US 20070086445 A1
A utility for enabling real-time, point-to-point communications over computer networks between users having dynamically assigned Internet Protocol addresses includes the ability to identify incoming communications, and, based on the identity of the incoming communication, selectively responding. In one embodiment, an information profile contained within an incoming signal is compared to a plurality of information profiles contained within the personal directory of a user, and if a match occurs, the notification signal associated with the matched profile is generated. In an alternative embodiment, the information profile contained within the incoming communication includes an identifier of a notification signal which is used to select from a number of predefined notification signals resident within the user's private directory.
1. A method of selectively alerting a user of an incoming communication over a computer network comprising the steps of:
A. receiving an information profile identifying the source of the incoming communication; and
B. responding to the incoming communication in accordance with the identity of the source.
2. The method of
B.1generating a notification signal based on the identity of the source.
3. The method of
B.1.1 associating a notification signal with selected of a plurality of information profiles.
4. The method of
B.1.2 comparing the information profile identifying the source with the plurality of information profiles.
5. The method of
B.1.3 generating the notification signal associated with one of the plurality of selected information profiles if said one information profile matches the information profile identifying the source of the incoming communication.
6. The method of
B.1.4 associating at least one of a plurality of notification signals with at least one of the plurality of information profiles.
7. The method of
B.1.1 comparing a notification signal identifier contained in the information profile identifying the source of the incoming communication with a plurality of notification signal identifiers.
8. The method of
B.1.2 generating the notification signal associated with one of the plurality of notification signal identifiers if said one notification signal identifier matches the notification signal identifier contained within the information profile identifying the source.
9. The method of
10. The method of
11. The method of
12. A computer program product for use with a computer system operatively couple to a computer network, the computer program product comprises a computer useable medium having embodied therein program code means comprising:
A. program code means for receiving an incoming communication over the computer network, the incoming communication containing an information profile identifying the source of the incoming communication; and
B. program code means, responsive to the information profile, for selectively notifying a user of the incoming communication in accordance with the identity of the source.
13. The computer program product of
program code means for generating a notification signal based on the identity of the source.
14. The computer program product of
program code means for associating a notification signal with selected of a plurality of information profiles.
15. A computer program product of
program code means for comparing the information profile identifying the source with the plurality of information profiles.
16. The computer program product of
program code means for generating the notification signal associated with one of the selected plurality of information profiles if said one information profile matches the information profile identifying the source of the incoming communication.
17. The computer program product of
program code means for associating at least one of a plurality of notification signals with at least one of the plurality of information profiles.
18. The computer program product of
program codes for comparing a notification signal identifier contained within the information profile identifying the source of the incoming communication with a plurality of notification signal identifiers.
19. The computer program product of
program code means for generating the notification signal associated with one of the plurality of notification signal identifiers if said one notification signal identifier matches the notification signal identifier contained within the information profile identifying the source of the incoming communication.
20. The computer program product of
21. The computer program product of
22. The computer program product of
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/719,639, filed on Sep. 25, 1996, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/533,115 entitled Point-to-Point Internet Protocol, by Glenn W. Hutton, filed Sep. 25, 1995, which claims priority to U.S. provisional patent application 60/025,415 entitled Internet Telephony Apparatus and Method by Mattaway et al., filed Sep. 4, 1996, and U.S. provisional patent application Ser. No. 60/024,251 entitled System and Methods for Point-To-Point Communications Over a Computer Network, by Mattaway et al., filed Aug. 21, 1996. The subject matter of those applications are incorporated herein by reference.
In addition, this application is one of a number of related applications filed on Sep. 25, 1996 and commonly assigned, the subject matters of which are incorporated herein by reference, including the following:
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/719,894, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,185,184, entitled Directory Server For Providing Dynamically Assigned Network Protocol Addresess, by Mattaway et al.;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/721,316, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,009,469, entitled Graphic User Interface For Internet Telephony Application by Mattaway et al.;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/719,554, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,131,121, entitled Point-to-point Computer Network Communication Utility Utilizing Dynamically Assigned Network Protocol Addresses, by Mattaway et al.;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/719,640, now U.S. Pat. No. 6,226,678, entitled Method And Apparatus For Dynamically Defining Data Communication Utilities, by Mattaway et al.;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/719,891, entitled Method And Apparatus For Distribution And Presentation Of Multimedia Data Over A Computer Network, by Mattaway et al.;
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/719,898, entitled Method And Apparatus For Providing Caller Identification Based Out-going Messages In A Computer Telephony Environment, by Mattaway et al.; and
U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/718,911, now abandoned, entitled Method And Apparatus For Providing Caller Identification Based Call Blocking In A Computer Telephony Environment, by Mattaway et al.
The present invention relates, in general, to data processing systems, and more specifically, to a method and apparatus for facilitating communications over a computer networks.
The increased popularity of on-line services such as AMERICA ONLINE™, COMPUSERVE®, and other services such as Internet gateways have spurred applications to provide multimedia, including video and voice clips, to online users. An example of an online voice clip application is VOICE E-MAIL FOR WINCIM and VOICE E-MAIL FOR AMERICA ONLINE™, available from Bonzi Software, as described in “Simple Utilities Send Voice E-Mail Online”, MULTIMEDIA WORLD, VOL. 2, NO. 9, August 1995, p. 52. Using such Voice E-Mail software, a user may create an audio message to be sent to a predetermined E-mail address specified by the user.
Generally, devices interfacing to the Internet and other online services may communicate with each other upon establishing respective device addresses. One type of device address is the Internet Protocol (IP) address, which acts as a pointer to the device associated with the IP address. A typical device may have a Serial Line Internet Protocol or Point-to-Point Protocol (SLIP/PPP) account with a permanent IP address for receiving E-mail, voicemail, and the like over the Internet. E-mail and voicemail is generally intended to convey text, audio, etc., with any routing information such as an IP address and routing headers generally being considered an artifact of the communication, or even gibberish to the recipient.
Devices such as a host computer or server of a company may include multiple modems for connection of users to the Internet, with a temporary IP address allocated to each user. For example, the host computer may have a general IP address “XXX.XXX.XXX,” and each user may be allocated a successive IP address of XXX.XXX.XXX.10, XXX.XXX.XXX.11, XXX.XXX.XXX.12, etc. Such temporary IP addresses may be reassigned or recycled to the users, for example, as each user is successively connected to an outside party. For example, a host computer of a company may support a maximum of 254 IP addresses which are pooled and shared between devices connected to the host computer.
Permanent IP addresses of users and devices accessing the Internet readily support point-to-point communications of voice and video signals over the Internet. For example, real-time video teleconferencing has been implemented using dedicated IP addresses and mechanisms known as reflectors. Due to the dynamic nature of temporary IP addresses of some devices accessing the Internet, point-to-point communications in real-time of voice and video have been generally difficult to attain.
The ability to locate a user having a temporary or dynamically assigned Internet Protocol address has been difficult without the user manually initiating the communication. Accordingly, spontaneous, real-time communications with such users over computer networks have been impractical. Further, it is desirable to identify the source of an incoming communication and notify the user in a selective manner as determined by the identity of the communication source. For example, party or group specific notifications may include generating an audio signal or ringing tone which varies depending on the identity of the incoming call, or, generating a graphic image or activating a haptic sensor, such as a vibrator on a mobile pager, in response to the identity of the user.
Accordingly, a need exists for a way in which to locate computer users having dynamically assigned Internet Protocol addresses so they may be accessible for point-to-point communications over computer networks.
A further need exists for a way in which to identify the source of an incoming communication over a computer network.
An even further need exists for the ability to selectively respond to an incoming communication over a computer network by providing different notification signals to the user based on the source of the incoming communication.
The above deficiencies in the prior art and the previously described needs are fulfilled by the present invention which provides, in one embodiment, a utility for generating and receiving point-to-point communications over a computer network between users having dynamically assigned Internet Protocol addresses. The communication utility includes the ability to identify incoming communications, and, based on the identity of the communication source, selectively responding.
According to one embodiment of the present invention, a computer program product for use with a computer system operatively coupled to a computer network comprises a computer usable medium having program code means for receiving an incoming communication, the incoming communication including an information profile identifying the source, and, program code means for selectively responding to the incoming communication in accordance with the identity of the source of the communication. The program code means further comprises means for comparing the information profile contained within the incoming communication with a plurality of information profiles and generating a notification signal associated with one of the plurality of information profiles if a match occurs. The notification signal may be an audio signal, graphic image, or haptic sensor type signal.
According to another embodiment of the present invention, a method of selectively notifying a user of an incoming communication comprises the steps of receiving an information profile identifying the source of the incoming communication and selectively notifying the user of the incoming communication. The information profile is compared with a plurality of predetermined information profiles and, if a match occurs, a notification signal associated with the matched information profile is generated. In an alternative embodiment, the information profile associated with the incoming communication contains an identifier of a notification signal which is indexed into a plurality of predetermined notification signals, if a match occurs.
The above-described features and advantages of the invention will become more readily apparent and may be better understood by referring to the following detailed description of an illustrative embodiment of the invention, taken in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:
FIGS. 13A-B are schematic block diagrams of the elements comprising the inventive computer network telephony utility of the present invention;
FIGS. 15A-C are schematic block diagrams illustrating the architecture of the global server apparatus of the present invention;
FIGS. 17A-B are schematic diagrams illustrating of the packet transfer sequence in accordance with the communication protocol of the present invention;
Referring now in specific detail to the drawings, with like reference numerals identifying similar or identical elements, as shown in
The first processing unit 12 and the second processing unit 22 are operatively connected to the Internet 24 by communication devices and software known in the art, such as an Internet Service Provider (ISP) or an Internet gateway. The processing units 12, 22 may be operatively interconnected through the Internet 24 to a connection server 26, and may also be operatively connected to a mail server 28 associated with the Internet 24.
The connection server 26 includes a processor 30, a timer 32 for generating time stamps, and a memory such as a database 34 for storing, for example, E-mail and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses of logged-in units. In an exemplary embodiment, the connection server 26 may be a SPARC 5 server or a SPARC 20 server, available from SUN MICROSYSTEMS, INC., Mountain View, Calif., having a central processing unit (CPU) as processor 30, an operating system (OS) such as UNIX, for providing timing operations such as maintaining the timer 32, a hard drive or fixed drive, as well as dynamic random access memory (DRAM) for storing the database 34, and a keyboard and display and/or other input and output devices (not shown in
In an exemplary embodiment, the mail server 28 may be implemented with a Post Office Protocol (POP) Version 3 mail server and the Simple Mail Transfer Protocol (SMTP), including a processor, memory, and stored programs operating in a UNIX environment, or, alternatively, another OS, to process E-mail capabilities between processing units and devices over the Internet 24.
In the illustrative embodiment, the POP protocol is utilized to retrieve E-mail messages from mail server 28 while the SMTP protocol is used to submit E-mail message to Internet 24.
The first processing unit 12 may operate the disclosed point-to-point Internet protocol by a computer program described hereinbelow in conjunction with
The processor 14 receives input commands and data from a first user associated with the first processing unit 12 though the input device 18, which may be an input port connected by a wired, optical, or a wireless connection for electromagnetic transmissions, or alternatively may be transferable storage media, such as floppy disks, magnetic tapes, compact disks, or other storage media including the input data from the first user.
The input device 18 may include a user interface (not shown) having, for example, at least one button actuated by the user to input commands to select from a plurality of operating modes to operate the first processing unit 12. In alternative embodiments, the input device 18 may include a keyboard, a mouse, a touch screen, and/or a data reading device such as a disk drive for receiving the input data from input data files stored in storage media such as a floppy disk or, for example, an 8 mm storage tape. The input device 18 may alternatively include connections to other computer systems to receive the input commands and data therefrom.
The first processing unit 12 may include a visual interface for use in conjunction with the input device 18 and output device 20 similar to those screens illustrated in
In addition, either of the first processing unit 12 and the second processing unit 22 may be implemented in a personal digital assistant (PDA) providing modem and E-mail capabilities and Internet access, with the PDA providing the input/output screens for mouse interactions or for touchscreen activation as shown, for example, in
For clarity of explanation, the illustrative embodiment of the disclosed point-to-point Internet protocol and system 10 is presented as having individual functional blocks, which may include functional blocks labeled as “processor” and “processing unit”. The functions represented by these blocks may be provided through the use of either shared or dedicated hardware, including, but not limited to, hardware capable of executing software. For example, the functions of each of the processors and processing units presented herein may be provided by a shared processor or by a plurality of individual processors. Moreover, the use of the functional blocks with accompanying labels herein is not to be construed to refer exclusively to hardware capable of executing software. Illustrative embodiments may include digital signal processor (DSP) hardware, such as the AT&T DSP16 or DSP32C, read-only memory (ROM) for storing software performing the operations discussed below, and random access memory (RAM) for storing DSP results. Very large scale integration (VLSI) hardware embodiments, as well as custom VLSI circuitry in combination with a general purpose DSP circuit, may also be provided. Any and all of these embodiments may be deemed to fall within the meaning of the labels for the functional blocks as used herein.
The processing units 12, 22 are capable of placing calls and connecting to other processing units connected to the Internet 24, for example, via dialup SLIP/PPP lines. In an exemplary embodiment, each processing unit assigns an unsigned long session number, for example, a 32-bit long sequence in a *.ini file for each call. Each call may be assigned a successive session number in sequence, which may be used by the respective processing unit to associate the call with one of the SLIP/PPP lines, to associate a <ConnectOK> response signal with a <Connect Request> signal, and to allow for multiplexing and demultiplexing of inbound and outbound conversations on conference lines, as explained hereinafter.
For callee (or called) processing units with fixed IP addresses, the caller (or calling) processing unit may open a “socket”, i.e. a file handle or address indicating where data is to be sent, and transmit a <Call> command to establish communication with the callee utilizing, for example, datagram services such as Internet Standard network layering as well as transport layering, which may include a Transport Control Protocol (TCP) or a User Datagram Protocol (UDP) on top of the IP. Typically, a processing unit having a fixed IP address may maintain at least one open socket and a called processing unit waits for a <Call> command to assign the open socket to the incoming signal. If all lines are in use, the callee processing unit sends a BUSY signal or message to the caller processing unit. As shown in
Upon the first user initiating the point-to-point Internet protocol when the first user is logged on to the Internet 24, the first processing unit 12 automatically transmits its associated E-mail address and its dynamically allocated IP address to the connection server 26. The connection server 26 then stores these addresses in the database 34 and time stamps the stored addresses using timer 32. The first user operating the first processing unit 12 is thus established in the database 34 as an active on-line party available for communication using the disclosed point-to-point Internet protocol. Similarly, a second user operating the second processing unit 22, upon connection to the Internet 24 through an Internet service provider, is processed by the connection server 26 to be established in the database 34 as an active on-line party.
The connection server 26 may use the time stamps to update the status of each processing unit; for example, after 2 hours, so that the on-line status information stored in the database 34 is relatively current. Other predetermined time periods, such as a default value of 24 hours, may be configured by a systems operator.
The first user with the first processing unit 12 initiates a call using, for example, a Send command and/or a command to speeddial an NTH stored number, which may be labeled [SND] and [SPD] [N], respectively, by the input device 18 and/or the output device 20, such as shown in
The first processing unit 12 then sends a query, including the E-mail address of the callee, to the connection server 26. The connection server 26 then searches the database 34 to determine whether the callee is logged-in by finding any stored information corresponding to the callee's E-mail address indicating that the callee is active and on-line. If the callee is active and on-line, the connection server 26 then performs the primary point-to-point Internet protocol; i.e. the IP address of the callee is retrieved from the database 34 and sent to the first processing unit 12. The first processing unit 12 may then directly establish the point-to-point Internet communications with the callee using the IP address of the callee.
If the callee is not on-line when the connection server 26 determines the callee's status, the connection server 26 sends an OFF-LINE signal or message to the first processing unit 12. The first processing unit 12 may also display a message such as “Called Party Off-Line” to the first user.
When a user logs off or goes off-line from the Internet 24, the connection server 26 updates the status of the user in the database 34; for example, by removing the user's information, or by flagging the user as being off-line. The connection server 26 may be instructed to update the user's information in the database 34 by an off-line message, such as a data packet, sent automatically from the processing unit of the user prior to being disconnected from the connection server 26. Accordingly, an off-line user is effectively disabled from making and/or receiving point-to-point Internet communications.
As shown in
The following E-mail messages are transmitted to a remote users post office protocol server via simple mail transport protocol using MIME by the event manager, as explained hereinafter.
The following E-mail messages are received from a local WebPhone users POP server via the POP protocol using MIME by the event manager, as explained hereinafter.
As described above, the first processing unit 12 may send the <ConnectReq> message in response to an unsuccessful attempt to perform the primary point-to-point Internet protocol. Alternatively, the first processing unit 12 may send the <ConnectReq> message in response to the first user initiating a SEND command or the like.
After the <ConnectRequest> message via E-mail is sent, the first processing unit 12 opens a socket and waits to detect a response from the second processing unit 22. A timeout timer, such as timer 32, may be set by the first processing unit 12, in a manner known in the art, to wait for a predetermined duration to receive a <ConnectOK> signal. The processor 14 of the first processing unit 12 may cause the output device 20 to output a Ring signal to the user, such as an audible ringing sound, about every 3 seconds. For example, the processor 14 may output a *.wav file, which may be labeled RING.WAV, which is processed by the output device 20 to output an audible ringing sound.
Second processing unit 22 polls mail server 28 at an interval, for example, once a minute, to check for incoming E-mail. Generally, second processing unit 22 checks the messages stored on mail server 28 at regular intervals to wait for and detect incoming E-mail indicating a <CONNECT REQ> message from first processing unit 12.
Typically, for sending E-mail to user's having associated processing units operatively connected to a host computer or server operating an Internet gateway, E-mail for a specific user may be sent over Internet 24 and directed to the permanent IP address of the mail server providing the target user's mail services. The E-mail is transported by a standard protocol, for example, SMTP, and stored into memory (not shown in
The E-mail may subsequently be retrieved by processing unit 22 on behalf of the user with another standard protocol, for example POP 3. The actual IP address utilized by the user's processing unit is immaterial to the retrieval of E-mail, as the mail server 28 can, for example, be polled or queried from any point on the network.
Upon receiving the incoming E-mail signal from the first processing unit 12, the second processing unit 22 may assign or may be assigned a temporary IP address. Therefore, the delivery of the E-mail through the Internet 24 provides the second processing unit 22 with a session number as well as IP addresses of both the first processing unit 12 and the second processing unit 22.
Point-to-point communication may then be established by the processing unit 22 processing the E-mail signal to extract the <ConnectRequest> message, including the IP address of the first processing unit 12 and the session number. The second processing unit 22 may then open a socket and generate a <ConnectOK> response signal, which includes the temporary IP address of the second processing unit 22 as well as the session number of the first processing unit.
The second processing unit 22 sends the <ConnectOK> signal directly over the Internet 24 to the IP address of the first processing unit 12 without processing by the mail server 28, and a timeout timer of the second processing unit 22 may be set to wait and detect a <Call> signal expected from the first processing unit 12.
Real-time point-to-point communication of audio signals over the Internet 24, as well as video and voicemail, may thus be established and supported without requiring permanent IP addresses to be assigned to either of the users or processing units 12, 22. For the duration of the realtime point-to-point link, the relative permanence of the current IP addresses of the processing units 12, 22 is sufficient, whether the current IP addresses were permanent (i.e. predetermined or preassigned) or temporary (i.e. assigned upon initiation of the point-to-point communication).
In the exemplary embodiment, a first user operating the first processing unit 12 is not required to be notified by the first processing unit 12 that an E-mail is being generated and sent to establish the point-to-point link with the second user at the second processing unit 22. Similarly, the second user is not required to be notified by the second processing unit 22 that an E-mail has been received and/or a temporary IP address is associated with the second processing unit 22. The processing units 12, 22 may perform the disclosed point-to-point Internet protocol automatically upon initiation of the point-to-point communication command by the first user without displaying the E-mail interactions to either user. Accordingly, the disclosed point-to-point Internet protocol may be transparent to the users. Alternatively, either of the first and second users may receive, for example, a brief message of “CONNECTION IN PROGRESS” or the like on a display of the respective output device of the processing units 12, 22.
After the initiation of either the primary or the secondary point-to-point Internet protocols described above in conjunction with
Upon receiving the <Call> signal, the second processing unit 22 may then begin a ring sequence, for example, by indicating or annunciating to the second user that an incoming call is being received. For example, the word “CALL” may be displayed on the output device of the second processing unit 22. The second user may then activate the second processing unit 22 to receive the incoming call.
In addition, either user may terminate the point-to-point communication link by, for example, activating a termination command, such as by activating an [END] button or icon on a respective processing unit, causing the respective processing unit to send an <End> signal which causes both processing units to terminate the respective sockets, as well as to perform other cleanup commands and functions known in the art.
As shown in
Other areas of the display screen 36 may include activation areas or icons for actuating commands or entering data. For example, the display screen 36 may include a set of icons 42 arranged in columns and rows including digits 0-9 and commands such as END, SND, HLD, etc. For example, the END and SND commands may be initiated as described above, and the HLD icon 44 may be actuated to place a current line on hold. Such icons may also be configured to substantially simulate a telephone handset or a cellular telephone interface to facilitate ease of use, as well as to simulate function keys of a keyboard. For example, icons labeled L1-L4 may be mapped to function keys F1-F4 on standard PC keyboards, and icons C1-C3 may be mapped to perform as combinations of function keys, such as CTRL-F1, CTRL-F2, and CTRL-F3, respectively. In addition, the icons labeled L1-L4 and C1-C3 may include circular regions which may simulate lamps or light emitting diodes (LEDs) which indicate that the function or element represented by the respective icon is active or being performed.
Icons L1-L4 may represent each of 4 lines available to the caller, and icons C1-C3 may represent conference calls using at least one line to connect, for example, two or more parties in a conference call. The icons L1-L4 and C1-C3 may indicate the activity of each respective line or conference line. For example, as illustrated in
The icons 42 are used in conjunction with the status area 38. For example, using a mouse for input, a line that is in use, as indicated by the lightly colored circle of the icon, may be activated to indicate a party's name by clicking a right mouse button for 5 seconds until another mouse click is actuated or the [ESC] key or icon is actuated. Thus, the user may switch between multiple calls in progress on respective lines.
Using the icons as well as an input device such as a mouse, a user may enter the name or alias or IP address, if known, of a party to be called by either manually entering the name, by using the speeddial feature, or by double clicking on an entry in a directory stored in the memory, such as the memory 16 of the first processing unit 12, where the directory entries may be scrolled using the status area 38 and the down arrow icon 40.
Once a called party is listed in the status area 38 as being active on a line, the user may transfer the called party to another line or a conference line by clicking and dragging the status area 38, which is represented by a reduced icon 46. Dragging the reduced icon 46 to any one of line icons L1-L4 transfers the called party in use to the selected line, and dragging the reduced icon 46 to any one of conference line icons C1-C3 adds the called party to the selected conference call.
Other features may be supported, such as icons 48-52, where icon 48 corresponds to, for example, an ALT-X command to exit the communication facility of a processing unit, and icon 50 corresponds to, for example, an ALT-M command to minimize or maximize the display screen 36 by the output device of the processing unit. Icon 52 corresponds to an OPEN command, which may, for example, correspond to pressing the O key on a keyboard, to expand or contract the display screen 36 to represent the opening and closing of a cellular telephone. An “opened” configuration is shown in
The use of display screens such as those shown in
Alternatively, it is to be understood that one skilled in the art may implement the processing units 12, 22 to have the features of the display screens in
The disclosed secondary point-to-point Internet protocol operates as shown in
The primary and secondary point-to-point Internet protocols previously described enable users to establish real-time direct communication links over the Internet or other computer networks without the need for any interaction with connection server 26, the connection server providing only directory and information related services.
Computer system 1100 includes a central processing unit (CPU) 1105, which may be implemented with a conventional microprocessor. System 1100 further includes a random access memory (RAM) 1110 for temporary storage of information, and a read only memory (ROM) 1115 for permanent storage of information. A memory controller 1120 is provided for controlling RAM 1110. A bus 1130 interconnects the components of computer system 1100. A bus controller 1125 is provided for controlling bus 1130. An interrupt controller 1135 is used for receiving and processing various interrupt signals from the system components.
Mass storage may be provided by diskette 1142, CD ROM 1147, or hard drive 1152. Data and software may be exchanged with computer system 1100 via removable media such as diskette 1142 and CD ROM 1147. Diskette 1142 is insertable into diskette drive 1141 which is, in turn, connected to bus 1130 by a controller 1140. Similarly, CD ROM 1147 is insertable into CD ROM drive 1146 which is, in turn, connected to bus 1130 by controller 1145. Hard disk 1152 is part of a fixed disk drive 1151 which is connected to bus 1130 by controller 1150.
User input to computer system 100 may be provided by a number of devices. For example, a keyboard 1156 and mouse 1157 are connected to bus 1130 by controller 1155. An audio transducer 1196, which may act as both a microphone and a speaker, is connected to bus 1130 by audio controller 1197, as illustrated. It will be obvious to those reasonably skilled in the art that other input devices, such as a pen and/or tablet may be connected to bus 1130 with an appropriate controller and software, as required. DMA controller 1160 is provided for performing direct memory access to RAM 1110. A visual display is generated by video controller 1165 which controls video display 1170. Computer system 1100 also includes a communications adaptor 1190 which allows the system to be interconnected to a network such as a local area network (LAN), a wide area network (WAN), or the Internet, schematically illustrated by transmission medium 1191 and network 1195.
In the illustrative embodiment, computer system 1100 may include an Intel microprocessor such as the 80486DX-33 MHz, or faster, a 14.4 Kb communication modem or faster, and a sound card, as further described with reference to
Operation of computer system 1100 is generally controlled and coordinated by operating system software, such as the OS/2® operating system, available from. International Business Machines Corporation, Boca Raton, Fla., or Windows® DOS-based operating system available from Microsoft Corp., Redmond, Wash. The operating system controls allocation of system resources and performs tasks such as process scheduling, memory management, networking, and I/O services, among other things.
As illustrated in.
In operation, A/D converter 1212 samples the audio signals supplied to it by transducer 1214 and stores the digital samples in buffer 1216. The digital sampling occurs under control of a program typically stored in ROM 1224, or, alternatively, under the control of digital signal processor 1222. The digital samples stored in input buffer 1216 are forwarded periodically, typically when the buffer reaches near capacity, over bus 1210 to bus 1130 of
Digital audio samples from computer system 1100 are also be converted to analog signals by sound card 1200. The digital samples are supplied to bus 1210 and temporarily stored into output buffer 1220. The digital samples are then converted by D/A converter 1218 into an analog signals which are then supplied to audio transducer 1230, i.e., a speaker, or to further amplification and processing devices.
Sound card 1200 contemplated for use with the present invention may be implemented with any number of Windows compliant sound cards, such as the Sound Blaster sound card, commercially available from Creative Technologies Ltd., Singapore. Such Window compliant sound cards have a Windows compliant software interface allowing a standardized mechanism for software programs to operate the sound card device, such as Winsoc 1.1.
In the exemplary embodiment of the present invention, each of first processing unit 1012 and second processing unit 1022 of
Referring to FIGS. 13A-B, schematic block diagrams of the WebPhone architecture are illustrated. The WebPhone is an end-user software application which enables users to send real-time audio data to other WebPhone users over the Internet or any public or private TCP/IP based computer networks. The WebPhone application and architecture may be designed to run on any number of operating systems or computer architectures. In the illustrative embodiment, the WebPhone application is implemented as a Windows compatible application executable on an IBM PC architecture or a clone thereof.
WebPhone GUI 1310 comprises the visual objects seen on a computer display by the user, as illustrated by the screen capture of
The WebPhone UI 1312 objects maintain the state of the WebPhone GUI and provide feedback to the WebPhone GUI objects from events originating from either the user or the event manager 1314. When WebPhone changes a state that requires user notification, WebPhone UI objects notify associated WebPhone GUI objects to display the appropriate art work to the user. WebPhone UI objects also interface with the database dynamic link library 1318 to maintain the WebPhone database information, e.g. configuration information, phone directory information, etc.
The WebPhone event manager 1314 processes all the events originating from the user, via WebPhone UI 1312, the media engine 1316, and WebPhone API 1326. Event manager 1314 may be implemented as a table-driven state machine that processes the above-identified events and performs the functions necessary to bring the WebPhone from one state to another. For example, event manager 1314 interacts with media engine 1316 to create, control and remove concurrently executing jobs managed by media engine 1316. Event manager 1314 also interfaces with the WebPhone API 1326 to provide communications with other WebPhones and connection servers, as described in more detail hereinafter. WebPhone database 1318 is a dynamic link library of tree-based subroutines that provide fast database access to the WebPhone configuration information, personal phone directory, etc.
WebPhone media engine 1316 manages the allocation of associated resources to provide a multitasking environment and controls the flow of real-time data streams, e.g., conversations, outgoing messages, etc., and non-real-time data streams, e.g., voice mail, graphic images, files, etc., to and from a user network connection. The objects representing tasks are created by event manager 1314, thereby freeing media engine 1316 to manage resource routing. Specifically, the media engine routes data streams from sources such as a microphone, file or network socket, to destinations such as speaker, destination file or other network socket. To perform such routing functions the media engine interfaces with the WebPhone API 1326 to control communication with other processes, and further communicates with audio manager 1324 to communicate with the system input/output apparatus, such as sound card 1200 of
Media engine 1316 further interacts with WebPhone codec 1320 to achieve compression and decompression of audio data streams. Codec 1320 provides coding of digital samples from the sound card 1200 of
The WebPhone API 1326 enables the WebPhone to communicate with other WebPhones, connection and directory assistance servers, Internet gateway servers, credit processing servers, database access servers and other client processes implementing the WebPhone API. As illustrated in
WebPhone Global Server
Having described the architecture of the WebPhone software which enables the first and second processing units to establish point-to-point communication over a network, a discussion of the global connection/information server is appropriate.
In the illustrative embodiment, firewall server 1522 is a single firewall mechanism which protects unauthorized access from network 1530 into global server 1500. Firewall server 1522 may be implemented on a work station, such as a SPARC 5 or SPARC 20 server from Sun MicroSystems, executing a commercially available firewall software application such as Raptor, available from Raptor Systems. Essentially, the firewall server prevents unauthorized access into global server 1500 and thereby prevents destruction of any of the information contained therein by checking the source of requests for information to global server 1500.
Router 1524 translates logical addresses among networked topologies and may be implemented with any number of commercial router devices such as the CISCO model 2501 router executing CISCO 11.0 software, both commercially available from CISCO Systems, Inc., San Jose, Calif.
CSU/DSU 1526 (Channel Send Unit/Data Send Unit) functions as a sophisticated modem, converting network data to high speed serial data for transfer over a T1 or T3 line. Such high speed data is connected to another CSU/DSU, typically at the telephone company over the T1 or T3 line. An apparatus suitable for use in implementing CSU/DSU 1526 in the present invention is the AT&T Paradigm by AT&T Laboratories, Murray Hill, N.J.
Connection server 1512 provides a directory information service to WebPhone client processes currently on-line with respect to the computer network. Connection server 1512 behaves like a virtual machine within global server 1500 and interacts with database 1516 through database server 1518 and with network interface card 1540 through the WebPhone API. The basic function of connection server 1512 is to provide a one-to-one mapping between an identifier of a WebPhone client process, such as a E-mail address, and the current IP address, dynamic or fixed, associated with that WebPhone client process.
As described in further detail hereinafter, when a WebPhone client transmits a <CONNECT REQ> packet to global server 1500, an E-mail address such as “Shane@netspeak.com” is provided to connection server 1512. Connection server 1512 then compares the E-mail address with the values of the records contained in on-line table 1516B and, if a match occurs with one of the records contained therein, transmits the value of the Internet Protocol address associated with that record to the requesting WebPhone client, i.e., a one-to-one matching between E-mail addresses and Internet Protocol addresses.
Information server 1514 provides an interface between requests from WebPhone client processes and database 1516. Information server 1514 includes code written to extract the search criteria from an <INFO REQ> packet and supply the search criteria to the database search engine of database 1516 using the ODBC standard. In particular, referring to
Network interface card 1540 interfaces with connection server 1512, information 1514, and database server 1518 using the WebPhone API definition, as described herein, and the Windows Sockets 1.1 Protocol, or, in a Unix-based operating system, Berkeley Sockets Network API. Network interface card 1514 may comprise, in illustrative embodiment, an Ethernet card capable of transmitting data at rates of 100 Mbps or greater, such cards being commercially available through a number of different vendors.
The connection from CSU/DSU 1526 to ISP 1528 may comprise a T1 connection, i.e., a long-distance, digital, point-to-point communication circuit capable of transmitting a signal at 1.544 Mbps with 24 channels at 64 Kbps. Alternatively, a T3 connection may be used, i.e., a connection is similar to a T1 connection except it is capable of transmitting at 44.746 Mbps per second with up to 28 T1 channels. Other connections may be suitable, depending on specific requirements and availability.
Database 1516 of global server 1500 may be implemented with any of a number of commercially available structured query language (SQL) database engines, such as Oracle 7.x, Informix, or Microsoft SQL server 6.x. The SQL database resides on a RAID 1 and RAID 5 mirrored disk array. As will be explained hereinafter, database 1516 interacts with control server 1512 and information server 1514 through database server 1518. In the illustrative embodiment, database 1516 comprises a Client table 1516A, an On-line table 1516B, a WebBoard table 1516C, a WebBoard configuration table 1516D and a WebBoard Source table 1516E.
Client table 1516A comprises a plurality of records, each of which may have the fields and corresponding data elements as described in Table 1. Each WebPhone user, hereinafter “client,” has a separate record in table 1516A containing the information defining the client's profile of personal information. In Table 1, the “activated,” “paid,” and “published” fields are boolean yes/no fields. The “id” field comprises a unique ID sequence identifying a particular WebPhone client. The “activation date,” “address change date,” and “access date” fields are time references measured in seconds since 00:00 Coordinated Universal Time (UTC), Jan. 1, 1970. The “IPAddr” field represents the Internet protocol address of the WebPhone client and, if unknown, has a default value of 0.0.0.0. The database record containing a WebPhone client's profile, is defined upon first logging-on to global server 1500 and may be updated each time a WebPhone user's profile changes, as explained hereinafter.
The On-line table 1516B provides a dynamic list of those clients from 1516A who are currently On-line, as well as their current Internet protocol address. On-line Table 1516B comprises a plurality of records each of which may have the fields and data types illustrated in Table 2. The record entries of On-line table 1516B are used by connection server 1512 and information server 1514, as explained hereinafter, to provide a directory of those WebPhone client processes currently having on-line status with respect to the computer network.
The WebBoard™ is a virtual multimedia billboard which is transmitted as a series of multimedia data files to WebPhone client processes while the WebPhone application is activated. An extensive description of the WebBoard utility and its operation can be found in copending U.S. patent application Ser. No. 08/719,891, filed Sep. 25, 1996, entitled Method and Apparatus for Distribution of Multimedia Data Over a Computer Network by Mattaway et al., commonly assigned, the subject matter of which is incorporated herein by reference.
A number of tables are associated with the WebBoard functionality including WebBoard table 1516C, a WebBoard configuration table 1516D, and a WebBoard source table 1516E WebBoard table 1516C includes a plurality of records each describing a specific WebBoard and having the field and data types illustrated in Table 3. The “id” field of Table 3 provides a unique identification number for the WebBoard file. The “imageType” field defines the video format of the image such as JPEG,TIF, GIF, etc. The “audio” field defines the nature of the audio file, e.g. a.wav file or a MIDI file, while the “audioType” field defines the codec, if any, used to compress/decompress the audio file. The “hits” field defines the number of times the WebBoard has been selected by WebPhone clients, while the “hits profile” field defines the file name of the file identifying those WebPhone clients generating hits to the subject WebBoard.
The WebBoard configuration table 1516D may have at least one record having the fields and data types illustrated in Table 4. The count field represents the number of WebBoard records currently in the table 1516C.
The WebBoard source table 1516E may comprise a plurality of records each having the fields and data types defined in Table 5. The “URL” field of Table 5 defines a data link in accordance with Uniform Resource Locator protocol to the home page or Web site of the source. In the illustrative embodiment, any entity, including vendors, advertisers, individuals or groups wishing to post information or having a Web site or home page may have a WebBoard displayable through the present invention.
Database server 1518 serves as the interface between database 1516 and connection server 1512 and information server 1514. Specifically, connection server 1512 and information server 1514 communicate with database engine 1518 through application program interfaces embedded in the code implementation of both the connection server and the information server. Database server 1518 communicates with database 1516, in the illustrative embodiment, using the open database connectivity (ODBC) standard, developed by Microsoft Corporation, Redmond, Wash. Database server 1518 functions to supply structured database queries to database 1516 and to supply the results therefrom to connection server 1514 and information server 1512. In the illustrative embodiment, database server 1518 may be implemented as a “virtual machine” executing on global server 1500, or, alternatively, may be implemented on a separate computer system such as a DEC Alpha 4100 Workstation executing DEC Unix operating system, both available from Digital Equipment Corporation, Maynard, Mass. Database server 1518 communicates with network interface card 1518 using the WebPhone Application Program Interface described herein.
Global Server Network
In the illustrative embodiment, global server 1500 is implemented as a single server apparatus on which a plurality of “virtual machines” execute simultaneously. However, it will be obvious to those reasonably skilled in the art that a plurality of separate servers, one dedicated to each of connection server 1512, information server 1514, and database server 1518 may be interconnected to database 1516 and to each other using a local area network, to form a composite “virtual” global server, as illustrated by
It is further contemplated within the present invention that more than one global server 1500 may be utilized, as illustrated by
Further, in an implementation with multiple global servers, if the initially contacted global server is unable to accommodate a WebPhone client request, or, is not geographically convenient, the global server can provide the network address of another global server capable of servicing the WebPhone client's request or which is logically more convenient. This process may occur during the initial log-in of the WebPhone client process, as described with references to messages 1-5 of
As previously described, if none of the global servers are available, the WebPhone application can rely on the secondary Internet Protocol technique in which a WebPhone client process sends its current dynamically assigned Internet Protocol address to a prospective WebPhone callee through an E-mail message, as described herein.
Prior to describing the interaction of the connection server 1512 and information server 1514 with WebPhone client processes, a description of the WebPhone protocol by which the WebPhone client processes and the global server 1500 communicate is appropriate. Tables 6-7 below illustrate the packet definitions of the packets comprising the WebPhone protocol (WPP) including the packet type, the direction and the data elements comprising each packet. In Tables 6-7 the symbol “→” indicates a packet transmitted by a WebPhone client process, while the “←” symbol indicates a packet transmitted by the global server. Tables 8-9 define the data elements described in Tables 6-7. In Tables 6-9, the terms “ULONG” and “UNSIGNED LONG” designate an unsigned long integer value, i.e., 32-bit integer value. Similarly, the terms “USHORT” and “UNSIGNED SHORT” designate an unsigned short integer value, i.e., 16-bit integer value. The term “CHAR” designates a single character, typically assuming a binary value of either 1 or 0. The term “VARCHAR(X)”, where X is an integer, value symbolizes a variable length character string, with the number of characters indicated with the integer value. The term “UNSIGNED CHAR” designates an 8-bit character code, i.e., no sign bit. Finally, the term “variable” indicates a variable length data field.
In the event WebPhone 1536 had previously registered with global server 1500, only messages 1 and 5 are required to establish WebPhone 1536 as being on-line. If WebPhone 1536 had new user information to supply to global server 1500, then packet sequence illustrated by messages 3 and 4 would occur.
Although the packet sequence illustrated by messages 1-5 is described with reference to WebPhone 1536, WebPhone 1538 interacts in a similar manner with global server 1500 to establish on-line status. No further interaction occurs between the respective WebPhone client processes and the global server unless the WebPhones require directory or search assistance about a prospective callee.
In one calling scenario, a WebPhone user knows the E-mail address of anothe. WebPhone user to which he/she wishes to establish a point-to-point communication, however, the current dynamically assigned Internet protocol address of the callee is unknown to the caller. In this scenario, the user of WebPhone 1536 requests assistance from global server 1500 to obtain the current dynamically assigned Internet Protocol address of the prospective callee WebPhone. First, the user of WebPhone 1536 specifies the callee by entering all or part of the callee party's name or alias in the party name field area of the graphic user interface. If the party is not in the WebPhone user's local directory, the IP address or E-mail address of the callee WebPhone may be entered into the number field area of the graphic user interface, followed by activation of the send button or icon on the graphic user interface. As a result, WebPhone 1536 opens a socket to global server 1500 and transmits a <CONNECT REQ> packet having the format described in Table 6. Connection server 1512 of global server 1500 utilizes the value of the E-mail address specified in the <CONNECT REQ> packet to perform a one-to-one mapping in the on-line table 1516B to determine the current Internet Protocol address of the indicated callee, as illustrated by the flowchart of
If the current Internet Protocol address of the callee was returned from global server 1500, the packet transmission sequence illustrated between WebPhones 1536 and 1538 of
Alternatively, callee WebPhone 1538 may return a <BUSY> packet, as illustrated by message 9B of
A further possible response from callee WebPhone 1538 is to issue an <ANSWER MACH> packet, as illustrated by message 9C of
The preferred response by callee WebPhone 1538 is to transmit a call acknowledge <CALL ACK> packet, as illustrated by message 9D of
Following transmission of <CALL ACK> packet by callee WebPhone 1538, the callee WebPhone further transmits an <ANSWER> packet to caller WebPhone 1536, as illustrated by message 10 of
Following either transmission or receipt of an <END> packet by the caller WebPhone, the socket opened by the caller WebPhone to the callee WebPhone over which real-time audio communication occurred is closed. Similarly, the previously opened socket over which control information was transmitted between the callee and caller WebPhones is likewise closed.
Once the user receives the information contained within the <INFO> packets satisfying the search criteria, the user may store such information in his/her personal WebPhone directory by dragging and dropping the information from the annunciator area to the direction dialog box using the WebPhone GUI.
The methods and apparatus described herein provide computer users with a powerful protocol in which to directly establish real-time, point-to-point communications over computer networks directly without server required linking. The a directory server assists in furnishing the current dynamically assigned internet protocol address of other similarly equipped computer users or information about such users.
Caller Identification Based Responses
In accordance with one aspect of the present invention, the WebPhone application may respond in a manner unique to the party calling the WebPhone user. Specifically, a <CALL> packet transmitted from WebPhone 1536 contains an information profile useful in identifying the caller. The profile includes all the information illustrated in the userInfo field illustrated in Table 8. The WebPhone application is designed to extract the userInfo information for caller identification purposes. This functionality is achieved by comparing the information profile of the caller against one or more previously defined information profiles resident within the personal directory of the WebPhone callee. Table 11 illustrates the content of an exemplary information profile in a WebPhone users personal directory. As illustrated, the information profile includes all of the information contained within the userInfo field of a <CALL> packet. In addition, each information profile within the personal directory includes a Status field, an Action field, a File Name field, and a File Type field, all of which are user definable. The Status field may be implemented with an unsigned long integer and may comprise a bit pattern defining the status of the WebPhone application, i.e., whether or not a specific function such as Do Not Disturb or Answer Machine is activated. The Action field may also be implemented with an unsigned long integer and defines the desired responsive action, typically implemented with a code, to the status of the WebPhone application. For example, if the Status field indicates that the Answering Machine is on, the Action field may indicate that if the relevant information profile as matched, the answering machine should respond by playing an audio file indicated in the File Name field. The File Name field is a descriptor of a file and may be implemented with a variable length character field. The File Type field is similar to that illustrated in Table 9 and defines the nature of the file defined in the File Name field, for example, data, e-mail, text or binary type data. In addition, the fileType field may further define, with a subfield portion thereof, specific data types. In the case of a binary field, the subfield may further designate a.wav file, indicating an audio file, or a.bmp file, indicating a bit map file.
The above-described utility may be used to generate any type of caller identification based specific response activities such as group or party specific outgoing messages, group or party specific audio and/or video announcements of incoming calls, group or party specific call acceptance/blocking, call forwarding automatic application execution, etc.
The previously described protocol, personal information directory structure, and described process provide a powerful mechanism in which to personally customize the response of a communications utility application depending on the source generating an incoming communication over a computer network. Specific examples of how this functionality may be utilized to generate caller identification based outgoing messages, priority notifications, and acceptance/rejection of calls are described hereinafter.
Caller Identification Based Out-Going Messages
Whether a calling WebPhone knows the Internet Protocol address of the callee WebPhone, as in the case of a fixed Internet Protocol address, or obtains the Internet Protocol address from global server 1500, as previously described, the calling sequence to establish a call is similar. WebPhone 1536 opens a socket to WebPhone 1538. Next, WebPhone 1536 transmits to WebPhone 1538 a <CALL> packet as illustrated by message 8 of
Following receipt of the <OGM END> packet callee WebPhone 1538 may further transmit a <ANS FULL> packet indicating that the answering machine portion of WebPhone 1538 is full and incapable of receiving further audio voicemail messages, as illustrated by message 5 of
The above-described communications protocol enables WebPhone processes to exchange both prerecorded outgoing messages and receive responsive voicemail messages when a WebPhone user has selected his WebPhone be routed to the answering machine functionality contain therein.
In accordance with one aspect of the invention, the outgoing message from the callee WebPhone may be specifically selected or tailored to individual caller WebPhones for either party specific or group specific outgoing messages. The WebPhone will utilize the value of a specific outgoing message file associated with the information profile and the appropriate response file in the personal directory to determine what outgoing message should be transmitted back to the caller WebPhone. For example, a WebPhone user may have recorded a generic message stating that the user is currently unavailable such message serving as the default outgoing message which will be received by the general calling public. However, for specific callers, such as business colleagues or loved ones, the user may specify an individually tailored outgoing message containing personal and/or private information. Using the personal information directory and process described in
The media player functionality contained within the WebPhone apparatus which is used to record specific outgoing messages is commercially available within the WebPhone application itself, from NetSpeak Corporation, Boca Raton, Fla. Accordingly, a description of either the graphic user interface or the underlying functionality utilized to record specific outgoing messages will not be described hereinafter.
As described previously, with reference to
In accordance with another aspect of the invention, the previously described protocol and information directory may be utilized to customize audio and or graphic announcements of incoming calls. Specifically, when a <CALL> packet is received the user information contained therein is compared with the information profiles contained in the WebPhone personal information directory. If the userInfo in the packet matches one of the information profiles, and the state of one of the Response files matches the current state of the WebPhone architecture, the appropriate activity may be executed such as generating a special audio wave, such as the callers voice, and displaying a bit map of the callers image, as previously described. Any number unique audio waves may be recorded or graphic images displayed, including but not limited to execution of MIDI files or software or motion video files, to announce an incoming call.
In an alternate embodiment, the invention may be implemented as a computer program product for use with a computer system. Such implementation may comprise a series of computer instructions either fixed on a tangible medium, such as a computer readable media, e.g. diskette 1142, CD-ROM 1147, ROM 1115, or fixed disk 1152 of
Although various exemplary embodiments of the invention have been disclosed, it will be apparent to those skill in the art that various changes and modifications can be made which will achieve some of the advantages of the invention without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention. These and other obvious modifications are intended to be covered by the appended claims.