The present invention relates to transferring data
to or from a cash or token operated machine, or between a
plurality of cash or token operated machines. Each cash
or token operated machine may, for example, be a vending
machine or a game machine, for example a game machine
used for gambling. The invention further relates to a
network of cash or token operated machines, and a method
of transferring data within the network.
A single site, e.g. a public place such as a public
house, amusement arcade or railway station, may be
provided with many cash or token operated machines, such
as vending machines or game machines. In this context
the term "cash or token operated machine" is
traditionally used to mean any machine which delivers
goods or a service upon receiving a payment (e.g. by a
coin, a banknote, or a token such as a pre-purchased
token or a credit or debit card), but nowadays can also
include machines for which 'payment' is made remotely
e.g. at a bar in a pub, and the machine is then given
appropriate 'credits' and also machines which may be
operated wholly or periodically without payment. The
term is used in this specification in this broader sense.
Nowadays many, though not all, cash or token
operated machines include a data processing unit. For
example, a modern game machine conventionally includes a
CPU communicating with many information output devices
(lights, sounders etc.) and input devices (e.g. push
buttons) based on game software which it reads from a
memory device. Each coin or token operated machine at a
given site may be designed, installed, or maintained by a
different supplier, yet it is desirable for them to be
able to communicate with a central location, to allow
control, security or accounting operations to be
For example, it is known to connect a plurality of
machines to a coordinator ("server") at a central
location, so that each machine can transmit signals to
the central location. The signals may include alarm
signals (e.g. to indicate that a machine is being
interfered with), financial information about the money
taken by the machine, or information about the usage of
the machine, e.g. statistical information concerning the
number of plays made. The latter type of information is
useful to identify when a machine is not being frequently
used, to determine that it should be updated or replaced.
This data would be useful also off-site, for
example to a designer of game machines, and for this
reason it is known for the server to transmit data out of
the network by telephone. In practise, however, the
expense of doing this means that only a selection of the
data available to the server is transmitted.
Conventionally the data received by the server is
accumulated for later analysis. For example, in a case
that it is to be transmitted out of the server by
telephone, it is accumulated during the day and
transmitted at night to reduce costs. Thus, if there is
a power failure at the central location, the accumulated
data may be lost or corrupted.
A known interface which transmits data out of a
game machine (to the server) is called a "datapak". It is
connected to the main processor of the game machine and
receives data from the main processor at a standard rate
of up to 1200 baud. No higher transmission rate is
possible, due to the low power of a typical game machine
processor. This interface can transmit data either by a
permanent electrical connection (e.g. a wire to the
server), or to at intervals a recording medium connected
to the game machine by an operator.
In fact, since the concept of transferring data via
an interface into a game machine has not so far been
realised, local parameters are actually input by
inserting an extra physical unit into the game machine,
such as an extra ROM memory device or a mechanical "key".
At this point we should distinguish between game
machines which merely entertain the user by sound and
visual stimuli (for example video racing games), and
those which provide the user with a potential financial
return (i.e. gambling machines). The latter type are here
referred to as "gaming machines".
An example of a game machine which is not
conventionally a gaming machine is a pool table (a term
used here to include a snooker or billiards table or
similar). Conventionally pool tables contain little or
no electronic circuitry, even the coin receiving
mechanism being mechanical, so pool machines are not
integrated into a site-wide accountancy system.
A popular form of gaming machine (often called a
"fruit machine") employs spinning reels which are at
least partly visible to a user, and generates complex
electronic control signals to operate sounders and
In the complex software of game machines
(especially gaming machines) it is inevitable that bugs
of various kinds will occur, leading to unwanted
behaviour of the game machine. Some such bugs will come
to light as the designer tests the software on a PC which
emulates the low power processor of a game machine. The
designer may eradicate these bugs by interrogating the
emulator in the PC to determine exactly what has gone
wrong, i.e. exactly what state the emulated the processor
was in when the unwanted behaviour of the game machine
However, other bugs only become evident after
extensive actual use of the game machine. For example, in
the case of gaming machines, some bugs only generate
unwanted effects in the event that the gaming machine
reaches a rare configuration.
Furthermore, if the unwanted behaviour occurs after
the game machine has been commercially released, or even
during pre-release testing of the game at a commercial
site, the game may acquire a commercial reputation for
unreliability. In this case, even if the bug is
corrected, the reputation of the game is hard to restore.
For example, in the case of gaming machines, it is an
unfortunate fact that many perfectly adequate gaming
machines, which have been developed at great expense, are
withdrawn from the market place and discarded simply
because of an adverse commercial reputation caused by bug
which has already been corrected.
Game software is frequently written so that it
automatically produces run-time indicators of the usage
and operation of the game machine, such as statistical
information about how often a particular button is pushed
or the values of (e.g. critical) registers at certain
moments. These indicators are used when the game
software is written, but once the software is installed
in a real game machine it is hopeless to try to extract
it using the interface since the volume of data is much
greater than the capacity of the interface. Even if it
were possible to transfer the indicator data out of the
game machine into the network as mentioned above, it
would not be practical to transmit it out of the network
(e.g. to the writer of game machine software). For
example, a given machine may generate 4Kbytes of
indicator data every 10 minutes, and the network may
contain 127 machines, so that each day more than 20Mbytes
of data would be generated.
Apart from correcting bugs, there are other reasons
why a game manufacturer modifies existing game software.
One of these is when he releases an improved version of a
game. In this case existing game machines are usually not
supplied with the new game software; instead the new
software is only provided in new game machines. One
reason for this is the sheer technical difficulty of
installing replacement memory chips in off-site (i.e.
away from the manufacturer's base) game machines. Also,
there are security issues involved in supplying memory
chips containing proprietary software separately from
game machines. Another reason for modifying software is
to bring it into line with (e.g. new) legal requirements.
Security is of great importance in the installation
of any cash or token operated machine, since there is a
great potential (dishonest) profit available to an
operative who succeeds in installing a machine
incorrectly. Furthermore, an inadvertent installation
error (operatives are not always highly skilled) may also
lead to a loss by the operator of the machines. There is
therefore a general need to control installation of
machines to make it more secure and reliable, and to
improve the accountability of operatives.
The present invention seeks to provide a new and
useful game machine, and especially (though not
exclusively) a game machine which is a gaming machine.
The invention further seeks to provide new and
useful methods and devices for transferring data to
and/or from a game machine or a cash or token operated
The concept of transmitting game software to a game
machine constitutes an independent aspect of the
invention, which is a game machine including:
- payment receiving means;
- a writeable memory;
- a processor for processing game software stored in
the memory; and
- an interface for receiving game software from
outside the game machine, and writing it to the memory.
An operator may be able to program (usually re-program)
the game machine, for example updating some or
all of the game software to modify the game (e.g. to
correct bugs, or to improve the pleasure of the game).
For example, the game operator may be able to provide
data to keep the game topical (e.g. with references to
contemporary world events, personalities or other news),
or with updated quiz questions.
If the manufacturer devises an improvement to the
game software in the game machine (e.g. corrects a bug in
the game software) he or she may be able to implement
that improvement (e.g. correct the bug) by transmitting
to the game machine through the interface replacement
game software which includes the improvement (e.g. a
debugged portion of the game software).
Within the scope of this aspect of the invention, a
game machine which is a part of a network may be able to
input the game software which it is to process from a
central location (e.g. server)in the network, e.g.
according to an instruction generated at the central
location. This gives the operator of the network great
flexibility, in determining which of a plurality of game
machines is used to play which of a plurality of games
stored at the cental location. The game manufacturer may
be able to update the game software at the central
location, for subsequent transmission to game machines.
Indeed, it is possible for new game software to be
transmitted (e.g. from the central location of a network)
whenever the game is used. That is, a plurality of games
may be stored in a central location in communication with
the central location, and an operator or the user may
select one game which is then transferred to the machine
for the user to play.
In a further aspect, the present invention provides
a method of reprogramming a game machine according to
this aspect of the invention by transmitting game
software to the game machine.
In an aspect the invention proposes a game machine,
having a data interface for transferring data into and/or
out of the game machine or cash or token operated
Preferably the interface permits a data transfer
rate which is e.g. at least 10,000 baud, at least 100,000
baud, or at least, 1,000,000 baud. Preferably the baud
rate is not over 10,000,000
Preferably, the interface transmits information
both into and out of the machine.
In the case that the interface transmits
information out of the machine, the interface preferably
transmits indicators characterizing the operation of the
game software. The indicators may include any one or
more of (i) data characterizing when the machine is used,
(ii) data (e.g. statistical data) on the timings at which
the user inserts money or operates information input
devices (e.g. buttons), (iii) the state of the display
and/or sound generated by the machine at times when the
user inserts money or operates information input devices,
(iv) financial information concerning the cash or tokens
received by the machine, and (v) data concerning the
internal running of the game software (e.g. values stored
in particular registers).
Preferably, enough information is transmitted out
of the interface to reconstruct the play of the game.
For example, at least enough information may be
transmitted to reconstruct the display generated to a
user of the machine and his reactions to that display.
More preferably, the transmitted data allows
identification of bugs in the software or other portions
of the software which should be improved.
The information may be transmitted in real time (as
the game is played) or stored in the memory and
transmitted in bursts, e.g. with a predetermined timing
(e.g. periodically) or in response to a triggering signal
received from outside of the machine, e.g. through the
The possibility of transmitting large amounts of
data into a game machine or cash or token operated
machine makes it possible to conceive of a possibility
not envisaged in the literature, of transmitting not just
parameters into the game machine but actually
applications (that is game software consisting of
As a separate independent aspect of the invention,
the interface may include data storage means e.g. memory.
The data storage means may also have a battery backup
power supply or other suitable power means in order to
retain data in the data storage means in the event of a
mains power failure. In this way data relating to, for
example, the operation of the interface e.g. the
protocols to be used, can be stored and updated as
Further independent aspects of the invention
relate to using radio communication to transfer data into
and/or out of a cash or token operated machine
(especially a game machine), or between networks of cash
or token operated machines. In some embodiments radio
communication gives the advantage of secrecy, while in
some embodiments it gives the advantage that one or more
game machines can be easily integrated into a network
(e.g. on a single site). In some embodiments, the radio
communication device is a mobile telephone which can
exchange data with a conventional mobile telephone
Specifically, in a third aspect, the invention
provides (e.g. a cash or token operated) game machine
- payment receiving means;
- means for analysing usage of the game machine to
generate usage data; and
- a radio communication device for transmitting
signals carrying said usage data out of the machine.
In a first embodiment, the data may be transmitted
to a radio receiver on the same site, so that the game
machine can be integrated with the data collection at
that site. That is, one or more machines according to the
third aspect of the invention may compose part of a
system which includes a collating device (server) which
receives radio signals from the machines and collates
For example, the game machine may be a pool table,
such as a pool table which is not controlled by a
processor. However, even though the game machine is not
controlled by a processor, the means for analysing the
usage of the game machine may include device(s) to
monitor the usage of the game machine (e.g. a measuring
device, such as an optoelectronic device, to measure when
coins are inserted into a mechanical coin receiving
device (so that the total take of the machine can be
transmitted out of the machine), or to indicate the fall
of the final ball of the game). The game machine may
include a processor to analyse the usage data before it
is transmitted out of the game machine.
This aspect of the invention can be particularly
useful for game machines (e.g. a pool table) which are
not powered by mains electricity or, even if they are
capable of being powered by mains electricity, are
situation in a location to which it is inconvenient to
supply mains power. For such machines, in the absence of
mains power it may be difficult to operate data transfer
apparatus in accordance with other aspects of the
invention. Often it will be more convenient to transfer
data using a radio communication device in accordance
with this aspect of the invention.
In a second embodiment, the data may be transmitted
off-site, for example to a manufacturer of game machines.
Preferably, as in the first aspect of the
invention, the game machine of the third embodiment
includes a processor running game software.
In either embodiment, the communication device may
just emit a certain signal once whenever the game
software is run. Thus, an operator (on site or off site)
can count how often the game is played by counting the
emitted signals. Alternatively, the game machine might
include means for storing information on how often the
game is played and the communication device may transmit
this stored information, for example periodically or in
response to an interrogation signal (e.g. received by the
Alternatively or additionally, the data may be data
(indicators) concerning the state of the game. For
example, the data may be sufficient that an operator can
use the signals to follow the play of the game from a
remote location. A further possibility is that the data
may describe any problems which have arisen during play
(e.g. due to software bugs), and the configuration
(internal state) of the game machine at that time, so
that the receiver of the data can attempt to deduce the
reason for the problem. In any of these cases, the
receiver of the data may monitor features of the play,
even if the game machine is located out of the premises
of the manufacturer, for example during commercial
testing of the game machine, or even once the game
machine has been commercially released.
In fact, a fourth independent aspect of the present
invention is a method of monitoring a game machine
according to the third aspect of the invention, by
receiving and analysing signals transmitted from it.
The communication device of the machine of the
third aspect may also be capable of receiving radio
signals. These signals may be signals to control the game
machine. For example, the signal may be a signal
activating the game machine (e.g. transmitted to the game
machine to turn it on), or a signal which enables the
game machine to indicate that the user has paid to use
it. In this case the payment receiving means may just be
a register recording that the enablement signal has been
In a further example, the game apparatus may be
arranged to run one of a number of games according to a
signal received by the game machine via an interface.
Alternatively, and preferably, the signals include
game software, for example as described above. This may,
for example, be done even without the knowledge of the
keeper of the game machine. Thus, de-bugging is possible
without even making public the existence of the bug.
The third aspect of the invention has been
explained above in relation to transferring data by radio
to or from a single game machine. However, alternatively
there may be a plurality of game machines, arranged into
one or more networks of electrically connected machines.
Each network may optionally also include other
components, such as other cash or token operated machines
or data collators and storage devices. The one or more
networks may transfer data off-site or between themselves
by radio. In the latter case this means that even
physically separated networks at a single site (e.g. on
different storeys of the same building) can be
Specifically, in a fifth aspect the invention may
provide a network of game machines (e.g. cash or token
operated machines), each including:
- payment receiving means; and
- means for analysing usage of the machine to
generate usage data;
said machines being arranged in one or more groups
of electrically connected groups, each group being
provided with a radio communication device for receiving
and/or transmitting signals carrying said usage data
(e.g. off-site or to another of the groups).
Sixth, seventh and eighth aspects of the invention
relate to transferring data into or out of a game machine
or a network of game machines by providing them with an
interface for communicating with a physical recording
medium. In the case of the sixth and seventh aspects of
the invention, the data is input to the game machine or
network of game machines to configure the machine(s).
Preferably, the data is accompanied by data identifying
the operator (the holder of the recording medium).
Specifically, in a sixth aspect, the invention
proposes that a (e.g. cash or token operated machine)
game machine having payment receiving means includes a
reader interface for reading data from a physical
recording medium, the data including configuration data
for determining operation of the machine.
Preferably, the recording medium is a smart card,
and the reader interface is a smart card reader device
for reading data from the smart card.
By means of the invention, an operative can install
a new game machine by supplying it and then allowing it
to read configuration data from the recording medium to
configure it. Since the data is read from a recording
medium, the installation is relatively simple compared to
inserting extra mechanical components into the machine.
Furthermore, the recording medium (smart card)
preferably includes identification data identifying the
holder of the recording medium. The game machine may
store this identification data, so that in the future it
is possible to determine which operative set up the
machine. Alternatively or additionally, if the game
machine is part of a network of game machines, it may
communicate the identification data out of the game
machine into the network, so that (e.g. at a central
location) the identity of the operative may be checked
and optionally recorded. Since the operative must supply
the identification data in order to complete the set-up
of the game machine, the system is open to less abuse
than the conventional system described above.
Furthermore, the identification data can be used to check
that the correct recording medium (smart card) is being
used, thus reducing the chance of an error being made in
In a further aspect, the invention proposes a
network of game machines, each machine having payment
receiving means and being electrically connected to at
least one coordinating device (e.g. at a central location
of the site), the coordinating device including a reader
interface for reading data from a physical recording
medium, the data including configuration data for
determining operation of the network.
The recording medium read by the coordinating
device may carry the local information about the site,
for example the price per unit of the game. The
coordinating unit may transfer this data to the
machine(s), for example when the machine is first
installed or when the machine is first turned on. Thus,
the recording medium read by the coordinating device may
function as a key for the control of the entire network.
Preferably the recording medium read by the
coordinating device contains identification data, so that
it can be checked that it is the correct recording medium
for that network. This makes it more difficult to
incorrectly configure the network by using the recording
medium of another site.
Preferably, the sixth and seventh aspects of the
invention are combined, so that both a coordinating
device (server) of a network has an interface for reading
from the first recording medium, and at least one cash or
token operated game machine includes an interface for
reading data from a (e.g. respective) second recording
medium. The installation of a new game device can then
involve a coordinated process in which the operative
inserts a second recording medium into the game
machine(s), which transmits information to the
coordinating device, to identify the type of game machine
which has been inserted. The coordinating device reads
local information from the first recording medium, and
transmits it back to the game machine to configure it to
operate according to the local standards.
The eighth and ninth aspects of the invention each
relate to methods of handling reliably and economically
within a network a high volume of generated data, such as
the volume of data which can be generated by one or more
game machines according to the first aspect of the
In an eighth aspect, the present invention proposes
a network of:
- one or more game machines, each machine generating
data characterising the operation of the machine;
- at least one collating device receiving said data
from the machines and including a data storage device,
the collating device further including a writer interface
for transferring the data to a recording medium.
The present invention makes it possible to transfer
large amounts of data economically out of a network by
incrementally, e.g. periodically, transferring it to a
recording medium. Thus it makes possible for example
economical transmission out of the network of the volume
of indicator data which one or more game machines
according to the first aspect of the invention can
transmit into the network, and which may then optionally
be sent to a producer of game software.
In other words, in the eighth aspect of the
invention the machines are preferably game machines
according to the first aspect of the invention. That is,
in contrast to a conventional game machine which
transmits such a small amount of data into a network that
telecommunications may be adequate to transmit the data
out of the network, even if the game machines in the
eight aspect of the invention are capable of transmitting
a high level of data into the network (e.g. a game
machine according to the first aspect of the invention) a
network according to the eighth aspect of the invention
is capable of transmitting it out.
In a ninth aspect, the present invention proposes a
- one or more game machines, each machine including a
writable memory device and each machine generating data
characterising the operation of the machine;
- at least one collating device in two-way
communication with the machines and including a writable
memory device, the collating device receiving said data
from the machines, writing data to its memory device, and
re-transmitting data to the machines to store it in the
respective memory devices of at least one (preferably
more than one) of the machines, whereby if there is a
power failure to one of the machines or to the collating
device the data is not lost.
Preferably, the collating device also processes the
data, and it is the processed data which it stores in its
own memory device and stores in the respective memory
devices of at least one of the machines.
Alternatively, instead of or in addition to the
network including the collating device (and the data
storage device associated with the collating device), one
or more of the machines may each include data storage
means (e.g. memory) for storing the type of data which
would otherwise be transmitted on the network. In effect
the data storage means can act as a buffer to store data
relating to certain events or a certain time period, for
example for later or periodic transmission over the
The feature of the data storage means is also
particularly advantageous where some or all of the
machines each include an external data port via which
data can be accessed other than over the network.
In practical embodiments, this may be used for
manual collection of the data e.g. at periodic intervals.
For example, someone could connect to the data port a
data collection device e.g. a hand-held unit and go to
each machine in turn collecting the appropriate data.
The data thus stored by the hand-held unit can then be
processed remotely. In some embodiments, the data
collection unit may also write data to the data storage
means, for example, the date and time at which the data
is collected. The internal clock of the data collection
means may of course not be consistent with the clock of
the network and so it could cause problems if these two
clock times were confused. Accordingly, the data storage
means preferably records the clock time of the hand-held
storage device and compares it to the current clock time
according to a network.
A further aspect of the present invention relates
to the architecture and/or topology of the network used
to link the machines. More particularly, the network
includes a plurality of machines and each machines is
linked to at least one other machine. Preferably only
one of the machines (or one point on the portion of the
network connecting the machines to each other) is in turn
also connected to a controller e.g. a server. The server
may be connected e.g. via a PSTN, ADSL or ISDN link to an
external network. As described previously, the server
may then be used to read and/or write data to each or all
of the machines. This topology enables improved data
communication as compared to the prior art topology.
As mentioned previously, one or more of the
machines in the network may in fact be substituted by
radio communication means for radio communication with
equipment not directly included in the network.
Preferably the machines of the network are connected in a
line i.e. each of the machines is connected to only two
other machines with the exception of the two machines one
at each end of the network which are of course connected
to only one machine. Preferably the or each end of the
network is terminated in a suitable impedance.
Preferably each machine receives all of the data being
transmitted on the network. In a separate embodiment the
machines may be connected in a loop i.e. each machine is
connected to only two other machines.
As a separate aspect, one or more of the machines
in a network may each include backup power supply means
e.g. one or more batteries. The purpose of such a backup
power supply is of course to enable some or all of the
machine to continue to be able to function in the event
of a mains power supply failure. Preferably the network
controller includes power management means for managing
the power consumption of a machine connected to the
network in the event that the machine is disconnected
from mains power. Preferably in the event of such a
disconnection, the machine affected sends a suitable
notification signal to the controller. The controller
may then instruct the machine to terminate certain
functions whilst maintaining other functions in order to
conserve power consumption. Typically, the functions
which will be maintained will be those relating to
monitoring the security of the machine e.g. a tamper
The term "payment receiving means" is used
throughout this document to include a coin receiving
device (e.g. having a coin authenticating function), a
banknote receiving device, a token receiving device which
receives a pre-purchased token representing money or a
credit or debit card (which is here regarded as a kind of
token). In fact, it includes any device by which the user
can pay to use the machine, or by which a signal is
transmitted to the machine (e.g. through a network) to
indicate that the user has paid to use the machine.
Preferably the game machine of the invention is a
gaming machine, and includes payment dispensing means,
such as coin dispensers, token dispensers, or means for
transmitting a signal to an external device which acts on
the signals to make a payment to the user. The game
machine preferably includes information output devices
(lights, sounders, spinning reels, etc), and information
input devices (buttons, arms, pedals, etc).
It will be appreciated that while the above aspects
have been explained in relation to game machines,
preferably each or all are also applicable more generally
to coin or token operated machines.
Any of the above aspects of the invention may be
used in conjunction with any or all of the other aspects.
Embodiments of the invention will now be described,
for the sake of example only, by reference to the
accompanying figures, in which:
- Fig. 1 shows schematically a first game machine
according to the invention;
- Fig. 2 shows schematically a network of cash or
token operated machines;
- Fig. 3 shows a second game machine according to the
- Fig. 4 shows a prior art network;
- Fig. 5 shows a second embodiment of a network of
the machines according to the present invention.
A first embodiment of a game machine 1 according to
the invention is shown schematically in Fig. 1. It
includes a coordinator unit (gate) 3 which coordinates
transfer of data between a memory device 5 and a
processor 7 (which may in fact consist of several
physically separate processing units). The memory 5
includes at least a component of writeable memory.
The processor may for example be a Hitachi 32bit
microprocessor from the family known as Super "H". The
gate 3 may be a custom gate array. This gate is also
able to provide a high speed multi element interchange
interface for external I/O devices. The interface runs
at 571KHz and can fully service all external resources in
128uS. The main system processor 7 has no connection
with this process, all transfers are performed by the
ASIC and data is read or written directly to/from the
main battery backed static RAMs.
The game machine also includes a payment receiving
device 9 (e.g. a coin receiver), and output devices such
as sounders and lights (not shown). These may all be
controlled by the processor 7, for example via the
coordinator unit 3.
The game machine further includes a smart card
reader 15, which can read data from a smart card inserted
into it. The smart card data includes set-up data, for
example setting a first configuration of the game
machine, and/or portions of game software. The smart
card data further includes identification data
identifying the holder of the smart card.
The game machine further includes an interface 17
for interfacing the game machine with leads 19 which
connect the game machine to a coordinating/collating
device ("server") 21 (described below in relation to Fig.
The coordinator device can read data (e.g. game
software) from the network through electrical leads 19
and transfer it into the memory 5 without interaction by
the processor 7 (e.g. on a time scale which is
independent of the clock speed of the processor 7).
On receiving data from a smart card using the
reader 15, the game machine can exchange data via the
interface 17 with the rest of the network, for example to
send information to the coordinating device 21 to
identify the game machine. In particular, the
identification data on the smart card may be stored
within the memory device 5 and/or in the data storage
device which is part of the coordinating device 21.
The game machine further includes a radio receiver
and transmitter, including an aerial 11 and signal
processing device 13.
The coordinator 3 may transmit data (e.g.
statistical data) out of the game machine using radio
signals transmitted by the aerial 11. It may receive
data via radio signals received by the aerial 11. These
radio signals may include control instructions (e.g. when
the game machine is turned on or off) and/or game
software. The coordinator 3 can transmit the game
software into the writeable portion of the memory 5.
The aerial 11 and processor 13 may, in fact, be
technologically compatible with a mobile telephone
network. Thus, an operator of the game machine may be
able to transmit or receive radio signals using a
conventional mobile telephone network, for example by
dialling a telephone number associated with the game
machine. Similarly, the radio apparatus 11,13 may be
able to dial up the game machine operator by transmitting
a dialling request to a conventional mobile telephone
Turning to Fig. 2, a network of coin operated
machines is shown, including a plurality of game machines
1 illustrated in Fig. 2. The network further includes an
aerial 23 and corresponding signal processor 25 for
receiving data transmitted from an on-site game machine
which is not in electrical contact with the network (as
described below in relation to Fig. 3), and a cash or
token operated machine 27 which is not a game machine.
In the figure, the various machines are shown connected
to the coordinating device 21 by a single cable 19
arranged along a closed path, but there may in fact be
many cables arranged in other formations (see for example
The coordinating device 21 includes a processor 22
a data storage device 29, a smart card reader 31, a
connection to a telephone line 33 and an aerial 35.
The coordinating unit 21 receives various data from
the game machines 1 via the cables 19. For example, it
may receive set-up data transmitted by the game machines
from the smart card operator. At the same time, the
coordinating device 21 may receive data identifying the
game machine 1, for example data characterizing its
requirements. Also, at this time the coordinating device
21 receives via the cables 19 from the game machine(s)
identification data from a smart card read by the game
machine. The coordinating unit 21 may store this
identification data in a storage device 29, or
alternatively transmit it (e.g. by telephone line 33), to
the supplier of game machines for example.
A smart card stored on-site can be read by the
reader 31 to insert a local information into the network.
The coordinating device 21 may transmit this local
information via the cables 19 to machines 1, 27, 40.
Information may be sent out of the network, e.g. to
an adjacent network of equivalent form, using optional
radio aerial 35.
When it is decided to update the software in the
game machines, this can be done by a telephone signal
transmitted by the supplier of games software along
telephone cable 33 to the coordinating device 21, which
re-transmits it along cable 19 to the game machine 1,
where the game software is transferred through interface
17 and coordinator unit 3 to the memory 5.
In use, the game machines 1 generate large volumes
of data (e.g. at least tens of Kbytes), and this is
transmitted (e.g. after a temporary storage in the memory
device 5) via the interface 17 to the network through
cable 19, so that it is received by the coordinating
device 21, optionally collated (e.g. formatted and
analysed), and stored in the storage device 29.
Accumulated data may be transferred using a data writing
device 37 to a recording medium such as a diskette or zip
disk, so that the recording medium can be transferred to
the writer of games software to enable improvements to be
made. Although as shown above, the smart card reader 31
and the writer 37 are separate units, it is alternatively
possible to form them as a single unit which both reads
from and writes to a recording medium.
The coordinating device (e.g. periodically) backs
up the data stored in the storage device 2a by copying it
to at least one of the game machines 1 to be written into
the memory 5. Thus, even if the memory devices 29,5 are
volatile the redundancy of storage means that the network
as a whole is less vulnerable to loss of power (or other
influences) at one or more points in the network.
Optionally, the storage device 29 can be omitted and the
system can rely entirely on the memory devices 5 of the
game machines 1.
The game machine shown in Fig. 3 is a machine such
as a pool table in which the game is not controlled (or
only to a limited extent) by a processor. A measuring
device 110 (e.g. an optical switch for counting coin
input) is provided for obtaining measurements about the
insertion of money into a payment receiving device (not'
shown) or for measuring characteristics of the play. The
measuring device 110 transfers data to a processor 117
which processes it, and transmits it to a signal
processor 113 for generating a radio signal to be
transmitted from the game machine using aerial 111. The
signal transmitted from aerial 111 is received by the
aerial 23 of the network (shown on Fig. 2), decoded by
the unit 25 and transmitted to the coordinating unit 21.
Thus, the coordinating unit 21 is able to derive
information (e.g. financial information) from the game
machine 40 without a wire connection existing between the
game machine 40 and the coordinating unit 21.
Fig. 4 shows a prior art network used to connect
four gaming machines 400. Each of the gaming machines
400 is connected directly to a server 402 which in turn
may be connected to a telephone line for transmission of
data out of the network. Such a network typically had a
maximum transmission rate of 1200 board.
By way of contrast, Fig. 5 shows a second
embodiment of a network according to an aspect of the
present invention. A central controller or server 500 is
connected or connectable to an external network 502 (for
example a PSTN or ISDN link). The server 500 also
includes a smart card device 504 for reading or writing
data to a suitable smart card.
Three game machines 506, 508 and 510 are connected
to the network and thereby indirectly connected to the
controller 500. As will be seen, machine 508 is
effectively connected to both machines 506 and 510.
Machine 506 is effectively at one end of the network and
is therefore connected only to machine 508. Machine 510
is connected to machine 508 and a RF base station 512
which can be considered to take the place of a further
fourth machine. Base station 512 is effectively at the
other end of the network and is therefore only connected
to machine 510.
Associated with RF base station 512 is an RF unit
514 which may be located in a further machine, possibly
one which does not have ready access to mains power for
example a pool table. Effectively therefore the pool
table or other remote machine is incorporated into the
network via an RF link between the base station 512 and
the unit 514.
As will be seen from Fig. 5, the network can be
considered to be in a "horseshoe" arrangement and the
respective ends of the network are terminated by
impedance terminations 516, 518. The impedance of
terminations 516, 518 may be selected or adjusted so as
to minimise reflections in the network.
In fact, as will be seen in Fig. 5, the machines
506, 508, 510 and RF base station 512 are not connected
directly to each other by single cable runs but instead
are interconnected via a series of junction boxes 520,
522, 524 and 526. Machines 506, 508 and 510 are
associated with junction boxes 520, 522 and 526
respectively, whilst commander 500 is connected to the
remainder of the network via junction box 524.
The embodiments above have been given for the sake
of example only, and various modifications are possible
within the scope of the invention.