WO2004030435A2 - Dispenser - Google Patents

Dispenser Download PDF

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Publication number
WO2004030435A2
WO2004030435A2 PCT/IB2003/004345 IB0304345W WO2004030435A2 WO 2004030435 A2 WO2004030435 A2 WO 2004030435A2 IB 0304345 W IB0304345 W IB 0304345W WO 2004030435 A2 WO2004030435 A2 WO 2004030435A2
Authority
WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
drink
output
dispenser
components
coffee machine
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/IB2003/004345
Other languages
French (fr)
Other versions
WO2004030435A3 (en
WO2004030435A9 (en
Inventor
George Vok
Peter Vok
Original Assignee
Automated Beverage Technologies Ltd
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
Priority to AU2002951794A priority Critical patent/AU2002951794A0/en
Priority to AU2002951794 priority
Priority to AU2003902052 priority
Priority to AU2003902052A priority patent/AU2003902052A0/en
Application filed by Automated Beverage Technologies Ltd filed Critical Automated Beverage Technologies Ltd
Priority claimed from AU2003269303A external-priority patent/AU2003269303A1/en
Publication of WO2004030435A2 publication Critical patent/WO2004030435A2/en
Publication of WO2004030435A3 publication Critical patent/WO2004030435A3/en
Publication of WO2004030435A9 publication Critical patent/WO2004030435A9/en

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Classifications

    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B67OPENING, CLOSING OR CLEANING BOTTLES, JARS OR SIMILAR CONTAINERS; LIQUID HANDLING
    • B67DDISPENSING, DELIVERING OR TRANSFERRING LIQUIDS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B67D1/00Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught
    • B67D1/0015Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught the beverage being prepared by mixing at least two liquid components
    • B67D1/0021Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught the beverage being prepared by mixing at least two liquid components the components being mixed at the time of dispensing, i.e. post-mix dispensers
    • B67D1/0022Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught the beverage being prepared by mixing at least two liquid components the components being mixed at the time of dispensing, i.e. post-mix dispensers the apparatus comprising means for automatically controlling the amount to be dispensed
    • B67D1/0034Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught the beverage being prepared by mixing at least two liquid components the components being mixed at the time of dispensing, i.e. post-mix dispensers the apparatus comprising means for automatically controlling the amount to be dispensed for controlling the amount of each component
    • B67D1/0035Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught the beverage being prepared by mixing at least two liquid components the components being mixed at the time of dispensing, i.e. post-mix dispensers the apparatus comprising means for automatically controlling the amount to be dispensed for controlling the amount of each component the controls being based on the same metering technics
    • B67D1/0037Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught the beverage being prepared by mixing at least two liquid components the components being mixed at the time of dispensing, i.e. post-mix dispensers the apparatus comprising means for automatically controlling the amount to be dispensed for controlling the amount of each component the controls being based on the same metering technics based on volumetric dosing
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B67OPENING, CLOSING OR CLEANING BOTTLES, JARS OR SIMILAR CONTAINERS; LIQUID HANDLING
    • B67DDISPENSING, DELIVERING OR TRANSFERRING LIQUIDS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B67D1/00Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught
    • B67D1/0041Fully automated cocktail bars, i.e. apparatuses combining the use of packaged beverages, pre-mix and post-mix dispensers
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B67OPENING, CLOSING OR CLEANING BOTTLES, JARS OR SIMILAR CONTAINERS; LIQUID HANDLING
    • B67DDISPENSING, DELIVERING OR TRANSFERRING LIQUIDS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B67D1/00Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught
    • B67D1/08Details
    • B67D1/0878Safety, warning or controlling devices
    • B67D1/0882Devices for controlling the dispensing conditions
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B67OPENING, CLOSING OR CLEANING BOTTLES, JARS OR SIMILAR CONTAINERS; LIQUID HANDLING
    • B67DDISPENSING, DELIVERING OR TRANSFERRING LIQUIDS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B67D1/00Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught
    • B67D1/08Details
    • B67D1/0878Safety, warning or controlling devices
    • B67D1/0882Devices for controlling the dispensing conditions
    • B67D1/0884Means for controlling the parameters of the state of the liquid to be dispensed, e.g. temperature, pressure
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B67OPENING, CLOSING OR CLEANING BOTTLES, JARS OR SIMILAR CONTAINERS; LIQUID HANDLING
    • B67DDISPENSING, DELIVERING OR TRANSFERRING LIQUIDS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B67D1/00Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught
    • B67D1/08Details
    • B67D1/12Flow or pressure control devices or systems, e.g. valves, gas pressure control, level control in storage containers
    • B67D1/1202Flow control, e.g. for controlling total amount or mixture ratio of liquids to be dispensed
    • B67D1/1204Flow control, e.g. for controlling total amount or mixture ratio of liquids to be dispensed for ratio control purposes
    • B67D1/1225Weighing
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B67OPENING, CLOSING OR CLEANING BOTTLES, JARS OR SIMILAR CONTAINERS; LIQUID HANDLING
    • B67DDISPENSING, DELIVERING OR TRANSFERRING LIQUIDS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B67D1/00Apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught
    • B67D1/08Details
    • B67D1/12Flow or pressure control devices or systems, e.g. valves, gas pressure control, level control in storage containers
    • B67D1/1202Flow control, e.g. for controlling total amount or mixture ratio of liquids to be dispensed
    • B67D1/1234Flow control, e.g. for controlling total amount or mixture ratio of liquids to be dispensed to determine the total amount
    • B67D1/1236Flow control, e.g. for controlling total amount or mixture ratio of liquids to be dispensed to determine the total amount comprising means for detecting the size of vessels to be filled
    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07FCOIN-FREED OR LIKE APPARATUS
    • G07F13/00Coin-freed apparatus for controlling dispensing or fluids, semiliquids or granular material from reservoirs
    • G07F13/06Coin-freed apparatus for controlling dispensing or fluids, semiliquids or granular material from reservoirs with selective dispensing of different fluids or materials or mixtures thereof
    • G07F13/065Coin-freed apparatus for controlling dispensing or fluids, semiliquids or granular material from reservoirs with selective dispensing of different fluids or materials or mixtures thereof for drink preparation
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B67OPENING, CLOSING OR CLEANING BOTTLES, JARS OR SIMILAR CONTAINERS; LIQUID HANDLING
    • B67DDISPENSING, DELIVERING OR TRANSFERRING LIQUIDS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B67D2210/00Indexing scheme relating to aspects and details of apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught or for controlling flow of liquids under gravity from storage containers for dispensing purposes
    • B67D2210/00028Constructional details
    • B67D2210/00081Constructional details related to bartenders
    • B67D2210/00083Access code recognition means
    • BPERFORMING OPERATIONS; TRANSPORTING
    • B67OPENING, CLOSING OR CLEANING BOTTLES, JARS OR SIMILAR CONTAINERS; LIQUID HANDLING
    • B67DDISPENSING, DELIVERING OR TRANSFERRING LIQUIDS, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • B67D2210/00Indexing scheme relating to aspects and details of apparatus or devices for dispensing beverages on draught or for controlling flow of liquids under gravity from storage containers for dispensing purposes
    • B67D2210/00028Constructional details
    • B67D2210/00081Constructional details related to bartenders
    • B67D2210/00091Bar management means

Abstract

The present invention provides a drink dispenser comprising two or more drink supplies in the form of fluid reservoirs for supplying two or more corresponding drink components; a drink output coupled to each of the fluid reservoirs to output a drink comprising one or more of the drink components; measuring means in the form of a flow meter for measuring the quantity of drink components supplied from each fluid reservoir; input means for receiving a drink request for a drink comprising one or more of the drink components; and drink output control means for controlling the quantity of drink components supplied from the fluid reservoir to supply the requested drink to the drink output.

Description

DISPENSER

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates to fluid dispensers for dispensing fluids. More particularly, the present invention relates to, but is not limited to: drink dispensers capable of supplying drinks, for example soft drinks, formed from two fluid components; and coffee machines.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Presently in establishments where soft drinks such as Coca Cola are dispensed this is typically achieved using a pump system. The pump system supplies a stream of soda water and a stream of soft drink syrup through a nozzle so as to mix the streams and form a desired drink. The system is usually actuated using a simple on /off switch which activates the nozzles for a predetermined amount of time. The correct ratio of syrup to soda water is typically controlled by controlling the relative flow rates of the two streams. The relative flow rates are usually controlled by flow rate control values.

Soft drink delivery flowrate control values typically have adjusting screws which restrict the flow of syrup and soda water streams. The ratio of syrup to soda water can therefore be manually adjusted relatively easily by altering the position of the adjustment screw. Establishment operators can reduce the cost of producing soft drink by altering the position of the adjustment screws to increase the soda water to syrup ratio. However, this also lowers the quality of the soft drink.

The on/ off switch of soft drink dispensers is usually controlled by a lever. The lever is designed to pivot toward the dispenser when a drinking receptacle is positioned to receive soft drink from the dispenser. When the drinking receptacle is full to the level desired by the operator, the operator removes it which releases the lever and stops the supply of soft drink. However, if the drinking receptacle is over filled the relative ratios of syrup and soda water are altered. Furthermore, there is no manner of checking the amount of syrup used, or whether alternative syrups have been substituted. This again represents a problem for ensuring product standards.

These problems are exacerbated because different requirements exist in different countries. For example, relative stream flow rate ratios of European dispensers are calibrated using a refractometer by testing the sugar content of soft drink produced by these dispensers. Australian dispensers are calibrated using a system of separate nozzles designed to attach to a flowrate control valve and a plastic container having 3 chambers and level markings.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In a first aspect, the present invention provides a drink dispenser comprising:

two or more drink supplies for supplying two or more corresponding drink components;

a drink output coupled to each of the drink supplies to output a drink comprising one or more of the drink components;

measuring means for measuring the quantity of drink components supplied from each supply;

input means for receiving a drink request for a drink comprising one or more of the drink components; and

drink output control means for controlling the quantity of drink components supplied from the drink supplies to supply the requested drink to the drink output.

At least one of the drink supplies preferably comprises a fluid reservoir containing a respective drink component. The fluid reservoir is preferably coupled to the drink output via a fluid flow path. The fluid reservoir is preferably coupled to a fluid reservoir valve for controlling supply the respective drink component to the drink output. One of the drink components of the first aspect of the present invention may, for example, comprise soda water and another of the drink components of the first aspect of the present invention may, for example, comprise syrup.

The drink dispenser of the first aspect of the present invention may be arranged to record the quantity of drink components supplied to the drink output by recording measurements measured by the measuring means. The drink output control means of the drink dispenser is preferably arranged to:

(a) compare:

(i) a predetermined ratio of quantities of two of the drink components corresponding to the drink request; and

(ii) the corresponding ratio of quantities of the two drink components supplied to the drink output according to measurements measured by the measuring means; and

(b) if the difference between the predetermined ratio and corresponding ratio is greater than a predetermined amount, activate a predetermined response.

The predetermined response may comprise an alarm. Alternatively or additionally, the predetermined response may comprise activating the drink output control means to prevent drinks being outputted from the drink output.

The measuring means is preferably arranged to measure the volume of drink components supplied.

In a second aspect, the present invention provides a coffee machine comprising:

a coffee unit for supplying a drink component comprising at least one of:

(i) coffee;

(ii) froth; and

(iii) milk; one or more fluid reservoirs for supplying one or more corresponding other drink components;

a drink output coupled to the coffee unit and the one or more fluid reservoirs to output a drink comprising one or more of the drink components;

input means for receiving a drink request for a drink comprising one or more of the drink components; and

drink output control means for controlling the supply of the drink components from the coffee unit and the one or more fluid reservoirs to supply the requested drink to the drink output.

Suitably, one or more of the fluid reservoirs of the coffee machine are coupled to the drink output via a fluid flow path. The drink dispenser and coffee machine preferably comprises a flow metre for measuring the quantity of one or more of the drink components being supplied to the drink output. The flow metre is preferably coupled to the fluid flow paths of the coffee machine. The flow metre of the first aspect of the present invention is preferably coupled to the fluid flow path of the drink dispenser.

The drink output control means may be arranged to supply one or more of the drink components of the drink dispenser and coffee machine in a predetermined sequence. For example, the drink output control means may be arranged to supply substantially all of the required amount of a syrup drink component corresponding to a drink request of the drink dispenser of the first aspect of the present invention before supplying the required amount of soda water corresponding to another other drink component of the drink request. Suitably, the drink output control means of the drink dispenser and coffee machine is arranged to control the quantity of one or more of the drink components supplied to the drink output. The coffee machine of the second aspect of the present invention may be arranged to record the quantity of one or more drink components supplied to the drink output of the second aspect of the present invention by recording measurements supplied from the flow meter of the second aspect of the present invention.

The drink output of the drink dispenser and coffee machine may comprise a drink receptacle sensor for detecting whether a drink receptacle is positioned for receipt of the drink outputted from the drink output. The drink output control means of the first and second aspects of the present invention is preferably arranged to prevent outputting of said drink via said drink output unless a drinking receptacle is positioned to receive said drink.

Suitably, the coffee unit comprises coffee and water reservoirs. The coffee unit may also comprise a milk reservoir. The coffee reservoir is preferably arranged to store coffee beans in which case the coffee reservoir is more preferably coupled to a coffee grinder. The water reservoir is preferably coupled to a pressurised heating system for supplying pressurised heated water. The coffee machine preferably comprises a water valve for controlling the supply of water to or from the pressurised heating system.

In a preferred embodiment of the second aspect of the present invention the milk reservoir is coupled to both a frothing chamber and the pressurised heating system for supplying said froth. Suitably, the coffee machine comprises a milk valve for controlling the supply of milk from the milk reservoir to the frothing chamber. The coffee machine preferably also comprises a steam valve for controlling the supply of steam from the pressurised heating system to the frothing chamber. More preferably, the coffee machine comprises a froth valve for controlling the supply of froth from the froth chamber to the drink output.

The coffee unit preferably also comprises a coffee filter for supplying filtered coffee.

Suitably, the fluid reservoir of the first and second aspects of the present invention is arranged to supply said other drink component(s) from a lower region thereof. The fluid reservoir is preferably arranged to supply other drink component(s) via a supply mouth. Suitably, the fluid reservoir of the second aspect of the present invention is coupled to a fluid reservoir valve for controlling the supply of the other drink component(s) to the drink output.

The other drink component(s) of the second aspect of the present invention may comprise a flavoured liquid. Alternatively or additionally, the other drink components may comprise alcohol. In one preferred embodiment of the second aspect of the present invention the other drink component(s) comprises a liqueur. The input means of the first and second aspects of the present invention may, for example, comprise a touch sensitive pad or a voice activated device. The touch sensitive pad may comprise keys arranged for activation upon depression. Alternatively, the touch sensitive pad may comprise images on a display which may or may not require depression for activation.

Suitably, the input means of the first and second aspects of the present invention is arranged to send predetermined signals to the drink output control means upon receipt of corresponding predetermined inputs. The drink output control means of the first aspect of the present invention is preferably arranged to control opening or closing or both opening and closing of the fluid reservoir valve of the first aspect of the present invention. The drink output control means of the second aspect of the present invention is preferably arranged to control opening or closing or both opening and closing of one or more of the following valves of the second aspect of the present invention: fluid reservoir valve, water valve, milk valve, steam valve and froth valve.

The fluid reservoir valve of the first and second aspects of the present invention may comprise a magnetic lock coupled to the mouth of the fluid reservoir. The fluid reservoir of the first and second aspects of the present invention may comprise a bottle. It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the relevant art that the fluid reservoir valves of the first and second aspects of the present invention may operate by other suitable means.

The magnetic lock may comprise a drink component identifier representative of fluid contained in the fluid reservoir of the first and second aspects of the present invention. The drink output control means of the first and second aspects of the present invention may be arranged to:

compare the drink component identifier to said drink request of the first and second aspects of the present invention; and

unlock said magnetic lock to supply the corresponding drink component from the associated fluid reservoir if the drink component identifier corresponds to a drink component of the drink request. Suitably, the drink output control means or input means or both the drink output control means and input means of the first and second aspects the present inventions comprise a processor which is arranged to receive information from the input means and control the supply of drink components of the first and second aspects of the present invention responsive to the received information.

The input means or processor or both the input means and the processor of the first and second aspects of the present invention may comprise a memory for storing the received information. The memory is preferably also arranged to store reference data indicating the quantity of each drink component of both the first and second aspects of the present invention corresponding to said respective drink request of the first and second aspects of the present invention. The reference data may also indicate the cost of each drink component of both the first and second aspects of the present invention per quantity of the respective drink components.

ecordal of drink component quantities supplied to the drink output of the first and second aspects of the present invention preferably comprises the processor and memory.

The input means of the first and second aspects of the present invention may be arranged to receive an identifier representative of a respective user, the drink output control means of the first and second aspects of the present invention being arranged to:

compare the identifier to a pool of reference identifier data comprising a plurality of valid identifiers; and

output said drink if the identifier corresponds to a valid identifier.

The identifier may comprise a security document. For example, the identifier may comprise a driver's licence or specifically designed security document. The identifier may also, for example, comprise a credit card. The identifier may be secured electronically within a security document. The dispenser and coffee machine may comprise a security document reader arranged to receive and read a security document to determine the associated identifier.

The fluid dispenser and coffee machine are preferably arranged to automatically determine the cost of each drink of the respective first and second aspects of the present invention outputted from its drink output, based on the recorded quantity of supplied drink components and the corresponding reference data indicating the cost of each drink component per quantity. The fluid dispenser and coffee machine are preferably also arranged to generate information comprising one or more of the following: the drinks outputted by the drink output of the first and second aspects of the present invention corresponding to one or more said users; the cost of each said outputted drink corresponding to one or more said users; and the total cost of said outputted drinks corresponding to one or more said users. Suitably, the information generation comprises said processor or memory or both said processor and memory. The information generation preferably also comprises suitable software. The fluid dispenser and coffee machine may also comprise or be arranged for connection to an information generation display means for displaying said generated information to said fluid dispenser or coffee machine user, which could for example comprise a bar attendant or waiter. The display means may for example comprise a printer, or display or screen. The display means may be arranged to display an invoice.

In a third aspect the present invention provides computing means arranged for operation of the drink output control means of the first and second aspects of the present invention. The computing means may comprise software or hardware or both software and hardware. The software preferably comprises computer executable code and the hardware preferably comprises a computing means processor. The hardware may also comprise computing means memory.

In a fourth aspect the present invention provides a method of dispensing a drink comprising the steps of:

receiving a drink request for a drink comprising one or more drink components;

supply one or more drink components, from two or more drink supplies supplying corresponding drink components, to a drink output to output a drink comprising one or more of the drink components;

measuring the quantity of drink components supplied from each supply; and

controlling the quantity of drink components supplied from the drink supplies to supply the requested drink to the drink output. The step of receive a drink request may comprise the step of receiving the drink request via input means of the first aspect of the present invention.

The step of measuring the quantity of supplied drink components preferably comprises the step of measuring the volume of supplied drink components.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

A preferred embodiment of the present invention will now be described, by way of example only, with reference to the accompanying drawings in which:

Figure 1 is a schematic diagram of an example of a system for dispensing drinks;

Figure 2 is a schematic diagram of the processing system used in Figure 1;

Figures 3A and 3B are schematic diagrams of the control signals applied to the control valves to dispense a drink;

Figure 4 is a schematic diagram of a second example of a system for dispensing drinks;

Figure 5 is a schematic diagram of a third example of a system for dispensing drinks;

Figure 6 is a schematic diagram of an ID tag and tag reader suitable for use in drinks dispensing systems;

Figure 7 is a schematic diagram of the connection of the processing system of Figures 1, 4 and 5, to a communications network;

Figure 8 is a schematic diagram of an example of a base station processing system; and,

Figure 9 is an example of the integration of a number of different drinks dispensing system.

Figure 10 is a schematic diagram of, an example of a coffee machine according to the present invention;

Figure 11 is a schematic diagram of the processing system used in Figure 10; and,

Figure 12 is a flow chart outlining the process of making a coffee using the coffee machine. DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

An example of a system for dispensing drinks will now be described with reference to Figures 1 and 2.

As shown in Figure 1, the system includes four fluid reservoirs which in this example are reservoirs 10A, 10B, 10C, 10D for containing respective drink components to be dispensed. Each reservoir 10 is coupled via a respective flow path IIA, 11B, 11C, 11D to drink outlet 12, which is adapted to supply a drink to a glass or other receptacle as shown by the dotted lines at 13. A fluid reservoir valve in the form of control valve 14A, 14B, 14C, 14D is provided in each flow path IIA, 11B, 11C, 11D to control the flow of fluid from the respective reservoir 10, with a corresponding flow meter 15A, 15B, 15C, 15D being provided to measure the volume of the dispensed drink.

In addition to this, an input means in the form of input 16 is provided, which in this example, includes a number of input buttons 16x, I62, 163, 164, 165, 16g, 167, 16s for selecting drinks as will be described in more detail below.

In use, the dispensing operation is controlled by drink output control means involving a processing system 3, connected to the control valves 14, the flow meters 15 and the input 16. These connections may be wired, for example through the use of an Ethernet LAN (Local Area Network) shown generally at or through wireless connections, for example via use of Bluetooth connections, or the like.

In any event, in use, the processing system operates to receive drink selection via the input buttons 16 and then operate the control valves 14 to control the dispensing of drinks from the reservoirs 10A, 10B, 10C, 10D. This is achieved in accordance with signals from the flow meters 15 as will be described in more detail below.

It will be appreciated from this however that the processing system 3 must be adapted to receive signals via the communications network 5 and process these before transferring control signals to the valves 14. An example of a suitable processing system is shown in more detail in Figure 2. As shown the processing system 3 includes a processor 20, a memory 21, an input/ output (I/O) device 22, such as a keypad and display, and an external interface 23, which are coupled together via a bus 24. The interface 23 is designed to allow the processing system to communicate via the communications network 5, and optionally with other processing systems, and accordingly the type of the interface 23 will depend on the nature of the communications network. Thus for example, if the communications network is an Ethernet LAN, the interface may be an Ethernet card, or the like. Alternatively, direct connections may be provided to the processing system 3, in which case the network will be replaced with simple connections, which may be wired or wireless.

It will be appreciated from this that the processing system may be any form of processing device, such as a network server, a personal computer, a lap-top or the like, or may alternatively be specialised hardware.

In any event, in this example, the system is adapted to dispense drinks such as soft drinks, which are formed from two drink components. In particular, soft drinks are normally formed from a syrup, which provides the flavouring and colour, which is mixed with soda water to provide the desired consistency. For the purposes of this example, the reservoir 10A supplies soda water, with syrups for different drinks being contained in the reservoirs 10B, 10C, 10D.

It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that the soda water will typically be formed using water, which is then carbonated in a suitable chamber before being supplied to the flow path IIA. This will not therefore be described in any detail.

In addition to this, the system may also optionally include a security document reader in the form of a tag reader 17. If used the tag reader is adapted to cooperate with an ID tag in order to allow the system to be used.

Operation of the system will now be described.

In order to dispense a drink, the user, such as a barman or the like will place an appropriate sized receptacle 13 under the outlet 12. The barman can then select an appropriate one of the input buttons 16y 1 163, 164, 165, log, 167/ 168 to cause the drink to be dispensed. It will be appreciated that a number of buttons are provided so as to control the size and/ or type of drink that is tote dispensed. Thus, for example, each one of the input buttons 16υ I62, 163, 164, 165, 166, 167, 168 may correspond to a different size of a respective type of drink, such as a schooner, a midi, a pint, or a half-pint of a respective drink.

Prior to doing this the user may also need to insert an ID tag in the tag reader 17 as will be described in more detail below.

In any event, the processing system 3 will detect the buttons selected by the user and use this information to access reference data in the form of a look-up table (LUT) stored in the memory 21. The LUT will indicate for specific buttons, or button sequences; the type of the drink that is to be dispensed, and in particular will indicate the volume of each drink component that is to be supplied from the respective reservoirs 10A, 10B, IOC, 10D.

In this example, the relative volumes of the drink components therefore defines a ratio for the mixing of the drink. Thus, if the drink is a standard drink, such as coke, or the like, which requires a fixed ratio of soda water to syrup, this ratio can be defined by setting appropriate drink volumes in the LUT. It will be appreciated that this may be performed a machine or drink supplier, with the volume information being stored and optionally encoded or encrypted in the memory 21, to thereby prevent the values being altered by the user. This is important as it allows the supplier to ensure product standards are maintained.

In any event, this will cause the processing system 3 to selectively activate the control valves 14A, 14B, 14C, 14D,to dispense the required volume of fluid. This is achieved by having the processing system generate a signal which is applied to the respective control valve 14A, 14B, 14C, 14D, thereby causing it to open and shut as required (this will hereinafter be referred to as the "control signal"). In this example, the processing system 3 will activate the control valve 14A to dispense soda water, and one of the other control valves 14B so as to provide the required drink syrup.

In order to ensure that the correct drink ratio is maintained the processing system 3 monitors the signals generated by the flow meters 15A, 15B (hereinafter referred to as "flow signals") to determine the volume of the soda water and syrup that have so far been dispensed. In particular, in one example, the flow meters 15 are turbines which generate pulses representing specific volumes of fluid being dispensed. An example of this is shown in Figures 3A, and 3B, with Figure 3A showing the flow signals obtained from the flow meter 15B representing the volume of syrup dispensed, with the flow signal obtained from the flow meter 15A shown in Figure 3B, representing the volume of soda water dispensed.

In the example shown, each pulse from the flow meter 15A corresponds to 10ml of soda water flow through the control valve 14A, whereas each pulse applied to the flow meter 15B represents 1ml of syrup flow through the control valve 14B. Thus, in this example, the processing system 3 will operate to count a predetermined number of pulses from each flow meter 15A, 15B. When this predetermined number of pulses is reached, this indicates to the processing system 3 that the required volume of the respective fluid has been dispensed, allowing the processing system 3 to shut-off the respective control valve 14A, 14B.

Thus, in the example of Figures 3A and 3B, the processing system 3 shuts down the flow valve 14A after eight pulses from the flow meter 15A, and the control valve 14B after ten pulses from the flow meter 15B, thereby dispensing 80ml of soda water and 10ml of syrup, in an 8:1 ratio.

This ensures that the drinks are dispensed in accordance with the predetermined volumes stored in the LUT in the memory 21. It will therefore be appreciated that this allows the drink volumes and hence the ratio of soda water to syrup to be defined in terms of the number of pulses that must be counted for the respective flow meter. Thus, in this example, for a selection of a 90ml drink of coke, the LUT would indicate 8 pulses for the flow meter 15A, and 10 pulses for the flow meter 15B.

A further feature of the system is that the streams of syrup and soda water may be pulsed to help improve the mixing of the syrup and soda water and hence improve the quality of the product. However, in this case, the volume of drink dispensed can again be determined in the same way.

It will be appreciated that in the event that there is a problem dispensing one of the fluids, such as if one of the flow paths 11 is partially blocked, the required drink will still be prepared as the respective flow control valve 14A, 14B, will simply remain open until the required volume has been dispensed. In particular, if the flow of the soda water has been restricted the syrup will cease dispensing first and the soda water will flow until the correct ratio has been reached.

The system can also incorporate additional flow rate control mechanisms, such as adjustment screws. However, alteration of the flow rate will not effect the operation of the system, and in particular, the drink ratio, as this is determined by the volume of drink component dispensed, which is not dependent on the flow rate.

It is desirable for the streams of drink component to arrive at the outlet 12 at predetermined times. Thus generally, it will be preferred that the flow of soda water and syrup are substantially concurrent, with the flow of soda water stopping after the flow of syrup, to flush any remaining syrup out of flow path 11 and the outlet 12. This helps prevent contamination of subsequently served drinks. This is achieved by activating the control valves 14A, 14B at appropriate times to take into account factors, such as the length of time taken for the fluid to pass along the flow path 11 from the respective control valve 14A, 14B to the outlet 12. Again, indication of this can be stored in the LUT, indicating to the processing system 3 when the control signals should be applied to the respective control valves 14A, 14B. Typically however the lengths of the flow paths will be relatively similar, and this will in most cases not be a major issue.

In any event, it will be appreciated from the above that the operation of the control valves is performed so as to ensure that the required ratio of soda water to syrup is maintained.

It is also possible for the system to be modified to dispense other drink combinations. It will be appreciated that this may be achieved by providing a different product in the reservoirs. For example, additional reservoirs may be provided to dispense liquors, spirits, or the like. This allows pre-mixed drinks, such as vodka and coke to be prepared by dispensing soda water, an appropriate syrup, and a spirit, from respective reservoirs,, at the touch of a single button 16lr 16^ 163, 164, 165, log, 167, 168. Again, it will be appreciated that the volume of each component in the drink will be stored in the LUT and will be dispensed as described above. It is also possible for the system to dispense drinks formed from a single drink component, such as soda water, or the like as required. This will be achieved in a manner similar to that described above.

Variations

A number of variations on the above will now be described.

It will be appreciated that in order to prevent the contamination of the outlet by different syrups, it is generally desirable to have the soda water flow finish after the syrup flow, to thereby allowing the remaining syrup to be flushed out of the common portion of the flow paths 11, and the outlet 12.

As an alternative to controlling the relative timing of the soda water and syrup flow, this can be achieved by programming the processing system 3 to provide a short burst of soda water after the drink has been dispensed to flush any remaining fluids in the flow paths 11 and the outlet 12 out.

Alternatively, each reservoir may be provided with a respective outlet 12A, 12B, 12C, 12D, as shown in Figure 4. The outlets are preferably arranged at a common location to allow the outlets 12A, 12B, 12C, 12D to dispense respective drinks, or drink components into a single receptacle 13. This prevents cross contamination of the drinks by providing a respective outlet 12 for, each drink component.

It will be appreciated that this is particularly important when the system is used to dispense alcoholic drinks, when contamination of non-alcoholic drinks with alcohol could cause problems.

As an alternative to storing spirits in one of the reservoirs 10, it may be desirable to dispense spirits from a separate source, such as a bottle. In order to achieve this, the system can be fitted with a bottle dispenser, as shown in Figure 5.

The bottle dispenser includes a recess 30 coupled via a flow path 31 to a respective outlet 32, which in this example is located to allow drinks from respective bottles 27 to be dispensed into the glass 13. The flow path includes a control valve 34 and a flow meter 35 coupled to the processing system 3. In use, a bottle 37 containing the drink to be dispensed is placed in the recess 30, such that a magnetic lock 38 on the bottle cooperates with the control valve 34, to selectively dispense the drin contained therein. In this case, the control valve 34 is typically in the form of a solenoid adapted to release the magnetic lock 38, thereby allowing fluid to flow through the recess 30 and the flow path 31 into the receptacle 13.

Again the processor 20 monitors signals generated by the flow meter 35 to determine the volume of drink that has been dispensed. When dispensing a drink, the processing system 3 will again determine when the required volume of drink is dispensed in accordance with a volume indication included in the LUT stored in the memory 21. This may be achieved by counting pulses generated by the flow meter, as described above. In any event, when the required volume of drink is dispensed, the processor 20 will halt the control signal applied to the control valve 34, causing the valve to release the magnetic lock 38 thereby stopping further drink being dispensed.

Thus, it will be appreciated that dispensation of drink from bottle can be achieved in a manner substantially similar to that described above with respect to the reservoirs.

It is possible to use a respective bottle dispenser for each different bottle 37 of drink to be dispensed. However, typically a common bottle dispenser is used to dispense drinks from different bottles 37, as shown in Figure 5.

In this case, the magnetic lock 38 associated with each bottle 37 will include a drink component identifier in the form of a coded magnetic signature which can be used to uniquely identify the type of drink contained in the bottle. The magnetic signature can be detected by the control valve 34 and an indication of this transferred to the processing system 3. This may require the presence of a separate sensor incorporated into the control valve 34, as will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art. This would allow the processing system to determine the type of drink contained in the respective bottle 37, to thereby ensure the correct drink is being dispensed.

Thus, for example, if the user selects a button 16x, I62, 163, 164, 165, 165, 167, 168 corresponding to the drink vodka and coke, the processing system 3 will operate to determine the magnetic signature associated with any bottle positioned in the recess 30, and access an LUT which indicates the type of drink associated with each magnetic signature, to thereby determine if this is the correct type of drink. If not, the processing system 3 will detect this and halt the dispensing process until a bottle 37 having the correct magnetic signature is placed in the recess 30. During this process, the processing system 3 will also typically halt dispensing any other components in the drink, such as any soda water and /or syrup, to thereby ensure the drink is properly mixed when dispensed.

This may use the indication of the relative time at which the drink component is to be dispensed LUT, which may be stored in the LUT as described above. Thus, for example, this may indicate that the dispensation of soda water is to commence first, then syrup, and then spirit.

In the example shown in Figure 5, the drink dispenser may also optionally include additional input buttons 36. In this case, these buttons could be used instead of, or in addition to the buttons 16 to allow the controlling of drink dispensation. Thus, for example, the buttons 36 may be used to select respective measures of different types of drinks. In this case, the buttons 16 could be used to indicate that a spirit is to be mixed with a respective soft drink, with the type of spirit being selected using the buttons 36.

It will be appreciated that this functionality will be achieved by programming the processing system 3 to respond to respective buttons, or sequences of buttons, in a predetermined manner, for example, by appropriate drink specifications stored in the LUT.

Additional drink receptacle sensors can be provided to detect the receptacle positioned under the outlet 12. In this case the processing system can use signals from the sensor to determine if a receptacle is present before the drink is dispensed. If no receptacle is present the drink dispensing is prevented, and an optional alarm can be activated. The processing system 3 will automatically recommence the drink dispensing operation, when a glass or the like is provided in the correct position.

In addition to this, the sensor can be adapted to allow the processing system 3 to determine the size of the glass, and hence the size of drink that can be dispensed. This may be achieved for example by having a weight sensor adapted to detect the weight of the empty glass, or an optical sensor or the like for determining the glass size. As different shapes and designs of glasses are used in different locations, this may necessitate configuring the system, for example, by programming the processing system 3 with required information regarding the glasses. This may be performed by a training process.

In any event, the indication of the size of the glass can be used instead of the manual input provided via the input buttons 16. Thus, in this case, placing a glass under the outlet 12 and selecting a drink type would automatically result in the correct size of correct variety of drink being dispensed.

In addition to providing control of the operation of the drink systems, the processing system 3 can also be adapted to provide selected ones of additional functions including:

Monitoring;

• Security;

Point of sales; and,

Information collection; and,

Remote Control.

Monitoring

In this case, the processing system 3 monitors the flow from the respective flow valves 15 A, 15B,15C, 15D, 35 and can use this to determine a number of pieces of information.

Firstly, the processing system 3 will be able to determine problems with the drink, supply. For example, if the processing system 3 opens a respective control valve 14, 34, but does not detect any pulses from the respective flow meter 15, 35, this indicates that the drink is not being supplied. This could be caused for example by a block in the respective flow path 11, 31, or by the reservoir or bottle being empty.

Thus, if the required drink component ratio cannot be achieved for this or any other reason, the processing system 3 will determine that drink cannot be dispensed and halt the dispensing process. An alert can also be generated, which can be displayed to the user on the I/O device 22, or on a separate indicator device, such as that shown at 18. In this case, this may inform the user of the respective drink component that cannot be supplied.

Thus, for example, the processing system 3 may generate an alert indicating that the syrup cannot be supplied. The user can then check the associated reservoir, and either refill the reservoir, or go on to check the control valve 14 or flow path 11, to check these are functioning correctly, if required.

As the processing system 3 monitors the volume of drink being dispensed, this can be compared to information stored in the memory 21 regarding the reservoir size and to determine when a reservoir is shortly to run out. Thus, when the volume of fluid left in a respective reservoir falls below a predetermined threshold, an alert can be generated to warn the user that the reservoir will shortly need refilling. The user can also use the processing system 3 to determine the current volume of drink component contained in the respective reservoir at any time, by making an appropriate input selection via the I/O device 22. This can allow the user to ensure that the reservoirs are sufficiently full before a shift commences, to reduce the amount of time wasted in refilling reservoirs during busy periods.

The processing system 3 can also be adapted to monitor the flow meter 15 after a respective control valve 14 has been closed, to ensure the flow is terminated. If for some reasons this does not happen, for example if there is a fault with the valve, the user can be alerted to this fact in a similar fashion.

It will be appreciated that it is also possible to utilise additional sensors, so as to detect information such as the temperature of the drinks being dispensed, the flow pressure, or the like. This could be achieved by positioning additional temperature and pressure sensors in the respective flow paths HA, 11B, 11C, 11D, allowing respective operational parameters to be measured for the flow from each reservoir.

The signals obtained from these sensors can also be compared to predetermined thresholds by the processing system 23, thereby enabling the processing system 3 to determine any faults with any chilling, pressurising systems, or the like. Again, alerts can be generated if any of the operational parameters fall outside an acceptable operating range defined by the thresholds stored in the memory 21. Security

The processing system 3 can also be adapted to prevent drinks being dispensed unless an ID tag has been inserted into the tag reader 17. In this event if the set of buttons 16 are activated nothing will happen.

Accordingly, in this example when a user wishes to order a respective drink the user will first be required to present their ID tag, which is typically a radio frequency ID (RFID) tag, to the tag reader 17. The tag reader 17 will then transfer an indication of an identifier associated with the tag to processor 20. The processor 20 will access an LUT stored in the memory 31 that lists an identifier for each user associated with each tag. Assuming that the tag is a valid tag associated with the system the processor 20 will then allow a selected drink to be dispensed in the manner described above.

Each user may have an associated access control level, which defines operations the user is able to perform. Thus, for example some staff members can be authorised to provide promotional free drinks to patrons. Other operators, in addition to their normal duties, may be authorised to correct mistakes or errors of other staff members. The level of authorisation can be very diverse. For example other staff operator can only dispense non alcoholic beverages etc, allowing different types of staff to use the machine for dispensing alcoholic and non alcoholic drinks as may be required in some jurisdictions.

Thus, the processing system 3 will determine the access level of the user. When the user selects an action to be performed, such as selecting a drink to be dispensed using one of the input buttons 16, 36, the processing system 3 will determine if the user is authorised to perform this function in accordance with the defined access level. If the user can perform the requested function, the processing system will proceed as required, for example by dispensing an appropriate drink.

This allows the dispensing system to be locked to prevent use by selected users. In addition to this, the system can be locked to all user using an appropriate input command. This provides security for the drinks during times when the system is not in use, or if a fault has occurred. In general, this function would only be accessible to the bar manager, or other supervisors. The processing system 3 may be adapted to provide the user with certain information when the user inserts their ID tag into the reader 17. In particular, the processing system 3 can indicate features, such as if the system is locked, if the user is authorised to perform the respective function, or if the user is not authorised to perform the requested function. This can be achieved using, the I/O device 22, or by the alert unit 18, or a separate indication device incorporated in the tag reader 17.

An example of this is shown in Figure 6. In this example, the tag reader 17 includes an aperture 17A for receiving the ID tag, shown generally at 19. In this case, the alert unit 18 is formed from an indicator positioned around the aperture 17A, which is adapted to change colour depending on the status of the system. Thus for example, red could be used to indicate that the system is locked or unable to function due to an error, green that the user is authorised to perform the respective function, or yellow if the user is not authorised. It will be appreciated that this allows the user to easily determined any problems.

Thus, for example, if a user inserts their ID tag 19 into the tag reader 17, the processing system 3 will determine if the user is authorised to use the system, and if so, then cause the alert unit to provide a green indication. If the user subsequently makes an unauthorised selection, such as the selection of an alcoholic drink when the user is only allowed to dispense non-alcoholic drinks, the processing system 3 will cause the alert unit 18 to provide a yellow indication, and the drink will not be dispensed. Finally, if the system is locked, or a fault occurs, such as an empty reservoir, the alert unit 18 will provide a red indication. In this case, the processing system 3 may be adapted to provide additional details of the fault on the I/O device 22.

Point of Sales Terminal

The processing system 3 can also be adapted to monitor the cost of drinks dispensed, and generate an appropriate invoice.

In order to achieve this the processing system 3 will monitor the drinks supplied, either from the input buttons selected, or the volume of drink dispensed, as measured by the respective flow meter 15, 35. The processing system 3 then access an indication of the cost of the drink from a cost LUT stored in the memory 21, allowing the cost of each drink to be determined. In general, this allows the processing system 3 to total any drinks served to a respective individual, and use this to generate the invoice. This cost LUT can also be time dependent, allowing drinks to be charged at different costs during different time periods. This allows the processing system 3 to automatically determine the invoice taking into account promotional offers, price changes, "happy hours", or the like, automatically.

To aid with this, the drinks dispensed will be associated with a respective user using the ID tag. Thus, when a user inserts their tag into the tag reader 17, the processing system 3 will record an indication of this in the memory 21. All subsequent drinks dispensed on the system before another ID tag is provided to the card reader will then be added to a drink list associated with the respective user's ID tag.

This allows a number of drinks can be dispensed in sequence, with each drink being added to the drink list. When the user wishes to generate an invoice, an indication of this is provided to the processing system, for example by using the I/O device 22, or by presenting the ID tag to a respective tag reader associated with the processing system 3. The processing system 3 examines the drinks list associated with the respective ID tag and uses this to determine the invoice as described above. This can then automatically be printed and presented to the customer as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art.

In this case, each time an invoice is generated, or in accordance with other input commands, the drink list can be cleared, so that when the next drinks are dispensed by the user these will be provided on a new drinks list. This ensures that each customer is correctly billed for the drinks served. This also obviates the need for bar staff to remember drink costs, and manual calculate an invoice, which can be difficult during busy times.

Furthermore, by associating the cost of each drink with the identifier of the respective tag and hence the user, this allows many different users to use the system simultaneously whilst each user is presented with a respected list of the drinks they have dispensed.

The drinks list can be associated with the ID tag 19 in a number of manners. Thus for example, the processing system 3 could determine the identifier associated with the ID tag and store this in the memory 21 together with the respective drinks list. Alternatively, the drinks list can be stored in a memory in the ID tag. This is preferably achieved using an RED tag 19 having a memory 19A mounted therein. In any event, in this case, when the user presents their ID tag to the processing system 3, this will cause the processing system 3 to access the drink list stored in the tag memory, and generate an invoice as described above.

It will be appreciated that this allows the barman to dispense measured drinks at the touch of a button and then generate an invoice or bill by presenting their associated ID tag to the tag reader 17, or by making an appropriate selection using the I/O device 22. It will be appreciated that this can significantly reduce the time taken for a barman to dispense drinks and generate the associated bill. This therefore leads to an improvement in bar efficiency, thereby in turn leading to cost savings.

It will be appreciated that a number of variations on the above described ID tag 19 may be implemented. Thus, for example, the form of the ID tag may vary from that shown, so that the ID tag is in the form of a wearable ring or band, such as a wrist band. In this case, the tag reader 17 may not need an aperture, but rather will simply be adapted to detect when a respective ID tag is placed near or in contact with the tag reader. Other forms of physical arrangement of the ID tag may be used.

The ID tags may also work on systems other than RFID systems, such as through the use of electrical contacts between the ID tag and the tag reader 17, which are used to transfer data from the tag memory, through wireless data transfer protocols, such as Bluetooth or the like. This increases the number of different types of identifier that can be used. Thus, for example, the tag reader 17 may be adapted to interrogate any remote device, such as a mobile phone or the like, to download an identifier therefrom, allowing this to be used to identify the user.

Physical devices such as keys may be provided to open an associated lock, with this action indicating to the processing system 3 that the user is an authorised user.

Finally, alternative systems can be used for identifying users, other than ID tags. Thus, for example, each user may have a unique identifier that is input into the system in some fashion. This may be for example similar to a PIN (personal identification number) or password and may be supplied to the processing system 3 via an appropriate keypad, such as the I/O device 22, or a separate keypad provided instead of the tag reader.

Similarly, the tag reader could be replaced with a device for determining biometric information from the users, such as a thumb-print, finger-print, iris scan or the like.

In any event, any technique may be used as long as this allows the user of the system to uniquely identify themselves to the processing system 3.

Information Collection

The processing system 3 can be adapted to store data regarding the drinks dispensed in the memory 21, in the form of transaction data. This will typically be in the form of a database and include an indication of one or more of:

Each drink served;

The time and date the drink was served;

The user who served the drink;

The cost of the drink;

• Whether any promotions were in force when the drink was served; and,

Any problems encountered

It will be appreciated that this can be used to provide data for analysis allowing a variety of useful information to be determined.

Thus, for example, the processing system may be adapted to implement, or cooperate with a stock control system. Monitoring the sales of a particular product, and comparing this to information regarding stock of the product allows the processing system 3 to determine when additional stock needs to be ordered.

Furthermore, an establishment, such as a pub may monitor the sales of the drink and target marketing to improve sales. Thus promotional offers could be targeted during times when sales are low. This could be done by examining the sales of the product over a long time period, and determining times during the day or week when sales are low. Alternatively, this could be done substantially instantaneously.

In order to achieve this, the operator of the system can define sales thresholds for a predetermined time interval which are stored in the memory 21. The processor 20 will compare actual sales recorded when drinks are dispensed, to the thresholds, and can be adapted to generate an indication when the sales are below the threshold. It will be appreciated that different thresholds can be set for different time periods. Thus a Friday night may have a higher threshold than a Monday lunchtime for respective types of drink.

The operator can use the indications generated to either track sales over time, or to immediately offer a promotion in response to low sales. This could also be triggered automatically. In order to achieve this, the processing system 3 can be coupled to a separate display unit 6 and a database 7, as shown in Figure 1. As these are optional, they are shown in dotted lines. The manner in which these are implemented are not important, and the database 7 could for example be provided in the memory 21.

In this case, when the processor 20 determines that the current sales are below the threshold, the processor can select an appropriate promotion stored in the database 7, and cause appropriate advertising, or other promotional images to be presented to users of the establishment, on the display unit 6, which may be a television screen, or the like.

It will be appreciated that in the event in which the promotion is associated with a price reduction, or other special offer on the drink, the cost LUT stored in the memory 21 will reflect this, thereby ensuring that the processing system 3 determines the correct price for the drinks served.

However, this transaction data is useful not only to the user of the system but also to the drink supplier. Accordingly, a further feature which can implemented in the present invention is to allow the processing system 3 to communicate with a base station operated by the drink supplier. This allows the drink supplier to obtain details of the data collected allowing the drink dispenser provider to determine when drinks were served at each establishment. This can be used for a number of purposes as will be described in more detail below. An example of the system for achieving this will now be described with reference to Figure 7.

In particular, as shown in Figure 7 a number of the processing systems 3 can be coupled to base station 1 via the Internet 2, or additionally, or alternatively via one or more LANs (Local Area Networks) 4. It will be appreciated that the processing systems 3 may be provided at a number of different locations, and will typically form part of a respective dispenser system similar to that described above.

The base station 1 typically includes a processing system 8 coupled to a database 9, as shown. An example of a suitable processing system is shown in more detail in Figure 8. As shown the processing system 8 includes a processor 40, a memory 41, an input/ output (I/O) device 42, and an external interface 43, which are coupled together via a bus 44.

The interface 43 is designed to allow the processing system 8 to connect to the communications network 2, or a LAN 4, and accordingly the type of the interface 43 will depend on the nature of the communications network. It will be appreciated from this that the processing system may be any form of processing device, such as a network server, a web server, personal computer, a lap-top or the like.

In use, data can periodically be transferred from the processing system 3, or the database 7, to the base station 1 via the Internet. This may be achieved using an ASDL modem connection, or the like, between the processing system 3 and the base station 1, as will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art.

In any event, each processing system 3 can be adapted to periodically download the transaction data. This may be done at a specific time each day, or week, or may be performed at regular intervals, such as every hour, depending on the need of the drink supplier. The transaction information allows the supplier to determine statistics regarding sales for all the different establishments.

This can provide useful marketing information, and may be combined with other information, such as establishment patronage, geographical location, drink costs, to allow studies to be performed on the sales of the product in different establishments. This can help the drink supplier in targeting advertising or the like to help increase product sales. In addition to receiving transaction information, the system may also be adapted to receive data from the flow sensors 15, allowing the drink supplier to ensure that the correct volumes of each drink component are dispensed in each drink. This allows the drink supplier to ensure product standards are maintained.

This information can also be used to detect problems with the drink dispenser, as outlined above. Thus, for example, if drinks are not being dispensed in accordance with the required drink component ratio, or the like. Accordingly the base station 1 can determine if problems occur, and if these are subsequently corrected by the operator, and if not, arrange for the machine to be repaired by a service person.

The system also allows the drink supplier to compare the amounts of drinks being dispensed with those ordered by the user. This can be used to determine if the operator of the dispensing system is obtaining drinks from alternative sources, as well as to automatically order additional stock from the supplier. Thus, on comparing stock levels to predetermined thresholds and determining that stocks are low, the processing system can be adapted to automatically generate an order (typically for a predetermined quantity of stock specified by the operator of the dispensing system), allowing this stock to be supplied automatically by the base station 1.

Remote Control

The base station 1 can also be used to modify the operation of the processing system 3, and hence the drink dispenser.

Thus, for example, the base station 1 can operate to modify the settings stored in the memory 21 of the processing system 3, such as the respective volumes of drink component to be supplied with each drink. In particular, this allows the base station 1 to be used to modify the volumes of syrup and soda water, allowing the drink component ratio to be modified.

This may be done for a number of reasons, such as a change in recipe. Additionally, it is typical for different drink component ratios to be used in different jurisdictions or countries. This often occurs to reflect local taste, or the usual drink component used in that locality. However, this may also be performed to allow the measures of drinks to conform to different standards or laws within different countries. This allows identical machines to be installed in every location, with the settings being adjusted to reflect local laws, or policies. This can be local for the country, or the particular establishment, allowing the system to be deployed globally. The drink supplier is therefore able to ensure that the relevant volumes of drink component dispensed for each machine by allowing the drink component volumes to may be set and monitored by the base station 1, thereby ensuring product standards through the world.

In the event that a fault develops with the machine, such as the correct drink component ratio is not being achieved, then the base station 1 can also be adapted to prevent further drinks be dispensed by locking the system. In this case the processing system 3 will not respond to input commands from a user, and will therefore not operate to dispense drinks. This can also be performed if other criteria such as drink temperature or the like are not satisfied, as determined by other sensors outlined above.

In addition to this, the drink supplier can also modify user access levels, or the like. Furthermore, the drink supplier can arrange to trigger the presentation of adverts or promotions at respective establishments. This can be done in accordance with the transaction data, in a manner similar to that described above.

For example, if sales of one variety of drink are low in a particular establishment or region, the base station 1 can communicate with respective one or more of the processing systems 3. The processing systems 3 can then alert a uses in the form of an operator of the drinks dispenser, or the cause adverts or promotions to be displayed automatically from the database 7 on the display 6.

Thus, it will be seen that this allows the base station to utilise transaction data from a range of different establishments to provide a coordinated response to current sales, thereby making this process of more use to the drink supplier, than the use of promotions on an establishment by establishment basis.

Additional Capabilities

Thus, the system outlined in the examples above allows drinks formed from multiple components to be dispensed automatically, providing monitoring to ensure the correct ratio of drink components is provided. In addition to this, the system can record information regarding the drinks dispensed, allowing this to be used for invoicing, advertising, marketing, or the like.

In order to achieve this the processing system 3 responds to input commands to perform one or more of the following tasks simultaneously, or in sequence:

Commence delivery of one or more drinks;

Records sales of drink (as ordered);

Displays totals for each order;

Prints customers' cash sale dockets;

Adjust stock levels;

• Stores information for further processing on site or remotely;

Monitors and controls technical parameters of drinks stored in containers, of drinks being dispensed and held in lines, such as temperatures, pressures, condition and cleanliness of lines;

• Reports and raises alarms on parameters operating outside the set limits;

• Activates promotion and advertising; and,

• Sends relevant data to the base station.

A number of variations on the above described examples may also be implemented.

Thus, for example, in the above examples, the drinks are formed from a combination of syrup and soda water, with optional spirit content. However, it will be appreciated that the techniques may be used to dispense drinks including any one of a number of different components. Thus, the reservoirs may be filled with anyone of a number of different drink components. The processing system 3 will then be adapted to dispense drink components in accordance with the LUT stored in the memory 21, thereby allowing a range of different drinks to be supplied. These need not be formed from soda water and syrup, and it will therefore be appreciated that the use of these terms in the examples is not intended to be limiting.

The techniques can also be applied to single component drinks, such as beers, or the like, allowing the dispensation of beer to be controlled and monitored automatically. This is described in more details in the copending application AU2003902051.

The system can also be integrated with other drink dispensing systems, which are also controlled in a similar manner. This may include other dispensing systems, such as coffee machines, beer dispensers, general drink dispensers, or the like.

An example of this is shown in Figure 9. In this example, the processing system 3 is coupled to a mixed drink dispenser 50, similar to the dispensers described above, a coffee machine 51 similar to that described in the copending application number AU2002951794 filed on 02/10/ 2002, a beer dispensers 52, a separate spirits dispenser 53, which may be similar to the system shown in Figure 4. Additionally the system can be adapted to be coupled to the dispenser system described in the copending patent application number PCT/ AU 03/00107, as shown generally at 54, which allows a wide range of drinks to be served. Other cooperating systems can also be connected.

The processing system 3, optionally being coupled to the base station 1, as described above.

In this case, each dispensing system typically includes a respective tag reader 55, 56, 57, 58, 59. In use, when a user of the system wishes to dispense a drink from a respective system, the processing system 3 will determine if the user has appropriate access rights, before controlling the drink dispensing operation in a manner similar to that described above. This allows the user to commence the pouring of other drinks, whilst the first drink is poured. As described above, an indication of the drink can be stored in a drinks list associated with the respective user's ID tag.

If the user wishes to dispense a second drink from the same dispenser system, the ID tag can be either left in the respective tag reader, reinserted into the tag reader, or may not be required if no other tags have been used in that particular dispenser system in the meantime. If the second drink is to be dispensed from a different dispenser system, the ID tag will be inserted into the tag reader 55, 56, 57, 58, 59 associated with the respective dispenser system 50, 51, 52, 53, 54.

This allows the dispensation of drinks from different dispensing systems to be monitored via a single processing system 3. When all the required drinks are dispensed, the user instructs the system 3 to generate an invoice. This may be achieved by inserting the ID tag into a respective tag reader 60 associated with the processing system 3, or by selecting an appropriate option using the I/O device 22.

In any event, the processing system 3 will access the drink list associated with the respective ID tag, either by downloading this from the ID tag, as described above, or by accessing a drinks list stored in the memory 21, using the identifier associated with the respective ID tag.

During this process, the user may also input additional charges, such as cover charges, food charges, or the like, allowing these to be included on the same invoice.

If during this process a fault occurs with any of the dispensing operations, an indication of this will be presented to the user, either on the I/O device 22, or on a separate alert unit. A respective alert unit may be provided for each system 50, 51, 52, 53, 54, or may include a single display such as the I/O device 22 adapted to indicate the location of the fault.

It is also possible to implement the system within a single housing. In this case, a single housing would be provided to contain the output 12, the inputs 16, as well as the processing system 3. This can obviate the need for the communications network 4. The housing may also include a cash register system, typically at least partially implemented by the processor 20.

Alternatively, the system may be formed from a number of components. Additionally, any number of dispensing systems may utilise a single processing system, or vice versa.

Finally, the system may be used for purposes other than drink dispensing. Thus, the system can be used to dispense any fluids which need to be mixed together to provide a final product. An example of a coffee machine according to the present invention will now be described with reference to Figure 10.

As shown, the coffee machine includes a coffee unit in the form of coffee module 51 and a liqueur module 52 having fluid reservoirs which are connected to a drink output in the form of output 53, for supplying liqueur coffees or the like to a drinking receptacle such as a cup 54. In use, operation of the coffee machine is controlled via a processing system 55 coupled to the coffee and liqueur modules 51, 52 via an appropriate connection system, such as a network connection, shown at 56.

In use, a user of the machine selects a desired drink using an input means, which in this example comprises a number of input buttons 57, by a particular input button. In general, each button will be programmed to provide a respective drink, and accordingly, this allows the user to select a button corresponding to the desired, which in turn causes the processing system 55 to control the coffee machine, to thereby supply the selected drink.

Thus, for example, buttons may be provided to supply drinks as follows:

• Button 51 Coffee + Rum (15ml, 30ml or 45ml set in the program) + Froth

• Button 52 Coffee + Orange Curacao (15ml, 30ml or 45ml set in the program) + Milk + Froth

• Button 53 Coffee + Orange Curacao÷ Rum (15ml, 30ml or 45ml each spirit, set in the program)

• Button 54 Rum + Orange Curacao (15ml, 30ml or 45ml each spirit, set in the program)

The apparatus will now be described in more detail. In particular, the coffee module 51 is formed from a water reservoir 510 coupled via a pump 511 and pipes 512 to a pressurised heating system in the form of water heater 513. The water heater 513 is in turn coupled via a control valve 514 and a pipe 515 to a coffee filter 516, such as a porta-filter, or the like, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art.

A coffee reservoir 517 is coupled via tube 518 to a coffee grinder 519 to allow coffee beans contained in the reservoir to be ground in use. The coffee grinder 519 is then typically connected to the filter 516 via a pipe 520, thereby allowing the ground coffee to be supplied to the filter.

The filter 516 is coupled via a pipe 521 to the output 53, thereby allowing the coffee drink to be supplied to the output 53, as will be described in more detail below. The coffee module also includes a system for providing milk and/ or froth. This is formed from a refrigerated milk reservoir 522 coupled via a control valve 523 and a pipe 524 to a frothing chamber 525. The frothing chamber is also coupled to the heating chamber 513 via a control valve 527 and a pipe 528 to allow steam to be supplied into the frothing chamber. The frothing chamber is then coupled, via a control valve 529 and a pipe 530, to the output 53.

The liqueur module 52 is formed from one or more fluid reservoirs that are adapted to supply drinks from respective bottles. Although a number of different drink dispensers may be provided, only two are shown in this example for clarity purposes at 531A, 531B.

As shown, each drink dispenser 531 is formed from a holder in the form of a magnetic lock 532 that is adapted to receive a bottle 533. The lock 532 is then positioned in a recess 534, which is coupled via a pipe 535 to the drink output in the form of output 53. An actuator 536 is provided to open the magnetic lock 532 and a flow meter 537 is also provide for monitoring the flow of drink from the bottle 533 to the output 53.

The processing system is shown in more detail in Figure 11. As shown, the processing system includes a processor 540, a memory 541, an input/ output (I/O) device 542, and an external interface 543, coupled together via a bus 544. In use the I/O device 542 includes the set of input buttons 57, and may optionally include a display, printer, keyboard, or the like.

The interface 543 is designed to allow the processing system to be communicate via the communications network 56 and accordingly the type of the interface 543 will depend on the nature of the communications network. Thus for example, if the communications network is an Ethernet LAN, the interface may be an Ethernet card, or the like.

It will be appreciated from this that the processing system may be any form of processing device, such as a network server, a personal computer, a lap-top, specialised hardware and/ or software, or the like. In use, the processing system is adapted to control the operation of the valves 514, 523, 527, 529, the pump 511, the heater 513, and the actuators 536, to thereby allow drinks such as coffees, liqueur coffees, or cocktails, to be dispensed. The manner in which this is achieved will now be described with reference to the flow charts shown in Figure 12.

In particular, at step 5100 the user selects a drink to be dispensed. The user then provides an indication of the drink to the processing system 55 by selecting an appropriate one of the input buttons 57, at step 5110. In general, each of the buttons 57 will correspond to a respective drink, and the user can therefore simply select the button corresponding to the desired drink. At step 5120 drink data indicating the selection is stored in the memory 521.

At step 5130 the processing system 55 determines reference data from the memory

521. The reference data is formed from control parameters that instruct the processor 520 on operation of the coffee machine. In particular, the content data defines the settings that are required in order to produce the desired drink. This will therefore include settings for controlling the operation of the valves 514, 523, 527, 529, the pump 511, the heater 513, and the actuators 36, so as to produce coffee, froth, milk, liqueur, or the like, as required to supply the required drink.

If the drink includes coffee, then at step 5140 the processing system activates the grinder 517, the pump 511 and the heater 513. In particular, the grinder 517 is activated to grind a predetermined amount of coffee obtained from the coffee reservoir. Simultaneously the pump 511 is used to fill the pressure heater 513, which is then activated to heat the water.

This is achieved by having the processor 520 generate control signals activating the grinder 517, the pump 511 and the pressure heater 513 in accordance with a predetermined sequence specified in the reference data.

At step 5150 it is determined if froth is required. If froth is not required, the processing system 55 activates the valve 514. This causes water under pressure to be forced through the filter 516, so as to provided hot liquid coffee at the output 53. In particular, the processing system 55 will wait until the water is heated to a suitable temperature by the pressure heater 513, and until sufficient coffee is provided in the filter 516, before activating the valve 514 to cause hot water to be pumped through the coffee. If it is determined at step 5150 that froth or hot milk is required, the processing system activates the valve 523 and the valve 527. In particular, the processing system activates the valve 523 to cause milk to be supplied to the frothing chamber 525. The valve 527 is then activated causing steam to be transferred from the pressure heater 513 to the frothing chamber 525. The steam operates to heat the milk and /or cause frothing of the milk. This will depend on the level of milk in the frothing chamber and in particular, whether the steam is expelled onto the surface of the milk or beneath the surface of the milk. Accordingly, the production of froth or warm milk can be controlled by controlling the level of milk in the frothing chamber, as will be appreciated by those skilled in the art.

At step 5180 the processing system 55 activates the valves 514 and 529. This causes coffee to be transferred to the output 53 as described above with respect to step 5160, and simultaneously for the hot milk and /or froth to be supplied to the output 53, via the pipe 530.

If the drink includes liqueur, the processing system 55 operates to activate the actuators 536, to thereby open the magnetic locks 532 to allow drink to flow from the bottles to the output, via the respective pipes 535, as required. Thus, for example, the liqueur coffee may require a combination of different liqueurs. In this case, the processing system will activate the actuator 536 for each of the drink dispensers 531 A, 531B. During this operation, the processing system 55 monitors the amount of drink poured using the flow meter 537 to thereby control the quantities of drink provided.

The bottles 533 can be coupled to magnetic locks having respective identifiers thereon. In this case, the processing system can be adapted to determine the identifier of the respective bottles, allowing the drink (typically spirits) contained therein. In the event that the required liqueur is not available for making the selected drink, an indication of this may be provided at the processing system I/O device.

It will be appreciated that in general steps 5160 or 5180, and 5190 are performed substantially simultaneously in order to allow a mix of liqueur coffee to be provided. However, the steps could be performed in sequence depending on the control settings provided in the reference data.

At steps 5200 the drink is served. At step 5210 an invoice may optionally be generated and output via the I/O device 542. The invoice may be generated for example by having the processor 520 access the drink data according to memory 521, together with cost data, which is also stored in the memory 521. In particular, the cost data will indicate the cost of each drink and by combining this with an indication of drinks supplied the processor 520 can determine a an invoice and provide an indication of this via the I/O device.

It will be appreciated that the system can be used to provide a range of different drinks, such as:

• White coffees including:

o Cappuccino

o Cafe Latte

o Flat White

• Black coffees including:

o Espresso

o Long Black

• Spirit and cocktails including:

o Half nip 15 ml

o Single nip 30 ml

o Diablo cocktail (mixture of 2 spirits)

Accordingly, this provides a system for allowing an operator to provide coffees, liqueur coffees, or cocktail by selecting a single input button, thereby reducing the amount of the process that must be performed manually.

Alternatively, aspects of the machines operation can be performed manually a required. Thus for example, it may be necessary to manually empty the filter 516 before initiating the process, allowing the used coffee to be removed from the filter before a drink is produced.

A number of other variations are possible. Thus for example, if the coffee machine is used in a cafe or the like, the processing system may be adapted to receive an identifier from an employee of the cafe before it will operate. In this example, an indication of the employee's identifier can be stored in the drink data. This allows a record to be kept of which employee supplied drinks. This can be used for auditing and monitoring purposes, as well as to allow invoices to be generated for drinks served by respective employees, as will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art.

It will be appreciated that the coffee system may advantageously be used in conjunction with the drink dispenser system described in the copending application entitled "A Dispenser", filed on 4 February 2002.

Throughout this specification the word "comprise", or variations such as "comprises" or "comprising", will be understood to imply the inclusion of a stated element, integer or step, or group of elements, integers or steps, but not the exclusion of any other element, integer or step, or group of elements, integers or steps.

All publications mentioned in this specification are herein incorporated by reference. Any discussion of documents, acts, materials, devices, articles or the like which has been included in the present specification is solely for the purpose of providing a context for the present invention. It is not to be taken as an admission that any or all of these matters form part of the prior art base or were common general knowledge in the field relevant to the present invention as it existed anywhere before the priority date of each claim of this application.

It will be appreciated by persons skilled in the art that numerous variations and /or modifications may be made to the invention as shown in the specific embodiments without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention as broadly described. The present embodiments are, therefore, to be considered in all respects as illustrative and not restrictive.

Claims

CLAIMS DEFINING THE INVENTION ARE AS FOLLOWS:
1. A drink dispenser comprising:
two or more drink supplies for supplying two or more corresponding drink, components;
a drink output coupled to each of the drink supplies to output a drink comprising one or more of the drink components;
measuring means for measuring the quantity of drink components supplied from each supply;
input means for receiving a drink request for a drink comprising one or more of the drink components; and
drink output control means for controlling the quantity of drink components supplied from the drink supplies to supply the requested drink to the drink output.
2. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 1 wherein at least one of the drink supplies comprises a fluid reservoir containing a respective drink component.
3. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 2 wherein the fluid reservoir is coupled to the drink output via a fluid flow path.
4. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 2 or claim 3 wherein the fluid reservoir is coupled to a fluid reservoir valve for controlling supply the respective drink component to the drink output.
5. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein one of the drink components comprises soda water and another of the drink components comprises syrup.
6. The drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims arranged to record the quantity of drink components supplied to the drink output by recording measurements measured by the measuring means.
7. The drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the drink output control means is arranged to:
(a) compare:
(i) a predetermined ratio of quantities of two of the drink components corresponding to the drink request; and
(ii) the corresponding ratio of quantities of the two drink components supplied to the drink output according to measurements measured by the measuring means; and
(b) if the difference between the predetermined ratio and corresponding ratio is greater than a predetermined amount, activate a predetermined response.
8. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 7 wherein the predetermined response comprises an alarm.
9. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 7 wherein the predetermined response comprises activating the drink output control means to prevent drinks being outputted from the drink output.
10. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the measuring means is arranged to measure the volume of drink components supplied.
11. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 3 wherein the flow metre is coupled to the fluid flow path of the drink dispenser.
12. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the drink output control means is arranged to supply one or more of the drink components of the drink dispenser in a predetermined sequence.
13. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the drink output control means is arranged to control the quantity of one or more of the drink components supplied to the drink output.
14. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the drink output comprises a drink receptacle sensor for detecting whether a drink receptacle is positioned for receipt of the drink outputted from the drink output.
15. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 14 wherein the drink output control means is arranged to prevent outputting of said drink via said drink output unless a drinking receptacle is positioned to receive said drink.
16. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of claims 2 - 15 wherein the fluid reservoir is arranged to supply said other drink component(s) from a lower region thereof.
17. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 16 wherein the fluid reservoir is arranged to supply other drink component(s) via a supply mouth.
18. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the input means comprises a touch sensitive pad.
19. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the input means is arranged to send predetermined signals to the drink output control means upon receipt of corresponding predetermined inputs.
20. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of claims 4- 19 wherein the drink output control means is arranged to control opening or closing of the fluid reservoir valve.
21. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of claims 4 - 20 wherein the fluid reservoir valve comprises a magnetic lock coupled to the fluid reservoir.
22. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 21 wherein the magnetic lock comprises a drink component identifier representative of fluid contained in the fluid reservoir.
23. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 22 wherein the drink output control means is arranged to:
compare the drink component identifier to said drink request; and unlock said magnetic lock to supply the corresponding drink component from the associated fluid reservoir if the drink component identifier corresponds to a drink component of the drink request.
24. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the drink output control means or input means comprises a processor which is arranged to receive information from the input means and control the supply of drink components responsive to the received information.
25. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 24 wherein the input means or processor comprises a memory for storing the received information.
26. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 25 wherein the memory is arranged to store reference data indicating the quantity of each drink component corresponding to said respective drink request.
27. A drink dispenser as claimed in claimed 26 wherein the reference data also indicates the cost of each drink component per quantity of the respective drink components.
28. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of the preceding claims wherein the input means is arranged to receive an identifier representative of a respective user, the drink output control means being arranged to:
compare the identifier to a pool of reference identifier data comprising a plurality of valid identifiers; and
output said drink if the identifier corresponds to a valid identifier.
29. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 28 wherein the identifier comprises a security document.
30. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 29 wherein the dispenser comprises a security document reader arranged to receive and read a security document to determine the associated identifier.
31. A drink dispenser as claimed in any one of claims 28 - 30 arranged to automatically determine the cost of each drink outputted from the drink output, based on the recorded quantity of supplied drink components and the corresponding reference data indicating the cost of each drink component per quantity.
32. A drink dispenser as claimed in claim 31 arranged to generate information comprising one or more of the following: the drinks outputted by the drink output corresponding to one or more said users; the cost of each said outputted drink corresponding to one or more said users; and the total cost of said outputted drinks corresponding to one or more said users.
33. A coffee machine comprising:
a coffee unit for supplying a drink component comprising at least one of:
(i) coffee;
(ii) froth; and
(iii) milk;
one or more fluid reservoirs for supplying one or more corresponding other drink components;
a drink output coupled to the coffee unit and the one or more fluid reservoirs to output a drink comprising one or more of the drink components;
input means for receiving a drink request for a drink comprising one or more of the drink components; and
drink output control means for controlling the supply of the drink components from the coffee unit and the one ore more fluid reservoirs to supply the requested drink to the drink output.
34. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 33 wherein one or more of the fluid reservoirs are coupled to the drink output via a fluid flow path.
35. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 34 further comprising a flow metre for measuring the quantity of one or more of the drin components being supplied to the drink output.
36. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 35 wherein the flow metre is coupled to the fluid flow paths.
37. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 36 wherein the drink output control means is arranged to supply one or more of the drink components in a predetermined sequence.
38. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 37 wherein the drink output control means is arranged to control the quantity of one or more of the drink components supplied to the drink output.
39. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 35 - 38 arranged to record the quantity of one or more drink components supplied to the drink output by recording measurements supplied from the flow meter.
40. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 39 wherein the drink output comprises a drink receptacle sensor for detecting whether a drink receptacle is positioned for receipt of the drink outputted from the drink output.
41. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 40 further comprising coffee and water reservoirs.
42. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 41 wherein the coffee unit comprises a milk reservoir.
43. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 41 or claim 42 wherein the coffee reservoir is arranged to store coffee beans and is coupled to a coffee grinder.
44. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 41 - 43 wherein the water reservoir is coupled to a pressurised heating system for supplying pressurised heated water.
45. A coffee machine as claimed in claims 44 wherein the coffee machine comprises a water valve for controlling the supply of water to or from the pressurised heating system.
46. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 42 - 45 wherein the milk reservoir is coupled to both a frothing chamber and the pressurised heating system for supplying said froth.
47. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 46 further comprising a milk valve for controlling the supply of milk from the milk reservoir to the frothing chamber.
48. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 46 or claim 47 further comprising a steam valve for controlling the supply of steam from the pressurised heating system to the frothing chamber.
49. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 48 wherein the fluid reservoir is arranged to supply said other drink component(s) from a lower region thereof.
50. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 49 wherein the fluid reservoir is arranged to supply other drink component(s) via a supply mouth.
51. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 50 wherein the fluid reservoir is coupled to a fluid reservoir valve for controlling the supply of the other drink component(s) to the drink output.
52. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33- 51 the other drink component(s) comprise a flavoured liquid.
53. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 52 wherein the other drink components comprise alcohol.
54. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 53 wherein the input means comprises a touch sensitive pad.
55. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 54 wherein the input means is arranged to send predetermined signals to the drink output control means upon receipt of corresponding predetermined inputs.
56. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 51 - 55 wherein the fluid reservoir valve comprises a magnetic lock coupled to the mouth of the fluid reservoir.
57. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 56 wherein the magnetic lock comprises a drink component identifier representative of fluid contained in the fluid reservoir.
58. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 57 wherein the drink output control means is arranged to:
compare the drink component identifier to said drink request; and
unlock said magnetic lock to supply the corresponding drink component from the associated fluid reservoir if the drink component identifier corresponds to a drink component of the drink request.
59. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 58 wherein the drink output control means or input means comprises a processor which is arranged to receive information from the input means and control the supply of drink components responsive to the received information.
60. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 59 wherein the input means or processor - comprises a memory for storing the received information.
61. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 60 wherein the memory is arranged to store reference data indicating the quantity of each drink component corresponding to said respective drink request.
62. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 61 wherein the reference data indicates the cost of each drink component per quantity of the respective drink components.
63. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 33 - 62 the input means is arranged to receive an identifier representative of a respective user, the drink output control means being arranged to:
compare the identifier to a pool of reference identifier data comprising a plurality of valid identifiers; and
output said drink if the identifier corresponds to a valid identifier.
64. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 63 wherein the identifier comprises a security document.
65. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 64 further comprising a security document reader arranged to receive and read a security document to determine the associated identifier.
66. A coffee machine as claimed in any one of claims 63 - 65 wherein the coffee machine is arranged to automatically determine the cost of each drink outputted from the drink output, based on the recorded quantity of supplied drink components and the corresponding reference data indicating the cost of each drink component per quantity.
67. A coffee machine as claimed in claim 66 arranged to generate information comprising one or more of the following: the drinks outputted by the drink output corresponding to one or more said users; the cost of each said outputted drink corresponding to one or more said users; and the total cost of said outputted drinks corresponding to one or more said users.
68. Computing means arranged for operation of the drink output control means of any one of the preceding claims.
69. Computing means as claimed in claim 68 further comprising software or hardware.
70. A method of dispensing a drink comprising the steps of:
receiving a drink request for a drink comprising one or more drink components;
supply one or more drink components, from two or more drink supplies supplying corresponding drink components, to a drink output to output a drink comprising one or more of the drink components;
measuring the quantity of drink components supplied from each supply; and
controlling the quantity of drink components supplied from the drink, supplies to supply the requested drink to the drink output.
71. A method as claimed in claim 70 wherein the step of receiving a drink request comprises the step of receiving the drink request via input means of any one of claims 33 to 70.
72. A method as claimed in claim 70 or claim 71 wherein the step of measuring the quantity of supplied drink components comprises the step of measuring the volume of supplied drink components.
Automated Beverage Technologies Pte Ltd By their Patent Attorneys BLAKE DAWSON WALDRON PATENT SERVICES
DATED: 2 October 2003
PCT/IB2003/004345 2002-10-02 2003-10-02 Dispenser WO2004030435A2 (en)

Priority Applications (4)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
AU2002951794A AU2002951794A0 (en) 2002-10-02 2002-10-02 Coffee machine
AU2002951794 2002-10-02
AU2003902052 2003-04-30
AU2003902052A AU2003902052A0 (en) 2003-04-30 2003-04-30 Dispenser

Applications Claiming Priority (1)

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