 WO 2001041412A2
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
link
information
party
contact
hyperlink
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/US2000/042343
Other languages
French (fr)
Other versions
WO2001041412A3 (en )
Inventor
Allen Razdow
Original Assignee
Acallto, Inc.
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

    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M7/00Interconnection arrangements between switching centres
    • H04M7/0024Services and arrangements where telephone services are combined with data services
    • H04M7/003Click to dial services
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/4228Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers in networks
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M7/00Interconnection arrangements between switching centres
    • H04M7/0024Services and arrangements where telephone services are combined with data services
    • H04M7/0054Services and arrangements where telephone services are combined with data services where the data service is an electronic mail service
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M7/00Interconnection arrangements between switching centres
    • H04M7/12Interconnection arrangements between switching centres for working between exchanges having different types of switching equipment, e.g. power-driven and step by step, decimal and non-decimal, circuit-switched and packet-switched, i.e. gateway arrangements
    • H04M7/1205Interconnection arrangements between switching centres for working between exchanges having different types of switching equipment, e.g. power-driven and step by step, decimal and non-decimal, circuit-switched and packet-switched, i.e. gateway arrangements where the types of switching equipement comprises PSTN/ISDN equipment and switching equipment of networks other than PSTN/ISDN, e.g. Internet Protocol networks
    • H04M7/128Details of addressing, directories or routing tables
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/42008Systems for anonymous communication between parties, e.g. by use of disposal contact identifiers
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/42136Administration or customisation of services
    • H04M3/42153Administration or customisation of services by subscriber
    • H04M3/42161Administration or customisation of services by subscriber via computer interface
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/42229Personal communication services, i.e. services related to one subscriber independent of his terminal and/or location
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M3/00Automatic or semi-automatic exchanges
    • H04M3/42Systems providing special services or facilities to subscribers
    • H04M3/48Arrangements for recalling a calling subscriber when the wanted subscriber ceases to be busy
    • HELECTRICITY
    • H04ELECTRIC COMMUNICATION TECHNIQUE
    • H04MTELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
    • H04M7/00Interconnection arrangements between switching centres
    • H04M7/12Interconnection arrangements between switching centres for working between exchanges having different types of switching equipment, e.g. power-driven and step by step, decimal and non-decimal, circuit-switched and packet-switched, i.e. gateway arrangements

Abstract

A computer-implemented process establishes a communication link between a first party (57) and a second party (56) using a hyperlink. The process obtains first contact information for the first party (57) based on an identifier in the hyperlink, obtains second contact information for the second party (56) from a memory (45) such as a central repository (46), and causes the communication link to be established between the first party (57) and the second party (56) based on the first and second contact information.

Description

ESTABLISHING A COMMUNICATION LINK BETWEEN PARTIES

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates generally to establishing a communication link between two or more parties and, more particularly, to using a hyperlink to request the establishment of the communication link between the parties.

BACKGROUND

Since the advent of telecommunications, making a telephone call has required one party (the "caller") to know the telephone number of another party (the "callee"). While this arrangement may have sufficed in the early twentieth century, in today's highly-mobile society it is often difficult to keep track of telephone numbers. Also, for one reason or another, one of the parties might not want to disclose his telephone number to the other party. The same holds true for contact information associated with newer forms of communication, such as IP (Internet Protocol) telephones and electronic mail (e-mail).

SUMMARY

This invention uses the World Wide Web (Web) and, in some cases, existing telephone network hardware to cause a communication link, such as a telephone link, to be established between two or more parties.

By way of example, in one embodiment, a caller clicks on a hyperlink that identifies a callee. Data, such as a unique identification number, identifying the callee is transmitted to a server. The server retrieves, from a central repository, contact information such as a telephone number for the callee based on the data. Contact information for the caller may be obtained from the central repository, by querying the caller himself, or from the caller's computer. The server instructs hardware in an existing telephone network to connect the caller to the callee based on their contact information.

One advantage of the above approach is that the caller does not have to know the callee's telephone number in order to contact the callee. For example, if the callee is traveling, and registers his hotel phone number with the server, the caller can still reach the callee using a hyperlink generated by the server or the callee, even if the caller does not know the callee's hotel phone number.

This concept can be extended to newer forms of communication as well, such as IP telephones and electronic communications. For example, a callee can send a caller an e-mail or an instant message containing a hyperlink that identifies the callee.

The caller clicks on this hyperlink to request a communication link to the callee, whereafter the caller is identified and contact information for the caller and callee is retrieved. The server instructs existing telephone network hardware to establish a telephone link between the caller and the callee based on their contact information. By using an identifier in a hyperlink and data in a central repository, the invention makes it possible to establish a telephone call between two parties without either party actually knowing the other party's telephone number. As a result, the privacy of both parties can be preserved. Moreover, conditions under which calls may be established can be used to provide the caller and/or the callee with a measure of control over the call.

In general, in one aspect, the invention relates to a computer-implemented process for establishing a communication link between a first party and a second party using a hyperlink. The invention features obtaining first contact information for the first party based on an identifier in the hyperlink, obtaining second contact information for the second party from a memory, and causing the communication link to be established between the first party and the second party based on the first and second contact information.

This aspect of the invention may include one or more of the following features. The first and second contact information may be received from the first and second parties, respectively, and stored in memory, from which it is obtained. The first and second contact information may include telephone numbers and/or domain names/Internet addresses for the first and second parties.

The first and/or second contact information may include additional information specifying a condition of the communication link. The condition may relate to who can be a party to the communication link, when the communication link can be established, a procedure for establishing the communication link, and/or alternative messaging capabilities to transmit communications between the first party and the second party.

The hyperlink may contain data identifying the first party and the process may include obtaining the first contact information based on the data in the hyperlink. The second contact information may be obtained by querying the second party or from data stored in a computer maintained by the second party. The hyperlink may be part of a World Wide Web page, an electronic mail message, or an instant message transmitted from the first party (or another party) to the second party.

The details of one or more embodiments of the invention are set forth in the accompanying drawings and the description below. Other features, objects, and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the description and drawings, and from the claims.

DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 shows a system for requesting and establishing a telephone link between parties;

FIG. 2 is a flow diagram showing one example of a process for establishing a telephone link between the parties;

FIG. 3 show a Web page for registering for the telephone link service;

FIG. 4 shows an instant message which includes a hyperlink for establishing a telephone link; and

FIG. 5 shows a third-party Web page which includes hyperlinks for establishing telephone links.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

FIG. 1 shows a system 10 for implementing one embodiment of the invention. Network system 10 includes computer 12 and central link server 14 coupled to an intermediary network 15 such as the Internet.

Computer 12 is a personal computer (PC), mainframe, hand-held computer, wireless personal digital assistant (PDA), or other device that is capable of accessing data via intermediary network 15. In this embodiment, computer 12 includes a display screen 24 for displaying images, a keyboard 25 for inputting text and user commands, and a mouse 26 for performing point and click operations. However, the invention is not limited to use with computers that include these particular features.

Computer 12 also includes a processor 27 and a memory 29 for storing computer programs 30 that are executed by processor 27 (see view 31). Among these computer programs are an IP protocol stack 32 for communicating over intermediary network 15, an operating system (OS) 34 such as Microsoft7 Windows987, a Web browser 35 such as Netscape7 Navigator7, an e-mail program 33 such as Microsoft7 Outlook7, and an instant messenging program 38 such as the America Online7 (AOL) Instant Messenger. Central link server 14 is a computer with server functions. Central link server

14 includes a processor 36 and a memory 37 which stores computer programs 40 that are executed by processor 36 (see view 39). Among these computer programs are an IP protocol stack 41 for communicating over intermediary network 15, and code 42 for establishing a communication (e.g., telephone) link between two or more parties. To this end, code 42 includes computer-executable instructions for providing and/or recognizing a hyperlink on, for example, a Web page, an e-mail, or an instant message that is used to establish the communication link. The hyperlink may be a URL (Uniform Resource Locator) or a link containing information which identifies a party. Alternatively, the hyperlink may be embedded in an icon, such as a button labeled "call me". The hyperlink is a text object, icon, or the like that stores data. When activated (e.g., by pointing and clicking) the data in the hyperlink is transmitted automatically to central link server 14.

Central link server 14 includes a memory device 45 (either internal or external) that stores database 46. Memory device 45 may be a computer hard disk or RAID (Redundant Array of Inexpensive Disks), for example. Database 46 includes registration information that is used by code 42 to establish communication links between parties.

This registration information includes contact information that can be used to send a message or set-up a link to the parties. By way of example, the registration information may include one or more numbers, Internet domain names, a network or

IP address, and/or e-mail addresses for each party. The numbers may include a telephone number (in North America, a ten-digit number), a PBX (Private Branch eXchange) routing number, and/or multiple numbers for a particular party. Examples of other identification information may include the party's name (John Doe), title within an organization (Chief Executive Officer), company name (Acme), and/or an Internet address of the party; a code number or a non de plume. Note that the code number could identify the individual or it could identify the URL that was depressed or selected. In addition, there might be multiple code numbers for an individual, e.g. a different code number for each URL.

A party, or callee, who wishes to establish a hyperlink for himself provides contact information, such as some or all of that described above, to central link server 14. The contact information can be associated with a URL and, thus, can be used to place a call to the callee. A caller may provide contact information for the caller beforehand or, alternatively, at the time that the caller clicks on the callee's hyperlink. The caller may provide the information in response to a query from central link server 14 or the information may be obtained from data stored in the caller's computer, such as an Internet "cookie" or the like.

To provide contact information beforehand, a registration Web page 49 (FIG. 3) may be generated by code 42 and displayed to a user on computer 12. To register, the user (either the caller or the callee) inputs contact information 50 where the user can be reached. Depending upon how the user wishes to be contacted, the contact information may be any of the different types of contact information noted above.

The user may also input his name 51, title 52, company 53, and any other registration information (not shown). Registration is completed by clicking on "GO" button 54 or its equivalent. The input registration information is then transmitted to central link server 14 for storage in database 46. Central link server 14 is coupled to telephone network 55. Telephone network

55 is the standard PSTN (Public Switched Telecommunications/Telephone Network) system. However, the invention is not limited to this environment and can be implemented over any telephone or other communications network. For example, the invention can be implemented using IP telephones which transmit voice data over the Internet. In this embodiment, telephones 56 and 57 are standard touch-tone telephones; however, other telephones, such as cellular telephones, may be used. Data, such as telephone numbers, is transmitted from central link server 14 to telephone network (telco) interface 59. Telco interface 59 is a computer or other processing device that includes code to implement the PINT (PSTN Internet Internetworking) protocol. The PINT protocol is used for transmitting data or service requests between the Internet and telephone network 55. However, the invention can be used with protocols other than PINT. More specifically, code 42 on central link server 14 outputs the contact information for the first and second parties and a request to make a connection between then to telco interface 59. Telco interface 59 uses this information to actually establish the telephone link between the two parties. A process 44 for establishing a telephone link between the two parties is shown in greater detail in FIG. 2. Process 44 is performed using code 42 on central link server 14.

To begin, in step 201 , one party (the caller) requests connection to another party (the callee). This is done by clicking on a hyperlink provided by the other party (e.g-, in an e-mail or an instant message) or an embedded hyperlink or icon in a user's

Wed page or a third-party Web page or a dedicated Web page. For example, FIG. 4 shows a hyperlink 70 provided by a callee in an instant message 71. As shown, the hyperlink includes a domain name 70a (acall.to) and the name of the callee 70b (user?callee). As another example, FIG. 5 shows a Web page 62 that is maintained by a third party and that includes a hyperlink for establishing a telephone link to a callee, such as PARTY 1, PARTY 2, or PARTY 3 identified in the hyperlinks. The hyperlink is provided by central link server 14 over existing Web page 62.

The hyperlinks identify parties that have registered with central link server 14, meaning that they have provided contact information to central link server 14 and any other information necessary to subscribe to the telephone link service. The parties may be identified in the hyperimks by URL, name, telephone number, organization title, and/or by any other registration information that is stored in database 46.

To request a connection to the callee, in step S201a the caller clicks on the hyperlink of the callee. Each hyperlink is associated with identification information that uniquely identifies the party associated with the hyperlink. In this embodiment, only an identifier, such as a randomly generated identification number, is stored in the hyperlink and other identification information, such as that mentioned below, is stored in central link server 14. However, in other embodiments, some or all of the following identification information may actually be stored in the hyperlink itself.

The identification information that is associated with the hyperlink (e.g. either as part of the hyperlink or within the database at the server or at both locations) may include an identification number and/or any one or more of the various types of identification that can be used for identifying the party (as described earlier). In association with this identification information, there is also various contact information, typically, but not necessarily, stored at the server. The associated contact information may include the party's telephone number, and the specification of conditions for establishing a telephone link with the party. In addition, other contact information might indicate times during which the communication link can be established, parties with whom the link can be established, and a procedure for establishing the link, such as a series of numbers (e.g., work, home, pager) and the order in which they that might be called to find the party. Still other contact information might also indicate whether alternative messaging capabilities, such as e- mail, may be used to send a message in the event that a call cannot be established, to inform the parties that a call is being placed, and/or to provide the parties with the option of canceling the call by sending a message to central link server 14. Some or all of the identification and contact information that is stored may be hashed so that it can only be understood by central link server 14, but not by any unauthorized users.

Referring again to Fig. 2, when the caller clicks on a callee's hyperlink, the identification information that is associated with the callee's hyperlink is transmitted, in step 201b, over intermediary network 15 to central link server 14. Other information identifying the caller is also transmitted, in step 201b, to central link server 14. This other information may be transmitted along with the request. The caller may provide this other information in response to a query from central link server 14. If the caller is registered with central link server 14, the caller's information may be obtained from database 46 or, alternatively, it may be obtained through the use of Internet cookies installed in browser 35 by code 42 when the caller initially registered.

Once central link server 14 receives a request for connection, in step 202 code

42 obtains numbers for the caller and the callee. In step 202a, code 42 locates these numbers in database 46 based on the identification information for the caller and the callee or code 42 obtains this information directly from the parties themselves. It should be understood, however, that how the information is obtained and from where may vary from case to case, and from URL to URL and what is preented here is only illustrative of one possibility.

In step 202b, code 42 retrieves the telephone numbers, or other contact information as the case may be, of the caller and the callee. In step 203, these numbers are used to establish a telephone link between the caller and the callee. Code 42 causes the link to be established by sending instructions/commands to telco interface 59 to establish the telephone link based on the numbers. Using these numbers, telco interface 59 establishes the telephone link between the caller and the callee. The link results in the callee's telephone ringing, as well as that of the caller (e.g., the caller's telephone next to his computer or the caller's cell phone).

If a communication link cannot be established using a current number, other numbers for a party, if available, may be used to establish the link. These other numbers may be retrieved from central link server 14 and links (not shown) corresponding to these numbers may be displayed to the caller. For example, a link prompting the caller to "try again" may be used. In any case, to preserve privacy, the link will not list the number being called; although the number may be listed if privacy is not an issue. The caller may be provided with a number of hyperlinks corresponding to different numbers for the callee. The caller can then select from among those links to make a telephone call. This process may be called "caller- directed" hunting.

As noted above, a party can restrict or limit the circumstances under which a telephone link can be established with that party. In particular, a party may identify himself to central link server 14 and instruct central link server 14 as to when, and with whom, calls can be established. Thus, using this option, it is possible for a party to limit the times during which a telephone link can be established (e.g., calls cannot be received from 11 :00 PM to 7:00 AM), or to limit parties with whom a telephone link can be established (e.g., calls can be received from family but not from work colleagues). This information may also be coded directly in the hyperlink itself, as noted above, or it may reside in database 46 on central link server. If the information resides in database 46, it may be stored in association with an identifier for the caller, and retrieved in response to receipt of that identifier. The hyperlink may also be set to expire after a predetermined time period. An e-mail program may include a call function which establishes a hyperlink for the callee based on contact information provided by the callee.

A party may also have multiple URL's each tailored to be used with or given to a different type or category of potential caller, e.g. each type or category being associated with different conditions or degrees of access to the party.

Central link server 14 maintains a record, in database 46, of information relating to each call that it places. For example, central link server 14 may keep track of the caller and callee's identities, the time when the call was made, the number of calls made in a given period of time, and other similar information.

Variations on the above embodiments are within the scope of the following claims. For example, communication links other than standard telephone links can be established. Communication links can be established between more than two parties.

More than one central link server can be used in establishing the communication links. Different central link servers can be used at different geographic locations. Central link server 14 can instruct the telco interface to dial a pager, or any other, number. A number of embodiments of the invention have been described. Nevertheless, it will be understood that various modifications may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. For example, the above-described mechanisms, appropriately modified, can be used to establish calls to a conference bridge thereby setting up a conference call involving more than two parties. Accordingly, other embodiments not described herein are also within the scope of the following claims.

What is claimed is:

Claims

1. A computer-implemented method for establishing a communication link between a first party and a second party using a hyperlink, the method comprising: obtaining first contact information for the first party based on an identifier in the hyperlink; obtaining second contact information for the second party from a memory; and causing the communication link to be established between the first party and the second party based on the first and second contact information.
2. The method of claim 1, further comprising: receiving the first and second contact information from the first and second parties; respectively; and storing the first and second contact information in the memory.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the first and second contact information comprises telephone numbers for the first and second parties, respectively.
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the first and second contact information comprises Internet domain names for the first and second parties, respectively.
5. The method of claim 1, wherein the first and/or second contact information includes additional information specifying a condition which applies to the communication link.
6. The method of claim 5, wherein the condition relates to who can be a party to the communication link.
7. The method of claim 5, wherein the condition relates to a time at which the communication link can be established.
8. The method of claim 5, wherein the condition relates to a procedure for establishing the communication link.
9. The method of claim 5, wherein the condition relates to using alternative messaging capabilities to transmit communications between the first party and the second party.
10. The method of claim 1, wherein the hyperlink is embedded in a World Wide Web page.
11. The method of claim 1 , wherein the hyperlink is part of an electronic mail message.
12. The method of claim 1, wherein the hyperlink is part of an instant message transmitted from the first party to the second party.
13. A computer program stored on a computer-readable medium for establishing a communication link between a first party and a second party using a hyperlink, the computer program comprising instructions that cause a computer to: obtain first contact information for the first party based on an identifier in the hyperlink; obtain second contact information for the second party from a memory; and cause the communication link to be established between the first party and the second party based on the first and second contact information.
14. The computer program of claim 13, further comprising instructions that cause the computer to: receive the first and second contact information from the first and second parties; respectively; and store the first and second contact information in the memory.
15. The computer program of claim 13, wherein the first and second contact information comprises telephone numbers for the first and second parties, respectively.
16. The computer program of claim 13, wherein the first and second contact information comprises Internet domain names for the first and second parties, respectively.
17. The computer program of claim 13, wherein the first and/or second contact information includes additional information specifying a condition which applies to the communication link.
18. The computer program of claim 17, wherein the condition relates to who can be a party to the communication link.
19. The computer program of claim 17, wherein the condition relates to a time at which the communication link can be established.
20. The computer program of claim 17, wherein the condition relates to a procedure for establishing the communication link.
21. The computer program of claim 17, wherein the condition relates to using alternative messaging capabilities to transmit communications between the first party and the second party.
22. The computer program of claim 13, wherein the identifier comprises a unique identification number for the first party.
23. The computer program of claim 13, wherein the hyperlink is embedded in a World Wide Web page.
24. The computer program of claim 13, wherein the hyperlink is part of an electronic mail message.
25. The computer program of claim 13, wherein the hyperlink is part of an instant message transmitted from the first party to the second party.
26. An apparatus for establishing a communication link between a first party and a second party using a hyperlink, the apparatus comprising: a memory which stores computer instructions; and a processor which executes the computer instructions to (i) obtain first contact information for the first party based on an identifier in the hyperlink, (ii) obtain second contact information for the second party from a memory, and (iii) cause the communication link to be established between the first party and the second party based on the first and second contact information.
27. The apparatus of claim 26, wherein the processor executes computer instructions to (i) receive the first and second contact information from the first and second parties; respectively, and (ii) store the first and second contact information in the memory.
28. The apparatus of claim 26, wherein the first and second contact information comprises telephone numbers for the first and second parties, respectively.
29. The apparatus of claim 26, wherein the first and second contact information comprises Internet domain names for the first and second parties, respectively.
30. The apparatus of claim 26, wherein the first and/or second contact information includes additional information specifying a condition which applies to the communication link.
31. The apparatus of claim 30, wherein the condition relates to who can be a party to the communication link.
32. The apparatus of claim 30, wherein the condition relates to a time at which the communication link can be established.
33. The apparatus of claim 30, wherein the condition relates to a procedure for establishing the communication link.
34. The apparatus of claim 30, wherein the condition relates to using alternative messaging capabilities to transmit communications between the first party and the second party.
35. The apparatus of claim 26, wherein the identifier comprises a unique identification number for the first party.
36. The apparatus of claim 26, wherein the hyperlink is embedded in a World Wide Web page.
37. The apparatus of claim 26, wherein the hyperlink is part of an electronic mail message.
38. The apparatus of claim 26, wherein the hyperlink is part of an instant message transmitted from the first party to the second party.
PCT/US2000/042343 1999-11-30 2000-11-29 Establishing a telephone call using a hyperlink WO2001041412A3 (en)

Priority Applications (4)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
US16809399 true 1999-11-30 1999-11-30
US60/168,093 1999-11-30
US50214600 true 2000-02-11 2000-02-11
US09/502,146 2000-02-11

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WO2003032607A2 (en) * 2001-10-09 2003-04-17 I-Dns. Net International Pte. Ltd. Mapping identifiers to telephone numbers
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