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Publication numberWO1997047126 A1
Publication typeApplication
Application numberPCT/US1997/009645
Publication date11 Dec 1997
Filing date3 Jun 1997
Priority date3 Jun 1996
Also published asCA2257490A1, EP1008259A1
Publication numberPCT/1997/9645, PCT/US/1997/009645, PCT/US/1997/09645, PCT/US/97/009645, PCT/US/97/09645, PCT/US1997/009645, PCT/US1997/09645, PCT/US1997009645, PCT/US199709645, PCT/US97/009645, PCT/US97/09645, PCT/US97009645, PCT/US9709645, WO 1997/047126 A1, WO 1997047126 A1, WO 1997047126A1, WO 9747126 A1, WO 9747126A1, WO-A1-1997047126, WO-A1-9747126, WO1997/047126A1, WO1997047126 A1, WO1997047126A1, WO9747126 A1, WO9747126A1
InventorsJohn Heibel, Thomas J. Chen, Thomas D. Brumett, Jr.
ApplicantEt Communications, Inc.
Export CitationBiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan
External Links: Patentscope, Espacenet
Method and apparatus for remote telemetering
WO 1997047126 A1
Abstract
Apparatus and method of conducting data sessions between a plurality of first sites (customer premises) and a plurality of second sites (servers) primarily for the purpose of retrieving stored data relating to one or more monitored devices (such as a power meter, gas meter, or water meter) are described. A remote monitor at each first site is provided with a CID capable modem. The remote monitor interposes itself between the communications medium (e.g., telephone network) and customer premises communications equipment (e.g., telephones) and intercepts data phone calls intended for reading the monitored devices. The remote monitor selectively connects and disconnects the customer premises communications equipment (telephones) and manages the state of the data phone calls so that its operation is invisible to the user of the communications equipment (telephone). Incoming data calls are validated and identified by matching incoming caller ID (CID) data with pre-stored, authorized server telephone numbers.
Claims  (OCR text may contain errors)
CLAIMS What is claimed is:
1. A remote monitor system comprising: a first communication port for connection to a 5. communications medium; a second communication port on the remote monitor for connection to a communication device; means for responding to incoming communications from at least one remote server over the communications medium via the 0 first communications port; means for identifying a source of the incoming communications prior to responding thereto; means for connecting to and collecting information related to the operation of at least one monitored device; and 5 modem means for effecting communications with and transferring data related to the at least one monitored device via the communications medium to the at least one remote server.
2. A remote monitor system according to claim 1, further comprising: 0 means for terminating communications with the remote server; means for logically connecting and disconnecting the second communication port through to the first communication port, thereby permitting the communications device connected to the 5 second communications port to be selectively connected to and disconnected from the communications medium; and means for recognizing an attempted use of the communications device connected to the second communication port while logically disconnected from the first communication port.
0 3. A remote monitor system according to claim 2, further comprising: means for initiating a connection to the remote server via
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SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) the communications medium.
4. A remote monitor system according to claim 3, wherein: the communications medium is a switched telephone network and the means for initiating a connection includes means for _ generating DTMF (dual-tone multi-frequency) signals.
5. A remote monitor system according to claim 1, wherein: the communications medium is a switched telephone network and the first communications port includes means for connecting thereto.
6. A remote monitor system according to claim 5, wherein: the means for identifying comprises means for recognizing and decoding caller ID (CID) signals.
7. A remote monitor system according to claim 1, wherein: at least one monitored device is a utility metering device.
8. A method for remote telemetering comprising: providing a remote monitor system at a monitor site, said remote monitor system being disposed so as to interpose between a communications medium and one or more communications devices at the monitor site for communicating via the communications medium, a first communication port on the remote monitor system being connected to the remote monitor system and a second communication port on the remote monitor system providing a connection point for the one or more communications devices; collecting information related to at least one monitored device by monitoring means within the remote server; monitoring incoming communications to the remote monitor system; identifying incoming communications from a remote server, 0 establishing communications between the remote server and the
25
SUBSTITUTE SHEET PLE 28) remote monitor, and transmitting the information related to the at least one monitored device from the remote monitor system to the remote server via the communications medium.
9. A method according to claim 8, further comprising:
5. logically connecting the second communication port on the remote monitor system through to the first communication port for normal communication between communications devices at the monitor site via the communications medium; logically disconnecting the second communication port from 0 the first communication port during communications between the remote monitor system and the remote server.
10. A method according to claim 9, further comprising: monitoring the second communication port for attempts to use a communication device connected thereto, and if such 5 attempt is made while communications is in progress between the remote monitor system and the remote server, terminating the communications with the remote server and logically reČ connecting the second communication port through to the first communication port.
0 11. A method according to claim 10, further comprising the steps of : monitoring the second communication port for usage thereof by a communication device connected thereto; waiting for such communication via the second communication 5 port to complete and terminate; and logically disconnecting the second communication port from the first communication port after completion of said communication via said second communication port; initiating communications between the remote monitor system 0 and a remote server via the communication medium connected to the first communication port; transferring the information related to the at least one
26
SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) monitored device from the remote monitor system to the remote server; and upon completion of transmission of said information related to the at least one monitored device, terminating the
5. communication with the remote server and logically re-connecting the second communication port through to the first communication port .
12. A method according to claim 8, further comprising: storing one or more identifying codes within the remote 0 monitor system corresponding to one or more authorized servers; logically connecting the second communication port through to the first communication port; receiving an identifying code for identifying the source of an incoming communication via the communications medium prior 5 to responding thereto; and responding to the incoming communication by establishing communications between the source of the incoming communication and logically disconnecting the second communication port from the first communication port only if the received identifying 0 code matches one of the stored identification codes associated with an authorized server, and permitting the second communication port to remain connected through to the first communication port otherwise.
13. A method according to claim 12, wherein: 5 the communications medium is a switched telephone networks; the received identifying code is provided by a caller ID (CID) mechanism; and the stored identifying codes are caller ID (CID) codes associated with the authorized servers.
0 14. A method according to claim 8, wherein: at least one monitored device is a utility metering device.
27
8W8TITUTE SHEET (RULE 28)
15. A method of remote telemetering between one or more servers and a plurality of monitor sites, comprising: providing at least one server, said server being adapted to establish a communication session with any of a plurality of _ monitor sites via a communications medium; providing a remote monitor system at each remote monitor site; providing means within each remote monitor system for gathering information from at least one monitored device; providing means within each remote monitor system for communicating via the communications medium; providing means within each remote monitor system for identifying a source of incoming communications directed to the remote monitor system via the communications medium; providing means within each remote monitor system for connecting one or more communications devices at the monitor site through to the communications medium when the communications medium is not in use by the remote monitor system; providing each server with a list of remote monitor systems to be contacted; at each server, performing the steps of: attempting to establish communications with a remote monitor system on the list that has not yet been accessed; if successful in establishing communications with the remote monitor, receiving information related to the at least one monitored device associated therewith and identifying the remote monitor site as having been accessed; and repeating the steps above until all remote monitor 0 systems have been identified as having been accessed.
16. A method according to claim 15, further comprising: storing one or more identifying codes corresponding to one or more authorized servers within each remote monitor system; and
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SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) at the remote monitor system, receiving an identifying code associated with incoming communications via the communications medium and responding by establishing communications via the communications medium only when the received identifying codes
5. match one of the stored identifying codes.
17. A method according to claim 16, wherein: the communication medium is a switched telephone network; and the received identifying code is received via a caller ID 0 (CID) mechanism.
18. A method according to claim 15, wherein: at least one monitored device at each monitor site is a utility metering device.
29
SUBSTITUTE SHEET LE 28)
Description  (OCR text may contain errors)

TITLE:

METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR REMOTE TELEMETERING

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) CONTINUING DATA:

This is a continuation-in-part of commonly-owned, copending U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/019,135 filed 03 Jun 96.

TECHNICAL FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to telemetering systems for monitoring remotely located equipment, and more particularly to retrieving status, usage, and accumulated totals from remotely located utility monitoring devices such as power meters, gas meters, water meters, etc., especially via a common carrier communications medium such as the public switched telephone network (PSTN) . Other application areas include home security, home health care systems and home transaction processing equipmen .

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Remote monitoring (or "telemetering") of utility metering equipment is of great interest to public utilities that provide electric power, gas and water to businesses and residences. Nationwide, public utilities employ thousands of workers expressly for the purpose of going from building to building and reading meter totals. The trips made by these "meter readers" are time-consuming and costly, considering the number of meters which must be read, the number of employees involved, and the number of vehicles which must be maintained and kept on the road. Further, visual meter reading is quite error-prone, especially on analog "dial" type meters, since dial pointer positions are often visually ambiguous.

Accordingly, public utilities have long recognized that a cost-effective, automated, remote meter-reading mechanism could make meter total collection easier, faster, less costly, and more accurate. A number of attempts to provide remote meter reading capability have been made, but most have proven either

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) clumsy or unworkable for a variety of reasons.

One telephone-based technique employs a scheme whereby meter data reading is initiated using special alert tone signalling over standard telephone lines. This technique has 5. the advantage that it generally does not disturb normal telephone function, but it has the very great disadvantage that it requires specially equipped line cards at the central telephone office to transmit and receive the meter signal. Full implementation of a meter reading system employing this 0 technique would require a massive investment in special-purpose telephone equipment before it could achieve widespread use .

Other telephone-based techniques have employed more conventional in-band signaling mechanisms (e.g., modem) for meter communications. Although these techniques have the 5 advantage of being compatible with conventional telephone line cards, they have proven unworkable because they interfere with the customer's normal telephone service.

Public utilities are generally under extreme pressure to keep rates under control. A technically viable approach to 0 automated meter reading may become completely impractical if implementation would result in a rate hike to end users

(customers of the utilities) .

Evidently, there is a need for a cost-effective, fully automated mechanism for reading utility meters and other data 5 collection devices remotely.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Although the foregoing discussion has been directed primarily to reading utility meters via a switched telephone network, those of ordinary skill in the art will immediately 0 understand and appreciate that the same basic issues apply to

3

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) monitoring any kind of remote telemetry data via any of a variety of different communications media, including but not limited to, communications via power lines, cable television

(CATV) wiring, commercial broadcast media, fiber optics, and

5. low-power radio.

It is therefore an object of the present invention to provide a technique for remote telemetry which permits inexpensive, automatic data collection from a widespread plurality of remotely located metering devices such as electric 0 power usage meters, water usage meters, or gas usage meters.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a technique for remote telemetry which improves overall data collection accuracy.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide 5 a technique for remote telemetry which eliminates or substantially reduces the need for direct visual reading of remotely located metering devices.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a technique for remote telemetry of metering devices on 0 customers' premises which utilizes existing communications media and existing customer-premises wiring.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a technique for remote telemetry of metering devices on customers' premises using common-carrier communications media, 5 such as the public switched telephone network (PSTN) , while utilizing unmodified, existing common-carrier equipment and procedures.

It is a further object of the present invention to provide a technique for remote telemetry of metering devices on

SU rME SHEET (RULE 25) customers' premises via an existing communication medium, such as the customers' telephone service, without perceptibly interfering with normal operation of the communication medium.

According to the invention, a system for retrieving data from remotely located monitored devices, such as utility metering devices, is implemented by providing remote monitor systems at each of a plurality of monitor sites. Each monitor site has one or more monitored devices from which data is required. For example, a monitored device might be an electric meter, and the data provided by the electric meter would be, for example, usage totals and peak electric load information.

The remote monitor system interposes itself between a communications medium (e.g., a switched telephone network) and any and all communications devices (e.g., telephones, answering machines, modems, fax machines, etc.) which would ordinarily be connected directly to the communications medium. It is intended that the remote monitor system "share" the communication medium with the communications devices in a transparent fashion. This is accomplished by means of a relay or other logical switching mechanism by which the communications devices are normally connected through the remote monitor system to the communications medium. This logical connection between the communication devices and the communications medium is broken only when the remote monitor system needs to communicate via the communications system.

It is also within the scope of this invention that the remote monitoring system takes control of the house phone wiring using ABO (automatic back off) to isolate the house phone wiring from the telephone company. The communications devices' connection to the communications system is not required all of the time. By having the ability to control this connection, important new low-cost digital gateway services to and within

SUBSTITUTE SHEET WILE 28) the home are facilitated.

According to an aspect of the invention, each remote monitor system is equipped with an identifying mechanism whereby it can identify the source of any incoming communications, before responding thereto. When the communications medium is a switched telephone networks, this identifying mechanism can be provided in the form of a caller ID (CID) decoder, whereby the remote monitor system receives caller ID (CID) codes for incoming calls.

According to another aspect of the invention, identifying codes for incoming communications are compared by the remote monitor system with one or more pre-stored identifying codes. The pre-stored codes are associated with authorized servers. The remote monitor system will respond only to those identified servers. This provides security by preventing access to metering devices by unauthorized persons. This also permits the operation of the remote monitor to remain "transparent" or invisible to users of the communications devices (e.g., telephones) at the monitor sites, by permitting the remote monitor system to "intercept" incoming calls from servers attempting to retrieve data from the monitored device (s) . These intercepted calls are not passed through the remote monitor system, and are therefore unnoticed by the user of the communications devices. The aforementioned relay (or other logical switching device) disconnects the communications device(s) (e.g., telephones) while the remote monitor system is communication with the server.

According to another aspect of the invention, the remote monitor system includes means for monitoring the communications devices attached to it for attempted use. In the case of telephone equipment, this amounts to a loop current monitor whereby the remote monitor system can detect the on-hook/off- hook status of the attached communications devices.

The remote monitor system grants ultimate priority to the communications devices (e.g., telephones) . It accomplishes this by continually monitoring usage attempts (e.g., off-hook 5. condition) thereof. If the remote monitor system is busy communicating with a server via the communications medium when a usage attempt is made by a communications device, it immediately terminates communications with the server and logically re-connects the communications device through to the 0 communications medium. In this manner, the existence and function of the remote monitor system remains invisible to users of the communications devices.

In a full implementation of the inventive telemetering system, there can be many servers and a great many monitor 5 sites. For example, each monitor site might be a building or a residence having a water meter, and electric meter, and a gas meter. As is the case in many locations, the water company, gas company, and electric company may be completely independent of one another for the purposes of meter reading and customer 0 billing. Each utility company would have its own server and would provide its own metering device at each remote monitor site. However, for the sake of simplicity and economy, the utility companies might share a single remote monitor system at each monitor site which is set up to collect data from all of 5 the metering devices at the monitor site. Additionally, other service providers may share the remote monitor in other applications such as home health care, equipment reading, or security systems equipment reading.

Alternatively, multiple remote monitor systems at a monitor 0 site could be "cascaded" with one feeding into another which in turn feeds into another, etc., since the operation of the remote monitor systems is transparent and each remote monitor system

SW8TπVTE SBiET (RULE 2B) responds only to incoming communications for which it is programmed. In this case, one metering device would be connected to each remote monitor system, and each monitor system would be programmed to respond only to the server associated 5. with the metering device for which it gathers data.

The inventive technique has the very great advantage that it is inexpensive, utilizes existing communications facilities (e.g., for telephone applications, no special line cards or switch equipment is required) , and is completely invisible to 0 users of the communications medium which is used for remote telemetering.

Other objects, features and advantages of the invention will become apparent in light of the following description thereof .

5 BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

Reference will now be made in detail to preferred embodiments of the invention, examples of which are illustrated in the accompanying drawings. Although the invention will be described in the context of these preferred embodiments, it should be 0 understood that it is not intended to limit the spirit and scope of the invention to these particular embodiments.

Figure 1 is a block diagram of a system for retrieval of data from one or more remote data gathering devices (monitored equipment) , according to the invention.

5 Figure 2 is a block diagram of a modem portion of the system of Figure 1, according to the invention.

Figure 3 is a schematic diagram of a Line Reversal and Ring Detector portion of the system of Figure 1, according to the invention.

8

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 2$ Figure 4 is a block diagram of a microcontroller portion of the system of Figure 1, according to the invention.

Figure 5 is a block diagram of a remote telemetering system wherein a plurality of servers can access a plurality of remote monitors, according to the invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

According to the invention, a system employing a modem having a caller ID recognition feature incorporated (e.g., integrated) therein is useful, for example, for gathering data from a remote data source via digital communications over a communications medium, with the meter responding only to a predetermined (preset) requester (caller) .

The remote data source is, for example, an electric utility meter measuring residential power consumption and patterns of usag .

The communications medium is suitably a telephone line, power line, radio, or mixed media (e.g., low-power radio signal relayed to central office by a set of signal collectors/repeaters) , etc.

Figure 1 is a block diagram of a system 100 for gathering data from one or more remotely located data sources (monitored equipment) , according to the invention. As shown in the Figure, the system 100 employs conventional telephone wiring already installed at the site of the remotely located data sources for communications therewith. A remote monitor 102, is installed in a location at a remote site in a location where it can retrieve data from the monitored equipment. Connections to the existing telephone wiring are made via an automatic back-off Data Access Arrangement 104 (ABO-DAA) . The ABO-DAA 104 is

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) connected by standard tip (106a) and ring (106b) connections to existing telephone wiring to the public switched telephone network (PSTN) . A standard DAA 108 (Data Access Arrangement) within the ABO-DAA 104 provides a controller 110 in the remote 5. monitor 102 with access to the tip and ring telephone connections 106a and 106b. The controller 110 includes a modem function, tone generation and decoding, caller ID (CID) decoding, control and status leads, and one or more interfaces to external monitored equipment (the aforementioned data 0 source (s) ) . The controller can optionally include storage means for storing one or more preset authorized caller identification numbers and one or more callback telephone numbers.

The controller 110 communicates over the PSTN via the standard DAA 108, which acts as a protection and isolation 5 circuit between the PSTN and the controller 110, and is essentially transparent to the communications and signaling mechanisms (i.e., modem, CID decoder, and tone generation and decoding) within the controller.

The controller 110 interrogates the one or more monitored 0 devices via one or more sets of communications lines 124. Although the communications lines are generally shown in Figure 1 as wired connections, it will be readily appreciated by those of ordinary skill in the art that these communications lines 124 can be provided in the form of any suitable form of digital or 5 analog communications with the monitored devices including, but not limited to, light beam communication, microwave communication, spread spectrum or other form of radio communications, or fiber optics.

A monitored device can be fully digital, storing its own 0 totals, counts and other data in digital form, in which case the communications line(s) associated with the digital monitored device provide digital communications means whereby the

10

SUBSTITUTE SUET (RULE 20) controller can retrieve the stored value. Alternatively, a monitored device can be little more than a transducer, in which case the communications lines provide for suitable monitoring of the monitored device by the controller 110, which must interpret signals from the monitored device and develop its own digital representations thereof and must accumulate its own totals and counts therefor.

Transducers, digital data collection devices and techniques and circuits for interfacing thereto are well known to those of ordinary skill in the art. The present inventive technique is not dependent upon any specific transducer or data collection device interface, and those of ordinary skill in the art will immediately understand how to provide communications lines to any suitable transducer or data collection device. Therefore, further detailed discussion of the monitored devices is beyond the scope of the present specification, and omission of such discussion should not be seen as limiting. It is fully within the spirit and scope of the present invention to provide access to any suitable data collection device or transducer.

The ABO-DAA 104 further includes a relay 112 or other suitable switching device which permits "normal", existing customer premises connections 116a and 116b to the PSTN to be disconnected, under control of the controller 110 via a relay control line 114. The existing connections 116a and 116b normally provide connection between customer premises telephone equipment (shown in Figure 1 as "Household Phone #1" 118a and "Household Phone #2" 118b.)

Those of ordinary skill in the art will immediately appreciate that the function of the relay 112 can be accomplished equally well by electronic switching means effecting a "logical" connection/disconnection between communications devices on the customer premises and the

11

SUBSTTTUTE SHEET (RULE 28) communications medium instead of a direct connection. It is readily understood that this form of "logical" connection is functionally equivalent to a direct electrical connection and that no significant difference would be perceived between the two types of connection.

The ABO-DAA 104 further includes an impedance monitor 120, connected to the controller 110 by an off-hook detect line 122. The impedance monitor 120 measures the impedance seen across the customer premises connections 116a and 116b to determine the on- hook/off-hook status of the customer premises telephone equipment (e.g., phones 118a and 118b) .

The standard data access arrangement 108 preferably uses no magnetic components (e.g., transformers or inductors) , and is tuned for best economics and operation at a data rate of which is matched to the transmission characteristics of the controller, described in greater detail hereinbelow with respect to Figure 2.

The ABO-DAA 104 has an "automatic back-off" (ABO) feature which is illustrated in Figure 1. In Figure 1, a telephone line (e.g., a conventional pair of lines, labeled "tip" 102a and "ring" 102b) is connected to telephone sets 118a and 118b in the household (residence) via the relay 112 (connection relay) . Normally, the connection relay 112 is closed. When the remote monitor is "using" the phone line (during a data session with a server) , the connection relay 112 will be open (as shown) .

When someone picks up any of the phones (e.g., 118a or 118b) at the customer premises, this is sensed by the phone line loop impedance monitor 120 connected to the phone side of the connection relay 112 (as opposed to the incoming line side) across the household telephone wiring (via tip and ring connections 116a and 116b) to which the phone instruments 118a

12

SU8STTTUTΪ SHEET (RULE 28) and 118b are connected, and a signal 122 is provided to the controller. In response to the signal, the remote monitor controller will immediately terminate the data session with the server, hang itself up, and close the connection relay 112 so 5. that the users may use their phones (118a, 118b) in a normal manner. The remote monitor 102 will reestablish the data session with the server (including re-dialing the server) when the impedance monitor 120 senses that the user has terminated their phone call. In this manner, the customer has full access to the 0 telephone line at any time, even if it is already in use by the remote monitor 102. As a result, the existence of the remote monitor 102 is essentially invisible to the user. At worst, the user will perceive a slight delay in receiving a dial tone when the remote monitor 102 is forced to abort a data session, due 5 primarily to the amount of time required to cancel the call. In most cases, this delay will be imperceptible to the user, and will occur only very rarely.

Figure 2 is a block diagram of a modem function with integrated caller ID detection 200 (hereinafter referred to as 0 a "CID modem) within the controller 110. The CID modem 200 connects to the PSTN via a tip connection 202a and a ring connection 202b. These connections are made via the standard DAA (108, Fig. 1) , which is functionally transparent to the CID modem 200. A transmit and receive filter 204 eliminates out- 5 of-band telephone line noise for communication with the CID modem 200. Modem signals 206 to and from the transmit and receive filter 204 connect to a modem 208, by which digital transmit information can be modulated for transmission via the tip and ring connections 202a and 202b to the PSTN, and by which 0 signals received via the tip and ring connections 202a and 202b can be demodulated to provide digital receive information.

The transmit and receive filter 204 provides receive signals 210 to DTMF (Dual Tone Multi-Frequency) and CP (Call

13

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) Progress) tone decoders 212 by which call progress and DTMF tones may be monitored. A DTMF and CP tone generator 216 provides tone signaling signals 214 to the transmit and receive filter for transmission via the tip and ring connections 202a 5. and 202b.

The modem 208 exchanges digital transmit and receive signals 220 with a serial communications port 222 which receives serial data to be transmitted via the modem 208 over a serial digital transmit data line 224a and which transmits digital 0 receive data from the modem 208 over a serial digital receive data line 224b.

A control interface 226 provides a set of control and status leads 230 by which a microcontroller (described hereinbelow with respect to Figure 4) can control the functions 5 within the CID modem 200. Via control and status signals 228, the control interface provides control and receives status information to/from the serial port 222, the modem 208, the DTMF and CP Tone Decoders 212, the DTMF and Tone Generator 216, and a Line Reversal and Ring Detector 232.

0 The Line Reversal and Ring Detector 232 monitors signals across the tip and ring connections 202a and 202b, and determines if a line reversal (i.e., a DC polarity switch from positive to negative) or a ringing signal (e.g., an AC voltage of about 90 volts RMS) , is present, and make that determination 5 available via the control interface 226.

Figure 3 is a schematic diagram showing basic components of a Line Reversal and Ring Detector 300 (hereinafter LRRD) in greater detail. The LRRD 300 connects to the tip and ring connections 202a and 202b (see Fig. 2) . A series RC circuit 0 comprising a capacitor 302a and a resistor 304a connect the tip connection 202a to a first AC input 306a of a full-wave bridge

14

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) rectifier 306. Similarly, another series RC circuit comprising a capacitor 302b and a resistor 304b connect the ring connection 202b to a second AC input 306b of the full-wave bridge rectifier 306. Because of the RC input connections (i.e., 302a, 304a and 5. 302b, 304b) to the bridge rectifier, DC signals are blocked while AC and transient signals are passed. A negative output 306c of the bridge rectifier 306 is connected to a reference ground voltage. A positive output 306d of the bridge rectifier 306 is connected to a resistive divider comprising two resistors 0 308 and 310. The resistive divider produces scales down the voltage at the positive output 306d of the bridge rectifier 306

(which may reach voltages well in excess of 100 volts) to a level which can safely be applied to an input of a threshold detector 312. The threshold detector 312 is designed with a 5 degree of hysteresis so that its output will not "bounce" back and forth when there are small noise voltages at its input. The output of the threshold detector drives a transistor 314 connected such that a drain terminal thereof is effectively grounded when the output of the detector 312 is active and is 0 at a high impedance otherwise. The transistor output (drain) connects to an integrating RC network comprising a resistor 316 and a capacitor 318. One end of the resistor 316 is connected to a positive voltage (VDD) and the other end of the resistor is connected to one end of the capacitor 318, to the output 5 (drain) of the transistor 314, and to an input of a second threshold detector. An output 322 of the second threshold detector 320 provides a Ring Detect Signal (RDET) .

In standard telephone circuits, ringing is accomplished by a 90 Volt RMS AC signal applied across the tip and ring 0 connections 202a and 202b by the telephone service provider. Ordinarily, this ring signal is used to drive a ringer of a telephone. The RC divider (resistors 308 and 310) is set up so that a ringing waveform will provide sufficient voltage to exceed the minimum threshold of the threshold detector 312. As

15

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) long as the ringing signal is present across the tip and ring connections 202a and 202b, on each half cycle thereof, the threshold detector 312 causes the output (drain) of the transistor 314 to become grounded, thereby collapsing the voltage across the capacitor 318 and causing the second threshold detector 320 to indicate that ringing is in progress via its RDET output 322. The time constant of the integrating RC network (resistor 316 and capacitor 318) is selected such that the ring detect signal output 322 will be maintained between half-cycles of the ringing signal. When the ringing signal stops, the voltage at the junction of the integrating RC networks (resistor 316 and capacitor 318) rises past a threshold voltage of the second threshold detector 320 (which takes longer than one half cycle of the AC ringing signal) , and the RDET output 322 of the second threshold detector becomes inactive.

Line reversal is detected in much the same fashion. A line reversal occurs when the steady state DC voltage across the tip and ring signals 202a and 202b (normally 48 volts DC under no- load conditions) is caused to reverse polarity. Since the tip and ring signals 202a and 202b are AC coupled to the LRRD 300, this is seen effectively as a 96 volt transient, to which the LRRD reacts as if it was a single half cycle of ringing signal, thereby producing a short pulse, the width of which is determined primarily by the time constant of the integrating RC circuit (resistor 316 and capacitor 318) .

In CID applications, the timing of the ringing signal and of line reversals are used to indicate when CID signaling data is present across the tip and ring connections 202a and 202b. The CID data is encoded as tones, which are detected and decoded by the tone detectors and/or modem circuitry within the CID modem.

16

SU88TTTuT SB-fT(RULE2B) The details of telephone line interface and signaling characteristics, including CID signaling, are well established and well known to those of ordinary skill in the art and will not be elaborated upon further herein. This should not be interpreted as limiting in any way to the spirit or scope of the present invention.

Figure 4 is a block diagram of a microcontroller portion 400 of a controller (see 110, Fig. 1) . A microcomputer 402 operating under stored program control, controls operation of the microcontroller 400. The microcontroller 400 is equipped with a serial interface 404 by means of which the microcontroller 400 communicates with the serial port 222 on the modem 208, one or more interfaces 406 to monitored devices which are communicated with via communications lines 124 (see Fig. 1) , non-volatile memory 408 for storing configuration information, totals, valid caller ID'S, etc., and a control interface 410 by which the microcomputer 402 can manipulate and monitor signals on control and status leads 230 (see description hereinabove with respect to Fig. 2) . Not shown, but assumed to be present within the microcomputer 402 are program memory and data memory. The program memory can be read-only, or re-writable. If reČ writable memory is employed, it is possible to send program updates to the microcomputer 402 via the communications medium (PSTN, as shown and described hereinabove) .

Figure 5 is a block diagram of a remote telemetry system 500, wherein a plurality of servers 502 (SI, S2, S3 ... Sn) are each connected via a modem with CID capability 504 to the Public Switched Telephone Network 510, or other suitable, addressable communications medium. A plurality of remote monitors 520 of the type described hereinabove with respect to Figures 1-4 (i.e., having CID capability) are individually connected to the PSTN 510. Preferably, the remote monitors are co-located with and connected to at least one remotely readable metering device

17

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) (e.g., monitored device connections 124, Fig. 1) and other telephone equipment (see, e.g., 118a, 118b, Fig. 1) at the location of the remote which would otherwise be connected directly to the PSTN is instead connected to the PSTN through 5. an ABO-DAA (see, e.g., 104, Figure 1) portion of the remote monitor 520.

Reference numbers for the following description are taken from Figure 1, unless specified otherwise.

In an example of use, a system 100 of the type shown in 0 Figure 1 would be installed at an electric user's premises and connected to a suitable electric usage meter to be monitored by an electric utility company. One or more Caller Identification numbers corresponding to the telephone number or numbers from which the electric utility company would call the electric user 5 to interrogate the electric usage meter would be pre-stored within the remote monitor 102. At an appropriate time, the electric utility company would place a telephone call to the electric user, and the controller 110 in the remote monitor 102 would respond when there is a match to the preset caller ID 0 number within the controller (see description hereinabove with respect to Figure 4 and non-volatile memory 408) .

The caller ID feature within the remote monitor 100 identifies the caller as an authorized automated meter reading station, and answers the call. When the "meter call" is 5 answered by the modem, the modem disconnects the ordinary phone (e.g., 118a, 118b) by opening the connection relay 112 and does a quick transfer (burst) of information that has been stored to the server at the electric utility company (see Fig. 5) , then terminates the call, hangs up (goes on-hook) and restore the 0 connection from the ordinary phone (e.g., 118a, 118b) to the PSTN (via tip and ring connections 102a, 102b) by once again closing the relay 112. Preferably, the relay would be arranged

18

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) such that in the event of loss of power to the remote monitor 102, the relay 112 would go to its closed state until power is restored.

For quickly transferring manageable amounts of data, the modem (208, Figure 2) preferably operates at or above 1200 baud. This is suitable for automatic meter reading (AMR) , such as for electric, gas and water.

The invention also provides a gateway to low cost digital services to the home .

A single remote telemetry system (e.g., 100) incorporating a CID Modem (e.g., 200, Fig. 2) (collectively referred to herein as "remote monitor") can be accessed by various (N) servers (e.g., power company, water company, telephone company, bank, etc.) which can call into a home through the telephone lines to "wakeup" the remote monitor. When the remote monitor receives the wakeup call, it doesn't answer the phone, but can (through caller ID (CID) ) identify that Server X is waking it up. The remote monitor then calls the server as it looks up the server's phone number (which may be one of several stored numbers, identifiable by virtue of the aforementioned CID) .

For enabling digital services (conducting data sessions) , including AMR, between servers and users, an exemplary activity flow would be:

By using CID, the server rings the remote monitor at the customer s premises to wake it up.

By using CID, subsequent data transactions are authenticated, as described hereinabove.

(By using CID Time/Date fields, a real time clock in the

19

SUBSTITUTE SBffT (RULE 26) remote monitor can be synchronized with a more accurate (e.g., astronomical) clock at the server's location.)

Next, a call is initiated by the remote monitor to the server which woke it up. If the customer has blocked his (or 5. her) own CID, this may be automatically unblocked for purposes of the data session. (Customers' permission would be required and would be obtained to unblock their CID for the aforementioned servers.)

Preferably, the servers each have an "800" or "888" (i.e., 0 toll free) number. In this manner, the customer who has the remote monitor installed will not have to pay for the remote monitor's calls (to servers) . Often, the simple act of calling an 800 number will automatically unblock a CID feature which has been blocked (for privacy reasons) by the user, thus allowing 5 the CID to operate for the purpose of identifying the user to the called server.

At the server, the inbound (customer's) call CID information can be used as a form of password to allow only subscribing customers to proceed with a data session.

0 At the server, the inbound call CID information can also be used to track any telephone number changes where the remote monitor is located. For example, a new tenant moves into an apartment unit and has a new telephone number installed. When the remote monitor calls in, the serial number will identify 5 where the call is coming from (its address) , and the CID information will identify what the new telephone number is. This information can be compared with telephone directory information, and enable the server to automatically track a new telephone number, from CID information, of the remote 0 monitor.

20

SUBSTITTJTΕ SHECT (RULE 28) Generally, the remote monitor includes a microprocessor with a memory architecture and OS (operating system) kernel which permits remote downloading over phone lines without disrupting continuous operation of previously loaded and running applications

For example, consider the case where the remote monitor has an AMR application running. It is counting pulses from a meter and accumulating them. A new application is downloaded which is to allow the customer to go on TOU (time of use) billing. The new software may be downloaded without losing any real-time counts or any previously collected data, or without overwriting installation variables such as the customer's phone number, etc.

A suitable encryption function, such as NBS DES, allows for secure transmission of data. As a remote monitor may be collecting data for several independent services and sending the data to several different servers (or to securely partitioned areas within a single server) , each data set may have a different encryption key. The system is able to manage multiple keys such that each data environment has a uniquely secure data communications path.

For example, each of the power company, the water company, the gas company, and the bank (i.e., each of the several servers) , would have a separate and distinct key.

It is within the spirit and scope of the present invention that a handheld device, similar to a television remote controller or a small wall-mounted or desktop box, allows the customer to call for some of the services that have been subscribed to, which are activated through the remote monitor. The customer could readily scroll through a list of services that are available, and then initiate a trigger which causes the remote monitor to start an inbound call to the appropriate one

21

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) of many subscribed servers. In this scenario, the handheld device would simply be handled by the microcontroller as another monitored device wherein the communication line is an infrared (or other suitable) remote control interface, for which specific actions and responses are programmed into the microcontroller. It is within the scope of the invention that a smart telephone perform the aforementioned functions of a handheld device.

For example, the customer may want to know the cost of the last phone call. Selecting the trigger for the phone company, would cause that information to be downloaded to the user. The information would be displayed on an LCD display, or the like.

Another example would be to trigger paying a utility bill which would cause a call to the Bank's server. Another example would be to order a taxi, or to order a wake-up call. The particular server which "sees" the call from the remote monitor would verify the user through the user's CID, to ensure that the user is a subscriber to the desired service.

It is fully within the spirit, scope and intent of the present invention that some or all of the functions of the remote monitor (see 102, Fig. 1) , especially the remote monitor controller (see 110, Fig. 1) can be implemented in the form of one or more integrated circuit chips.

CONCLUSION:

As described hereinabove, automatic back-off (ABO) is an important feature of the invention, making operation of the remote monitor "transparent" to the user.

The above, and other objects, features, advantages and embodiments of the invention, including other (i.e., additional) embodiments of the techniques discussed above may become apparent to one having ordinary skill in the art to which this

22

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28) invention most nearly pertains, and such other and additional embodiments are deemed to be within the spirit and scope of the present invention.

23

SUBSTITUTE SHEET (RULE 28)

Patent Citations
Cited PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
WO1995028792A1 *12 Apr 199526 Oct 1995British Telecommunications Public Limited CompanyTelemetry system
WO1996010313A1 *27 Sep 19954 Apr 1996British Telecommunications Public Limited CompanyRemote access systems
US5381462 *29 May 199210 Jan 1995Datran Systems CorporationUtility monitor communications systems
Referenced by
Citing PatentFiling datePublication dateApplicantTitle
WO2001062035A2 *3 Feb 200123 Aug 2001Hoerner, JensMethod for remotely monitoring devices and installations and a computer unit therefor
WO2001062035A3 *3 Feb 200114 Feb 2002Hoerner JensMethod for remotely monitoring devices and installations and a computer unit therefor
EP2660612A4 *29 Dec 201114 Jun 2017Light Servišos De Eletricidade S/ADevice for linking an electronic electricity meter to a remote usage display
EP2924644A1 *10 Mar 201530 Sep 2015Honeywell International Inc.Gas meter data validation
US780892424 May 20025 Oct 2010Cisco Technology, Inc.Apparatus and method for preventing disruption of fibre channel fabrics caused by ReConfigure Fabric (RCF) messages
US782196917 Mar 200826 Oct 2010Cisco Technology, Inc.Apparatus and method for preventing disruption of fibre channel fabrics caused by reconfigure fabric (RCF) messages
Classifications
International ClassificationH04M11/00
Cooperative ClassificationH04M11/002
European ClassificationH04M11/00A
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