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Title:
SYSTEMS AND METHODS OF CONTROLLING PRODUCT TEMPERATURES DURING DELIVERY
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2017/218788
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
Systems, apparatuses and methods are provided herein for controlling the temperature of a product during delivery. A system for inventory management comprises: an internal compartment; and a delivery control circuit coupled to the internal compartment; a configuration control circuit coupled to the delivery container, the configuration control circuit configured to: identify a product for delivery in the internal compartment; determine an optimum delivery temperature for the identified product; and initially configure the internal compartment to provide the optimum delivery temperature for the identified product, wherein the delivery control circuit is configured to maintain the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery of the identified product.

Inventors:
MCHALE, Brian G. (13 Edgeware Road, Chadderton Oldham Greater Manchester OL9 9PU, 9PU, GB)
WILKINSON, Bruce W. (3808 Brooks Ridge, Rogers, Arkansas, 72758, US)
WINKLE, David C. (15 Rochdale Drive, Bella Vista, Arkansas, 72714, US)
HIGH, Donald R. (731 Easy Street, Noel, Missouri, 64854, US)
MATTINGLY, Todd D. (4402 North East Green Creek Cove, Bentonville, Arkansas, 72712, US)
Application Number:
US2017/037698
Publication Date:
December 21, 2017
Filing Date:
June 15, 2017
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
WAL-MART STORES, INC (702 Southwest 8th Street, Bentonville, Arkansas, 72716, US)
International Classes:
F25D11/02; B65D81/00; F25D3/00; F25D11/00; F25D15/00
Foreign References:
US8600903B22013-12-03
US20040226309A12004-11-18
US20070018791A12007-01-25
US7310967B22007-12-25
US9310279B22016-04-12
US8905744B22014-12-09
US7913511B22011-03-29
US6968711B22005-11-29
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
KRATZ, Rudy et al. (Fitch, Even Tabin & Flannery, LLP,120 South LaSalle Stree, Chicago Illinois, 60603, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS

What is claimed is:

1. A system for controlling temperature in a delivery container, the system comprising: a delivery container comprising:

an internal compartment; and

a delivery control circuit coupled to internal compartment; and

a configuration control circuit coupled to the delivery container, the configuration control circuit configured to:

identify a product for delivery in the internal compartment;

determine an optimum delivery temperature for the identified product; and initially configure the internal compartment to provide the optimum delivery temperature for the identified product,

wherein the delivery control circuit is configured to maintain the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery of the identified product.

2. The system of claim 1, wherein the delivery control circuit maintains the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery by adjusting a rate of heat transfer in the internal compartment in response to at least one of a change in temperature in the internal compartment and one or more external environmental factors.

3. The system of claim 1, wherein the delivery container further comprises a vent system, and the delivery control circuit maintains the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery by adjusting the vent system in response to at least one of a change in temperature in the internal compartment and one or more external environmental factors.

4. The system of claim 1, wherein the delivery control circuit maintains the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery by rotating the delivery container from a first position to a second position during delivery in response to at least one of a change in temperature in the internal compartment and one or more external environmental factors.

5. The system of claim 1, wherein the delivery control circuit is configured to obtain at least one of an external temperature of the delivery container during delivery and weather data proximate to an expected delivery route for the delivery container, and the delivery control circuit maintains the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery by considering at least one of the obtained external temperature of the delivery container during delivery and the obtained weather data proximate to the expected delivery route.

6. The system of claim 1, wherein the configuration control circuit is further configured to cause the internal compartment to pre-cool or pre-heat to a predetermined temperature based on at least one of an expected delivery time and expected weather data proximate to an expected delivery route for the delivery container.

7. The system of claim 1, wherein the delivery container comprises a first internal compartment thermally coupled to a second internal compartment, and the first and second internal compartments are capable of maintaining different optimum temperatures for different identified products.

8. The system of claim 7, wherein the delivery container control circuit maintains the optimum delivery temperatures in the first and second internal compartments during delivery by reconfiguring the first and second internal compartments from a first physical configuration to a second physical configuration during delivery in response to at least one of a change in temperature in the first and/or second internal compartment and one or more external environmental factors.

9. The system of claim 7, wherein the first internal compartment has a first optimum temperature and the second internal compartment has a second optimum temperature that is higher than the first optimum temperature, and the delivery control circuit maintains the first and second optimum temperatures by directing heat from the first internal compartment to the second internal compartment in response to at least one of a change in temperature in the first and/or second internal compartment and one or more external environmental factors.

10. The system of claim 7, wherein the first and second internal compartments are separated by a thermoelectric plate.

11. A method for controlling temperature in a delivery container, the method comprising: automatically identifying a product for delivery in an internal compartment of a delivery container;

determining an optimum delivery temperature for the identified product;

configuring the internal compartment to provide the optimum delivery temperature for the identified product; and

maintaining the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery of the identified product.

12. The method of claim 11, wherein maintaining the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery is achieved by adjusting a rate of heat transfer in the internal compartment in response to at least one of a change in temperature in the internal compartment and one or more external environmental factors.

13. The method of claim 11, wherein the maintaining the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery is achieved by venting the internal compartment in response to at least one of a change in temperature in the internal compartment and one or more external environmental factors.

14. The method of claim 11, wherein the maintaining the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery is achieved by rotating the delivery container from a first position to a second position during delivery in response to at least one of a change in temperature in the internal compartment and one or more external environmental factors.

15. The method of claim 11, further comprising obtaining at least one of an external temperature of the delivery container during delivery and weather data proximate to an expected delivery route for the delivery container, and the maintaining the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery is achieved by considering at least one of the obtained external temperature of the delivery container during delivery and the obtained weather data proximate to the expected delivery route.

16. The method of claim 11, further comprising pre-cooling or pre-heating the internal compartment to a predetermined temperature based on at least one of an expected delivery time and expected weather data proximate to an expected delivery route for the delivery container.

17. The method of claim 11, wherein the delivery container comprises a first internal compartment thermally coupled to a second internal compartment, and the first and second internal compartments are capable of maintaining different optimum temperatures for different identified products.

18. The method of claim 17, wherein the maintaining the optimum delivery temperatures in the first and second internal compartments during delivery is achieved by automatically reconfiguring the first and second internal compartments from a first physical configuration to a second physical configuration during delivery in response to at least one of a change in temperature in the first and/or second internal compartment and one or more external environmental factors.

19. The method of claim 17, wherein the first internal compartment has a first optimum temperature and the second internal compartment has a second optimum temperature that is higher than the first optimum temperature, and the maintaining the first and second optimum temperatures is achieved by directing heat from the first internal compartment to the second internal compartment in response to at least one of a change in temperature in the first and/or second internal compartment and one or more external environmental factors.

20. The method of claim 17, wherein the first and second internal compartments are separated by a thermoelectric plate.

Description:
SYSTEMS AND METHODS OF CONTROLLING PRODUCT TEMPERATURES DURING

DELIVERY

Related Application

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No.

62/350,515 filed on June 15, 2016, which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

Technical Field

[0002] This invention relates generally to product temperature control systems.

Background

[0003] In a modern retail environment, there is a need to improve the customer service and/or convenience for the customer. One aspect of customer service is the delivery of products. There are numerous ways to delivery products to customers. Getting the product to a delivery location, however, can adversely affect the product, can cause undesirable delays, can add cost and reduce revenue.

Brief Description of the Drawings

[0004] Disclosed herein are embodiments of systems, apparatuses and methods pertaining to product temperature control systems. This description includes drawings, wherein:

[0005] FIG. 1 illustrates a simplified block diagram of an exemplary temperature control system for maintaining an optimum temperature of a product in a delivery container during transit, in accordance with some embodiments.

[0006] FIG. 2 illustrates an exemplary system for use in implementing methods, techniques, devices, apparatuses, systems, servers, sources and the like in controlling the temperature of a product in a delivery container during transit, in accordance with some embodiments.

[0007] FIG. 3 illustrates a simplified cross-sectional view of an exemplary temperature control system, in accordance with some embodiments. [0008] FIG.4 illustrates a simplified cross-sectional view of an exemplary temperature control system comprising multiple internal compartments, in accordance with some

embodiments.

[0009] FIG. 5 illustrates a simplified flow diagram of an exemplary process of controlling and maintain the temperature of a product during transit, in accordance with some embodiments.

[0010] Elements in the figures are illustrated for simplicity and clarity and have not necessarily been drawn to scale. For example, the dimensions and/or relative positioning of some of the elements in the figures may be exaggerated relative to other elements to help to improve understanding of various embodiments of the present invention. Also, common but well-understood elements that are useful or necessary in a commercially feasible embodiment are often not depicted in order to facilitate a less obstructed view of these various embodiments of the present invention. Certain actions and/or steps may be described or depicted in a particular order of occurrence while those skilled in the art will understand that such specificity with respect to sequence is not actually required. The terms and expressions used herein have the ordinary technical meaning as is accorded to such terms and expressions by persons skilled in the technical field as set forth above except where different specific meanings have otherwise been set forth herein.

Detailed Description

[0011] The following description is not to be taken in a limiting sense, but is made merely for the purpose of describing the general principles of exemplary embodiments.

Reference throughout this specification to "one embodiment," "an embodiment," "some embodiments", "an implementation", "some implementations", "some applications", or similar language means that a particular feature, structure, or characteristic described in connection with the embodiment is included in at least one embodiment of the present invention. Thus, appearances of the phrases "in one embodiment," "in an embodiment," "in some embodiments", "in some implementations", and similar language throughout this specification may, but do not necessarily, all refer to the same embodiment. [0012] Generally speaking, pursuant to various embodiments, systems, apparatuses and methods are provided herein useful to control and maintain an optimum temperature of one or more products in a delivery container being transported to a delivery location. By controlling the temperature, products can be maintained at optimum temperatures, freshness of products can be maintained, and other such benefits. In some embodiments, the system identifies various delivery parameters in selecting a product heating and/or cooling system from multiple different available heating and/or cooling systems to be used in controlling temperature changes and/or maintaining optimum temperatures of one or more products while the one or more products are transported in a delivery container to one or more delivery locations. The heating and/or cooling systems can be implemented to provide temperature control of one or more products, typically a limited number of products, and without having to control the temperature of an entire delivery vehicle or large compartment of a delivery vehicle. Accordingly, the multiple product heating and/or cooling systems can control temperatures and maintain optimum temperatures specific to individual or limited numbers of products. Further, in some embodiments the heating and/or cooling systems are configured to have a relatively small volume. In some implementations, the product heating and/or cooling systems can provide individual temperature control for a single product. Such individual temperature control allows individual products to be transported by some delivery methods while still maintaining desired optimum delivery temperatures, and/or can transport one or more products that are to be maintained at different desired temperatures along with other products that do not require temperature control by the same delivery vehicle.

[0013] FIG. 1 illustrates a simplified block diagram of exemplary temperature control system for maintaining an optimum temperature of a product in a delivery container during transit, accordance with some embodiments. The temperature control system 100 may include multiple different types of product heating and/or cooling systems 102-104, a temperature control selection system 106, and multiple different types of delivery vehicles 108. Some embodiments further include one or more inventory systems 110 associated with one or more retail facilities, customer profile system 112, delivery control system 114, and one or more databases 116 (e.g., one or more customer databases, inventory databases, product databases, route parameter databases, etc.). One or more computer and/or communication networks 120 establish communication connections between two or more of the components of the system 100 and allow communications and/or data transmissions between two or more of the components of the system 100. In some embodiments, the temperature control system 100 is associated with one or more retail facilities from which products can be purchased and/or that coordinates delivery of those products. The shopping facility may, in some instances, be a retail sales facility, a fulfillment center, a distribution center, or other type of facility in which products are sold and/or distributed to customers. The facility may be any size or format, and may include products from one or more merchants. For example, a facility may be a single store operated by one merchant, a chain of two or more stores operated by one entity, or may be a collection of stores covering multiple merchants.

[0014] The temperature control selection system 106 utilizes product parameters and delivery parameters in evaluating which product heating and/or cooling system and/or delivery vehicle are to be employed in transporting one or more products to one or more delivery locations. Typically, the temperature control selection system 106 identifies products that have one or more optimum delivery temperatures that are to be maintained and/or not to be exceeded. For example, a product may have an optimum delivery temperature that comprises one or more thresholds such as a desired storage threshold temperature, a regulatory or government specified temperature threshold, other such temperature thresholds, and in some instances a combination of two or more temperature thresholds. Further, some of the temperature thresholds may correspond to time thresholds, where for a particular product it may be desired that the product be maintained below a first temperature threshold, but can exceed the first temperature for less than a threshold duration of time and typically while being maintained under a second

temperature threshold. One or more databases may be accessed (e.g., product database, inventory database, regulatory database, etc.) to obtain information about one or more temperature thresholds and/or corresponding duration thresholds.

[0015] Further, the temperature control selection system 106 typically takes into consideration transportation parameters in selecting a product heating and/or cooling system 102-104 to be used in transporting one or more products. The transport parameters can include, but are not limited to, delivery route, expected duration of transport and/or duration of exposure to non-temperature controlled environments (e.g., outside of a freezer or refrigerator), predicted and/or forecasted environmental and/or weather conditions through which the product(s) is to be transported (e.g., temperatures, humidity, potential wind, precipitation, etc.), and other such information. The transportation parameters may be obtained based on historic data (e.g., historic weather, historic traffic patterns, data obtained from similar previous deliveries, etc.) and forecasted data (e.g., forecasted weather, forecasted traffic, etc.), current data, and the like.

Further, the transportation parameters may be obtained based on information collected by the retail store or chain of stores, and/or one or more third party sources (e.g., one or more weather services, traffic service, delivery service, etc.). Typically, the transportation parameters can further include and/or consider the time, temperature and the like associated with the preparation and/or loading of the product into a heating and/or cooling system and/or the delivery vehicle, the unloading of the delivery vehicle, and other such factors. The system may take other parameters into consideration including, but not limited to, product parameters (e.g., type of product, size of product, size of multiple products (e.g., sum of volumes and/or volume of strategically arranged products), and the like), customer requests, types of delivery location, whether a temperature control system is available at the delivery location, whether a customer is expected to be available to receive the product(s) at the time of delivery, and other such parameters, and often a combination of two or more of such parameters.

[0016] Further, the processes, methods, techniques, circuits, circuitry, systems, devices, functionality, services, servers, sources and the like described herein may be utilized,

implemented and/or run on many different types of devices and/or systems. FIG. 2 illustrates an exemplary system 200 that may be used for implementing any of the components, circuits, circuitry, systems, functionality, apparatuses, process, or device of the system 100 of FIG. 1 and/or mentioned above or below, or parts of such circuit, circuitry, functionality, systems, apparatuses, processes, or devices. For example, the system 200 may be used to implement some or all of the product heating and/or cooling systems 102-104, a temperature control selection system 106, delivery vehicles 108, inventory systems 110, customer profile system 112, delivery control system 114, and/or other such components, circuitry, functionality and/or devices. However, the use of the system 200 or any portion thereof is certainly not required.

[0017] By way of example, the system 200 may comprise a control circuit or processor module 212, memory 214, and one or more communication links, paths, buses or the like 218. Some embodiments may include one or more user interfaces 216, and/or one or more internal and/or external power sources or supplies 240. The control circuit 212 can be implemented through one or more processors, microprocessors, central processing unit, logic, local digital storage, firmware, software, and/or other control hardware and/or software, and may be used to execute or assist in executing the steps of the processes, methods, functionality and techniques described herein, and control various communications, decisions, programs, content, listings, services, interfaces, logging, reporting, etc. Further, in some embodiments, the control circuit 212 can be part of control circuitry and/or a control system 210, which may be implemented through one or more processors with access to one or more memory 214 that can store code that is implemented by the control circuit and/or processors to implement intended functionality. In some applications, the control circuit and/or memory may be distributed over a communications network (e.g., LAN, WAN, Internet) providing distributed and/or redundant processing and functionality. Again, the system 200 may be used to implement one or more of the above or below, or parts of, components, circuits, systems, process and the like. For example, the system may implement the temperature control selection system 106 with the control circuit being a configuration control circuit, a product delivery control system with the control circuit being a delivery control circuit, or other components.

[0018] The user interface 216 can allow a user to interact with the system 200 and receive information through the system. In some instances, the user interface 216 includes a display 222 and/or one or more user inputs 224, such as a buttons, touch screen, track ball, keyboard, mouse, etc., which can be part of or wired or wirelessly coupled with the system 200. Typically, the system 200 further includes one or more communication interfaces, ports, transceivers 220 and the like allowing the system 200 to communicate over a communication bus, a distributed computer and/or communication network 120 (e.g., a local area network (LAN), the Internet, wide area network (WAN), etc.), communication link 218, other networks or communication channels with other devices and/or other such communications or

combinations thereof. Further the transceiver 220 can be configured for wired, wireless, optical, fiber optical cable, satellite, or other such communication configurations or combinations of two or more of such communications. Some embodiments include one or more input/output (I/O) ports 234 that allow one or more devices to couple with the system 200. The I/O ports can be substantially any relevant port or combinations of ports, such as but not limited to USB,

Ethernet, or other such ports.

[0019] The system 200 comprises an example of a control and/or processor-based system with the control circuit 212. Again, the control circuit 212 can be implemented through one or more processors, controllers, central processing units, logic, software and the like. Further, in some implementations the control circuit 212 may provide multiprocessor functionality.

[0020] The memory 214, which can be accessed by the control circuit 212, typically includes one or more processor readable and/or computer readable media accessed by at least the control circuit 212, and can include volatile and/or nonvolatile media, such as RAM, ROM, EEPROM, flash memory and/or other memory technology. Further, the memory 214 is shown as internal to the control system 210; however, the memory 214 can be internal, external or a combination of internal and external memory. Similarly, some or all of the memory 214 can be internal, external or a combination of internal and external memory of the control circuit 212. The external memory can be substantially any relevant memory such as, but not limited to, solid- state storage devices or drives, hard drive, one or more of universal serial bus (USB) stick or drive, flash memory secure digital (SD) card, other memory cards, and other such memory or combinations of two or more of such memory. The memory 214 can store code, software, executables, scripts, data, content, lists, programming, programs, log or history data, user information and the like. While FIG. 2 illustrates the various components being coupled together via a bus, it is understood that the various components may actually be coupled to the control circuit and/or one or more other components directly.

[0021] Some embodiments include the I/O interface 234 that allows wired and/or wireless communication coupling of to external components, such as with one or more product heating and/or cooling systems 102-104, temperature control selection system 106, delivery vehicles 108, inventory systems 110, customer profile system 112, delivery control system 114, databases 116, and other such devices or systems. Typically, the I/O interface provides wired communication and/or wireless communication (e.g., Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, cellular, RF, and/or other such wireless communication), and in some instances may include any known wired and/or wireless interfacing device, circuit and/or connecting device, such as but not limited to one or more transmitters, receivers, transceivers, or combination of two or more of such devices. [0022] In some implementations, the system 200 includes one or more sensors 226 that can communicate sensor data to the control circuit 212 and/or other systems. The sensors can include one or more temperature sensors, humidity sensors, inertial sensors, wind speed sensors, acceleration sensors, velocity sensors, other such sensors, or combination of two or more of such sensors. The sensors may communicate wired or wirelessly over the communication link 218, the distributed computer and/or communication network 120, or the like. Further, the sensors 226 are illustrated directly coupled with the control circuit 212 via the communication link 218; however, one or more sensors may be internal, external or a combination of internal and external, other networks or communication channels with other devices and/or other such communications or combinations thereof. For example, in some applications one or more temperature sensors may be positioned within an internal compartment of a delivery container, adjacent to or as part of an internal compartment of a delivery container, incorporated into insulation, external to a housing of a heating and/or cooling system, other such locations, or combination of two or more of such locations.

[0023] As described above, some embodiments include the temperature control selection system 106 that evaluates multiple parameters to select one or more product heating and/or cooling systems, from multiple different types of heating and/or cooling systems, to be used while delivering one or more products. The product heating and/or cooling systems can comprise one or more thermoelectric temperature control systems with one or more control circuits, temperature pack cooling systems with temperature pack control circuits, evaporative temperature control systems with evaporative control system control circuit, cryogenic substance cooling systems with cryogenic cooling system control circuit, aerosol temperature control systems with aerosol control system control circuit, cooling sustaining bag systems, heat pack temperature systems, other temperature control systems, or combination of two or more of such systems.

[0024] In some embodiments, the temperature control selection system 106 directs the utilization and pre-configuration of one or more product heating and/or cooling systems to achieve a desired temperature and/or to maintain a desired temperature in one or internal compartments of the delivery container during delivery. In one embodiment, the selected product heating and/or cooling systems comprises a thermoelectric temperature control system utilizing one or more thermoelectric plates, which are commonly known as cold plates or "Peltier" modules. When a voltage is applied between two electrodes connected to a

thermoelectric plate, a temperature difference is created, which causes one face of the plate to become hot and the other face of the plate to become cold. Utilizing such a device as part of a temperature control system in a delivery container allows simultaneous coordination of heating and cooling of various zones and/or internal compartments in the delivery container.

[0025] In some embodiments, a configuration control circuit of the temperature control selection system 106 is configured to identify or otherwise obtain an identification of one or more products to be transported in a delivery container to a delivery location and that has one or more optimum delivery temperatures that are to be considered and/or maintained in determining a delivery strategy. Optimum delivery temperatures are further identified or obtained for each of those products. The optimum delivery of a product temperature may correspond to a

temperature above or below a threshold temperature which the corresponding product is to be maintained while being transported to the delivery location. Further, the optimum delivery temperature may be specific to a particular product and often varies between products. Further, the optimum delivery temperature may be limited to while the product is in transit, while one or more other temperature thresholds may be relevant to the product while the product is at a retail facility or other storage location. For example, for some products that are kept cold, an optimum delivery temperature may be greater than a storage temperature threshold (e.g., ice cream may have an optimum delivery temperature that allows a slow melting of the ice cream, while the storage temperature threshold maintains the ice cream in a frozen state). Further, some optimum delivery temperatures may further be associated with a time threshold. For example, some products may have multiple optimum delivery temperatures with a first optimum delivery temperature being less than a second optimum delivery temperature, such that the product can exceed the first optimum delivery temperature for a threshold period of time while remaining below the second optimum delivery temperature.

[0026] The configuration control circuit further obtains expected transport parameters corresponding to the delivery of the products. As described above, the transport parameters can include one or more parameters that are expected to and/or may have an effect on the

temperature and temperature changes of products during transport. In some instances, the configuration control circuit obtains at least a predicted transport duration and/or delivery route to transport one or more products to the delivery location and expected environmental conditions to be encountered during the transport of the products to the delivery location. The duration may be predicted based on historic data (e.g., based on one or more previous deliveries from a delivery location to the intended delivery location or a different delivery location that is within a threshold distance from the intended delivery location, deliveries from other locations to the delivery location or different location within the threshold distance, other deliveries from other locations to the delivery location, historic traffic information, etc.), predicted traffic data, driver's habits, and other such data. Further, the environmental conditions can also be predicted based on forecasted weather, historic data (e.g., historic temperatures relative to a delivery vehicle and/or method of delivery), and the like.

[0027] Based on transport parameters and product parameters (e.g., the optimum delivery temperature of each of the multiple products), the configuration control circuit can determine the size, quantities, and initial configuration of one or more thermoelectric plates to be positioned in the internal compartment of the delivery container to limit temperature change and/or to maintain one or more products at an optimum temperature in the internal compartment of the delivery container while being delivered. The size, quantities, and initial configuration of the one or more thermoelectric plates can be determined based in part on historic data relative to previous deliveries of products with similar optimum delivery temperatures, and the changes in temperature detected over time relative to the size, quantities, and configuration of

thermoelectric plate(s) used, the placement of products relative to the thermoelectric plate(s), and other such information. Further, some embodiments may use a product rating corresponding to expected rates of change of temperature of products, water content of different products for which temperature change is to be limited, numbers of products to be delivered, temperatures of those other products, other such factors, and typically a combination of two or more of such factors. In some embodiments, the configuration control circuit may be configured to pre-cool and/or pre-heat one or more internal compartments of the delivery container to predetermined temperature(s) based on one or more of the above parameters.

[0028] In some embodiments, the configuration control circuit further determines an ordered arrangement of each of the multiple products relative to the temperature threshold of each of the multiple products. The organization of products, in some instances, attempts to establish one or more temperature zones into which products can be placed based at least in part on their optimum delivery temperatures. For example, a thermoelectric plate may divide the internal compartment of the delivery container into a warm zone and a cool zone. Products with the lowest optimum delivery temperature may be placed into a cool zone that is predicted to have the lowest temperature, which may often correspond to being closest to the cold side of the thermoelectric plate. Products requiring the warmest temperatures may be placed into a warm zone that is predicted to have the highest temperature, which may often correspond to being closest to the hot side of the thermoelectric plate.

[0029] FIG. 3 illustrates a simplified cross-sectional view of an exemplary thermoelectric temperature control system 300, in accordance with some embodiments. The thermoelectric temperature control system 300 includes an internal compartment 316 that supports and/or receives one or more products 302 in a delivery container (not shown) while the one or more products 302 are transported in the delivery container by a delivery vehicle to a delivery location. The thermoelectric temperature control system 300 may include at least one thermoelectric plate 304 arranged in the internal compartment. In some embodiments, as shown in FIG. 3, the thermoelectric plate 304 may be arranged in the internal compartment 316 so that the cold surface 304b of the thermoelectric plate 304 faces the product 302 so as to cool or chill the product 302. Alternatively, the thermoelectric plate 304 may be arranged so that the hot side 304a of the thermoelectric plate 304 faces the product 302 so as to warm the product 302. As described above, the number of thermoelectric plates 304 and their positioning, and the arrangement of one or more of products 302 relative to one or more thermoelectric plates 304, is determined at least in part based on optimum delivery temperatures of the products and transport parameters.

[0030] Some embodiments, as illustrated in FIG. 4, may include at least two thermally coupled internal compartments and/or zones capable of maintaining different threshold and/or optimum temperatures. As shown in FIG. 4, the internal compartment 316 of a delivery container may be divided into multiple zones (316a and 316b) by the thermoelectric plate 304. In such a configuration, the hot side 304a of the thermoelectric plate 304 may form a wall of warm zone 316a in the internal compartment 316, while the cold side 304b of the thermoelectric plate 304 may form a wall of cool zone 316b in the internal compartment 316. Products with the lowest optimum delivery temperatures may be placed into the cool zone 316b, while products requiring the highest optimum delivery temperatures may be placed into the warm zone 316a.

[0031] The thermoelectric temperature control system 300, which may form part of a delivery container, may be separate from and removable from the delivery vehicle. The size of the thermoelectric temperature control system 300 can vary, but often is configured to hold a relatively small number of products, such as products that collectively have a volume of less than three cubic feet, typically less than two cubic feet, and often less than one cubit foot. Depending on the size of the product, often the delivery container of the thermoelectric temperature control system may be capable of only receiving a single product.

[0032] In some implementations, the interior and/or exterior walls of the delivery container and/or the internal compartment may be rigid, while in other implementations one or both of the interior and exterior walls may be flexible. For example, the interior and exterior walls may, in some embodiments, be formed from a plastic, wax coated paper, or other materials. The interior wall is typically moisture resistant and/or water proof. In the bag configuration, portions of the interior and/or exterior wall may be rolled and/or folded over to close the product cavity.

[0033] The dimensions of the internal compartment 316 of the delivery container may be physically configured based on the dimensions of the thermoelectric plate 304 such that the thermoelectric plate 304 may define one or more walls of the internal compartment 316. The thermoelectric plate 304 may be arranged in the internal compartment 316 so as to be physically reconfigurable and otherwise movable from one position to another during delivery. In some embodiments, the thermoelectric plate 304 may be movable along a track 308 in the internal compartment 316, although any configuration, system, or apparatus allowing or causing movement of the thermoelectric plate 304 from a first position to one or more additional positions during delivery may be used.

[0034] At least one temperature sensor 320 may be positioned in the internal

compartment 316 to detect in real time a temperature corresponding to a temperature of one or more products 302 within the internal compartment 316 while the one or more products are in being transported in the delivery container to a delivery location. In some instances, a temperature sensor 320 may be positioned in contact with a product 302 within the internal compartment 316. Additionally or alternatively, one or more temperature sensors 320 may be positioned at one or more locations within the internal compartment316. Some embodiments may include one or more temperature sensors that can detect temperatures outside of the thermoelectric temperature control system. In some embodiments, one or more other types of sensors may be included, such as but not limited to one or more humidity sensors, inertia sensors, orientation sensors (e.g., tilt, roll, pitch, yaw, etc.), airflow sensors, other such sensors, or combination of two or more of such sensors. The sensors are in wired or wireless

communication with a delivery control circuit (not shown in FIGS. 3 and 4) and provide sensor data to the delivery control circuit. In some embodiments, the delivery control circuit may comprise the delivery control circuit forming part of the delivery control system 314 described with reference to FIG 1.

[0035] The delivery control circuit is configured to maintain an optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment 316 of the delivery container during delivery of one or more products 302. The delivery control circuit receives temperature data from the one or more temperature sensors 320 and/or receive other sensor data from one or more other sensors while the one or more products 302 are in the internal compartment 316 and/or at least while the one or more products are in transit to a delivery location. Based on current temperature data the delivery control circuit can determine or identify when a temperature of the one or more products substantially deviates from one or more optimum delivery temperatures. The optimum delivery temperatures may be specific to a particular product and typically varies between products. Further, the optimum delivery temperature may be limited to while the product is in transit, while one or more other temperature thresholds may be relevant to the product while the product is at a retail facility or other storage location. For example, for some products that are kept cold an optimum delivery temperature may be greater than a storage temperature threshold (e.g., ice cream may have an optimum delivery temperature that allows a slow melting of the ice cream, while the storage temperature threshold maintains the ice cream in a frozen state). Further, some optimum delivery temperatures may further be associated with a time threshold. For example, some products may have multiple optimum delivery temperatures with a first optimum delivery temperature being less than a second optimum delivery temperature, such that the product can exceed the first optimum delivery temperature for a threshold period of time while remaining below the second optimum delivery temperature.

[0036] In some embodiments, the delivery control circuit may be configured to adjust the rate of heat transfer of the thermoelectric plate 304 in response to a change in detected temperature and/or in response to one or more external environmental factors while the one or more products 302 are transported by a delivery vehicle that is transporting the delivery container. In embodiments where the internal compartment 316 includes a warm zone 316a and a cool zone 316b (as shown in FIG. 4), the delivery control circuit may be configured to direct heat from the cool zone 316b to the warm zone 316a as needed in response to changes in temperature in at least one of the zones and/or in response to external environmental factors. The delivery control circuit may transfer heat between zones using any conventional means. In some embodiments, the delivery container may include one or more vents 330 as part of a vent system that can be manually controlled by a worker or automatically controlled by the delivery control circuit. The delivery control circuit can, as a function of at least a detected temperature of the product 302 and or one or more external environmental facts, couple with the vent system and issue commands to control the vent system to control a volume of airflow through the vents 330 and into one or more zones in the internal compartment.

[0037] In some embodiments, the delivery control circuit may physically reconfigure the internal compartment 316 of the delivery container during transit by causing the thermoelectric plate 304 to move from a first position to one or more additional positions in response to a change in detected temperature while the one or more products 302 are transported by a delivery vehicle that is transporting the delivery container. As shown in FIGS. 3 and 4, the thermoelectric plate 304 may be movable along a track 308 in the internal compartment 316, although any configuration, system, or apparatus allowing or causing movement of the thermoelectric plate 304 from a first position to one or more additional positions may be used.

[0038] In some embodiments, the delivery control circuit may be configured to rotate the delivery container from a first position to one or more additional positions during delivery in response to a change in detected temperature and/or in response to one or more external environmental factors while the one or more products 302 are transported by a delivery vehicle that is transporting the delivery container. The delivery control circuit may autonomously communicate one or more instructions to cause a modification of the orientation of the delivery container as the delivery vehicle travels toward the delivery location. Such a modification may have the effect of modifying the external temperature of the delivery container, and by extension, may modify the temperature of the internal compartment, of the delivery container, and/or may modify airflow through one or more vents 330 in the delivery container. For example, when the delivery vehicle is an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), the instruction can be communicated to the UAS to cause the UAS to rotate a specified number of degrees relative to a direction of travel. Similarly, when the delivery vehicle is an unmanned ground vehicle (UGV), the instruction can cause the UGV to change directions for a period of time and/or activate a mechanism on the UGV to rotate the delivery container.

[0039] Some product heating and/or cooling systems may not be suitable for some of the delivery methods, some product heating and/or cooling systems may be more effective with some methods of delivery, and/or some product heating and/or cooling systems may be more readily implemented with some delivery methods. Accordingly, a temperature control selection system, such as the temperature control selection system 106 described with reference to FIG. 1, may identify a scheduled method of delivering the one or more products, and select the thermoelectric temperature control system as a method of temperature control based in part on the method of delivery. For example, when a method of delivery is through the use of a UAS or UGV, at least part of the thermoelectric temperature control system 300 may be exposed to the environment as the product is transported by the UAS or UGV. As such, the thermoelectric temperature control system 300 may be particularly beneficial with such delivery methods because the hot surface 304a of the thermoelectric plate 304 may be utilized to form a warm zone 316a for warm-temperature products, or in some instances, the hot surface 304a of the thermoelectric plate 304 may be substantially exposed to the wind that is at least induced while the UAS or UGV is moving. Further, the weight of product heating and/or cooling systems used particularly with UASs, and in some instances with UGVs, can make some heating and/or cooling systems difficult to use. In many instances, the thermoelectric temperature control system described herein can be implemented to have a relatively light weight (e.g., interior and exterior walls being formed from light weight plastic, paper, cardboard, Styrofoam, other such materials or combination of two or more of such materials). Accordingly, the thermoelectric temperature control system described herein can be a desired method of heating and/or cooling with some delivery methods. Such delivery parameters corresponding to the method of delivery can be considered by the temperature control selection system, which can select the

thermoelectric temperature control system for some methods of transport and delivery. Further, in some implementations, the temperature control selection system may select two or more of the product heating and/or cooling systems to be cooperatively utilized during the delivery, and/or one to be used as a primary heating and/or cooling system with one or more to be utilized as secondary heating and/or cooling method and/or backup cooling method. Further, multiple methods of delivery may be used (e.g., delivery truck and a UAS).

[0040] In some embodiments, the thermoelectric temperature control system may be configured for use in relatively short duration transports. For example, the thermoelectric temperature control system may be limited to transport times that correspond to approximately the flight time of a UAS to a delivery location, and typically with a margin of error, such as +50% of the flight time. As further examples, the thermoelectric temperature control system may be limited to transport times (which can include time to stage the product and cooling system, load the delivery vehicle, transport the product, and deliver the product to the customer, and in some instances may include time after delivery before a customer is expected to retrieve the delivery) of less than eight hours, and in some instances restricted to transport times of less than four hours.

[0041] Although FIG. 3 shows a thermoelectric temperature control system with a single internal compartment 302, and FIG. 4 shows a thermoelectric temperature control system with an internal compartment 316 comprising a warm zone 316a and a cool zone 316b, other

embodiments may include multiple different internal compartments and/or temperature zones. Similarly, although FIGS. 3 and 4 show a thermoelectric temperature control system with a single thermoelectric plate 304, other embodiments may include multiple thermoelectric plates 304 of varying sizes and configurations.

[0042] FIG. 5 illustrates a simplified flow diagram of an exemplary process of controlling and maintain the temperature of a product during transit, in accordance with some embodiments. [0043] In step 502, a product for delivery in an internal compartment of a delivery container is identified. In some embodiments, a configuration control system or circuit may identify the item for delivery based on one or more identifying characteristics, such as, for example, size shape, weight, product label, UPC code, QR code, RIFD tag, and the like.

[0044] In step 502, an optimum delivery temperature is obtained for the product to be transported in the delivery container to a delivery location by a delivery vehicle. Again, one or more optimum delivery temperatures (and in some instances corresponding duration thresholds) may be associated with a product. The optimum delivery temperature may be a minimum temperature, a maximum temperature, a desired transport temperature, a temperature associated with a corresponding duration of time, or the like.

[0045] In step 503, the internal compartment is initially configured to provide the optimum delivery temperature for the identified product. In some embodiments, the

configuration control system initially configures the internal compartment to achieve a desired temperature and/or to maintain a desired temperature in the internal compartment during delivery based on one or more product parameters and/or delivery parameters described above. The internal compartment may include one or more thermoelectric plates. In some embodiments, the delivery container may include multiple internal compartments thermally coupled to one another and that are capable of maintaining different temperatures. For example, the delivery container may include a first internal compartment thermally coupled to a second internal compartment, and the first and second internal compartments are capable of maintaining different optimum temperatures for different products. The first and second internal compartments may be configured such that a thermoelectric plate separates the two compartments, providing a warm zone and a cool zone. In some embodiments, the internal compartment may be pre-cooled and/or pre-heated to a predetermined temperature based on at least one of an expected delivery time and expected weather data proximate to an expected delivery route for the delivery container.

[0046] In step 504, the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment of the delivery container is maintained during delivery of the identified product. In some embodiments, a delivery control system or circuit maintains the optimum delivery temperature of one or more products. Temperature data may be received by the delivery control system from one or more temperature sensors located in the internal compartment, as well as external to the delivery container. In some embodiments, the delivery control system may adjust the rate of heat transfer of the thermoelectric plate in response to a change in detected temperature and/or in response to one or more external environmental factors while the one or more products are transported by a delivery vehicle that is transporting the delivery container. In embodiments where the internal compartment includes a warm zone and a cool zone, the delivery control system may direct heat from the cool zone to the warm zone as needed in response to changes in temperature in at least one of the zones and/or in response to external environmental factors.

[0047] In some embodiments, the delivery control system may reconfigure the internal compartment of the delivery container during delivery by causing the one or more thermoelectric plates to move from a first position to one or more additional positions in response to a change in detected temperature while the one or more products are transported by a delivery vehicle that is transporting the delivery container. In some embodiments, the delivery container may include one or more vents as part of a vent system that can be manually controlled by a worker or automatically controlled by the delivery control system. The delivery control system can, as a function of at least a detected temperature of the product and or one or more external environmental factors, couple with the vent system and issue commands to control the vent system to control a volume of airflow through the vents and into the internal compartment. In some embodiments, the delivery control system may rotate the delivery container from a first position to one or more additional positions during delivery in response to a change in detected temperature and/or one or more external environmental factors while the one or more products are transported by a delivery vehicle that is transporting the delivery container.

[0048] The delivery container comprising the internal container in which one or more products are placed is typically separate from and removable from the delivery vehicle, and supports at least the product within the internal compartment while in transit to the delivery location. Many different types of delivery vehicles may be used. In some embodiments, the delivery container is cooperated with an unmanned aircraft system (UAS). Some embodiments cause the delivery vehicle, comprising an unmanned aircraft system (UAS), to lift the delivery container and the one or more products disposed in the delivery container and transport the delivery container and the one or more products by air to the delivery location. In some implementations, a desired orientation of the delivery container and/or a desired orientation of at least one vent in the delivery container can be determined, while the product is in transit, relative to a direction of travel to achieve a desired airflow through at least one vent and into the internal compartment. One or more instructions can be communicated to cause a modification of the orientation of the delivery container as the delivery vehicle travels toward the delivery location and modify the airflow through at least one vent. The communication may be directed to the delivery vehicle, or an orientation system that can alter the orientation of the delivery container while in transit. In some instances, the delivery control circuit can communicate directly to the delivery vehicle. In other instances, the delivery circuit may communicate to a central control system that can cause one or more instructions to be communicated to the delivery vehicle to cause a change in orientation of the delivery container relative to the delivery vehicle and/or a direction of travel.

[0049] In one embodiment, a system for controlling temperature in a delivery container comprises: an internal compartment; and a delivery control circuit coupled to the internal compartment; a configuration control circuit coupled to the delivery container, the configuration control circuit configured to: identify a product for delivery in the internal compartment;

determine an optimum delivery temperature for the identified product; and initially configure the internal compartment to provide the optimum delivery temperature for the identified product, wherein the delivery control circuit is configured to maintain the optimum delivery temperature in the internal compartment during delivery of the identified product.

[0050] In one embodiment, a method for controlling temperature in a delivery container comprises: automatically identifying a product for delivery in an internal compartment of a delivery container; determining an optimum delivery temperature for the identified product; configuring the internal compartment to provide the optimum delivery temperature for the identified product; and maintaining the optimum delivery temperature in the internal

compartment during delivery of the identified product.

[0051] It should be understood that each of the components of the system described herein may be in communication with one another using any conventional communications protocol, including wireless communication protocols. Those skilled in the art will recognize that a wide variety of other modifications, alterations, and combinations can also be made with respect to the above described embodiments without departing from the scope of the invention, and that such modifications, alterations, and combinations are to be viewed as being within the ambit of the inventive concept.