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METHOD OF AND AN ARRANGEMENT FOR
FORWARDING A CUSTOMER ORDER
This application is a continuation of application Ser. 5 No. 781,895, filed Sept. 30, 1985 now abandoned. ■
This invention relates generally to telecommunications systems and particularly to a method of and an 10 arrangement for forwarding to a vendor data link a customer order received from a requesting customer line.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION 15
Most cable television vendors provide subscribing customers a predetermined number of viewing channels for a basic monthly fee. Such vendors typically also offer customers the opportunity to subscribe to and receive one or more premium channels of movie, sports, 20 and entertainment selections for an additional monthly fee. This additional monthly fee is commonly based on the number of premium channels subscribed to by the customer. Many times the same program selections are transmitted on different premium channels, but at differ- 25 ent times of the day. Thus, by subscribing to a greater number of premium channels, the customer has greater viewing time flexibility.
Cable TV vendors utilizing addressable converter/decoders at the customer's television also offer cus- 30 tomers special program selections on a pay per view basis. These special program selections commonly involve a recent movie release or a live concert or sporting event for which the customer pays an extra individual charge to receive each selection. A customer desir- 35 ing to receive a special program selection telephones the cable TV vendor to order the desired selection. The vendor takes the order, charges the customer a fee for the selection, and addresses the customer's converter/decoder to enable the customer to receive the selec- 40 tion at a designated viewing time. Vendors can manually take customer telephone orders or utilize an automatic pay per view (PPV) order taking arrangement.
In one prior art automatic PPV order taking arrangement, disclosed in Cable and Telcos: From Confrontation 45 to Derente, Report No. 83-1, The Yankee Group, Boston, Mass., June, 1983, pages 163-167, a "black box" is connected to an automatic number identification (ANI) type trunk at a telecommunications switching system office to receive the order from the customer and the 50 identity of the requesting customer line from the office ANI system. The "black box" sends the customer order and the identification of the requesting customer line to the vendor's data processing equipment over a dedicated data channel. 55
It is anticipated that 75% of the PPV order requests are received in the last half hour before a scheduled event starts. Manual order taking is too slow and would be very expensive, if not impossible, to receive and process a large number of order requests in this peak 60 demand period. The automatic "black box" is much faster than the manual order-taking, but has several drawbacks. First, the telephone company or vendor must purchase and maintain a sufficient number of complicated "black boxes" along with one or more dedi- 65 cated data channels to handle peak demands. Second, the cable vendor must pay for the plurality of long-distance ANI type trunks connected to the "black boxes".
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The foregoing problems are solved and a technical advance is achieved by a novel order entry arrangement illustratively integrated into a central processor of a telephone switching system and advantageously without the use of multiple individual "black boxes" and plural ANI type trunks in a telephone switching system office. The arrangement includes a receiver, such as a customer signal receiver of the telephone office, for receiving customer signals including a customer order from a requesting customer line. The processor of the arrangement is equipped to collect customer order data from the receiver and to derive the identity of the requesting customer line. The processor thereafter formulates the order and requesting line identity for transmission over a vendor data link to enable the vendor to act on the customer order.
In the illustrative embodiment of the invention, a central processor of a program-controlled switching system controls the establishment of call connections through the system switching network and, advantageously, in response to a customer entered order entry request code, utilizes an input/output processor to send to a designated vendor data link a customer order dialed or keyed into the system. The order is received by the switching system with a customer signal receiver which commonly serves both dial pulse and dual-tone multifrequency signaling. In response to the order entry code from the receiver, the central processor abandons normal call processing, and collects order information including the desired vendor, and derives requesting customer line identification. The central processor then activates the input/output processor for sending the collected order information and the identity of the requesting customer line over a data link to the desired vendor's processing equipment. A call store memory of the telephone system maintains line translations information for the identity of customers served by the switching system. A call store memory order entry table maintains the identity of the data link to a desired vendor that is accessed with the order entry code and any customer entered vendor code. This order entry table information is required to identify the data link to a desired vendor particularly when a number of different vendors provide the same type of service. After the customer order is received from the requesting customer line, an announcement system illustratively returns an order confirmation signal to the requesting customer line.
Without any action on the part of the customer, the identity of the requesting customer line is forwarded over the vendor data link along with the customer order to identify the requesting customer line to the vendor processing equipment. Optional customer identification may also be entered when required by the vendor for billing and order security purposes, but is not required for the operation of the order entry arrangement.
When different vendors provide the same type of service, a customer identifies a desired vendor by entering a vendor code in conjunction with the order entry request code or the order information. The processor performs a table look-up translation with the vendor code to identify a designated vendor data link to the desired vendor processing equipment.
The method of forwarding a customer order includes collecting at the processor the customer order received from a requesting customer line by a customer signal
receiver. The processor then derives the identity of the requesting line and sends that identity and the received customer order over a designated data link to the desired vendor processing equipment.
A feature of the invention is the checking of the cus- 5 tomer order for customer entered errors by the use of a check-sum algorithm.
Another feature is that the method for forwarding customer orders may be implemented in a switching system without the use of "black boxes" connected to 10 additional ANI type trunks.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING
The invention is more fully understood from the following detailed description when read with refer- 15 ence to the drawing in which:
FIG. 1 depicts the illustrative order entry arrangement;
FIG. 2 depicts the layout of an illustrative temporary call register for the arrangement of FIG. 1; 20
FIG. 3 depicts the layout of an illustrative order entry table for the arrangement of FIG. 1; and
FIG. 4-6 depict an illustrative flow diagram for the arrangement of FIG. 1.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION 25
FIG. 1 depicts an illustrative embodiment of an order entry arrangement 131 for forwarding to a vendor data link a customer entered order received from a requesting telecommunications line. The order entry arrange- 30 ment is integrated into a switching system 101 that serves a plurality of customer telecommunication lines, such as 150 and 151. The order entry arrangement includes a central processor 112 which advantageously controls a switching network comprising line and trunk 35 link networks 110 and 111. The processor also controls the sending of customer entered orders from requesting customer lines via the network and customer signal receivers 114, 115 through processor 112 over respective data communications channels 157, 158; data units 40 123, 132; and data links 154, 161 to vendor equipment 100,122. The central processor also derives the identity of the requesting line from stored translations information and sends the derived line identity along with the customer order to the desired vendor equipment. Cus- 45 tomer lines 150 and 151 are connected to respective telephones 102 and 103 at customer premises 104 and 105, respectively. In this illustrative embodiment, vendor equipment 100 transmits customer ordered cable television program selections to customer televisions 50 106 and 107 via well-known coaxial TV cables 152 and 153 and addressable converters 108 and 109, respectively.
A customer places an order for a desired program selection with a cable TV vendor by entering at his or 55 her telephone an order entry request code and the order to the order entry arrangement. After collecting the order from the requesting customer line, the order entry arrangement returns an announcement signal to the requesting line to confirm the receipt of the order. The 60 order entry arrangement then sends the order and the identity of the requesting line, such as the directory number of the requesting line, to cable TV vendor equipment 100 via dedicated data link 154. Additional customer entered identification that may be required by 65 the vendor for billing and order security purposes is also sent to the vendor equipment along with the order and the identity of the requesting line. In response, the
cable TV vendor equipment transmits the ordered program selection to the requesting customer's television at a designated time and charges the identified customer for the ordered program selection.
Switching system 101 is suitably an electronic program-controlled switching system of the type disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 3,570,008 to R. W. Downing et al. of Mar. 9,1971, and also disclosed in The Bell System Technical Journal, Volume 43, No. 5, Parts 1 and 2, Sept., 1964. An updated central processor suitable for use in this switching system and order entry arrangement is described in The Bell System Technical Journal, Vol. 56, No. 2, Feb., 1977. These cited references may be consulted for a more comprehensive understanding of the construction and operation of an electronic programcontrolled switching system.
Switching system 101 includes line link network 110 and trunk link network 111 under the control of stored program-controlled central processor 112. Line link network 110 provides terminations for customer telephones, such as 102 and 103 via respective communication lines 150 and 151, while trunk link network 111 provides terminations for interoffice trunks, such as 155 via trunk circuit 113. The trunk link network also provides terminations for other well-known service circuits. For example, these service circuits include a plurality of customer signal receivers, such as 114 and 115, for receiving customer entered signals and announcement system 116 for announcing to requesting lines the receipt of customer entered order signals. The line and trunk link networks are connected via wire junctors 156 to permit the interconnection of lines, trunks, and service circuits for establishing communications including call paths and connections through the networks under the control of central processor 112. Junctor circuits, such as 117, complete call paths and connections through line link network 110 and supervise intraoffice calls between telephones.
The majority of the logic, control, storage, supervisory, and translation functions required for the operation of the switching system are performed by central processor 112. In particular, the central processor controls the operation of the networks to establish paths and connections between lines, trunks, and service circuits in a well-known manner. As part of the order entry arrangement, the central processor collects customer entered order signals from the receivers in response to a customer entered order entry request signal and sends to a designated vendor data link the customer order and the identity of the requesting line derived from stored translations information. The central processor includes central control 118, call store 119, program store 120, and input/output processor 121. Call store 119 is a memory for storing well-known translation and routing information in addition to temporary information relating to calls in progress and special services such as collecting and sending customer entered orders received from a requesting customer line. The translation information includes line identification information, such as well-known directory and equipment numbers for each line. Temporary information includes the busy/idle status of circuits and customer lines and the directory numbers of calling and called lines as well as calling lines requesting to place customer entered orders with a customer designated vendor. The call store memory also includes a number of wellknown temporary call registers.