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Title:
ACTIVELY HEATED OR COOLED FOOD CONTAINER
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/205431
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An actively heated or cooled food container that can hold one or more foodstuffs can include a cover movable between an open and a closed position and an insulated body to which the cover is attached. The insulated body can have a sidewall that defines a perimeter of the body and a base, the sidewall and base defining a chamber configured to be sealed by the cover. The food container can have a temperature control system that can include one or more heat transfer elements in thermal communication with one or both of the sidewall and the base and operable to effect heat transfer through one or both of the sidewall and the base to foodstuff disposed in the chamber.

Inventors:
ALEXANDER, Clayton (4607 Lakeview Canyon Rd, #500Westlake Village, CA, 91361, US)
WAKEHAM, Christopher, Thomas (4607 Lakeview Canyon Rd, #500Westlake Village, CA, 91361, US)
LEITH, Daren, John (4607 Lakeview Canyon Rd, #500Westlake Village, CA, 91361, US)
TIMPERI, Mikko, Juhani (4607 Lakeview Canyon Rd, #500Westlake Village, CA, 91361, US)
Application Number:
US2017/034081
Publication Date:
November 30, 2017
Filing Date:
May 23, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
EMBER TECHNOLOGIES, INC. (4607 Lakeview Canyon Rd, #500Westlake Village, CA, 91361, US)
International Classes:
A45C11/20
Foreign References:
CN102164526A2011-08-24
US20120103562A12012-05-03
US20070024237A12007-02-01
US20080190914A12008-08-14
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
CHRISTENSEN, Michael, R. (Knobbe Martens Olson & Bear, LLP2040 Main Street, 14th Floo, Irvine CA, 92614, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. Actively heated or cooled food container that can hold one or more foodstuffs, comprising:

a cover movable between an open and a closed position;

an insulated body having a sidewall that defines a perimeter of the body and a base, the sidewall and base defining a chamber configured to be sealed by the cover in the closed position; and

an active temperature control system, comprising

one or more heat transfer elements in thermal communication with one or both of the sidewall and the base and configured to effect heat transfer through one or both of the sidewall and the base to foodstuff disposed in the chamber;

one or more power storage elements configured to provide power to the one or more heat transfer elements;

control circuitry configured to control the operation of the one or more heat transfer elements; and

a wireless communication module configured to communicate with a remote electronic device to transmit operating information of one or both of the one or more heat transfer elements and the one or more power storage elements to the remote electronic device, the wireless communication module also configured to receive instructions from the remote electronic device and to communicate said instructions to the control circuitry to operate the one or more heat transfer elements based at least in part on said instructions.

2. The container of claim 1, wherein the container is a lunch box.

3. The container of claim 1, wherein the container is a soup container.

4. The container of claim 1, further comprising an insulative layer between the one or more heat transfer elements and the one or more power storage elements and control circuitry to thermally isolate the one or more heat transfer elements from the electronics.

5. The container of claim 1, wherein an outer surface of one or both of the cover and body is defined by an electronic ink shell operable to illustrate a user selected skin or logo design.

6. The container of claim 5, wherein the illustration of the skin is operable by the control circuitry.

7. The container of claim 1, wherein the chamber can include a plurality of separate compartments, where at least one of the compartments is configured to hold foodstuff configured to be cooled and at least one of the compartments is configured to hold foodstuff configured to be heated.

8. The container of claim 7, wherein the one or more heat transfer elements comprises at least one heating element configured to heat said at least one of the compartments configured to hold foodstuff configured to be heated, and comprises at least one cooling element configured to cool said at least one of the compartments configured to hold foodstuff configured to be cooled.

9. The container of claim 1, further comprising a timer operable to initiate a heating or cooling operation of the active temperature control system at a preselected time.

10. The container of claim 9, wherein said preselected time is set by the user via a user interface on the container or via the remote control device.

11. The container of claim 1 , wherein in said instructions communicated from the remote electronic device comprises a temperature setpoint or range for operation of the one or more heat transfer elements, the control circuitry configured to operate the one or more heat transfer elements based at least in part on said temperature setpoint.

12. The container of claim 1, further comprising one or more temperature sensors configured to sense a temperature in the chamber and to communicate the sensed temperature information to the control circuitry, the control circuitry configured to operate the one or more heat transfer elements based at least in part on said sensed temperature.

13. A heated or cooled food container that can hold one or more foodstuffs, comprising:

a cover movable between an open and a closed position;

an insulated body having a sidewall that defines a perimeter of the body and a base, the sidewall and base defining a chamber configured to be sealed by the cover is in the closed position; and a temperature control system with one or more heat transfer elements disposed in the container configured to effect heat transfer with the chamber to heat or cool the one or more foodstuffs in the chamber.

14. The food container of claim 13, wherein at least one of the one or more heat transfer elements is a phase change material.

15. The food container of claim 13, wherein the temperature control system is an active temperature control system and the one or more heat transfer elements are in thermal communication with one or both of the sidewall and the base and configured to effect heat transfer through one or both of the sidewall and the base to foodstuff disposed in the chamber, the food container further comprising:

one or more power storage elements configured to provide power to the one or more heat transfer elements;

control circuitry configured to control the operation of the one or more heat transfer elements; and

a wireless communication module configured to communicate with a remote electronic device to transmit operating information of one or both of the one or more heat transfer elements and the one or more power storage elements to the remote electronic device, the wireless communication module also configured to receive instructions from the remote electronic device and to communicate said instructions to the control circuitry to operate the one or more heat transfer elements based at least in part on said instructions.

16. The container of claim 15, further comprising a timer in communication with the control circuitry to initiate a heating or cooling operation of the active temperature control system at a preselected time.

17. The container of claim 16, wherein said preselected time is set by the user via a user interface on the container or via the remote control device.

18. The container of claim 15, wherein in said instructions communicated from the remote electronic device comprises a temperature setpoint or range for operation of the one or more heat transfer elements, the control circuitry configured to operate the one or more heat transfer elements based at least in part on said temperature setpoint.

19. The container of claim 15, further comprising one or more sensors configured to sense a parameter in the chamber and to communicate the sensed information to the control circuitry, the control circuitry configured to operate the one or more heat transfer elements based at least in part on said sensed information.

20. The container of claim 19, wherein the one or more sensors includes one or more temperature sensors and one or more food level sensors.

21. The container of claim 20, wherein the control circuitry calculates a volume of foodstuff in the chamber based at least in part on the sensed level, the control circuitry configured to calculate a predetermined time period based at least in part on the calculated volume and sensed temperature of the foodstuff, and to control the operation of the temperature control system to start operation of the one or more heat transfer elements at the predetermined time period prior to a meal time communicated to the control circuitry.

22. The container of claim 13, wherein the container is a lunch box.

23. The container of claim 13, wherein the container is a soup container.

Description:
ACTIVELY HEATED OR COOLED FOOD CONTAINER

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application is related to U.S. Application No. 14/712,313, filed May 14, 2015, the entire contents of all of which are hereby incorporated by reference and should be considered a part of this specification.

BACKGROUND

Field

[0002] The present invention is directed to an actively heated food container, and more particularly to an actively heated food container, such as a lunch box or soup container. Description of the Related Art

[0003] Many people use lunch boxes or soup containers to take meals to work. However, cold food in the lunchbox or soup container does not remain cold and it is not always easy or convenient to heat the foodstuff in the lunch box or soup container that is meant to be heated. Some workplaces may not have microwave ovens to heat food, or the workplace may be outdoors (e.g., construction sites, farms). Children also use lunch boxes or soup containers to take meals to school but do not have the ability to heat their food, and the lunch box or soup container does not keep cold foodstuff (e.g., juice, water) cold. Users are often left to eat a cold lunch or are limited in the types of foods they can bring to work (e.g., sandwiches) that may be okay to eat cold.

SUMMARY

[0004] There is a need for an improved food container (e.g., lunch box, soup container) that can actively heat or cool the food therein (as desired) without requiring the user to take the food out of the food container, allowing the user to enjoy a warm meal and/or to keep foodstuff that is meant to be cold in a cooled state.

[0005] In accordance with one aspect, a heated or cooled food container that can hold one or more foodstuffs is provided. The food container comprises a cover movable between an open and a closed position, and an insulated body having a sidewall that defines a perimeter of the body and a base, the sidewall and base defining a chamber configured to be sealed by the cover is in the closed position. The food container also comprises a temperature control system with one or more heat transfer elements disposed in the container configured to effect heat transfer with the chamber to heat or cool the one or more foodstuffs in the chamber.

[0006] In accordance with another aspect, an actively heated or cooled food container that can hold one or more foodstuffs. The food container comprises a cover movable between an open and a closed position and an insulated body having a sidewall that defines a perimeter of the body and a base, the sidewall and base defining a chamber configured to be sealed by the cover in the closed position. The food container also comprises an active temperature control system that comprises one or more heat transfer elements in thermal communication with one or both of the sidewall and the base and configured to effect heat transfer through one or both of the sidewall and the base to foodstuff disposed in the chamber, one or more power storage elements configured to provide power to the one or more heat transfer elements, and control circuitry configured to control the operation of the one or more heat transfer elements. The active temperature control system also comprises a wireless communication module configured to communicate with a remote electronic device to transmit operating information of one or both of the one or more heat transfer elements and the one or more power storage elements to the remote electronic device, the wireless communication module also configured to receive instructions from the remote electronic device and to communicate said instructions to the control circuitry to operate the one or more heat transfer elements based at least in part on said instructions.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION

[0007] FIG. 1 is a schematic cross-sectional view of one embodiment of a food container.

[0008] FIG. 2 is a schematic view of one embodiment of features of the food container.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0009] FIGS. 1-2 show one embodiment of a portable food container 100 (e.g., a lunch box, a soup container). The container 100 can have a cover 10 that can optionally be insulated and can cover a body 20. The body 20 can define a chamber or cavity 30 that can hold one or more foodstuffs (e.g., directly or in separate packages, such as Tupperware®, sandwich bags, etc.). The chamber 30 can be defined between sidewalls 22 and a base 24. The sidewalls 22 can optionally be insulated (e.g., vacuum insulated) to keep the foodstuff warm or cold for a longer period of time. In one embodiment, the container 100 is generally square or rectangular in shape. In another embodiment, the container 100 is generally cylindrical in shape. As used herein, the term "foodstuff or "foodstuffs" includes any substance, whether solid or liquid, that can be eaten or drunk by an individual (e.g., water, juice, milk, soup, sandwiches, meats, vegetables, cheeses, fruits, nuts), for example as part of a meal.

[0010] The body 20 can have a bottom chamber or cavity 35 defined below the base 24. The bottom chamber 35 can house an temperature control system 40 that can include one or more heat transfer elements 46 (e.g., heating elements such as resistive heaters, cooling elements, such as a phase change material, and/or heating/cooling elements such as thermoelectric heaters or Peltier elements) in thermal communication with one or both of the base 24 and sidewalls 22. The body 20 can optionally have one or more power storage elements 44 electrically connected to the one or more heat transfer elements 46, and optionally have control circuitry 50. In one embodiment, the bottom chamber 35 can also include an insulative layer 42 between the one or more heat transfer elements 46 and the rest of the electronics (e.g. power storage elements 44 and control circuitry 50) to thermally isolate the one or more heat transfer elements 46 from the electronics.

[0011] The temperature control system 40 in one embodiment is an active temperature control system that can advantageously operate during at least a period of time (e.g., a portion of the period of time) during which the food container 100 is used. Accordingly, the term "active", as used herein, is not limited to continuous operation of the temperature control system 40. As used herein, heat transfer encompasses a heating, as well as a cooling, process. Therefore, a "heat transfer element" as used herein is an element that can effect a heating or a cooling process.

[0012] The control circuitry 50 can optionally include one or more printed circuit boards (PCBs) 52, a timer 54, and a wireless communication module 56 (e.g., Bluetooth). In one embodiment, the one or more power storage elements 44 can be rechargeable. In one embodiment, the body 20 can have a removable bottom cover (not shown) that can be removed to access the electronics in the bottom chamber 35, such as to replace the one or more power storage elements 44. In another embodiment, the bottom chamber 35 can be sealed and the one or more power storage elements 44 can be charged, for example, via induction, using a charging base on which the food container 100 can be placed.

[0013] The control circuity 50 can advantageously communicate (e.g., using Bluetooth) with a remote electronic device (e.g., smart phone, smart watch, tablet computer, laptop computer) via which the user can control the operation of the food container 100. For example, the user can control the start time and stop time of the heating process (or cooling process) for the foodstuff in the container 100 via the remote electronic device. In another embodiment, the timer 54 can be preset (e.g., via a user interface on the container 100 or via the remote electronic device) to begin the heating process (or cooling process) at a certain time. For example, parents can preset the timer 54 to coincide with their children's school lunch period. In one embodiment, the control circuitry 50 can have multiple timers, for example used to control operation of the temperature control system 40 during multiple meal breaks (e.g., a snack break at 10 AM, and a lunch break at 12 PM).

[0014] The control circuitry 50 can include a temperature limiting switch that can limit the temperature to which the foodstuff is heated or cooled, for example, to prevent the overheating of the one or more heat transfer elements 46 or the overheating of the foodstuff. The container 100 can have one or more temperature sensors that can sense a temperature in the chamber 30 an communicate the sensed temperature to the control circuitry 50, which can adjust power to the one or more heat transfer elements 46 based at least in part on the sensed temperature information. In one embodiment, the user can input one or more preselected temperatures or temperature ranges (e.g., warm, hot) via the user interface on the container 100 or via the remote electronic device, and the control circuitry can operate the one or more heat transfer elements 46 based on the preselected temperature and the sensed temperature information from the temperature sensor(s) to heat (or cool) the foodstuff to approximately the preselected temperature. For example, one preselected temperature can be for a first meal break (e.g., a snack period) and the second preselected temperature can be for a second meal break (e.g., a lunch period). [0015] In one embodiment, the remote electronic device (e.g., smart phone, tablet computer, laptop computer) can utilize and app through which the remote electronic device can control the operation of the temperature control system 40, such as via the control circuitry 50. For example, a parent can enter a time of day when the user (e.g., child) has a meal break (e.g., at school). The control circuitry 50 can operate the temperature control system 40 to heat (or cool) the foodstuff in the container 100 to the preselected temperature by the time of the meal break. In one embodiment, the control circuitry 50 can control the temperature control system 50 to begin heating (or cooling) the foodstuff a predetermined period (e.g., 20 minutes, 30 minutes, 40 minutes) before the time of the meal break (e.g., using a timer) so that the foodstuff is at the desired temperature once the meal break arrives. In another embodiment, the container 100 can include one or more sensors that sense a level in the chamber 30 (e.g., where the foodstuff is soup), and the control circuitry 50 calculates a heating period based at least in part on a sensed temperature of the foodstuff and a sensed level in the chamber 30 (or calculated volume in the chamber 30 based on the sensed level) to determine how long it will take to heat (or cool) the foodstuff to the desired temperature from the sensed temperature (e.g., predetermined period), and controls the operation of the temperature control system 40 (e.g., controls the start time for operation of the one or more heat transfer elements 46) based on the predetermined period, so that the foodstuff is at the preselected temperature by the time the meal break arrives. Accordingly, the calculated predetermined period would be longer if the initial state of the foodstuff was at a refrigerated temperature, versus if the initial state of the foodstuff was at room temperature.

[0016] In one embodiment, the chamber 30 can have a plurality of separate compartments, some of which can house foodstuff meant to be cooled and other compartments that can house foodstuff meant to be heated. The one or more heat transfer elements 46 can include a plurality of heat transfer elements 46 where the heat transfer elements 46 under the cooling compartments can advantageously be operated (by the control circuitry 50) to cool the compartment and the heat transfer elements 46 under the heating compartments can advantageously be operated (by the control circuitry) to heat the compartments to thereby cool and heat the foodstuff in those compartments, respectively. In this manner, the user and enjoy their food at the desired temperature or temperature range (e.g., cold, cool, warm, hot).

[0017] In one embodiment, an outer surface 21 of the body 20 and/or an outer surface 11 of the cover 10 can have an electronic ink outer shell to display custom logos or skins to personalize the food container 100. In one embodiment, the electronic ink shells can be electrically connected to one or more of the control circuitry 50 and one or more power storage elements 44 and wireless communication module 56. The user can change the skin or logo on the electronic ink shells via the remote electronic device (which can be wirelessly paired with the food container 100 via the wireless communication module 56). In one embodiment, the user can purchase skins via an app through their remote electronic device, and select the desired skin for display on the electronic ink shell of the food container 100.

[0018] In another embodiment, the container 100 can exclude the control circuitry 50 and power storage elements 40, and the temperature control system 40 can include a passive heat transfer element 46 (e.g., a phase change material) that can heat or cool the foodstuff.

[0019] While certain embodiments of the inventions have been described, these embodiments have been presented by way of example only, and are not intended to limit the scope of the disclosure. Indeed, the novel methods and systems described herein may be embodied in a variety of other forms. For example, though the features disclosed herein are described for lunch boxes, the features are applicable to containers that are not lunch boxes (e.g., food delivery containers) and the invention is understood to extend to such other containers. Furthermore, various omissions, substitutions and changes in the systems and methods described herein may be made without departing from the spirit of the disclosure. The accompanying claims and their equivalents are intended to cover such forms or modifications as would fall within the scope and spirit of the disclosure. Accordingly, the scope of the present inventions is defined only by reference to the appended claims.

[0020] Features, materials, characteristics, or groups described in conjunction with a particular aspect, embodiment, or example are to be understood to be applicable to any other aspect, embodiment or example described in this section or elsewhere in this specification unless incompatible therewith. All of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), and/or all of the steps of any method or process so disclosed, may be combined in any combination, except combinations where at least some of such features and/or steps are mutually exclusive. The protection is not restricted to the details of any foregoing embodiments. The protection extends to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the features disclosed in this specification (including any accompanying claims, abstract and drawings), or to any novel one, or any novel combination, of the steps of any method or process so disclosed.

[0021] Furthermore, certain features that are described in this disclosure in the context of separate implementations can also be implemented in combination in a single implementation. Conversely, various features that are described in the context of a single implementation can also be implemented in multiple implementations separately or in any suitable subcombination. Moreover, although features may be described above as acting in certain combinations, one or more features from a claimed combination can, in some cases, be excised from the combination, and the combination may be claimed as a subcombination or variation of a subcombination.

[0022] Moreover, while operations may be depicted in the drawings or described in the specification in a particular order, such operations need not be performed in the particular order shown or in sequential order, or that all operations be performed, to achieve desirable results. Other operations that are not depicted or described can be incorporated in the example methods and processes. For example, one or more additional operations can be performed before, after, simultaneously, or between any of the described operations. Further, the operations may be rearranged or reordered in other implementations. Those skilled in the art will appreciate that in some embodiments, the actual steps taken in the processes illustrated and/or disclosed may differ from those shown in the figures. Depending on the embodiment, certain of the steps described above may be removed, others may be added. Furthermore, the features and attributes of the specific embodiments disclosed above may be combined in different ways to form additional embodiments, all of which fall within the scope of the present disclosure. Also, the separation of various system components in the implementations described above should not be understood as requiring such separation in all implementations, and it should be understood that the described components and systems can generally be integrated together in a single product or packaged into multiple products.

[0023] For purposes of this disclosure, certain aspects, advantages, and novel features are described herein. Not necessarily all such advantages may be achieved in accordance with any particular embodiment. Thus, for example, those skilled in the art will recognize that the disclosure may be embodied or carried out in a manner that achieves one advantage or a group of advantages as taught herein without necessarily achieving other advantages as may be taught or suggested herein.

[0024] Conditional language, such as "can," "could," "might," or "may," unless specifically stated otherwise, or otherwise understood within the context as used, is generally intended to convey that certain embodiments include, while other embodiments do not include, certain features, elements, and/or steps. Thus, such conditional language is not generally intended to imply that features, elements, and/or steps are in any way required for one or more embodiments or that one or more embodiments necessarily include logic for deciding, with or without user input or prompting, whether these features, elements, and/or steps are included or are to be performed in any particular embodiment.

[0025] Conjunctive language such as the phrase "at least one of X, Y, and Z," unless specifically stated otherwise, is otherwise understood with the context as used in general to convey that an item, term, etc. may be either X, Y, or Z. Thus, such conjunctive language is not generally intended to imply that certain embodiments require the presence of at least one of X, at least one of Y, and at least one of Z.

[0026] Language of degree used herein, such as the terms "approximately," "about," "generally," and "substantially" as used herein represent a value, amount, or characteristic close to the stated value, amount, or characteristic that still performs a desired function or achieves a desired result. For example, the terms "approximately", "about", "generally," and "substantially" may refer to an amount that is within less than 10% of, within less than 5% of, within less than 1% of, within less than 0.1 % of, and within less than 0.01% of the stated amount. As another example, in certain embodiments, the terms "generally parallel" and "substantially parallel" refer to a value, amount, or characteristic that departs from exactly parallel by less than or equal to 15 degrees, 10 degrees, 5 degrees, 3 degrees, 1 degree, or 0.1 degree.

[0027] The scope of the present disclosure is not intended to be limited by the specific disclosures of preferred embodiments in this section or elsewhere in this specification, and may be defined by claims as presented in this section or elsewhere in this specification or as presented in the future. The language of the claims is to be interpreted broadly based on the language employed in the claims and not limited to the examples described in the present specification or during the prosecution of the application, which examples are to be construed as non-exclusive.

[0028] Though the features and ideas disclosed above may be related to actively heating or cooling food or beverage, the embodiments above may also be used to heat or cool air spaces, such as refrigeration devices, cold boxes, coolers, portable coolers, or portable refrigerators, or hot boxes, or warmer drawers, or heat chambers, or any other device that would benefit from the heating or cooling of the air within a defined cavity or chamber.

[0029] The term "electronic module" is meant to refer to electronics generally. Furthermore, the term "electronic module" should not be interpreted to require that the electronics be all in one physical location or connected to one single printed circuit board (PCB). One of skill in the art will recognize that the electronic module or electronics disclosed herein can be in one or more (e.g., plurality) of separate parts (coupled to one or a plurality of PCBs) and/or located in different physical locations of the body of the container, as disclosed herein. That is, the electronic module or electronics can have different form factors.

[0030] Of course, the foregoing description is that of certain features, aspects and advantages of the present invention, to which various changes and modifications can be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the present invention. Moreover, the heated or cooled drinkware need not feature all of the objects, advantages, features and aspects discussed above. Thus, for example, those of skill in the art will recognize that the invention can be embodied or carried out in a manner that achieves or optimizes one advantage or a group of advantages as taught herein without necessarily achieving other objects or advantages as may be taught or suggested herein. In addition, while a number of variations of the invention have been shown and described in detail, other modifications and methods of use, which are within the scope of this invention, will be readily apparent to those of skill in the art based upon this disclosure. It is contemplated that various combinations or subcombinations of these specific features and aspects of embodiments may be made and still fall within the scope of the invention. Accordingly, it should be understood that various features and aspects of the disclosed embodiments can be combined with or substituted for one another in order to form varying modes of the discussed heated or cooled dishware, drinkware and/or serverware.