WO2007039796A1 - Security enhanced voucher system and components - Google Patents

Security enhanced voucher system and components Download PDF

Info

Publication number
WO2007039796A1
WO2007039796A1 PCT/IB2006/002453 IB2006002453W WO2007039796A1 WO 2007039796 A1 WO2007039796 A1 WO 2007039796A1 IB 2006002453 W IB2006002453 W IB 2006002453W WO 2007039796 A1 WO2007039796 A1 WO 2007039796A1
Authority
WO
WIPO (PCT)
Prior art keywords
vouchers
voucher
system
inactive
storage facility
Prior art date
Application number
PCT/IB2006/002453
Other languages
French (fr)
Inventor
Nicolaas Michiel Smuts
François SMUTS
Original Assignee
Itemate Solutions (Proprietary) 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
Priority to ZA2005/07967 priority Critical
Priority to ZA200507967 priority
Application filed by Itemate Solutions (Proprietary) Limited filed Critical Itemate Solutions (Proprietary) Limited
Publication of WO2007039796A1 publication Critical patent/WO2007039796A1/en

Links

Classifications

    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q20/00Payment architectures, schemes or protocols
    • G06Q20/04Payment circuits
    • G06Q20/06Private payment circuits, e.g. involving electronic currency used among participants of a common payment scheme
    • GPHYSICS
    • G06COMPUTING; CALCULATING; COUNTING
    • G06QDATA PROCESSING SYSTEMS OR METHODS, SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES; SYSTEMS OR METHODS SPECIALLY ADAPTED FOR ADMINISTRATIVE, COMMERCIAL, FINANCIAL, MANAGERIAL, SUPERVISORY OR FORECASTING PURPOSES, NOT OTHERWISE PROVIDED FOR
    • G06Q20/00Payment architectures, schemes or protocols
    • G06Q20/22Payment schemes or models
    • G06Q20/28Pre-payment schemes, e.g. "pay before"

Abstract

A voucher supply system is provided in which a computerized server of a service provider (1) is configured to store data relating to uniquely identifiable vouchers (6) for distribution through a distribution chain and wherein the vouchers are stored in a storage facility (10) pending distribution. The vouchers are thus stored as inactive vouchers (4) and means (1, 21, 23) are provided for activating such inactive vouchers only at about the time of dispatch thereof from the storage facility or dispatch thereof from a subsequent holder (11, 12, 22) of the inactive vouchers. Preferably, the vouchers are carried on voucher carriers (5) that are uniquely identifiable by way of an additional identifier (8) that is readable electronically by a scanner (17, 21, 23) or other appropriate recognition device. The voucher carriers are typically grouped in uniquely identifiable packets containing multiples thereof and the packets may be grouped with other packets into uniquely identifiable batches thereof.

Description

SECURITY ENHANCED VOUCHER SYSTEM AND COMPONENTS

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

This invention relates to a voucher payment system, in particular for services such as telecommunications services and the supply of reticulated services such as electricity, water, and gas, wherein prepayment is effected through the purchase of a voucher having a value that is later realised in the form of credit to a customer's account.

More particularly, the invention relates to a voucher payment system in which the vouchers assume the form of a numeric or alphanumeric code that is capable of being transferred through a distribution chain such that an ultimate customer can realise the value contained in the voucher in the form of credit value for a service of the type indicated above by transmitting the voucher, in one way or another, back to the service provider. The voucher may be preprinted on to a voucher carrier such as a card or it may exist in electronic form as a virtual voucher.

BACKGROUND TO THE INVENTION

The vouchers with which this invention is concerned are usually generated in batches, typically in association with, or by, a relevant service provider, and the vouchers are kept in a storage facility pending distribution to a retailer, optionally by way of a wholesaler. Customers then purchase a required voucher from a retailer, or from intermediaries, generally freelance sales persons, who purchase the vouchers from the retailer. A final customer user must then refer the voucher back to the service provider in order to have its value realised and credited to the customer's account. The vouchers are generally printed out at the time of their generation, and, if not at that time, then at least at the time of their sale, so that the customer can retain the voucher for the purpose of transferring it back to the service provider. Most typically, the vouchers are preprinted on voucher carriers, typically in the form of cards, and the voucher itself is obscured by way of a removable opaque layer that can be removed to expose the voucher, when required. Such cards are commonly referred to as scratchcards.

Most typical of the services under consideration at the time of making this application are cellular telephone services. This is consequent on the fact that an extremely large proportion of cellular telephone customers, at least in some regions, operate on a prepaid basis in which prepayment is made utilising vouchers of the type with which this invention is concerned.

The use of cards or other voucher carriers is extremely commonplace in that it suits existing supply chains because they can be treated in the same manner as any other item of merchandise by the retailer, a wholesaler, or other intermediary who purchases appropriate stocks of vouchers typically having a plurality of different denominations and thus different values.

The problem with the present arrangement is that the security is somewhat deficient in that, at all times, the stock of voucher carriers is in the hands of a warehouse, wholesaler, or retailer, and accordingly may be the subject of theft or fraud as a result of their inherent cash value. This results from the present system employed for creating, storing and distributing the vouchers and voucher carriers.

In the existing system a cellular telephone service provider typically creates unique voucher data for the creation of a batch of vouchers of predetermined denominations and this data is converted to vouchers that are printed onto their carrier cards. The cards are supplied to, or created by, the service provider who then activates the relevant vouchers so that vouchers can then be sold through the normal commercial chain. All that is required is that the ultimate customer who is not uniquely identified at all, when wishing to realise the value of a voucher by having the relevant credit applied to his account, transfers the voucher to the service provider, typically using an SMS message or relaying the voucher by keypad entry on a telephone. There is no way of distinguishing between voucher carriers that have followed the normal correct commercial route to a customer and those that may have been stolen at some point along the commercial chain, particularly from the initial warehouse in which the were stored awaiting initial distribution.

For the purpose of the following description, the following terms are intended to have the meanings stated.

"ACTIVE VOUCHER" means a voucher, whether present on a voucher carrier or in electronic format, that is capable of immediate credit to a customer's account simply by transferring the voucher to a service provider or equivalent system operator.

"INACTIVE VOUCHER" means a voucher, whether present on a voucher carrier or in electronic format, that is incapable of immediate credit to a customer's account by transferring the voucher to a service provider or equivalent system operator.

"ACTIVATION" means the process of converting an inactive voucher to an active voucher.

"REALISE" or any other form or tense of the word shall mean the conversion of an active voucher to credit value typically for credit to a customer's account. OBJECT OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of this invention to provide a security enhanced voucher system and components thereof that overcome, at least to some extent, the drawback indicated above.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

In accordance with one aspect of this invention there is provided a voucher supply system comprising a computerised server accessible to a service provider and wherein the computerised server is configured to store data relating to uniquely identifiable vouchers for distribution through a distribution chain and wherein the vouchers, after creation thereof, are stored in a storage facility pending distribution, the system being characterised in that vouchers stored in the storage facility are stored as inactive vouchers and means are provided for activating such inactive vouchers only at about the time of dispatch thereof from the storage facility or dispatch thereof from a subsequent holder of the inactive vouchers.

Further features of this aspect of the invention provide for the vouchers to be carried on voucher carriers, typically in the form of cards, in which case the voucher itself may be obscured by means of a removable layer of material; for the cards to be uniquely identifiable by way of an additional identifier, preferably a bar-code or other identifier that is readable electronically by a scanner or other appropriate recognition device; for the vouchers to be grouped in packets containing multiples thereof wherein each of the packets has a uniquely identifiable packet identifier with the packets generally being grouped with other packets into batches thereof in which instance each batch has a uniquely identifiable batch identifier associated therewith; for the computerised server to operatively retain data associating the individual vouchers of each packet with a relevant packet identifier and data associating individual packets a relevant batch identifiers; and for inactive vouchers to be activated into active vouchers in multiples utilising the associated packet identifier or batch identifier, as the case may be.

Still further features of the invention provide for the computerised server to be configured to receive communications from a remote satellite computer with the communications being by way of wireless or land line communications facilities; for the communications facilities to include SMS messages transmitted from the satellite computer to the computerised server by way of an associated wireless communications network; for the satellite computer to embody a scanner or other appropriate recognition device adapted to read any one or all of said additional identifiers, packet identifiers and batch identifiers; for the computerised server to be adapted to maintain data of all vouchers, both inactive and active, within the system and that have not yet been realised for credit value in which case the scanner or other appropriate recognition device operatively communicates to the computerised server appropriate identifiers of vouchers, packets, or batches being received in the storage facility as well as those leaving the storage facility; and for the satellite computer to be adapted to communicate interactively with one or more wireless communications devices, typically cellular telephones, of one or more individuals for the purpose of obtaining authorisation for vouchers to be released from the storage facility or for vouchers to be activated.

In accordance with a second aspect of the invention there is provided system hardware comprising a computerised server and satellite computer adapted to communicate with the computerised server in a manner enabling it to operate as a system falling within the scope of that defined above.

In accordance with a third aspect of the invention is provided a storage facility in which there is stored data including any one or more of inactive vouchers stored therein, additional identifiers associated therewith, packet identifiers that may be associated therewith, and batch identifiers that may associated therewith, and wherein the storage facility is adapted to operate as that of a system as defined above.

In order that the above and other features of the invention may become more apparent, one embodiment and a number of variations thereof will now be described as applied to the storage and distribution of vouchers that are particularly directed at providing credit value to customers in a wireless communications network and wherein the vouchers are each carried on a carrier in the form of a scratch card in a manner described above. Nevertheless it is to be understood that substantially similar principles will apply to virtual vouchers with variations that will be obvious to those skilled in the art. In the following description reference will be made to the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

In the drawings:-

Figure 1 is a flow diagram illustrating the distribution system that is presently in use, namely the prior art system;

Figure 2 illustrates schematically a voucher applied to a carrier card (scratch card) of the type utilized in the embodiment of the invention described below;

Figure 3 is a flow diagram similar to Figure 1 but illustrating an exemplary embodiment of the invention;

Figure 4 is a schematic illustration of the hardware employed in the system illustrated in Figure 3; Figure 5 is a flow diagram similar to Figure 3 but showing the activation of inactive vouchers taking place further down the commercial chain; and,

Figure 6 is a flow diagram similar to Figure 5 but showing the activation of inactive vouchers taking place still further down the commercial chain'.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION WITH REFERENCE TO THE DRAWINGS

Referring firstly tto Figure 1 there is depicted the existing supply chain and voucher generation arrangement including a supplier of services, generally indicated by numeral (1), that, in this instance, is a cellular telephone service provider. The supplier of services generates unique voucher data (2) that enables the secure generation by an in-house or outside security service provider (3) of vouchers, indicated by numeral (4). The vouchers, at this stage, are produced in the inactive voucher state. In this particular embodiment of the invention the vouchers are applied to voucher carriers in the form of preprinted cards (5) (see Figure 2) each of which has its associated voucher (6) applied thereto and covered with a suitable scratch card type of removable opaque layer (7) of the usual type. Also applied to each card for the purposes of the present invention, is an additional identifier in the form of a bar-code (8).

Reverting to the existing system, the voucher carriers, with the inactive vouchers thereon, are acquired by the supplier of services and the inactive vouchers are included in the computerised server of the supplier of services. The inactive vouchers are then activated in the computerised server of the supplier of services to result in active vouchers indicated by numeral (9).

The active vouchers, in the form of the cards having the vouchers applied thereto, are then stored in a storage facility (10) pending sale thereof into the commercial chain consisting typically of wholesalers (11) and retailers (12). Ultimately, retailers sell the cards carrying the vouchers directly or indirectly to a customer (13). When a customer wishes to have the relevant value credited to his cellular telephone account, he can transfer the voucher, having removed the opaque layer in order to reveal it, to the supplier of services in order to realise the value and have it credited to the customer's account.

As indicated above, most significantly, the cards and accompanying vouchers are exposed to theft and fraud for the entire time that they remain in the storage facility, which can be significant as a supplier of services will generally order a significant quantity of cards at any one time for reasons of expediency and economy. Once the cards enter the commercial chain by way of the wholesaler or retailer, the residence time thereafter in storage is significantly reduced as wholesalers and retailers only order on a reasonably economic basis because, once the cards enter this part of the distribution system, money starts changing hands for the actual airtime value thereof.

Turning now to the system of the present embodiment of the invention, and with reference to Figures 2 to 4, the system is the same apart from the fact that the cards carrying the inactive vouchers (4) are supplied to the storage facility (10) in the inactive state and data (14) concerning the inactive vouchers is maintained on the computerised server (15) of the supplier of services.

The cards are, in this embodiment of the invention, grouped in multiples in packets thereof and multiple packets are grouped into batches with each packet and batch having its own unique packet identifier or batch identifier, or both, applied thereto in the form of bar-codes. Data associating the unique identifier of each voucher card with its packet and the various packets with the batch is generated at the time of creating and packaging the cards and is included in the data supplied to, and retained by, the computerised server of the supplier of services.

Upon entry into the storage facility, the relevant information that is available, which will generally be batch or packet identifier information, is scanned into the system utilizing a handheld satellite computer (16) that embodies a built in bar-code scanner (17) and a built-in wireless transmitter operating within the relevant cellular telephone network. The relevant information is automatically transmitted to the computerised server (15) of the supplier of services and the relevant vouchers are stored in the inactive condition.

The computerised server is configured to receive communications from the remote satellite computer with the communications being by way of wireless or land line communications facilities including SMS messages transmitted from the satellite computer to the computerised server by way of the associated wireless communications network.

When the time comes to dispatch one or more batches or packets of cards with their vouchers, the relevant identifiers are scanned once more by the satellite computer and scanner unit and information sent to the computerised server by way of the wireless network to the effect that the relevant vouchers have been dispatched and are to be activated. Execution of this transmission results in the computerised server converting the inactive voucher ID data to active voucher ID data, indicated by numeral (18), that in effect renders the vouchers now active vouchers indicated by numeral (19) at the site of the wholesaler (11) or a direct retailer (12).

It will be quite apparent from the above that the computerised server is adapted to maintain data of all vouchers, both inactive and active, within the system and that have not yet been realised for credit value. The combination satellite computer and scanner device operatively communicates to the computerised server appropriate identifiers of vouchers, packets, or batches being received in the storage facility as well as those leaving the storage facility.

The satellite computer is also adapted to communicate interactively with one or more wireless communications devices, typically cellular telephones (20), of one or more individuals for the purpose of the obtaining authorization of such individuals for vouchers to be released from the storage facility and the accompanying activation thereof. The programming of the satellite computer can be made to be substantially automatic in this regard with simple menus being presented to a user on a screen of the handheld satellite computer in a manner that will be quite apparent to those skilled in the art.

It will be understood, from what is described above, that it will be impossible for a customer who may have acquired an inactive voucher from unauthorised sources to realise the value of the voucher. The entire voucher content of the storage facility is thus rendered substantially more secure than in the case of the prior art arrangement described above.

Whilst not being considered as important as in its application to the storage facility described above, it is also possible, as illustrated in Figure 5, for a satellite computer and scanner combination (21) to be associated a wholesaler, indicated by numeral (22). Such a satellite computer would then transmit the activation request to the computerised server only when the relevant cards are dispatched from the wholesaler to the retailer. Security in the system is thus extended to the time that the cards are dispatched to the retailer. Only individual circumstances will determine whether such an arrangement will be practical and economical in any particular situation.

Similarly, as illustrated in Figure 6, the retailer could also have a satellite computer and scanner combination (23) in which case the vouchers would only be activated once sold by the retailer. It is to be noted that in each of the extended situations described with reference to Figures 5 and 6, information as to the movement of the vouchers from the storage facility to the wholesaler; from the wholesaler to the retailer; and, in the case of Figure 6, from the retailer to the customer, is fed back to the computerised server so that the location of each and every voucher, packet, or batch can be monitored until such time as it is realised for credit value.

It is also to be noted, that the present invention lends itself to the creation of a comprehensive monitoring system for the entire lifespan of vouchers that are created and the monitoring system can even be extended to the monitoring of the consumption of the credit value realised from each voucher thereby giving a supplier of services a complete and comprehensive record of the prepaid activities within the network.

It will be understood that numerous variations may be made to the embodiment of the invention described above without departing from the scope hereof that is simply given by way example.

Claims

CLAIMS:
1. A voucher supply system comprising a computerized server accessible to a service provider (1) and wherein the computerized server is configured to store data relating to uniquely identifiable vouchers (6) for distribution through a distribution chain and wherein the vouchers, after creation thereof, are stored in a storage facility (10) pending distribution, the system being characterized in that vouchers stored in the storage facility are stored as inactive vouchers (4) and means (17, 21 , 23) are provided for activating such inactive vouchers only at about the time of dispatch thereof from the storage facility or dispatch thereof from a subsequent holder (11 , 12, 22) of the inactive vouchers.
2. A voucher supply system as claimed in claim 1 in which the vouchers are carried on voucher carriers (5) in which case the voucher itself is obscured by means of a removable layer (7) of material.
3. A voucher supply system as claimed in claim 2 in which the carriers are uniquely identifiable by way of an additional identifier (8) that is readable electronically by a scanner (17, 21 , 23) or other appropriate recognition device.
4. A voucher supply system as claimed in either one of claims 2 or 3 in which for the vouchers are grouped in packets containing multiples thereof wherein each of the packets has a uniquely identifiable packet identifier with the packets optionally being grouped with other packets into batches thereof in which instance each batch has a uniquely identifiable batch identifier associated therewith.
5. A voucher supply system as claimed in claim 4 in which the computerized server operatively retains data associating the individual vouchers of each packet with a relevant packet identifier and data associating individual packets with relevant batch identifiers.
6. A voucher supply system as claimed in claim 5 in which the system is configured such that inactive vouchers are activated into active vouchers in multiples utilizing associated packet identifiers or batch identifiers, as the case may be.
7. A voucher supply system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims in which the computerised server is configured to receive communications from a remote satellite computer (16) included as part of the system with the communications being by way of wireless or land line communications facilities.
8. A voucher supply system as claimed in claim 7 in which the communications facilities include SMS message transmission means from the satellite computer to the computerised server by way of an associated wireless communications network.
9. A voucher supply system as claimed in either one of claims 7 or 8 in which the satellite computer embodies a scanner or other appropriate recognition device adapted to read any one or all of said additional identifiers, packet identifiers and batch identifiers.
10. A voucher supply system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims in which the computerized server is adapted to maintain data of all vouchers, both inactive and active, within the system and that have not yet been realised for credit value in which case the scanner or other appropriate recognition device operatively communicates to the computerized server appropriate identifiers of vouchers, packets, or batches being received in the storage facility as well as those leaving the storage facility.
11. A voucher supply system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims in which the satellite computer is adapted to communicate interactively with one or more wireless communications devices (20) of one or more individuals for the purpose of obtaining authorization for vouchers to be released from the storage facility or for vouchers to be activated.
12. System hardware comprising a computerised server and satellite computer adapted to communicate with the computerised server in a manner enabling it to operate as a system as claimed in any one of the preceding claims.
13. A storage facility in which there is stored data including any one or more of inactive vouchers stored therein, additional identifiers associated therewith, packet identifiers that may be associated therewith, and batch identifiers that may associated therewith, and wherein the storage facility is adapted to operate as that of a system as claimed in any one of claims 1 to 11.
PCT/IB2006/002453 2005-10-03 2006-09-06 Security enhanced voucher system and components WO2007039796A1 (en)

Priority Applications (2)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
ZA2005/07967 2005-10-03
ZA200507967 2005-10-03

Applications Claiming Priority (1)

Application Number Priority Date Filing Date Title
AP200804458A AP3352A (en) 2005-10-03 2006-09-06 Security enhanced voucher system and components

Publications (1)

Publication Number Publication Date
WO2007039796A1 true WO2007039796A1 (en) 2007-04-12

Family

ID=37525620

Family Applications (1)

Application Number Title Priority Date Filing Date
PCT/IB2006/002453 WO2007039796A1 (en) 2005-10-03 2006-09-06 Security enhanced voucher system and components

Country Status (3)

Country Link
AP (1) AP3352A (en)
WO (1) WO2007039796A1 (en)
ZA (1) ZA200803462B (en)

Citations (2)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20010032878A1 (en) * 2000-02-09 2001-10-25 Tsiounis Yiannis S. Method and system for making anonymous electronic payments on the world wide web
GB2404483A (en) * 2003-06-20 2005-02-02 Pbc Internat Ltd Payment for good or services from a computer network

Patent Citations (2)

* Cited by examiner, † Cited by third party
Publication number Priority date Publication date Assignee Title
US20010032878A1 (en) * 2000-02-09 2001-10-25 Tsiounis Yiannis S. Method and system for making anonymous electronic payments on the world wide web
GB2404483A (en) * 2003-06-20 2005-02-02 Pbc Internat Ltd Payment for good or services from a computer network

Also Published As

Publication number Publication date
AP3352A (en) 2015-07-31
ZA200803462B (en) 2009-03-25
AP200804458A0 (en) 2008-06-30

Similar Documents

Publication Publication Date Title
US7107236B2 (en) Self-contained business transaction capsules
US7010501B1 (en) Personal shopping system
US6519573B1 (en) System and method for charitable giving
ES2333070T3 (en) Procedure for purchasing goods or services using a mobile phone.
US20070132585A1 (en) Method and RFID system for providing a service
EP0845747A2 (en) A delivery managing system
US20030119447A1 (en) Interactive display
US6965866B2 (en) Product warranty registration system and method
CA2773132C (en) Location-aware advertising to parking location users
US20030095032A1 (en) Tag management server
US5640002A (en) Portable RF ID tag and barcode reader
US6829596B1 (en) Account/asset activation device and method
US8280817B2 (en) Authentication and tracking system
EP0856812B1 (en) Portable shopping and order fulfillment system
US7040541B2 (en) Portable shopping and order fulfillment system
CN1286071C (en) Centralized system and method for dispensing services to automatic sales terminals
US20080126261A1 (en) Cashless vending system and method
US7725326B1 (en) Method and system for presenting item information using a portable data terminal
AU2003299426B2 (en) Payment system
US6550672B1 (en) Method and system for presenting item information using a portable data terminal
US20010037248A1 (en) Product warranty registration system and method
US20050246225A1 (en) Method, system, reverse vending machine and use thereof for handling empty packaging
US6084528A (en) Intranet scanning terminal system
EP1093627A1 (en) Automated synchronous product pricing and advertising system
WO2002084615A1 (en) Lost and found system and method with optional product warranty registration

Legal Events

Date Code Title Description
121 Ep: the epo has been informed by wipo that ep was designated in this application
NENP Non-entry into the national phase in:

Ref country code: DE

WWE Wipo information: entry into national phase

Ref document number: AP/P/2008/004458

Country of ref document: AP

32PN Ep: public notification in the ep bulletin as address of the adressee cannot be established

Free format text: NOTING OF LOSS OF RIGHTS PURSUANT TO RULE 112(1) EPC EPO FORM 1205A DATED 22-09-08

122 Ep: pct app. not ent. europ. phase

Ref document number: 06795434

Country of ref document: EP

Kind code of ref document: A1