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WO2006046068A1 - Tracking apparatus - Google Patents

Tracking apparatus

Info

Publication number
WO2006046068A1
WO2006046068A1 PCT/GB2005/004185 GB2005004185W WO2006046068A1 WO 2006046068 A1 WO2006046068 A1 WO 2006046068A1 GB 2005004185 W GB2005004185 W GB 2005004185W WO 2006046068 A1 WO2006046068 A1 WO 2006046068A1
Authority
WO
Grant status
Application
Patent type
Prior art keywords
input
apparatus
identity
device
user
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/GB2005/004185
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Derek Gennard
Original Assignee
Salem Automation Limited
Priority date (The priority date is an assumption and is not a legal conclusion. Google has not performed a legal analysis and makes no representation as to the accuracy of the date listed.)
Filing date
Publication date

Links

Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G07CHECKING-DEVICES
    • G07CTIME OR ATTENDANCE REGISTERS; REGISTERING OR INDICATING THE WORKING OF MACHINES; GENERATING RANDOM NUMBERS; VOTING OR LOTTERY APPARATUS; ARRANGEMENTS, SYSTEMS OR APPARATUS FOR CHECKING NOT PROVIDED FOR ELSEWHERE
    • G07C9/00Individual entry or exit registers
    • G07C9/00007Access-control involving the use of a pass
    • G07C9/00111Access-control involving the use of a pass the pass performing a presence indicating function, e.g. identification tag or transponder
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06KRECOGNITION OF DATA; PRESENTATION OF DATA; RECORD CARRIERS; HANDLING RECORD CARRIERS
    • G06K17/00Methods or arrangements for effecting co-operative working between equipments covered by two or more of the preceding main groups, e.g. automatic card files incorporating conveying and reading operations
    • G06K2017/0035Aspects not covered by other subgroups
    • G06K2017/0045Tracking objects or persons

Abstract

Tracking apparatus (10) for tracking the location of a user moving from a first location to a second location includes an identity tag (12) which in use is carried by the user. The identity tag includes means (14) for storing an identification code, the identification code being associated with the identity of the user. The apparatus (10) includes an input device (16) and a controller (22), the input device being a signal communication with the controller, and communication means (14, 16) which are arranged to permit automatic communication of the identification code from the identity tag to the input device when the user moves from the first location to the second location.

Description

Tracking Apparatus

The present invention relates to tracking apparatus, particularly but not exclusively tracking apparatus for tracking the location of a user moving from a first location to a second location.

Various arrangements are known for tracking the location of users moving between locations. Typically such arrangements require the user to carry a card which must be swiped through a card reader as the user moves from one location to another, the card including a magnetic strip which carries information relating to the identity of the user. In other arrangements, the identity information is carried in a bar code which must be scanned to retrieve the information. These arrangements suffer the disadvantage in each case that the user has to stop, produce the card, and wait for the card to be scanned by or swiped through the card reader. While such arrangements may be satisfactory in relatively clean office environments, they are generally unsatisfactory in relatively dirty working environments such as factory workplaces, where it can be inconvenient for workers to have to produce cards, where the cards easily become dirty and unusable, and indeed where the card readers themselves can quickly be degraded or damaged by the hostile environment. Such arrangements are also unsatisfactory in emergency situations where any delay in moving between locations could be the difference between life and death.

According to the present invention, there is provided tracking apparatus for tracking the location of a user moving from a first location to a second location, the apparatus including an identity tag which in use is carried by the user, the identity tag including means for storing an identification code, the identification code being associated with the identity of the user, the apparatus including an input device and a controller, the input device being in signal communication with the controller, and communication means which are arranged to permit automatic communication of the identification code from the identity tag to the input device when the user moves from the first location to the second location.

Preferably the controller includes display means for displaying information to an operator. Preferably the controller is arranged so that the displayed information is dependent upon communication of the identification code to the input device.

Preferably, the displayed information includes identity information relating to the identity of the user or item. Preferably, the displayed information includes location information which is dependent upon communication of the identification code to the input device.

Preferably, the apparatus includes a plurality of spaced input devices for tracking the location of the user moving between a plurality of locations. Preferably, each input device is positioned between each location. Preferably, the displayed location information is dependent upon the position of the most recent input device to which the identification code has been communicated.

Preferably, each location is part of a defined area. The defined area may be an oil rig. One or more of the input devices may be positioned remote from the area.

The controller may be a programmable computer, which may be programmable with a set of instructions. Preferably, the set of instructions includes a location database, which relates the or each input device to its respective location information.

The apparatus may include a plurality of identity tags. Each tag may be carried by a different user, and each tag may include means for storing an identification code associated with the identity of a different user. Preferably, each identification code is unique.

Preferably, the set of instructions includes an identity database which relates the or each identification code to the associated identity information of the respective user.

Preferably, the communication means include wireless communication means and may more preferably include radio communication means. The communication means may include a radio transmitter-responder (transponder). The or each identity tag may include the transponder. The communication means may include a radio transmitter and receiver. The or each input device may include the radio transmitter and receiver.

The transponder may be in the form of an RFID device.

Preferably, the or each input device includes an antenna, which is arranged to create a read field space, and the antenna may be arranged to receive an identity code from an identity tag when the tag is within the read field space. The read field space may be circular or elliptical in plan, and may extend up to 2m from the input device.

Preferably, the apparatus is arranged so that the direction of travel of the user can be determined. Preferably, the input devices are arranged in pairs, and may be arranged so that the identification code is communicated sequentially to each of the input devices of a pair.

The apparatus may include an allocation input device, which may be in signal communication with the controller, and may permit input of identification codes and their associated identity information to the identity database. The controller may include monitoring means, which may include an alarm, which may be audible and/or visual.

The monitoring means may monitor the occurrence of signals from the or each input device over a first time period. The monitoring means may trigger the alarm if no signals are received from the or each input device during the first time period.

The monitoring means may monitor the location information for the or each identity tag over a second time period, and the monitoring means may trigger the alarm if the location information for an identity tag has not changed during the second time period.

The monitoring means may monitor the occurrence of signals from a pair of spaced input devices over a third time period, and may trigger the alarm if a signal is not received from both of the spaced input devices within the third time period.

The identity information may include any of the name, address, next of kin, profession, employer, passport number, medical records, skills or responsibilities relating to the user.

The identity information may include an authorisation level relating to the or each user. The location information may include authorisation information defining an authorisation level relating to access to each location. The set of instructions may include an authorisation routine, which may monitor the identity information relative to the authorisation information, and may the trigger the alarm if the authorisation level relating to the or each user is insufficient relative to the access authorisation level of the location of the most recent input device to which the identification code has been communicated. Preferably, the controller is arranged to record the displayed information. Preferably, the controller includes memory storage for the recorded displayed information. Preferably, the controller includes retrieval means for retrieving the recorded displayed information from the memory storage.

The apparatus may include a back up controller, which may be in signal communication with the controller. The back up controller may be sited at a remote location from the controller.

The identity tags, input devices and/or controller may be suitable for use in hazardous areas.

The controller may include interface means for interfacing with other systems, which may include travel management, logistics, and/or personnel systems.

The apparatus may be arranged to identify the location of a user in an emergency situation.

Further according to the present invention, there is provided a method of tracking the location of a user moving from a first location to a second location, the method comprising the use of tracking apparatus including an identity tag which in use is carried by the user, the identity tag including means for storing an identification code, the identification code being associated with the identity of the user, the apparatus including an input device and a controller, the input device being in signal communication with the controller, and communication means which are arranged to permit automatic communication of the identification code from the identity tag to the input device when the user moves from the first location to the second location. Preferably, the tracking apparatus is as defined above in any of the preceding paragraphs.

Embodiments of the present invention will now be described, by way of example only, and with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:-

Fig. 1 is a schematic diagram of a tracking apparatus;

Fig. 2 is a schematic block diagram of part of the apparatus;

Fig. 3 is a schematic plan of a building; and

Fig. 4 is a schematic plan of part of another building.

Fig. 1 shows in schematic form a tracking apparatus 10, the tracking apparatus 10 including an identity tag 12, the identity tag 12 including a radio transmitter-responder (transponder) in the form of a radio frequency identification (RFID) device 14.

The tracking apparatus 10 includes an input device 16, the input device

16 including an antenna 18 which is arranged to create a read field space 20. The read field space in the example shown in Fig. 1 is generally circular in plan, and could extend up to two meters from the antenna 18.

The apparatus 10 includes a controller in the form of a programmable computer 22. The controller includes display means in the form of a display screen 26 and a user input device in the form of a keyboard 28.

The tracking apparatus 10 includes an allocation input device 30 which is similar to the input device 16 and includes an antenna 18. The tracking apparatus 10 includes a back up computer 66 which could be located remotely from the computer 22. The tracking apparatus 10 includes an alarm 60 which could be a visual and/or audible alarm. The tracking apparatus 10 includes a security device 52.

The input device 16, the allocation input device 30, the display screen 26, the keyboard 28, the back up computer 66, the alarm 60, and the security device 52 are each in signal communication with the computer 22 by means of cable connections 32. Alternatively, any of the cable connections 32 could be replaced by any suitable form of connection providing signal communication, such as wireless connection.

The computer 22 is programmed with a set of instructions 70 which is shown in block diagram form in Fig. 2. The set of instructions 70 includes a monitoring routine 72, an identity database 74, a location database 76, and an authorisation routine 78. The computer 22 includes a clock 68 and memory storage 64.

In use, each RFID device 14 includes a unique identification code. Initially, a new user, who may be a visitor to a factory or oil rig, or who may be a new employee, is allocated an identity tag 12, which is brought within the read field space 20 of the allocation input device 30. The allocation input device 30 and the input device 16 operate in a similar manner as follows. As the identity tag 12 is brought within the read field space 20 generated by the antenna 18, the RFID device 14 gains power from the signal generated by the antenna 18 within the read field space 20. In response to the signal generated by the antenna 18, the RFID device transmits the identification code to the allocation input device 30 or the input device 16. Thus the identification code is transmitted automatically when the identity tag comes within the read field space 20 of either the allocation input device 30 or the input device 16. In the case of a new user, the identification code is communicated via the cable connections 32 to the computer 22 and thence to the display screen 26. At the display screen 26, an operator can then input data relating to the new user into the identity database 74 by means of the keyboard 28, thus relating each identification code to the associated identity information of the respective user. The identity information could include any appropriate information, such as the name, address, next of kin, profession, employer, passport number, medical records, and could include authorisation information relating to the user.

Once the identification code is allocated and the identity information relating to the user inputted into the identity database 74, the location of the user can be tracked by the apparatus 10 as follows. Referring to Fig. 1 , a user carrying an identity tag 12 moves in the direction of the arrow from A to B, and passes through the read field space 20. As he does so, the identification code is automatically communicated from the identity tag 12 to the input device 16 and from thence to the computer 22. The location database 76 relates the or each input device 16 to its respective location information. As the user, moves from A to B, the set of instructions 70 is arranged so that identity information relating to the identity of the user and the location information of the respective input device 16 are displayed on the display screen 26. The display screen 26 could provide a graphical display of the location of the user such as a map. Thus, the displayed information is dependent upon communication of the identification code from the identity tag 12 to the input device 16.

In more detail, and referring to Rg. 2, the signal from the input device 16 is monitored by the monitoring routine 72 relative to the input from a clock 68, so that the occurrence of signals from the input device 16 is monitored over a first time period. The monitoring routine 72 triggers the alarm 60 if no signals are received from the input device 16 during the first time period. An operator can then check to see whether the input device 16 is malfunctioning, or whether there is some other cause. For instance, in certain environments, there may be a risk of the presence of hazardous gases, which may affect the movement of users through the read field space 20.

The monitoring routine 72 could monitor the location information for each identity tag 12 over a second time period, and could trigger the alarm 60 if the location information for one of the identity tags 12 has not changed during the second time period. For instance, the alarm 60 could be triggered if the location information has not changed during a 24 hour period, which could indicate that a user has been injured or is ill.

Similarly, the monitoring routine 72 could monitor the occurrence of signals from spaced input devices 16 over a third time period and the alarm could be triggered if a signal is not received from both input devices 16 within the third time period.

The authorisation routine 78 checks the authorisation information held on the identity database 74 for the respective user relative to an authorisation level defined for a location and held on the location database 76. The authorisation routine 78 triggers the alarm 60 if the authorisation level relating to the user is insufficient relative to the authorisation level required at the location of the most recent input device 20 for which the identification code has been communicated. Thus the alarm 60 could be triggered if unauthorised personnel enter defined locations. As a further option, the authorisation routine 78 could communicate with a security device 52 which could, for instance, lock an access door, preventing access to the unauthorised user.

The authorisation level could be time limited, so that a user is permitted access for a limited period only. The location apparatus 10 allows each movement of a user through the read field space 20 to be tracked and displayed on the display screen 26. The movements are stored in memory storage 64 with associated time information provided by the clock 68, so that a record is kept of the movements of each user. The controller includes retrieval means for retrieving the recorded displayed information from the memory storage 64.

The back up computer 66 is located at a remote location from the computer 22. The back up computer 66 is in signal communication with the computer 22, in case of any malfunction with the computer 22.

Fig. 3 shows a defined area in the form of a building 40 which could, for instance, be an accommodation block or a working area of an oil rig or other workplace environment. The building 40 includes a main entrance 42 and a plurality of rooms 44, with interconnecting doorways 46 between the rooms 44. An input device 16 is positioned at the main entrance 42 and at each interconnecting doorway 46, so that the read field space 20 of each of the input devices 16 extends fully across the width of the respective main entrance 42 and the doorways 46. In the example shown in Fig. 3, the read field spaces 20 are elliptical in plan.

As a user carrying an identity tag 12 enters the main entrance 42, he passes through the read field space 20, and the identification code relating to that user is automatically communicated to the input device 16 and from thence to the computer 22 for display on the display screen 26. As the user moves from room 44 to room 44, passing through the read field spaces 20 located at the interconnecting doorways 46 of each room 44, the identification code relating to that user is automatically communicated via the respective input device 16 to the computer 22, and the location of the user updated continuously on the screen 26. Thus the movements of the user can be tracked continuously within the defined area of the building 40. In an emergency situation, the locations of each user can thus be readily identified. Fig. 4 shows an arrangement of the input devices 16, which allows the direction of travel of the user to be determined. A pair of input devices 16 are arranged on each side of a doorway 50 so that the read field spaces 20 of the input devices 16 are adjacent. As a user moves in the direction of the arrow from C to D, carrying an identity tag 12, the identification code is automatically communicated sequentially to one input device 16 and then to the other input device 16, thus permitting the direction of travel of the user to be determined.

The apparatus 10 could include a plurality of users, each carrying an identity tag 12 with a unique identification code, allowing the tracking of a plurality of users within a defined area.

Various modifications may be made without departing from the scope of the invention. The RFID device used could be self powered and could include a battery and could be programmable. Although the apparatus described includes RFID devices, any suitable communication means which permits automatic communication of the identification code from the identity tag to the input device could be used. The read field space could be of any suitable size or shape. The identity information could include any suitable information. For instance, the identity information could include users who have special skills or responsibilities, so that these users can be located quickly. The various components of the apparatus 10 could be designed for use in hazardous areas and could comply with internationally recognised standards for intrinsically safe operation.

One or more of the input devices 16 could be located remotely from the defined area. For instance, an input device 16 could be located at a check in desk at an airport to track the locations of users flying from the airport to an oil rig which comprises the defined area. The controller could include interface means for interfacing with other systems, which could include travel management, logistics and/or personnel systems. For instance, using the example above, a user carrying an identity tag 12 could be automatically checked in at an airport, with his identity information being transferred between the location tracking computer to the travel management system.

In another example, the location tracking computer could interface with a personnel system. The defined area, or parts of the defined area could be designated as "at work" areas, and the length of time the user spends in the "at work" areas could be monitored. This information could be used to monitor working time for health and safety or regulatory purposes and/or for attendance records for employees or contractors. The tracking and/or personnel systems could interface with accounting systems so that for instance, contractors and/or employees could be paid against the working time monitored.

There is thus provided tracking apparatus which permits the tracking of a user moving within a defined area. The apparatus is arranged so that when the identity tag is carried by the user, no further intervention by the user is required, as the identification code is automatically communicated from the identity tag to the input device. Contact between the identity tag and the input device is not required, and neither is line of sight between the identity tag and the input device. Thus the user can move around the area between locations unhindered, and unconscious of the presence of the tracking apparatus.

In particular, in an emergency situation, the user is not hindered in moving from one location to another. The tracking apparatus will continue to work in an emergency situation, without endangering the users. In emergency conditions, e.g. smoke filled environments the apparatus will continue to track the locations of users, aiding emergency services in locating users, and permitting precise numbers of personnel and the identities of those personnel within different locations to be known. In emergency situations such information can be critical in directing the efforts of emergency services to the precise locations where those efforts are most required, and identifying the personnel involved.

Whilst endeavouring in the foregoing specification to draw attention to those features of the invention believed to be of particular importance it should be understood that the Applicant claims protection in respect of any patentable feature or combination of features hereinbefore referred to and/or shown in the drawings whether or not particular emphasis has been placed thereon.

Claims

1. Tracking apparatus for tracking the location of a user moving from a first location to a secorfd location, the apparatus including an identity tag which in use is carried by the user, the identity tag including means for storing an identification code, the identification code being associated with the identity of the user, the apparatus including an input device and a controller, the input device being in signal communication with the controller, and communication means which are arranged to permit automatic communication of the identification code from the identity tag to the input device when the user moves from the first location to the second location.
2. Apparatus according to claim 1 , in which the controller includes display means for displaying information to an operator.
3. Apparatus according to claim 2, in which the displayed information includes identity information relating to the identity of the user or item.
4. Apparatus according to claims 2 or 3, in which the controller is arranged so that the displayed information is dependent upon communication of the identification code to the input device.
5. Apparatus according to claim 4, in which the displayed information includes location information which is dependent upon communication of the identification code to the input device.
6. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which the apparatus includes a plurality of spaced input devices for tracking the location of the user moving between a plurality of locations.
7. Apparatus according to claim 6, in which each input device is positioned between each location.
8. Apparatus according to claims 6 or 7 when dependent on claim 5, in which the displayed location information is dependent upon the position of the most recent input device to which the identification code has been communicated.
9. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which each location is part of a defined area.
10. Apparatus according to claim 9, in which the defined area is an oil rig.
11. Apparatus according to claims 9 or 10 when dependent on any of claims 6 to 8, in which one or more of the input devices may be positioned remote from the area.
12. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which the controller is a programmable computer, which is programmable with a set of instructions.
13. Apparatus according to claim 12, in which the set of instructions includes a location database, which relates the or each input device to its respective location information.
14. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which the apparatus includes a plurality of identity tags.
15. Apparatus according to claim 14, in which each tag is carried by a different user, and includes means for storing an identification code associated with the identity of a different user.
16. Apparatus according to claim 15, in which each identification code is unique.
17. Apparatus according to claim 12 and any claim dependent thereon, in which the set of instructions includes an identity database which relates the or each identification code to the associated identity information of the respective user.
18. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which the communication means include wireless communication means.
19. Apparatus according to claim 18, in which the wireless communication means include radio communication means.
20. Apparatus according to claim 19, in which the communication means include a radio transmitter-responder (transponder).
21. Apparatus according to claim 20, in which the or each identity tag includes one or the transponder.
22. Apparatus according to claim 21 , in which the transponder is in the form of a radio frequency identification (RFID) device.
23. Apparatus according to any of claims 19 to 22, in which the communication means include a radio transmitter and receiver.
24. Apparatus according to claim 23, in which the or each input device includes the or one radio transmitter and receiver.
25. Apparatus according to claim 24, in which the or each input device includes an antenna, which is arranged to create a read field space.
26. Apparatus according to claim 25, in which the antenna is arranged to receive an identity code from an identity tag when the tag is within the read field space.
27. Apparatus according to claims 25 or 26, in which the read field space is circular or elliptical in plan.
28. Apparatus according to claim 27, in which the read field space extends up to 2m from the input device.
29. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which the apparatus is arranged so that the direction of travel of the user can be determined.
30. Apparatus according to claim 29 when dependent on claim 6 or any claim dependent thereon, in which the input devices are arranged in pairs, and are arranged so that the identification code is communicated sequentially to each of the input devices of a pair.
31. Apparatus according to claim 17 or any claim dependent thereon, in which the apparatus includes an allocation input device, which is in signal communication with the controller, and permits input of identification codes and their associated identity information to the identity database.
32. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which the controller includes monitoring means, which include an alarm.
33. Apparatus according to claim 32, in which the monitoring means monitor the occurrence of signals from the or each input device over a first time period and trigger the alarm if no signals are received from the or each input device during the first time period.
34. Apparatus according to claims 32 or 33 when dependent on claim 5 or any claim dependent thereon, in which the monitoring means monitor the location information for the or each identity tag over a second time period and trigger the alarm if the location information for an identity tag has not changed during the second time period.
35. Apparatus according to any of claims 32 to 34 when dependent on claim 6 or any claim dependent thereon, in which the monitoring means monitor the occurrence of signals from a pair of spaced input devices over a third time period and trigger the alarm if a signal is not received from both of the spaced input devices within the third time period.
36. Apparatus according to claim 3 or any claim dependent thereon, in which the identity information includes any of the name, address, next of kin, profession, employer, passport number, medical records, skills or responsibilities relating to the user.
37. Apparatus according to claim 36 in which the identity information includes an authorisation level relating to the or each user.
38. Apparatus according to claim 5 or any claim dependent thereon, in which the location information includes authorisation information defining an authorisation level relating to access to each location.
39. Apparatus according to claims 37 and 38 when dependent on claim 12 or any claim dependent thereon, in which the set of instructions includes an authorisation routine, which monitors the identity information relative to the authorisation information, and triggers an alarm if the authorisation level relating to the or each user is insufficient relative to the access authorisation level of the location of the most recent input device to which the identification code has been communicated.
40. Apparatus according to claim 2 or any claim dependent thereon, in which the controller is arranged to record the displayed information.
41. Apparatus according to claim 40, in which the controller includes memory storage for the recorded displayed information and retrieval means for retrieving the recorded displayed information from the memory storage.
42. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which the apparatus includes a back up controller, which is in signal communication with the controller and is sited at a remote location from the controller.
43. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which the identity tags, input devices and/or controller are suitable for use in hazardous areas.
44. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which the controller includes interface means for interfacing with other systems including travel management, logistics, and/or personnel systems.
45. Apparatus according to any of the preceding claims, in which the apparatus is arranged to identify the location of a user in an emergency situation.
46. Apparatus substantially as hereinbefore described and/or with reference to the accompanying drawings.
47. A method of tracking the location of a user moving from a first location to a second location, the method comprising the use of tracking apparatus including an identity tag which in use is carried by the user, the identity tag including means for storing an identification code, the identification code being associated with the identity of the user, the apparatus including an input device and a controller, the input device being in signal communication with the controller, and communication means which are arranged to permit automatic communication of the identification code from the identity tag to the input device
48. A method according to claim 48, in which the tracking apparatus is according to any of claims 1 to 46.
49. A method substantially as hereinbefore described and/or with reference to the accompanying drawings.
50. Any novel subject matter or combination including novel subject matter disclosed herein, whether or not within the scope of or relating to the same invention as any of the preceding claims.
PCT/GB2005/004185 2004-10-29 2005-10-27 Tracking apparatus WO2006046068A1 (en)

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GB2419776A (en) 2006-05-03 application
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