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Title:
REMOTE MONITORING OF EQUIPMENT AND INVENTORY CONTROL
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2015/023765
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
A cooler-monitoring system is provided for a cooler including a door that opens and closes to provide access to an interior of the cooler and stocked items contained therewithin. The cooler-monitoring system may include a door sensor and a computer system coupled to the door sensor. The door sensor may detect one or more instances in which the door is opened or closed. The door sensor or computer system may maintain a count of a number of the instance(s) in which the door is opened. And the computer system may communicate data indicating the count to a device management to correlate the count to an estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler, and calculate an estimated number of the stocked items remaining within the cooler based thereon, the device management server thereby providing an indication whether the cooler is in need of being restocked.

Inventors:
BUTLER GLENN (US)
SMITH RANDY (US)
LEACH JASON (US)
DAVIS JOHN (US)
Application Number:
PCT/US2014/050913
Publication Date:
February 19, 2015
Filing Date:
August 13, 2014
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
CONSTANT ASSET MAN LLC (US)
International Classes:
G07F7/00
Foreign References:
US20130194420A12013-08-01
US20110172848A12011-07-14
US20120130534A12012-05-24
US8103380B22012-01-24
US20090306819A12009-12-10
US5708223A1998-01-13
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
EPTING, Thomas, W. (P.O. Box 87Greenville, SC, US)
Download PDF:
Claims:
WHAT IS CLAIMED IS:

1. A cooler-monitoring system for a cooler including a door configured to open and close to provide access to an interior of the cooler within which stocked items are contained, the cooler-monitoring system comprising:

a door sensor affixable to or proximate the door of the cooler, and configured to detect one or more instances in which the door is opened or closed; and

a computer system coupled to the door sensor, the door sensor or computer system being configured to maintain a count of a number of the one or more instances in which the door is opened, the computer system being configured to communicate data indicating the count over a network to a device management server configured to correlate the count to an estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler, and calculate an estimated number of the stocked items remaining within the cooler based on the estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler, the device management server thereby being configured to provide an indication whether the cooler is in need of being restocked.

2. The cooler-monitoring system of Claim 1 further comprising:

a camera coupled to the computer system and configured to capture one or more images of the interior of the cooler and any of the stocked items contained therewithin,

wherein the computer system is configured to communicate the one or more images to the device management server configured to communicate the indication and one or more images over the network to one or more client devices. 3. The cooler-monitoring system of Claim 1, wherein in each of the one or more instances in which the door is opened, the door sensor or computer system is further configured to maintain a timer of an amount of time after the door is opened until the door is closed, and

wherein the computer system is configured to generate an alert in an instance in which the timer indicates that the door has been open for more than a preset amount of time.

4. The cooler-monitoring system of Claim 1 further comprising one or more additional sensors coupled to the computer system and configured to measure one or more conditions of the cooler,

wherein the computer system is configured to generate an alert in one or more instances in which the one or more conditions reach a preset threshold or are outside a preset range.

5. The cooler-monitoring system of Claim 4, wherein the one or more additional sensors include a position sensor configured to determine a position of the cooler,

wherein the computer system is configured to generate an alert in an instance in which the position of the cooler is outside of a present range from or geo-fence around a preset position of the cooler. 6. The cooler-monitoring system of Claim 4, wherein the one or more additional sensors include a temperature sensor configured to measure a temperature within the interior of the cooler,

wherein the computer system is configured to generate an alert in an instance in which the temperature within the interior of the cooler increases to a preset temperature, or is outside a preset temperature range.

7. The cooler-monitoring system of Claim 4, wherein the one or more additional sensors include a power sensor configured to measure a supply of power to the cooler,

wherein the computer system is configured to generate an alert in an instance in which the supply of power to the cooler is unavailable.

8. The cooler-monitoring system of Claim 4 further comprising one or more user output interfaces configured to output the alert.

9. The cooler-monitoring system of Claim 4, wherein the computer system is configured to communicate the alert to the device management server including one or more user output interfaces configured to output the alert, or configured to communicate the alert over the network to a client device including one or more user output interfaces configured to output the alert.

10. A method of monitoring a cooler including a door configured to open and close to provide access to an interior of the cooler within which stocked items are contained, the method comprising:

detecting by a door sensor affixed to or proximate the door of the cooler, one or more instances in which the door is opened or closed;

maintaining a count of a number of the one or more instances in which the door is opened; and

communicating data indicating the count over a network to a device management server configured to correlate the count to an estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler, and calculate an estimated number of the stocked items remaining within the cooler based on the estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler, the device management server thereby being configured to provide an indication whether the cooler is in need of being restocked.

11. The method of Claim 10 further comprising:

capturing by a camera coupled to the computer system, one or more images of the interior of the cooler and any of the stocked items contained therewithin; and communicating the one or more images to the device management server configured to communicate the indication and one or more images over the network to one or more client devices.

12. The method of Claim 10 further comprising in each of the one or more instances in which the door is opened:

maintaining a timer of an amount of time after the door is opened until the door is closed; and

generating an alert in an instance in which the timer indicates that the door has been open for more than a preset amount of time.

13. The method of Claim 10 further comprising:

measuring by one or more additional sensors, one or more conditions of the cooler; and generating an alert in one or more instances in which the one or more conditions reach a preset threshold or are outside a preset range.

14. The method of Claim 13, wherein measuring the one or more conditions includes determining by a position sensor, a position of the cooler, and wherein generating the alert includes generating the alert in an instance in which the position of the cooler is outside of a present range from or geo-fence around a preset position of the cooler.

15. The method of Claim 13 , wherein measuring the one or more conditions includes measuring by a temperature sensor, a temperature within the interior of the cooler,

wherein generating the alert includes generating the alert in an instance in which the temperature within the interior of the cooler increases to a preset temperature, or is outside a preset temperature range.

16. The method of Claim 13, wherein measuring the one or more conditions includes measuring by a power sensor, a supply of power to the cooler, wherein generating the alert includes generating the alert in an instance in which the supply of power to the cooler is unavailable.

17. The method of Claim 13 further outputting the alert by one or more user output interfaces by a local cooler monitoring device.

18. The method of Claim 13 further comprising:

communicating the alert to the device management server including one or more user output interfaces configured to output the alert, or configured to communicate the alert over the network to a client device including one or more user output interfaces configured to output the alert.

19. An apparatus for implementation of a device management server for monitoring a cooler including a door configured to open and close to provide access to an interior of the cooler within which stocked items are contained, the apparatus comprising a processor and a memory storing executable instructions that in response to execution by the processor cause the apparatus to at least:

receive data over a network from a cooler-monitoring subsystem including a door sensor affixed to or proximate the door of the cooler, and configured to detect one or more instances in which the door is opened or closed, the data indicating a count of a number of the one or more instances in which the door is opened;

correlate the count to an estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler; and

calculate an estimated number of the stocked items remaining within the cooler based on the estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler, the apparatus thereby being caused to provide an indication whether the cooler is in need of being restocked.

20. The apparatus of Claim 19, wherein the memory stores further executable instructions that in response to execution by the processor cause the apparatus to further at least:

receive from the cooler-monitoring subsystem, one or more images of the interior of the cooler and any of the stocked items contained therewithin; and

communicate the indication and one or more images over the network to one or more client devices.

Description:
REMOTE MONITORING OF EQUIPMENT AND INVENTORY CONTROL

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION(S)

The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/956,173, entitled: Apparatus and Method for Remote Monitoring of Equipment and Inventory Control, filed on August 13, 2013, the content of which is incorporated herein by reference in its entirety.

TECHNOLOGICAL FIELD

The present disclosure relates generally to remote monitoring of equipment and to inventory control, and, in particular, to remote monitoring and inventory control of a point of sale device such as a self-serve frozen or refrigerated cooler.

BACKGROUND

Self-serve frozen or refrigerated coolers provide a simple and relatively low cost way to merchandize food products such as ice cream at retail locations. These coolers are sometimes provided by the food manufacturers and intended to expose brands and sell food products the manufacturer provides. The coolers may be placed by the manufacturer or provided to food distributors who then in turn provide them to end locations such as convenience stores, movie theaters, schools, cafeterias and wherever else the food products are sold.

Both the manufacturer and the distributor typically want the coolers to be placed, operational, clean, and filled. Due to changing habits and activity of the locations the coolers are specifically manufactured to be easily movable to more suitable sites and this feature also allows them to be moved in an unauthorized manner and in fact lost or stolen. Once on-site, the coolers must be replenished on a frequent basis in order to continue generating sales. Customer use of the coolers is often haphazard, and often coolers are left with their doors open which allows warmer air to circulate in the cooler itself and lead to product degradation which represents a severe loss to the manufacturer, distributor or location reseller.

Therefore, it may be desirable to have a system and method that takes into account at least some of the issues discussed above, as well as possibly other issues. SUMMARY

Example implementations of the present invention are generally directed to a system and method for remote monitoring and inventory control of a cooler.

According to one aspect of example implementations of the present disclosure, a cooler-monitoring system is provided for a cooler including a door configured to open and close to provide access to an interior of the cooler within which stocked items are contained. The cooler-monitoring system may include a door sensor and a computer system coupled to the door sensor. The door sensor may be affixable to or proximate the door of the cooler, and configured to detect one or more instances in which the door is opened or closed. The door sensor or computer system may be configured to maintain a count of a number of the instance(s) in which the door is opened. The computer system, then, may be configured to communicate data indicating the count over a network to a device management server configured to correlate the count to an estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler, and calculate an estimated number of the stocked items remaining within the cooler based on the estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler. The device management server may thereby be configured to provide an indication whether the cooler is in need of being restocked.

In some examples, the cooler-monitoring system may further include a camera coupled to the computer system and configured to capture one or more images of the interior of the cooler and any of the stocked items contained therewithin. In these examples, the computer system may be configured to communicate the image(s) to the device management server configured to communicate the indication and image(s) over the network to one or more client devices.

In some examples, in each of the instance(s) in which the door is opened, the door sensor or computer system may be further configured to maintain a timer of an amount of time after the door is opened until the door is closed. In these examples, the computer system may be configured to generate an alert in an instance in which the timer indicates that the door has been open for more than a preset amount of time.

In some examples, the cooler-monitoring system may further include one or more additional sensors coupled to the computer system and configured to measure one or more conditions of the cooler. In these examples, the computer system may be configured to generate an alert in one or more instances in which the condition(s) reach a preset threshold or are outside a preset range. In this regard, the cooler- monitoring system may include a position sensor configured to determine a position of the cooler, and the computer system may be configured to generate an alert in an instance in which the position of the cooler is outside of a present range from or geo- fence around a preset position of the cooler. The cooler-monitoring system may include a temperature sensor configured to measure a temperature within the interior of the cooler, and the computer system may be configured to generate an alert in an instance in which the temperature within the interior of the cooler increases to a preset temperature, or is outside a preset temperature range. The cooler-monitoring system may include a power sensor configured to measure a supply of power to the cooler, and the computer system may be configured to generate an alert in an instance in which the supply of power to the cooler is unavailable.

In some further examples, the cooler-monitoring system may further include one or more user output interfaces configured to output the alert. Additionally or alternatively, the computer system may be configured to communicate the alert to the device management server including one or more user output interfaces configured to output the alert, or configured to communicate the alert over the network to a client device including one or more user output interfaces configured to output the alert.

Other aspects of example implementations provide a method of monitoring a cooler, and an apparatus for implementation of a device management server. The features, functions and advantages discussed herein may be achieved independently in various example implementations or may be combined in yet other example implementations further details of which may be seen with reference to the following description and drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING(S)

Having thus described the technological field of the present disclosure in general terms, reference will now be made to the accompanying drawings, which are not necessarily drawn to scale, and wherein:

FIG. 1 is an illustration of a system in accordance with an example implementation of the present disclosure;

FIG. 2 is an illustration of a cooler-monitoring subsystem with which a cooler may be equipped, according to some example implementations; FIG. 3 illustrates various operations in a method of monitoring a cooler according to example implementations of the present disclosure; and

FIG. 4 is an illustration of an apparatus that may be configured to operate or otherwise function as one or more subsystems or components of the system of FIG. 1.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

Some implementations of the present disclosure will now be described more fully hereinafter with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which some, but not all implementations of the disclosure are shown. Indeed, various implementations of the disclosure may be embodied in many different forms and should not be construed as limited to the implementations set forth herein; rather, these example

implementations are provided so that this disclosure will be thorough and complete, and will fully convey the scope of the disclosure to those skilled in the art.

Unless otherwise specified, the terms "data," "content," "information" and similar terms may be used interchangeably, according to some example

implementations of the present disclosure, to refer to data capable of being

transmitted, received, operated on and/or stored. The term "network" may refer to a group of interconnected computers or other computing devices. Within a network, these computers or other computing devices may be interconnected directly or indirectly by various means including via one or more switches, routers, gateways, access points or the like.

Further, as described herein, various messages or other communication may be transmitted or otherwise sent from one component or apparatus to another component or apparatus, and various messages/communication may be received by one component or apparatus from another component or apparatus. It should be understood that transmitting a message/communication may include not only transmission of the message/communication, and receiving a message/communication may include not only receipt of the message/communication. That is, transmitting a message/communication may also include preparation of the message/communication for transmission, or otherwise causing transmission of the message/communication, by a transmitting apparatus or various means of the transmitting apparatus. Similarly, receiving a message/communication may also include causing receipt of the message/communication, by a receivmg apparatus or various means of the receiving apparatus. Example implementations of the present disclosure are directed to a system and method of providing stakeholders including manufacturers, distributors, proprietors, clerks and the like with better control and management over an equipped cooler and items contained within it. The system may include retrofit hardware that is attached inside or outside of the physical cooler, and a cloud-based web management portal, and may also include a web-based or mobile application. The system may monitor the temperature of coolers in the field, and generate an alert in instances in which the temperature falls outside a preset range. The system may generate an alert in instances in which the cooler loses power, and may also include a battery backup and the ability communicate and operate in the absence of its primary power source. The system may use one or more forms of positioning (e.g., GPS) to locate coolers in the field, and may generate an alert in instances in which a cooler moves beyond a preset geographic perimeter or geo-fence.

The cooler may include one or more doors for accessing its interior and the items contained within it, and the system may monitor the number or count of door openings (e.g., consumer interactions). The system may then generate an alert for local or remote conveyance in instances in which the count reaches a preset count that may indicate an approximate sell-down of items in the cooler. The system may in some examples also include a camera configured to record image(s) (still or video) of the interior of the cooler including any stocked items contained therewithin, such as on-demand, periodically or after a certain count of door openings, which may indicate that the cooler needs servicing and perhaps restocking with particular inventory. Further, the system may generate an alert in instances in which the cooler's door is left open for greater than a preset amount of time, which may alert appropriate stakeholder(s) to close the door.

FIG. 1 depicts the system 100 according to various example implementations of the present disclosure. The system of one example implementation includes one or more of each of a number of subsystems, components and the like. As shown, for example, the system may include one or more of each of a cooler-monitoring subsystem 102 (individually a cooler-monitoring system), device management server 104 and web-based / mobile client device 106, which may be configured to communicate with one another, either directly or across one or more networks 108.

The network(s) 108 may include one or more wide area networks (WANs) such as the Internet, and may include one or more additional wired and/or wireless networks configured to interwork with the WAN, such as directly or via one or more core network backbones. Examples of suitable wired networks include area networks such as personal area networks (PANs), local area networks (LANs), campus area networks (CANs), and metropolitan area networks (MANs) or the like. Examples of suitable wireless networks include radio access networks, wireless LANs (WLANs), wireless PANs (WPANs) or the like. Generally, a radio access network may refer to any 2nd Generation (2G), 3rd Generation (3G), 4th Generation (4G) or higher generation mobile communication network and their different versions, radio frequency (RF) or any of a number of different wireless networks, as well as to any other wireless radio access network that may be arranged to interwork with such networks.

A cooler 110 may be equipped with the cooler-monitoring subsystem 102 for monitoring the cooler. The cooler may be any of a number of different types of frozen or refrigerated coolers, refrigerators, freezers or the like configured to control the temperature of items contained within it. The cooler may be at a fixed position or in some examples, the cooler may be onboard a vehicle for transport and perhaps distribution. As primarily described herein, the cooler may contain food items or products such as ice cream. But it should be understood that the cooler may be used to control the temperature of any of a number of other items, including non-food items, for which such control may be desirable.

The cooler-monitoring subsystem 102 may operate under direction from or in cooperation with the device management server 104 and/or client device 106 to monitor the equipped cooler 110. To this end, the cooler-monitoring subsystem may include a cooler-monitoring device 112, which may in turn include or be otherwise coupled to (by wire or wirelessly) one or more sensors 114 for monitoring one or more conditions of the equipped cooler. As described below, examples of suitable sensors include a temperature sensor (e.g., thermocouple, thermistors, resistance temperature detector, infrared sensor), door sensor (e.g., magnetic contact switch, optical reflector, physical switch), power sensor, position sensor (e.g., GPS, A-GPS, inertial navigation, Wi-Fi-based positioning, cellular-based positioning, RFID-based positioning), gyroscopic movement sensor, camera (e.g., still image camera, video camera) and the like.

The most effective operation of the cooler 110 typically includes a sustained power source to maintain the temperature control function of the cooler, which may help prevent costly item losses due to spoilage. It also typically includes regular evaluation of the inventory levels as to whether the cooler should be restocked so as to make best profitable use of the cooler. And it typically includes close monitoring of the cooler environment to ensure the unauthorized removal of the cooler can be observed as soon as possible and prevent its loss.

The system 100 of example implementations of the present disclosure therefore provides various monitoring capabilities through the cooler-monitoring subsystem 102 and its sensors 114. In this regard, the cooler-monitoring subsystem may include a temperature sensor to monitor temperature within the interior of the cooler 110, which may enable preventative action to be taken to prevent item loss when the temperature goes out of a normal or preset operating range. The cooler- monitoring subsystem may include a power sensor to monitor power from an external power source that may supply power to the cooler, and may thereby monitor power to the cooler, which may enable preventative action to be taken to prevent item loss due to lack of adequate temperature control. The cooler-monitoring subsystem may include a position sensor to measure or otherwise determine the position of the cooler to confirm that it has been placed at and not moved from a preset position.

The cooler-monitoring subsystem 102 may include a camera mounted above or otherwise in proximity of the cooler 110 to record image(s) of the interior of the cooler including any stocked items contained therewithin, such as on-demand, periodically or after a certain count of door openings. The image(s) may be used for a number of different purposes such as by an inventory replenishment agent to know what items to restock in the cooler. This may reduce the need for "pre-seller" personnel who usually drive from location to location to take cooler inventory.

The cooler-monitoring subsystem 102 may include a door sensor to detect use of the cooler 110 by monitoring how often the cooler doors are opened. This may help ascertain if it is in an active location selling or dispensing its items. It may also be used to estimate when a cooler needs to be restocked and or trigger the camera to capture image(s) so that an agent refilling the cooler may know what items to bring to restock the cooler.

The door sensor may also enable the cooler-monitoring subsystem 102 to detect instances in which door(s) of the cooler 110 are left open for greater than a preset period of time. In these instances, the cooler-monitoring device 112 may generate a visual and/or audible alert, which may alert personnel (e.g., clerk) in the vicinity of the cooler to close the door(s).

FIG. 2 is an illustration of a cooler-monitoring subsystem 200 with which a cooler 202 may be equipped (e.g., installed proximate), which in some examples may correspond to the cooler-monitoring subsystem 102 and cooler 110 of FIG. 1. The cooler is shown including a temperature-controlled interior 204 for containing one or more items, and which may be accessible by one or more sliding doors 206 (two doors being shown). The doors may be designed to open by sliding horizontally across each other to access the interior, from which items may be placed into or retrieved from the interior of the cooler, and may be closed by sliding back across one another to retain adequate temperature in the interior. In another example, doors may be affixed on one edge to the cooler and swing away from the cooler, and/or possibly swing away from one another in instances involving multiple doors.

As also shown, the cooler-monitoring subsystem may include a computer system 208 (including e.g., processor, memory, etc.), which along with various other supporting components shown and described below may be configured to implement the cooler-monitoring device 112 of the cooler-monitoring subsystem 102. The computer system may include a communication interface 210 configured to communicate with a device management server (e.g., device management server 104) and/or client device (e.g., client device 106), such as across one or more networks (e.g., network(s) 108). And through this communication, the cooler-monitoring subsystem may operate under direction from or in cooperation with the device management server and/or client device to monitor the equipped cooler 202.

The computer system 208 may include one or more user input / output (I/O) interfaces 212. These interfaces may include one or more user output interfaces configured to convey information to a user, and may include a display, one or more light-emitting diodes (LEDs), speaker, buzzer, beeper or the like. Additionally or alternatively, the interfaces may include one or more user input interfaces configured to receive information from a user into the computer system, and may include a microphone, keyboard or keypad, one or more keys, buttons or switches, joystick, touch-sensitive surface (separate from or integrated into a touchscreen), or the like.

The computer system 208 may be powered by an external power source 214 (e.g., mains electricity directly or through the cooler 202) or an included battery 216. Or in some examples, the computer system may be powered by the external power source and include the battery as backup for instances in which power from the external power source is unavailable. In this regard, the computer system may be co- located with a power sensor 218 (e.g., sensor 114) configured to monitor the supply of power from to the computer system, and cause the computer system to switch to the battery in instances in which the external power source is unavailable.

In some examples, the external power source 214 may also supply power to the cooler 202. In these examples, the power sensor 218 may likewise monitor the supply of power to the cooler.

In some examples, the computer system 208 may also be co-located with a position sensor 220 (e.g., sensor 114), or the communication interface 210 may have an integrated position sensor. The position sensor may be configured to provide a measurement of or otherwise determine the position of the computer system, and thereby the equipped cooler 202.

In addition to or in lieu of the power sensor 218 and/or position sensor 220, the computer system 208 may be coupled to (by wire or wirelessly) one or more other sensors (e.g., sensors 114). In some examples, the computer system may be coupled to these other sensors via the communication interface 210, or via another

communication interface 222. In some examples, this other communication interface may be more particularly configured to wirelessly communicate in accordance with shorter-range technologies. Examples of suitable shorter-range technologies include WLAN (e.g., IEEE 802.xx), WPAN (e.g., IEEE 802.15, Bluetooth®, low power versions of Bluetooth®, IrDA, UWB, Wibree, Zigbee®), WiMAX, IEEE 802.16, near-field communication technologies, and the like.

These other sensors may include a temperature sensor 224, camera 226 and/or door sensor 228, each of which may be powered by a suitable battery 230 or external power source (e.g., power source 214). Or similar to the computer system 208, in some examples, one or more of the other sensors may be powered by the external power source and include the battery as backup for instances in which power from the external power source is unavailable. In some examples, one or more of these sensors may be configured to detect the amount of expended or remaining charge in their respective batteries, and communicate that amount to the computer system.

The temperature sensor may be located within the interior 204 of the cooler 202. The temperature sensor may be configured to periodically measure the temperature within the interior of the cooler, and communicate the measured temperature to the computer system 208. In some examples, the temperature sensor may be a separate sensor placed in the interior of the cooler. In other examples, the temperature sensor may be built into the interior of the cooler. In yet other examples, the temperature sensor may be built into another sensor located within the cooler such as the door sensor 228.

The camera 226 may be located within or outside of the cooler 202, and may be configured to capture image(s) of the interior 204 of the cooler, including any items located within the interior.

The door sensor 228 may be located on or proximate the door 206 of the cooler 202, and may be configured to detect instances in which the door is open or closed. In the example implementation illustrated in FIG. 2, the door sensor may include a switch element 232 and a sensor element 234. The switch element may be attached to the door, and the sensor element may be located within a detection range of the switch element. The sensor element may then detect whether the switch element is open or closed, which similarly indicates whether the door is open or closed.

In the event the cooler 202 includes a single door 206, either the switch element 232 or sensor element 234 may be attached to the cooler, and the other of the switch element or sensor element may be attached to the door. In other examples in which the cooler includes multiple doors, one or more switch elements may be attached to the doors, and one or more sensor elements may be attached the cooler, in any number of configurations. In any event, however, the door sensor 228 including its switch and sensor elements may be configured to detect instances in which a door is open or closed.

In some examples, the sensor element 234 may be configured to maintain a count of the number of instances in which the door has been opened, and/or a timer of an amount of time after the door is opened until the door is closed. In other examples, the sensor element may be configured to communicate to the computer system 208, data indicating that the door has been opened or closed. In these other examples, then, the computer system may be configured to maintain the count of door openings and/or timer.

The computer system 208 may respond to data from sensors including the position sensor 220, temperature sensor 224, camera 226 and/or door sensor 228 in any of a number of different manners. The computer system may locally store the data for presentation by an appropriate user output interface 212, and/or for communication to the device management server (e.g., device management server 104) and/or client device (e.g., client device 106), which may enable monitoring the cooler and items in its interior 204. Additionally or alternatively, the computer system may generate an alert that may be locally, visually or audibly output by appropriate user output interface(s) in instances in which the data reaches an appropriate preset threshold or falls outside a preset range, either instantaneously or over a preset period of time. Additionally or alternatively, the computer system may communicate the alert to the device management server and/or client device, which may in turn remotely, visually or audibly output the alert by their own user output interface(s). Or the computer system may communicate the alert to the device management server, which may in turn communicate the alert to the client device for output by the client device's user output interface(s).

For example, the computer system 208 may generate an alert in instances in which the position sensor 220 indicates movement of the cooler 202 outside of an acceptable, preset range from or geo-fence around a preset position of the cooler. The computer system may generate an alert in instances in which the amount of expended or remaining charge in batteries of the temperature sensor 224, camera 226 and/or door sensor 228 reaches a preset charge that indicates the batteries require charging or replacing. The computer system may generate an alert in instances in which the measured temperature within the interior 204 (from the temperature sensor) increases to a present temperature, or the measured temperature is outside a preset temperature range. Similarly, the computer system may generate an alert in instances in which the door sensor indicates that the door 206 of the cooler has remained open for more than a preset amount of time (e.g., indicated by the open-door timer), which may indicate a risk of the interior maintaining its desired temperature. Further, in some examples, the computer system may generate an alert in instances in which the power sensor 218 indicates that the supply of power to the cooler is unavailable.

Returning to FIG. 1, the cooler-monitoring device 112 of the cooler- monitoring subsystem 102 may be setup with various settings including operating parameters, presets, thresholds or the like, as well as a frequency with which the sensors 114 report or otherwise communicate their data. Examples of particular settings that may be suitable are described above and below. The cooler-monitoring device may be setup locally, or in some examples remotely via the device

management server 104 or client device 106.

The system 100 may also record and maintain various data from the cooler- monitoring subsystem 102 with which the cooler 110 may be equipped, and may similarly do the same for multiple such subsystems and coolers. This data may be recorded at one or more instances, and may be manually recorded by a user, or extracted in an automated manner from an external system. This data may include data from their sensors, and may also include a history of the positions of the coolers, and alerts generated by respective cooler-monitoring devices 112. More particularly, for example, the device management server 104 may record names or other identifiers of locations (e.g., retail locations) where equipped coolers are located, along with the addresses and perhaps brand identifications of those locations. The device management server may record the coolers' make and/or model, their various unique identifiers (e.g., manufacturer serial numbers, stakeholder asset numbers), their positions (e.g., latitude and longitude), and perhaps their capacity in items that may be contained within them. The device management server may also record ownership of the coolers, and/or route identification of who services them.

The device management server 104 may record unique identifiers (e.g., serial numbers) of the cooler-monitoring subsystems with which respective coolers 110 may be equipped, which sensors 114 the subsystems include, and perhaps where the subsystems connect in to the network 108. The device management server may record users of the system 100 and their respective capabilities and relative security access, the various alert characteristics, thresholds and timing data that may be applied in the event that an alert is received, along with the structure and escalation of who receives the alerts and by what type of message (e.g., email, text message). The device management server may record the number of door openings since its last connection to respective cooler-monitoring subsystems 102. The device management server may also record image reports from the cooler-monitoring subsystems, as well as service routing data. And in some examples, the device management server may record and track alert histories, which may permit classification of alerts as having been addressed (or not) so that an escalation hierarchy may be put in place to raise the priority and scope of any unaddressed alert.

In some examples, the system 100 or one or more of its subsystems or components (e.g., device management server 104, client device 106) may be integrated or otherwise configured to communicate with one or more external data management services. This may facilitate sharing data such as product sales history that may be extracted from manufacturer or distributor external systems, which may in turn enable matching and reporting on sales history, and perhaps relativities between door openings and actual sales to better predict cooler inventory depletion.

In the general case of operation of the system 100 according to some example implementations of the present disclosure, a cooler 110 may be added to the system 100 by first being equipped with a cooler-monitoring subsystem 102. The cooler- monitoring device 112 of the cooler-monitoring subsystem may be identified by a unique network identifier that may be associated with the cooler, and that may be embedded in messages communicated by the cooler-monitoring device. In some examples, the cooler-monitoring device may include a machine-readable identifier (e.g., barcode, RFID tag), or may be otherwise readily identifiable on the cooler itself in instances in which the cooler has been manufactured with an integrated cooler- monitoring subsystem. The cooler may itself also include a machine-readable identifier, and by the use of a mobile device capable of reading the identifiers of the cooler-monitoring device and cooler, the two may be readily paired. And at this time, the cooler may also be paired or confirmed to its position, such as through a position sensor of the cooler-monitoring subsystem.

In instances in which the cooler 110 does not otherwise include a cooler- monitoring subsystem 102, the cooler-monitoring device 112 may be removably attached to the outside of the cooler. In some examples, the sensors 114 of the cooler-monitoring subsystem may be similarly "paired" to the cooler-monitoring device such as by the use of separate unique integral communication identifiers of the sensors. Or particularly in instances in which the sensors are only within range of a single cooler-monitoring device, though, data from the sensors may be deciphered based on the type of data transmitted and without a specific pairing of the sensors to the cooler-monitoring device.

At installation, power may be supplied to the cooler-monitoring subsystem 102 and its cooler-monitoring device 112 and sensors 114. The cooler-monitoring device may perform a self-check and automatically synchronize to the sensors. The cooler monitoring-device may also connect to the network 108 and to the device management server 104. In some examples, these connections may be initiated by input to the cooler-monitoring device whereupon the device management server may configure the cooler-monitoring device for operation. In this regard, the device management server may supply the cooler-monitoring device with various settings including operating parameters, presets, thresholds or the like, as well as a frequency with which the sensors report or otherwise communicate their data.

In some examples, the device management server 104 may also configure the cooler-monitoring device 112 with a maximum time the device may go without communicating with the device management server. The cooler-monitoring device may therefore periodically communicate with the device management server such as to provide the server with its status and informational data from it and the sensors 114. Likewise, the device management server may provide the cooler-monitoring device with new or updated parameters than may be altered from time-to-time.

During operation of the cooler-monitoring subsystem 102, the sensors 114 may periodically communicate appropriate data to the cooler-monitoring device 112, which the cooler-monitoring device may in turn communicate to the device management server 104. In the event that conditions cause the cooler-monitoring device to generate an alert, the cooler-monitoring device may make an event-specific connection to the device-management server to notify the device-management server of the alert. The device-management server may respond in a number of different manners such as by communicating the alert to one or more users so that any appropriate action may be taken.

The device management server 104 may perform a number of actions in response to data from the sensors 114 of the cooler-monitoring subsystem 102. For example, the device management server may process periodic counts of door openings from a door sensor, alone or in combination with image(s) (still or video) from a camera, to provide one or more indications on whether the cooler 110 may be in need of servicing or restocking. In this regard, the device management server may be configured to correlate the count of door openings to an estimated number of stocked items taken from the cooler. The device management server may then calculate an estimated number of stocked items remaining within the cooler based on the estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler, and may thereby provide an indication that the cooler is in need of being restocked.

The count of door openings may be correlated to the estimated number of stocked items taken, and the estimated number of stocked items remaining may be calculated, in any of a number of different manners. In some examples, the device management server 104 may import and analyze actual sales data (e.g., from the manufacture or distributor) from time-to-time to create a ratio of count to actual units sold (taken from the cooler 110) over a period of time. From this, future counts of door openings may be correlated into units sold or otherwise taken from the cooler, and from the units sold and perhaps a capacity of the cooler, an estimated number (absolute or percentage) of remaining units may be calculated.

The device management server 104 may be configured to communicate indication(s) that the cooler 110 may be in need of servicing or restocking, and perhaps also the camera image(s), may be communicated to one or more users. In some examples, the indication(s) and/or image(s) may be communicated to client device(s) 106 of the user(s). The user(s), then, may be able to make servicing or restocking decisions based on the indication(s) and/or image(s). Additionally or alternatively, in some examples, user(s) may manually evaluate the counts of door openings and/or camera data, and through the device management server generate a route service request such as to an external logistical process operated by an appropriate distributor or manufacturer.

FIG. 3 illustrates various operations in a method 300 of monitoring a cooler according to example implementations of the present disclosure, and in which the cooler includes a door configured to open and close to provide access to an interior of the cooler within which stocked items are contained. As shown at block 302, the method may include detecting by a door sensor affixed to or proximate the door of the cooler, one or more instances in which the door is opened or closed. The method may include maintaining a count of a number of the one or more instances in which the door is opened, as shown at block 304. And the method may include communicating data indicating the count over a network to a device management server, as shown in block 306. Here, the device management server may be configured to correlate the count to an estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler, and calculate an estimated number of the stocked items remaining within the cooler based on the estimated number of the stocked items taken from the cooler. The device management server may thereby be configured to provide an indication whether the cooler is in need of being restocked.

The system 100 of example implementations may provide unique management capabilities of coolers 110 that are not otherwise available. Current techniques of servicing coolers at retail locations typically only includes cyclic visits by a route replenishment person, perhaps in conjunction with a sales person visiting ahead to "pre-sell" a location. The system of example implementations through provision of counts of door openings and/or camera data allows for dynamic scheduling of coolers, and thus, allows for greater efficiency in the restocking process. This dynamic scheduling may also reduce the likelihood of sellouts in the case of a sudden increase in demand for items stocked by a cooler, and may prevent wasted visits in the case of a slowdown in demand.

Conventional coolers have never been capable of reporting their internal temperature, and have often suffered power losses or inefficiencies due to a number of factors such as ice buildup or overheating, which may lead to the loss of items for which they provide temperature control. These coolers are also often very mobile and may be physically lost, misplaced or stolen. The system 100 of example

implementations provides the ability to catch these conditions, and a time period for preventative action not seen before. And the system may provide the ability to monitor the position of the cooler, as well as continuous power to the cooler. This may provide a more immediate alert in instances in which a cooler moves from its intended position.

According to example implementations of the present disclosure, the system 100 and its cooler monitoring subsystem 102, device management server 104 and client device 106, as well as their individual components (e.g., cooler-monitoring device 112), may be implemented by various means. Similarly, the example of the cooler monitoring subsystem 200 and its components (e.g., computer system 208), may be implemented by various means according to example implementations.

Means for implementing the systems, subsystems and their respective components may include computer hardware, alone or under direction of one or more computer program code instructions, program instructions or executable computer-readable program code instructions from a computer-readable storage medium.

In one example, one or more apparatuses may be provided that are configured to function as or otherwise implement the systems, subsystems and respective components shown and described herein. In examples involving more than one apparatus, the respective apparatuses may be connected to or otherwise in

communication with one another in a number of different manners, such as directly or indirectly via a wired or wireless network (network 108) and the like. Reference is now made to FIG. 4, which illustrates an apparatus 400 that may be configured to operate or otherwise function as one or more of a cooler-monitoring device 112 (e.g., computer system 208), device management server 104 or client device 106 according to example implementations of the present disclosure.

Generally, an apparatus of exemplary implementations of the present disclosure may comprise, include or be embodied in one or more fixed or portable, hardware-based electronic devices. Particularly in the context of the device management server 104 and client device 106, examples of suitable electronic devices include a smartphone, tablet computer, laptop computer, desktop computer, workstation computer, server computer and the like. The apparatus may include one or more of each of a number of components such as, for example, a processor 402 connected to a memory 404 (e.g., storage device).

The processor 402 is generally any piece of hardware that is capable of processing information such as, for example, data, computer-readable program code, instructions or the like (generally "computer programs," e.g., software, firmware, etc.), and/or other suitable electronic information. More particularly, for example, the processor may be configured to execute computer programs, which may be stored onboard the processor or otherwise stored in the memory 404 (of the same or another apparatus). The processor may be a number of processors, a multi-processor core or some other type of processor, depending on the particular implementation. Further, the processor may be implemented using a number of heterogeneous processor systems in which a main processor is present with one or more secondary processors on a single chip. As another illustrative example, the processor may be a symmetric multi-processor system containing multiple processors of the same type. In yet another example, the processor may be embodied as or otherwise include one or more application-specific integrated circuits (ASICs), field-programmable gate arrays (FPGAs) or the like. Thus, although the processor may be capable of executing a computer program to perform one or more functions, the processor of various examples may be capable of performing one or more functions without the aid of a computer program.

The memory 404 is generally any piece of hardware that is capable of storing information such as, for example, data, computer programs and/or other suitable information either on a temporary basis and/or a permanent basis. The memory may include volatile and/or non-volatile memory, and may be fixed or removable.

Examples of suitable memory include random access memory (RAM), read-only memory (ROM), a hard drive, a flash memory, a thumb drive, a removable computer diskette, an optical disk, a magnetic tape, a solid-state drive or some combination of the above. Optical disks may include compact disk - read only memory (CD-ROM), compact disk - read/write (CD-R/W), DVD, Blu-ray disk or the like. In various instances, the memory may be referred to as a computer-readable storage medium which, as a non-transitory device capable of storing information, may be

distinguishable from computer-readable transmission media such as electronic transitory signals capable of carrying information from one location to another.

Computer-readable medium as described herein may generally refer to a computer- readable storage medium or computer-readable transmission medium.

In addition to the memory 404, the processor 402 may also be connected to one or more interfaces for displaying, transmitting and/or receiving information. The interfaces may include one or more communications interfaces 406 and/or one or more user interfaces. The communications interface may be configured to transmit and/or receive information, such as to and/or from other apparatus(es), network(s) or the like. The communications interface may be configured to transmit and/or receive information by physical (wired) and/or wireless communications links. Examples of suitable communication interfaces include a network interface controller (NIC), wireless NIC (WNIC) or the like.

The user interface(s) may include one or more user output interfaces such as a display 408, speaker, buzzer, beeper or the like; and additionally or alternatively, the user interface(s) may include one or more user input interfaces 410. The display may be configured to present or otherwise display information to a user, suitable examples of which include a liquid crystal display (LCD), light-emitting diode display (LED), plasma display panel (PDP) or the like. In some examples, the display may additionally or alternatively include one or more LEDs. The user input interfaces may be wired or wireless, and may be configured to receive information from a user into the apparatus, such as for processing, storage and/or display. Suitable examples of user input interfaces include a microphone, keyboard or keypad, one or more keys, buttons or switches, joystick, touch-sensitive surface (separate from or integrated into a touchscreen), or the like. The user interfaces may further include one or more interfaces for communicating with peripherals such as printers, scanners, card readers or the like. As indicated above, program code instructions may be stored in memory, and executed by a processor, to implement functions of the systems, subsystems and their respective elements described herein. As will be appreciated, any suitable program code instructions may be loaded onto a computer or other programmable apparatus from a computer-readable storage medium to produce a particular machine, such that the particular machine becomes a means for implementing the functions specified herein. These program code instructions may also be stored in a computer-readable storage medium that can direct a computer, a processor or other programmable apparatus to function in a particular manner to thereby generate a particular machine or particular article of manufacture. The instructions stored in the computer-readable storage medium may produce an article of manufacture, where the article of manufacture becomes a means for implementing functions described herein. The program code instructions may be retrieved from a computer-readable storage medium and loaded into a computer, processor or other programmable apparatus to configure the computer, processor or other programmable apparatus to execute operations to be performed on or by the computer, processor or other programmable apparatus.

Retrieval, loading and execution of the program code instructions may be performed sequentially such that one instruction is retrieved, loaded and executed at a time. In some example implementations, retrieval, loading and/or execution may be performed in parallel such that multiple instructions are retrieved, loaded, and/or executed together. Execution of the program code instructions may produce a computer-implemented process such that the instructions executed by the computer, processor or other programmable apparatus provide operations for implementing functions described herein.

Execution of instructions by a processor, or storage of instructions in a computer-readable storage medium, supports combinations of operations for performing the specified functions. It will also be understood that one or more functions, and combinations of functions, may be implemented by special purpose hardware-based computer systems and/or processors which perform the specified functions, or combinations of special purpose hardware and program code instructions.

Many modifications and other implementations of the disclosure set forth herein will come to mind to one skilled in the art to which these disclosure pertain having the benefit of the teachings presented in the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings. Therefore, it is to be understood that the disclosure are not to be limited to the specific implementations disclosed and that modifications and other implementations are intended to be included within the scope of any appended claims. Moreover, although the foregoing descriptions and the associated drawings describe example implementations in the context of certain example combinations of elements and/or functions, it should be appreciated that different combinations of elements and/or functions may be provided by alternative implementations without departing from the scope of any appended claims. In this regard, for example, different combinations of elements and/or functions than those explicitly described above are also contemplated as may be set forth in some of the appended claims. Although specific terms are employed herein, they are used in a generic and descriptive sense only and not for purposes of limitation.