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Patent Searching and Data


Title:
INTERACTIVE KIOSK
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2011/078765
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A customer serving system comprises a service counter or customer counter A. This is in connection with a work station B, which is adapted to be used by a service person, such that transfer of information between the customer counter and the work station may be achieved. The customer counter and the work station each comprises a computer system (3, 4; 51, 52) to be able to establish a video conference between a person at the customer counter and a person at the work station, so that both a voice connection is established between the persons and a picture of the second person may be seen at the customer counter and the work station. Furthermore the customer counter comprises a high resolution document camera (29) or scanner and a surface (33) for placing a document, of which a high resolution picture may be taken, whereby the person at the work station may confirm the identity of the customer at the customer counter since the person at the work station can compare the picture of the customer obtained at the video conference with a picture of an identification document, which is placed on the said surface.

Inventors:
SIHVOLA, Vesa (Harjutie 14, Tornio, FI-95450, FI)
Application Number:
SE2010/051398
Publication Date:
June 30, 2011
Filing Date:
December 16, 2010
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
BOTHNIA INVENT AB (Box 98, Kalix, S-952 21, SE)
SIHVOLA, Vesa (Harjutie 14, Tornio, FI-95450, FI)
International Classes:
G06Q20/00; G06Q30/00; G07F5/00; G07F7/08; G07F9/00; H04N7/14
Domestic Patent References:
WO2005109882A2
WO2006070359A2
Foreign References:
US20040143445A1
US20010016819A1
US20030014316A1
US5798931A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
BERGENSTRÃ…HLE & LINDVALL AB (Box 17704, S- Stockholm, 118 93, SE)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CIAJMS

1. A customer serving system comprising a customer counter, characteriz ed by a work station, which is in communication connection with the customer counter and which is adapted to be used by a service person, wherein

- the customer counter and the work station each comprises a computer system to enable establishment of a video conference between a person attiie customer counter and a person attiie work station, so that both a voice connection is established between tiie persons and a picture of second person may be seen attiie customer counter and tiie work station, and

- tiie customer counter comprises a high resolution document camera or scanner and a surface for tiie placement of a document, of which a high resolution picture can be taken, whereby a person attiie work station can confirm tiie identity of a customer attiie customer counter since tiie person attiie work station can compare tiie picture of tiie customer which is obtained attiie video conference with a picture of an identification document which is placed on tiie surface, and wherein tiie customer counter further comprises a computer-controlled key cabinet with spaces with lockable doors or shutters connected to tiie computer system of tiie customer counter, wherein tiie computer system of tiie customer counter and tiie work station comprise control programs for remote control of tiie key cabinet, whereby tiie locked doors or shutters can be selectively opened only on command from tiie work station.

2. The customer serving system according to claim 1, wherein tiie computer system of tiie customer counter and tiie work station comprise control programs for remote control of tiie high resolution document camera or scanner from tiie work station and for direct transmission of a recorded picture to tiie work station.

3. The customer serving system according to claim 1, wherein the computer system of the customer counter comprises two computers, of which a first one is used for video conference and a second one is used for handling and controlling of accessories comprising the high resolution document camera or scanner.

4. The customer serving system according to claim 1, wherein the computer system of the customer counter comprises one computer with a multi user operating system, such that a first user executes necessary commands for video conference and a second user executes handling and controlling of accessories comprising the high resolution document camera or scanner.

5. The customer serving system according to claim 1, wherein the computer system of the work station comprises at least two displays, of which a first one is used to display a picture of the customer during video conference and a second one is used to show customer data, information which the customer needs and/ or documents for printing in the customer counter.

6. The customer serving system according to claim 5, wherein the computer system of the work station comprises at least two computers, of which a first one is used for video conference and is connected to the first display and a second one is used for remote control of functions in the customer counter and is connected to the second display.

7. The customer serving system according to claim 6, wherein the second computer of the work station also is connected to a company system, especially a

bookkeeping/ accounting system, a booking system, and/ or an information system

Description:
INTERACTIVE KIOSK

Technical field

[0001] The pre sent inventio n relate s to an interactive kio sk o r generally a customer serving system comprising a customer counter.

Background art

[0002] There are today many types of automatic customer serving counters. These counters can only execute a predefined process. Resently, an expansion is taking place regarding automatization within customer service and customer serving.

Nevertheless, such automatization systems are all constructed to execute a specific service towards the customers, in the same way as a cash dispenser. Alternatively the systems are built to distribute information automatically depending on demand through a suitable computer user interface, wherein such systems can be referred to as "Info -kiosks".

[0003] SKThas developed its own kiosks, which are based on a local computer system, which during booking of a rental car prints a code of a key cabinet which is provided in the hall where rental cars are parked. The customer comes to such a kiosk, puts in a special card and gets a receipt printed. The customer can then go to the car park hall and there enter the code into a key cabinet A corresponding door to the space in the key cabinet is opened and the customer is able to take the key to the rented car.

[0004] This system requires that the customer has applied in advance for a special type of customer card which is used as identification and payment card, when the customer comes to the kiosk. The customer must have made a reservation in advance to get the possibility of a rental car. The kiosk has no intelligence or logic to handle unplanned rental situations. Every time, the kiosk carries out a

preprogrammed process. [0005] HERE has developed its own kiosks based on a computer system, which is connected to a central booking system Through booking in advance of a rental car, reading a bar code from the driving license, debiting of a card via the kiosk and after the approval of a renting agreement on a display, the kiosk delivers a key to the customer via a key feeder mechanism

[0006] This system also requires that the customer in advance has applied for a special type of customer card: "Hertz gold card", with credit and invoice rights, lis such a card which is used as an identification and payment card, when the customer is served by the kiosk The customer must be booked in advance for a possible renting. After reading of the bar code on the back side of the driving license, a search is carried outof the stored bookings in the central booking system When the booking in question has been found, it is presented on the display for the approval of the customer through input of a touch screen. The kiosk has no intelligence or logic to handle unplanned rental situations.

[0007] Accordingly, there is an obvious need for serving kiosks or customer counters with extended functions.

Summary of the invention

[0008] One object of the invention is to provide an improved customer serving counter and especially a customer serving counter with the possibility of interactivity with a service person.

[0009] In general an interactive customer serving counter is thus designed to be controlled from a distance. A customer at the customer counter may in real time communicate for example with the customer service or likewise at a company via a display, loud speaker, and microphone, that is, audiovisual communication is used in real time. [0010] Such a customer counter, in this case also referred to as virtual serving counter, is a system similar to a cash dispenser, which comprises computers, computer components and software and which is connected to a communication network for general use, such as Internet In contrast to a cash dispenser, which executes a certain predefined process for the customer, for which it is programmed, the virtual serving counter can fulfill undetermined and varied needs of a customer, since it offers an audio visual dialog with a service person, here named a service person, in real time. When a customer is using a cash dispenser, a dialog occurs between the customer and central banking system via software and a user interface in the cash dispenser, which always have some predetermined options. When a customer is using the herein described virtual serving counter, a dialog between the customer and the service person occurs via a program and a user interface of a customer central, which can be very simple and of a standard type. This dialog is at every time unique.

[0011] The dialog which occurs between the customer and the service person via a virtual serving counter is obtained with the help of a mixture of technical components and software, which cooperates in a unit and communicates via for example Internet or a similar network, such as an intranet with a corresponding set up at another geographical location. Approximately similar systems can be used, in both ends of the communication channel between the customer counter and a work station at the service person, at least when talking about the audio visual

communication.

[0012] The customer counter has a flexible usability, since it conveys a dialog with a human being in real time. This flexibility can be extended so mat several service persons at different locations and with different skills can serve the customer. The dialog with a customer can also be diverted to a service central at another company, so that after the car rental process has ended, the customer can for example be connected to a booking central of a hotel chain.

[0013] The customer counter can comprise a high resolution document camera or a high resolution scanner, which in connection with the visual dialog enables for example identification of a customer. With high resolution is here meant a resolution of atleast 1200 x 1200 dpi or even at least 2400 x 2400 dpi and even better at least4800 x 4800 dpi.

[0014] Generally such a system can provide:

- Ifecording of the whole customer serving process by means of cameras, such as web cameras which are used at the video conference.

- Identification of the customer by means of a picture from an identification document, such as a driving license and passport

- Handling of keys etc to locked spaces containing valuable items.

[0015] The system can in general provide one or more of the following

advantages:

- Customer service can be offered to the customers from one arbitrary location in one to more relations.

- The customer experiences customer service as it would be obtained at the location where the customer finds him- or herself with the same flexibility and supply as during ordinary personal customer service.

- The customer serving can be provided also in evenings, nighttime and

weekends. - Skilled staffs can be used better at several locations at the same time which gives cost efficiency.

- The customer can be served at several locations.

- less queue situations for the customers.

- High flexibility through a customer serving process can be relayed to another person with different skill.

- The customer's need can be obtained through the possibility to procure to the customer desired or necessary information in the form of print outs, forms, presentation of web pages, etc.

- Service can be given in different languages.

Bief description of the drawings

[0016] The invention shall now be described in more detail in the form of non- limiting embodiments with reference to the attached drawings, in which:

[0017] Jig la is a schematic figure of a customer serving system comprising a customer counter and a work station,

[0018] Jig lb is a figure similar to fig la where the customer counter and the work station are shown in perspective,

[0019] Jig lc is a schematic figure of several customer counters connected to the same work station,

[0020] Jig 2 is a block diagram of the customer counter's design, and [0021] Jig 3 is a block diagram of the work station's design. Detailed description of the embodiments

[0022] A system or an establishment for customer service atdistance, "remote service", will now be described with reference to fig la, fig lb and fig lc. The system comprises one or several customer counters A, which here as well referred to virtual serving counters or just serving counters, and which a customer can use to obtain different services, for example to rent a motor vehicle. Such a service counter is similar to a cash dispenser device, which comprises a computer system with different computer settings and software and which is connected to a communication network with general functionality, such as the Internet The system also comprises a service central or work station B , in which a person, here named service person, uses a virtual serving counter A with the customer to see that the customer requests can be fulfilled.

[0023] The virtual serving counter A intended for customers comprises the following components and software, see fig. 2:

A starting up button or activating button 1

One or two computers, 3,4

A computer display 5 , which can be of the type "touch screen"

A camera 7 , such as a web camera

A microphone 9, for example a conference microphone

A loud speaker 11 , for example one comprised in any suitable loud speaker system

A router 13 for connection to a general communication network for transferring information, such as the Internet A printer 15 , for example a thermal waxtransfer writer with a roll of paper or a laser printer

An operating system 17 for the computer/ computers, such as Windows XP Business

Device drivers 19, 20 for hardware/ components

Software 21 for video conferences

Software 23 for remote control of a computer

Software 25 for permission of remote usability of external units, such as units connected via USB

[0024] ff needed, the serving counter can also comprise a suitable keyboard, either alphanumerical or only numerical.

[0025] The virtual serving counter A can also comprise one or more of the following components:

A credit card reader 27 with accoirpanying key pad for the input of HN- code

A document camera or scanner 29

A remote controlled key locker 31 with accoirpanying plug n-card adapted in corresponding computer 4

The work station B at the service person comprises the following components and software, see also fig. 3:

Two computers 51, 52 with ordinary input means such as key board 53 or computer mouse 55 Two computer displays 57, 58 connected to one computer each 51 and 52 respectively

A camera 59 such as web camera

A microphone and loud speaker/ receiver, for example comprised in a headset 61

A router 65 for connection to the ordinary communication network for the transmission of information

A printer 67 such as a laser printer

An operating system 69 for the personal computer, for example Window XP business

Device drivers 71 for hardware/ components

Software 73 for video conferences

Software 75 for remote control of another computer

Software 77 for remote use of an external unit, such as units connected via USB

[0026] Additionally the work station A in respective case comprises one or more of the following components:

Software 79 for contro lling the key cabinet

A stationary document camera or scanner 81

Software 83 for handling the document camera 81, 25 atthe work station B and the virtual serving counter A, respectively [0027] A dialog between the service person at the work station B and a customer at the customer counter A can herewith be obtained, even without specifically developed software. Such a dialog can be started through a customer approaching the virtual serving counter and for example pushing the activating button 1. On the display 5 of the customer there is a view with different options, such as the choice between any form of communication only with the system according to a predetermined scheme or manual serving. The customer can herewith choose manual serving through a button push on a suitable field on the display and then instead an animated image of the service person is shown on the display, which is recorded by the camera 59 at the work station In the same way an animated image of the customer is shown on one of the displays 57 of the work station, which is recorded by the camera 7 of the customer counter. These cameras can be of the type of web cameras with rather low resolution At the same time a voice connection is established between the customer and the service person by means of respective loud speaker and microphones 11, 9, 61. Such a two-way audio visual connection over the communication network for general purpose can be obtained in a known manner by using available software 21, 73 for video conferences, which uses the functionality in displays, cameras, loud speaker/ receiver and microphones by means of the corresponding operating system, device drivers and user interfaces to the network, such as the routers 13, 65.

[0028] The connection can be established between a customer counter A and a work station B situated at two arbitrary geographical locations provided that at the locations there is an access to the communication network used for transmission of information. The software for the video conference in the customer counter was stored in and utilized by one 3 of the two computers, in the case that the customer counter contains two computers. The customer can during the dialog give his or her requests and can also by means of a suitable input device such as display 5, give the input of required, additional information, if the display is a touch screen, ff so desired this can be printed at the printer 67 of the work station and the work station B can transmit other information to the customer counter A for being shown at the display 5 or be printed by means of the printer 15. On the display, special information which the customer demands or can be in a need of, for example suitable Internet pages, can also be shown.

[0029] Besides the general dialog and interactivity with another location situated service person, such a customer counter A provides, special functions may be offered the customer. These functions can vary depending on the need or business area. Such functions can be obtained through corresponding equipment accessories connected to the computer in the customer counter and especially to the second computer 4 in the customer counter in the case when such one is used. The equipment accessory is configured for remote usability, so that it is operated and handled from the computer 51 of the service person by means of corresponding device drivers 20, which can be installed in the second computer at the customer counter and suitable remote control software 75 - 79 in the computer of the work station B. Special access programs 25 can also be required in the computer 4 of the customer counter to allow remote control from the work station B.

[0030] Such an accessory consists of a document camera 29 or a scanner arranged in the customer counter. By means of this the service person from the work station B can record high resolution pictures of for example a customer's driving license, which is placed in a suitable location, such as at a suitable horizontal surface 33 of the customer counter. Another accessory is a credit card reader 27 adapted at a suitable place in the customer counter. A third example of an accessory is a key cabinet 31 with several spaces provided with shutters, which selectively can be opened upon a corresponding signal from the work station B.

[0031] As an example the system shall be described how it can be used for car rental, ff a customer wishes to rent a car, he pushes the activating button 1 on tiie customer counter A. There the video conference program 21, 75 starts, possibly after preliminary selection of manual serving. The video conference program starts a video conference session between the customer counter A and the work station B and can also give a signal, for example a sound signal, from the latter to call for the attention of the service person. The customer can now express his or her wish in a dialog with the service person. He or she can then be requested to for example write his or her name and/ or other identification information on the touch screen 5. There it is shown a desk layout in an ordinary way, according to a command given from the service person, instead of a real time picture of the service person. After the customer has written the requested information, this is transferred to the work station B to be shown on a second display 57 to be used by the service person to start writing a rental agreement form, and further the picture of the service person is shown again on the customer counter display 5. When the customer and the service person have agreed on a suitable vehicle for rental, the service person can demand to see the customer's driving license. The customer can then take out his or her driving license and put it at a suitable place such as at the surface 33, where after a detailed, high resolution picture is recorded of the driving license by means of the document camera 29 and corresponding picture information is transferred to the work station B to be shown on the second of the displays 57. The service person can store the picture together with the rental agreement jrthermore, in most cases payment information is demanded and then the customer can use the card reader 27 and possibly enter the associated HN- code. Corresponding information can be transferred to the work station B or alternatively the payment information can also be transferred directly to the respective financial institutions for confirmation that the money is accessible at the account of the customer and such that the agreed amount is transferred from the account of the customer to the company, to which the service person belongs. The form for the rental agreement which is shown on the second of the displays of the work station is prepared by the service person, who sends the corresponding information to the customer counter A, where the form is printed by means of the printer 15. When the customer has signed the agreement, he or she can put the form on a suitable surface 33, where after a detailed, high resolution picture of the signed agreement can be recorded by means of the document camera 29 and corresponding image information is sent to the work station B for storing/ archiving. Enally the service person gives a command from the work station B regarding, that the shutter in the key cabinet 31 in the customer counter A in which the key to the rented vehicle is shall be opened. The customer can take out the key and there the rental session is ended.

[0032] Extra accessories for such a situation as the car rental can be an alcohol meter provided in the customer counter A. Software for the remote reading of this is then stored in both the customer counter and the work station

[0033] The accessories, which are connected to the counter and are remotely controlled from the work station of the service person, can be adapted to every trade. The basic principle is though the same for all such accessories. This implies that the service person remotely controls all computer equipment in and at the customer counter A and in many cases the customer only has to listen and answer. Moreover, a work station B 100 may be connected to one or more virtual service desks 101a - e. In such embodiment, the work station typically comprises two systems. A first system which is communicating, which is indicated by dotted lines in fig lc , with the customer. While a second system, which is indicated with a full line in fig lc, is cornmumcating with the system of the virtual service desk for performing the functions which will be described below.

[0034] Another conceivable equipment, which can be provided in the customer counter, can for example comprise card programmers for the programming of a pass card, dosage device for medicine, ticket printer and/ or measuring equipment of different sorts such as for medical diagnoses.

[0035] As stated above, the co stumer counter A can have dual computers 3, 4, where one 3 is used for interactive video/ sound communication between customer counter A and the controlling work station B. The second computer 4 is used to control the accompanying equipment which is installed in the customer counter, for example printers, credit card readers, document camera and key cabinet This solution with dual computers gives the possibility to adjust for the customer on a free way, when no account of the disturbance need to be taken in the dialog between the customer and the service person because of other equipment, since the dialog is executed by a separate system

[0036] lb use two computers in the customer counter A instead of only one, means that the functions for the audio visual dialog between customer at the counter and service person can work withoutbeing disturbed by the other functions which are offered. Alternatively is only one computer 3' used in the customer counter, which executes all the functions of the two computers. In such a computer a multi user operating system can be installed, such that a network server program, for example Microsoft Server, instead of an ordinary operating system, such as Micro soft Vista, which makes it possible to log in more user processes on the same computer 3' and by turns can use all the hardware, which is connected to the computer. This implies that you can obtain the same functionality as with two separate computers 3, 4 in the customer counter A. With only one computer and a server operating system though the software 21 competes for the audio visual dialog and the software 20, 23, 25 with each other for installed accessories regarding processor power and memory capacity. In this case can herewith some disturbances occur such as the use of some of the accessories 15, 27, 29, 31 atthe customer counter interrupts or delays the audio visual dialog. These interruptions can be experienced as pauses in the dialog or actually as a drop out/ left out in the dialog.

[0037] The work station B comprises as stated above two separate computers 51, 52 with their own displays 57, 58. These computers can communicate with each other, for example via the internal network of the company, but are in principle independent of each other. One first 51 of these computers controls the first 3 or both computers 4 in the customer counter A. The second computer 52 atthe work station B is connected to or provides its own accounting system, booking system, etc of the company and its printing function, possibility of reading of credit cards etc are connected to the second computer 4 of the customer counter. Alternatively the work station can in the same way as above described for the customer counter A comprise only one computer and two displays, wherein a multi user operating system of type Windows server is used in the computer. The disadvantages of such a solution can be that for all accessory equipment device drivers may not exist for a server operating system, because such equipment normally is intended to be used in common single user computers with a simple operating system

[0038] In the above described system the following can be achieved or offered:

[0039] 1. The service person can from his or her work station B control one or more customer counters A and offer customer service from a distance through audio visual dialog with a customer in a realistic way which is similar to a "face against face" situation in contrast to cash dispensers and info kiosks, which have a limitation in the dialog because they are built for a predefined process.

[0040] 2. The service person can connector forward the dialog to a third party or invite more persons with special skills to the dialog with the customer from his or her working location. Everybody takes part via their work stations to the customer who stands in fro nt of the customer counter A. This is possible, because a computer based video conference system is built for distance meetings between persons at different locations who have access to computers.

[0041] 3. Both cases with only one computer with a server operating system or two computers with simple operating systems in the customer counter A can be used. The first case can be suitable, when the other functions which offered are notresource demanding. Otherwise the other case is used. I " the system comprises only one computer with traditional operating system in the customer counter, it should occur that every time as another function, for example printing is executed by means of the printer 15 of the customer counter, this should be shown on the display 5 of the customer counter instead of a video picture of the service person.

[0042] 4. The customer counter A can have built in loud speakers of special type, which has a very directional sound geometry, which minimizes the possibility/ risks for feedback in the video communication.

[0043] 5. The customer counter A may have a special microphone 9, which is adapted to video conferences and which contains hardware based echo and background sound reduction.

[0044] 6. The customer counter A may comprise a high resolution document camera 29 to be used for photography of identification documents, agreements, documents working orders and similar. This is done by taking a high quality picture of me document, for example a driving license or a pass port, which me customer lays on me surface 33 and thereafter is photographed. Then the high resolution picture of the pass port driving license can be compared by the service person with the high quality real time picture of the customer in front of counter A, which is recorded by the web camera 7 in the customer counter, and is displayed on one 58 of the displays of the service person

[0045] 7. The customer counter A comprises a printer 15 which is controlled from a distance. By means of this one the service person may print anything for the customer: maps, lists of hotels, bus timetables etc., for which need may occur during the interactive communication between the customer and the service person

[0046] 8. The service counter A may comprise a remote controlled key cabinet 31, which alternatively may have a different design, for example for reception/ distribution of documents, devices, medicine, etc. A key cabinet which is integrated in to the customer counter may be extended to comprise an assortment of shutter cabinets of arbitrary sizes which are set for example in a wall next to the customer counter. All the shutters in these cabinets may be controlled from a distance. This type of pro duct handling from a distance through a counter is unique.

[0047] 9. Having two parallel systems at the work station B, one for the communication and another for the internal own system, bookings, selling etc., leads to no integration costs of the system, because the service person controls both systems and functions as the link between the systems.