METHOD AND APPARATUS FOR
PORTABLE STORAGE AND USE OF DATA
TRANSMITTED BY TELEVISION SIGNAL
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 5
1. Field of the Invention
The present invention relates generally to storage of data provided as a nonprogram portion of television transmission signals. In particular, the invention provides a system for 10 decoding data included in the vertical blanking interval of a television transmission signal and a portable data coupon for storage of selected information from the data received by the system for future use.
2. Prior Art 15 Television broadcast signals provide significant windows
in the signal for insertion of data in addition to the required program signals for video and audio reception. The vertical blanking interval (VBI) of the television transmission signal has been employed in the past for data to provide closed 20 captioning for the hearing impaired.
Decoders for data provided in the VBI are well known in the art and standards are being developed for data formats to usefully employ the VBI for transmission of additional data. 25 Typical uses of VBI data to date have been similar to closed captioning wherein data received in the VBI is decoded and provided as a separate video signal for printing of information to the television screen for viewing by the user. Capability of prior art systems to decode, store and usefully 3Q employ data which can be provided in the VBI has been extremely limited.
Exemplary of data which may be provided in the VBI are channel specific program information such as short term upcoming program schedules and program related informa- 35 tion such as statistics of baseball players during a baseball game, recipes provided during a cooking lesson, problem assignments and answers after an educational program and other related information displayed on the screen relevant to the program being viewed. The majority of this type of 40 information may be displayed or is desirable to be displayed concurrently with existing video programming. Consequently, systems for decoding and presentation of the desired information rely on essentially identical technology to the closed caption systems previously described. 45
Significant additional information may be disseminated through the use of VBI signaling, however, practical systems for storage and use of the data to be provided are not presently available. Commercial information such as supplemental telephone number information, identification of local 50 dealers and supplemental product/price information in addition to the video and audio presentation of a common television commercial are desirable. For greatest benefit this information should be available subsequent to the presentation of the video/audio commercial and should be stored 55 for subsequent access and/or use. Merely overwriting the existing video of a commercial with additional information presented in the VBI produces no more favorable result for the advertiser than the materials in the commercial itself. Such information conveyed on video is fleeting and most 60 viewers are not disposed to take any action while actually viewing a commercial. Transmission of data on the VBI which can be captured and displayed subsequently on the screen at the command of the user extends the usefulness of the real time broadcast adding "virtual time" in which 65 potential customers may review important sales related information at their leisure.
As a portion of the concept of providing commercial information, discount information for sales or services may be provided. At the present time discounts are typically provided in the form of coupons distributed to consumers in print form such as newspapers, magazines, store dispensers and so on. The coupon is removed from its source by the consumer and brought to the store for redemption. Most coupons presently employ a UPC code number in the form of a bar code to allow easy confirmation of product, discount value, expiration date and other information for comparison with the goods actually purchased by the consumer to avoid coupon fraud.
The availability of the transmission medium for "coupon" information in the VBI of television transmission signals opens a new channel for both the advertiser and consumer in the field of commercial communications. The present invention provides a method and system whereby such commercial information may be obtained, stored and used conveniently to obtain the greatest benefit from the presentation medium.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention provides an apparatus for receiving, storing and using commercial or other data provided by transmission during the VBI of a television broadcast signal. A controller which is connected to receive television transmission signals incorporates a VBI decoder for extracting encoded data from the vertical blanking interval of the television transmission signal. A retransmitting device is provided by the controller for sending the VBI data which is received to a portable data coupon. The portable data coupon incorporates a receiver for the retransmitted encoded data and a storage device for the received data. The data coupon includes a display for displaying data present in the storage device which is routed through an internal decoder to provide an alphanumeric read out. The coupon further includes a transmitting device for selectively transmitting portions of the encoded data to a receiving apparatus for use.
A memory included in the controller provides additional flexibility for receiving the encoded data from the VBI decoder and subsequently transmitting the data to the portable data coupon. A multiplexer in the controller determines selection of memory storage or immediate retransmission.
A memory equipped controller also includes a receiver which is employed to receive data transmitted by the portable data coupon for storage in the controller memory. In this embodiment the controller acts as the receiving apparatus for the data transmitted from the portable data coupon.
VBI data may provide differing information to the controller which is applicable to multiple uses. The VBI decoder of the controller incorporates the capability for decoding multiple categories of encoded data. A microprocessor or other programmable logic controller segregates the categories of data and a data formatter connected to the retransmission system formats the data corresponding to its category. Additionally, control signals generated by the controller are formatted for segregation from VBI data. The receiver in the portable data coupon discriminates between the formatted data categories to allow storing of only desired data in the portable data coupon or segregation of the data based on data category.
Clocks or other time keeping means are provided in the portable data coupon and the controller for time marking of data and comparison of time marked data with current time and date. Transmitted data may also incorporate time information which is employed for updating of the clocks in the controller and portable data coupon.
Data stored in the portable data coupon is selectively deleted manually or automatically after transmission from the data coupon for an end use. As exemplified by the use of 5 the portable data coupon for merchandise or service discounts, transmission of the stored data relating to the discount equivalent to the redemption of a paper coupon would result in automatic deletion of that data from the memory of the portable data coupon thereby precluding reuse of the 10 discount.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
The present invention will be more clearly understood 15 with reference to the following drawings and detailed specification:
FIG. 1A shows in schematic form the electronic data coupon with display controls and various interface devices in combination with a controller having communications 20 interfaces for the portable data coupon;
FIG. IB provides a representation of the display of the portable data coupon wherein the display mode shows a UPC bar code format for use with a laser scanner;
FIG. 1C is a partial schematic representation of a second 25 embodiment of the portable data coupon employing a alphanumeric key pad for data input;
FIG. 2 is a schematic block diagram of the operational elements of the portable data coupon; 3Q
FIG. 3 is a schematic block diagram of the controller for the vertical blanking interval data application system;
FIG. 4 is a schematic block diagram for a redemption system for electronic coupons provided as stored data for the portable data coupon; and 35
FIG. 5 is a pictorial view of the portable data coupon stored in a holder for receiving transmitted data.
FIG. 6 is a block diagram schematic of an embodiment of the portable data coupon for storage of a picture image allowing use as an electronic ID card.
Referring to FIG. 1A, a portable data coupon 10 is shown to provide practical secondary use of data transmitted in the 45 vertical blanking interval of television transmission signals. VBI data is decoded from the television transmission signal by controller 12 which then transmits the data to the portable electronic coupon. In the embodiment shown in the drawings, two transmission methods are available. An IR emitter 50 14 which provides a wide band infrared signal which is received by an IR detector 16 on the portable data coupon allows "remote" communication with the portable data coupon. Alternatively, a serial interface may be employed with a first moiety of a connector 18 in the controller 55 receiving a mating second moiety of the connector 20 present on the portable data coupon. Transmission of the data employing the IR emitter/detector combination allows placement of the portable data coupon at any desired location where the broad band infrared radiation from the emitter 50 can be received. The serial interface requires direct connection of the portable data coupon to the controller unit.
The portable data coupon includes a display 22 on which data received and stored in the portable data coupon may be shown to the user. Controls for operation of the portable data 65 coupon including a "read" key 24 for calling data to the display, a "cancel" key 26 for deleting data, a "save" key 28
for protecting stored data as will be discussed subsequently, and a "send" key 30 for initiating transmission of data stored in the portable data coupon. An IR emitter 32 is provided for transmitting data stored in the portable data coupon to a receiving apparatus responsive to the "send" key. Alternatively, data may be sent to a receiving apparatus using the serial interface previously described for receiving data.
In the embodiment shown in the drawings the controller also includes an IR detector 34 for receiving data transmitted by the portable data coupon in various applications to be described in greater detail subsequently.
The structure of the operating components of the portable data coupon are best seen in FIG. 2. Encoded data transmitted by the controller is received through the IR detector or serial port connector and provided to a microprocessor. The microprocessor stores the data in a storage device such as a random access memory (RAM) 36 for the embodiment shown in the drawings. Data manipulation in the portable data coupon is provided by the microprocessor responsive to the controls previously described which are generally described in FIG. 2 as controls 38. In response to the user depressing the read key, the microprocessor will retrieve the encoded data from a presently addressed memory location in the RAM and decode the data for output through a driver 40 to the display. In the embodiment shown in the drawings a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) is provided with multiple alphanumeric character capability.
Depressing the cancel key on the portable data coupon causes the microprocessor to delete the data in the memory location corresponding to the data on the display while depressing the send key will result in transmission of the data in the memory location corresponding to the displayed data through the IR emitter or serial port connector.
In the embodiment shown in the drawings data received by the portable data coupon is placed in a temporary storage buffer of the RAM. This temporary storage comprises a predetermined number of storage locations addressed by the microprocessor. When the temporary storage buffer is full additional data received by the portable data coupon will be written into the temporary buffer by the microprocessor over writing the oldest data in the buffer. A circular address pointer system for first in, first out storage in the temporary buffer or similar addressing technique is employed by the microprocessor. Data which the user desires to retain is written from the temporary storage buffer to a protected buffer by depressing the save key on the coupon. In response to the save key the microprocessor will protect the data in the temporary storage buffer corresponding to the data on the display by transferring the data to a protected or permanent storage buffer in the RAM or alternatively setting a protect flag on the storage location to prevent over-writing of the data.
The portable data coupon incorporates a clock 42 for timekeeping purposes to provide current time and date and for time flagging of received data by the microprocessor during storage. Encoded data received by the portable data coupon can include time information (station time data) decoded by the microprocessor for updating the internal clock.
The microprocessor incorporates within the data handling capability a sorting function for the data received to allow data of different formats to be employed by the portable data coupon. Transmitted timekeeping data and data received by the clock are exemplary of these data categories. Additional categories for various applications of the portable data coupon will be described in greater detail subsequently.