Method to provide ad hoc and password protected digital and voice networks

The authors of the patent

G06F3/0482 - Interaction techniques based on graphical user interfaces [GUI] based on specific properties of the displayed interaction object or a metaphor-based environment, e.g. interaction with desktop elements like windows or icons, or assisted by a cursor's changing behaviour or appearance interaction with lists of selectable items, e.g. menus
G06F3/0484 - Interaction techniques based on graphical user interfaces [GUI] for the control of specific functions or operations, e.g. selecting or manipulating an object or an image, setting a parameter value or selecting a range
H04L1 - Arrangements for detecting or preventing errors in the information received
H04M - TELEPHONIC COMMUNICATION
H04M1/2745 - Devices whereby a plurality of signals may be stored simultaneously with provision for storing more than one subscriber number at a time, e.g. using toothed disc using static electronic memories, i.e. memories whose operation does not require relative movement between storage means and a transducer, e.g. chip;
H04M1/725 - Cordless telephones
H04W4/00 - Mobile applicationservices or facilities specially adapted for wireless communication networks
H04W4/02 - Mobile applicationServices making use of the location of users or terminals, e.g. OMA SUPL, OMA MLP or 3GPP LCS
H04W4/021 - Mobile applicationServices making use of the location of users or terminals, e.g. OMA SUPL, OMA MLP or 3GPP LCS based on location controlled areas, e.g. geofencing
H04W4/08 - User group management
H04W4/10 - Push-to-Talk mobile application servicesor Push-on-Call mobile applicationservices
H04W4/023 - Mobile applicationServices making use of the location of users or terminals, e.g. OMA SUPL, OMA MLP or 3GPP LCS using mutual or relative location information between multiple location based services [LBS] targets or of distance thresholds
H04W12/02 - Protecting privacy or anonymity
H04W12/08 - Access security
H04W64/00 - Locating users or terminals or network equipmentfor network management purposes, e.g. mobility management
H04W68/00 - Notification of users, e.g. alerting for incoming communication or change of service
H04W76/00 - Connection management, e.g. connection set-up, manipulation or release
H04W84/18 - Self-organizing networks, e.g. ad-hoc networks or sensor networks

The owners of the patent US9445251:

Advanced Ground Information Systems Inc

 

A method and system includes the ability for individuals to set up an ad hoc digital and voice network easily and rapidly to allow users to coordinate their activities by eliminating the need for pre-entry of data into a web or identifying others by name, phone numbers or email. This method is especially useful for police, fire fighters, military, first responders or other emergency situations for coordinating different organizations at the scene of a disaster to elevate conventional communication problems either up and down the chain of command or cross communication between different emergency units. The method and system provides that the users are only required to enter a specific Server IP address and an ad hoc event name, a password and perhaps the name of the particular unit.

 

 

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS
This application is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/529,978 filed on Oct. 31, 2014, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 14/027,410 filed on Sep. 16, 2013, now U.S. Pat. No. 8,880,042, issued Nov. 4, 2014, which is a continuation of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 13/751,453 filed Jan. 28, 2013, now U.S. Pat. No. 8,538,393 issued Sep. 17, 2013, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 12/761,533 filed on Apr. 16, 2010, now U.S. Pat. No. 8,364,129 issued Jan. 29, 2013, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/615,472 filed on Dec. 22, 2006, now U.S. Pat. No. 8,126,441 issued on Feb. 28, 2012, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 11/308,648 filed Apr. 17, 2006, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,630,724 issued on Dec. 8, 2009, which is a continuation-in-part of U.S. patent application Ser. No. 10/711,490, filed on Sep. 21, 2004, now U.S. Pat. No. 7,031,728 issued on Apr. 18, 2006. All of the preceding applications are incorporated herein by reference in their entirety.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
1. Field of the Invention
A communications method and system using a plurality of cellular phones each having an integrated Personal Digital Assistant (PDA) and Global Positioning System (GPS) receiver for the management of two or more people through the use of a communications network. The method and system provide each user with an integrated handheld cellular/PDA/GPS/phone that has Advanced Communication Software application programs (hereinafter referred to as ACS) and databases used in conjunction with a remote Server that enable a user to quickly establish a communication network of cell phone participants having a common temporary ad hoc network using mobile wireless communication devices.
The invention includes a method and communication system to quickly set up and provide ad hoc, password protected, digital and voice networks to allow a group of people to be able to set up a network easily and rapidly, especially in an emergency situation.
2. Description of Related Art
The purpose of a communications system is to transmit digital messages from a source, located at one point, to user destination(s), located at other point(s) some distance away. A communications system is generally comprised of three basic elements: transmitter, information channel and receiver. One form of communication in recent years is cellular phone telephony. A network of cellular communication systems set up around an area such as the United States allows multiple users to talk to each other, either on individual calls or on group calls. Some cellular phone services enable a cellular phone to engage in conference calls with a small number of users. Furthermore, cellular conference calls can be established through 800 number services. Cellular telephony also now includes systems that include GPS navigation that utilizes satellite navigation. These devices thus unite cellular phone technology with navigation information, computer information transmission and receipt of data.
The method and operation of communication devices used herein are described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,031,728 which is hereby incorporated by reference and U.S. Pat. No. 7,630,724.
Military, first responder, and other public and private emergency groups need to be able to set up ad hoc digital and voice networks easily and rapidly. These private networks may be temporary or longer lasting in nature. The users need to be able to rapidly coordinate their activities eliminating the need for pre-entry of data into a web and or identifying others by name, phone numbers or email addresses so that all intended participants that enter the agreed ad hoc network name and password are both digitally and voice interconnected. When a user or users leave the network, no data concerning the network participants need be retained.
Coordinating different organizations at the scene of a disaster presents several problems as there are voice and digital data (text messages) communications that need to be constantly occurring up and down the chain of command. As an example, communications are required from a police chief to a police captain to a police lieutenant to a police sergeant to a policeman and then back up the same chain of command. Digital data exchange of GPS data or other means provides the location component of the units. Digital chat, text messages, white boards and photo video exchange provide extensive collaboration. However, during a disaster, other first responders such as fire departments must become engaged. While the fire department users may have voice and digital data (text messages) communications up and down their chain of command, these individuals do not have the ability to cross communicate necessarily with police units without a substantial degree of immediate coordination. The method and system in accordance with the present invention described herein discloses how digital communications along with Personal Computer (PC) and PDA devices can be used to quickly establish user specific password protected private ad hoc voice and data networks to enable both data and voice communications up and down their chain of command and simultaneously with different, not pre-known, organizations responding to a disaster. The invention defines a method of accomplishing this by providing all personnel that need to communicate with each other with a PC or PDA which are interconnected to a Server using cellular or other communications.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
Applicant's communication system and method described herein is embodied in the Advanced Communication Software (ACS) application programs developed by applicant and installed in the integrated PDA/GPS cell phones used herein and remote Servers.
A plurality of Internet Protocol (IP) capable PDA/GPS devices each having ACS application programs and databases provides a communication network in conjunction with a remote Server that provides the ability to: a) establish an ad hoc network of devices so that the devices can either broadcast to a group or selectively transmit to each of the other; each PDA/GPS phone starts by requesting access to the Server and identifying a mutually agreed to network name and password and once granted, reports its GPS position and status; the Server then routes the data to all signed on network participants so that each of the devices exchange location, status and other information; (b) force the received information to the recipient's display and enable the recipient to acquire additional information by touching the display screen at a remote phone's location on the PDA display; (c) make calls to or send data to remote phones by touching their display symbols and selecting the appropriate soft switch; (d) layer a sufficient number of soft switches or buttons on the PDA display to perform the above functions without overlaying the map; and (e) allow a polling mode in each cell phone that permits a user to contact other cell phone users that have a common interest or relationship with a password and identifier for communication and to establish quickly a temporary ad hoc network especially in an emergency.
A communication Server acts as a forwarder for IP communications between any combination of cell phone/PDA users and/or PC based users. Network participant location, identity and status messages are sent to the Server by each user. Network participant entered tracks are also sent to the Server. Because this network participant location and track data is of interest to all the network participants, the Server forwards the data received from one participant to all other participants, causing their displays automatically, without any operator action, to display the received information, thus providing the information necessary for all network participants to know the identity, location and status of all other network participants.
The Server also acts as a forwarder of data addressed from one participant to one or more addressed participants, thus permitting the transmission of free text, preformatted messages, photographs, video, Email and Uniform Resource Locator (URL) data from one network participant to other selected network participants.
The above functions can also be accomplished using peer to peer WiFi, WiMax or other peer to peer communications. However, for use with cellular communications and to assure the level of security that cell phone companies require, a centralized static IP routable Server is used.
The IP Server also fills another role of being a database from which data can be requested by network participants (i.e. maps, satellite images, and the like) or can be pushed to network participants (i.e. symbology and soft switch changes, and the like). The Server is used to establish an ad hoc network within certain groups using an ad hoc event name and password.
This invention provides a method and a system establishing an ad hoc password protected digital and voice network that can be temporarily set up or longer lasting in nature. The invention described herein allows users to rapidly coordinate their activities without having to pre-enter data into a web or identify others by name, E mail addresses or phone numbers. Essentially the users that establish the ad hoc and password protected digital and voice networks are required to enter the Server's IP address and an ad hoc event name and a password. In the case of military and first responders, the name of the user's unit may also be used. This action causes the specific PDA or PC of the user to commence reporting directly to the Server's IP address. Once the Server receives the initial IP message from the user's PDA or PC, the server can commence to exchange data with the user's PDA or PC. The initial IP message may also contain additional data such as a license number and, if desired, a phone number manually entered or automatically acquired by the ACS. The IP address of the PDA and PC unit sending the initial IP message is stored by the Server. The Server then responds with a message notifying the user that his PC/PDA is connected to the Server. The user PDA/PC then reports its GPS location and other status information directly to the Server. This information is retained by the Server even when there are no other devices initially communicating with the Server. When the other user's devices sign on to the Server with the same ad hoc event name and password, the Server software then recognizes all the users and stores their IP addresses in the Server. Thus the Server has all the users IP addresses stored and can pass location and status information among the ad hoc network participants even though the network participants have not entered other network participants' names, phone numbers or email addresses. Thus one of the purposes of the invention is to allow an ad hoc network to be formed on a temporary basis in a rapid manner.
When using the PTT feature, the ACS can enable the network participant to: 1. PTT with all that are in the ad hoc digital network, or 2. PTT with select specific network participants, by touching their symbol(s) and then selecting PTT soft switch or 3. Specify a group of the network participants by assigning their symbols or unit names to a list of network participants and then associating the list with a soft switch whose function is to enable the operator to have PTT communications with all in the list.
Since only one person is transmitting on a PTT voice network at any given time, the receiving network participant's ACS can relate the PTT IP address to the IP address of the unit transmitting his identification on the digital ad hoc network. This information can then be used by the other PTT networked participant's ACS to: 1. flash the transmitting unit's name on their PDA/PC screens or 2. if a photograph has been attached to the ad hoc digital network symbol of the PTT transmitting person, to flash that photograph on the receiving unit's PDA/PC display.
It is an object of this invention to enable each participant in the communication network to join other ad hoc network participants to form an ad hoc digital and voice network with other cell phone users rapidly for coordinating member activities.
In accordance with these and other objects which will become apparent hereinafter, the instant invention will now be described with particular reference to the accompanying drawings.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
FIG. 1 shows a front plan view of a cellular phone/PDA/GPS having a touch screen.
FIG. 2 shows the screen IP address entry menu.
FIG. 3 shows ad hoc net names and password screen entry name.
FIG. 4 shows a screen entry identifying user.
FIG. 5 shows a flow chart of the network as users sign on to the network.
FIG. 6 shows a flow chart that depicts how a group commander can command networked PDAs/PCS and radios to load a Push To Talk (PTT) channel.
FIG. 7 shows a flow chart that depicts how networked radio units respond to receipt of the Push-to-Talk (PTT) Commanded Channel.
FIG. 8 shows a PDA screen geographical display that represents the area covered by the network.
FIG. 9 shows a diagram that enables determining location, status, ViOP, PTT, and video communication between radios and cell phones.
FIG. 10 shows a diagram that describes enabling non RFID equipped PDA phones to receive RFID tag data.
PREFERRED EMBODIMENT OF THE INVENTION
A method and communication system that joins a communications network of participants using handheld cell phones having integrated PDA and GPS circuitry with ACS application programs that allow a participant having an ACS equipped cell phone to provide an ad hoc and password protected digital and voice network.
A communication Server acts as a forwarder for IP communications between any combination of cell phone/PDA users and/or PC based user. Network participant location, identity and status messages are sent to the Server by each user. Network participant entered tracks are also sent to the Server. Because this data is of interest to all the network participants, the Server forwards the data received from one participant to all other participants, thus providing the information necessary for all network participants to know the identity, location and status of all other network participants.
The Server allows the set up of the ad hoc network with an ad hoc event name and a password.
The Server also acts as a forwarder of data addressed from one participant to one or more addressed participants, thus permitting the transmission of free text, preformatted messages, photographs, video, email and URL data from one network participant to other selected network participants.
Referring now to the drawings and, in particular, to FIG. 1, a small handheld cellular phone 10 is shown that includes a PDA and a GPS communications device integrated in housing 12 that includes an on/off power switch 19, a microphone 38, and a Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) display 16 that is also a touch screen system. The small area 16a is the navigation bar that depicts the telephone, GPS and other status data and the active software. Each cell phone includes a Central Processing Unit (CPU) and databases that store information useful in the communication network. The CPU also includes a symbol generator for creating touch screen display symbols discussed herein. With the touch screen 16, the screen symbols are entered through GPS inputs or by the operator using a stylus 14 (or operator finger) by manipulatively directing the stylus 14 to literally touch display 16. The soft switches 16d displayed on the display 16 are likewise activated by using a stylus 14 and physically and manipulatively directing the stylus to literally touch display 16. The display x, y coordinates of the touched point are known by a CPU in the PDA section of the communication system in housing 12 that can coordinate various information contained in the PDA relative to the x, y coordinate position on the display 16. Inside housing 12 is contained the conventional cellular phone elements including a modem, a CPU for use with a PDA and associated circuitry connected to speaker 24 and microphone 38. A GPS navigational receiver that receives signals from satellites that can determine the latitude and longitude of the cellular phone housing 12 can be internal or external to the housing 12. Conventional PDA/cellular phones are currently on sale and sold as a unit (or with an external connected GPS) that can be used for cellular telephone calls and sending cellular Short Message Service (SMS) and Transmission Control Protocol (TCP) TCP/IP or other messages using the PDA's display 16 and computer CPU. The GPS system including a receiver in housing 12 is capable of determining the latitude and longitude and through SMS, TCP/IP, WiFi or other digital messaging software, to also transmit this latitude and longitude information of housing 12 to other cellular phones in the communication network via cellular communications, WiFi or radio. The device 10 includes a pair of cellular phone hardware activating buttons 20 to turn the cellular phone on and 22 to turn the cellular phone off. Navigation pad actuator 18 is similar to a joy or force stick in that the actuator 18 manually provides movement commands that can be used by the PDA's software to move a cursor on display 16. Switches 26 and 28 are designed to quickly select an operator specified network software program. Speaker 24 and microphone 38 are used for audio messages. Switch 19 at the top left of device 10 is the power on and power off switch for the entire device.
The heart of the invention lies in the applicant's ACS application programs provided in the device. The ACS programs are activated by clicking on an icon on the display to turn the ACS programs on or off. Mounted within housing 12 as part of the PDA is the display 16 and the CPU. The internal CPU includes databases and software application programs that provide for a geographical map and georeferenced entities that are shown as display portion 16b that includes as part of the display various areas of interest in the particular local map section.
When looking at display 16, the software switches (soft switches) which appear at the very bottom of the display 16d are used to control by touch many of the software driven functions of the cellular phone and PDA. The soft switches are activated through the operator's use of the navigation pad 18, or a small track ball, force stick or similar hardware display cursor pointing device. Alternatively, the operator may choose to activate the software switches by touching the screen with a stylus 14 (or finger) at the switches' 16d locations. When some of the software switches are activated, different software switches appear. The bar display 16d shows the software switches “ZM IN (zoom in),” “ZM OT (zoom out),” “CENT (center)” and “GRAB (pan/grab)” at the bottom of the screen. These software switches enable the operator to perform these functions. The “SWITH (switch)” software switch at the lower right causes a matrix of layered software switches (soft switches) to appear above the bottom row of switches. Through use of the software switches, the operator can also manipulate the geographical map 16b or chart display. When looking at FIG. 1, display symbols depicting permanent geographical locations and buildings are shown. For example, the police station is shown and, when the symbol is touched by the stylus or finger, the latitude and longitude of the symbol's location, as shown in display section 16c, is displayed at the bottom left of the screen. The bottom right side of display 16c is a multifunction inset area that can contain a variety of information including: a) a list of the communication link participants; b) a list of received messages; c) a map, aerial photograph or satellite image with an indication of the zoom and offset location of the main map display, which is indicated by a square that depicts the area actually displayed in the main geographical screen 16b; d) applicable status information; and e) a list of the communication net participants. Each participant user would have a device 10 shown in FIG. 1.
Also shown on the display screen 16, specifically the geographical display 16b, is a pair of different looking symbols 30 and 34, a small triangle and a small square, which are not labeled. These symbols 30 and 34 can represent communication net participants having cellular phones in the displayed geographical area that are part of the overall cellular phone communications net, each participant having the same device 10 used. The latitude and longitude of symbol 30 is associated within a database with a specific cell phone number and, if available, its IP address and email address. The screen display 16b, which is a touch screen, provides x and y coordinates of the screen 16b to the CPU's software from a map in a geographical database. The software has an algorithm that relates the x and y coordinates to latitude and longitude and can access a communications net participant's symbol or a fixed or movable entity's symbol as being the one closest to that point.
In order to initiate a telephone call to the cellular phone user (communication net participant) represented by symbol (triangle) 30 at a specific latitude and longitude display on chart 16b, the operator touches the triangle 30 symbol with the stylus 14. The user then touches a “call” software switch from a matrix of displayed soft switches that would overlay the display area 16c. Immediately, the cellular phone will initiate a cellular telephone call to the cellular phone user at the geographical location shown that represents symbol 30. A second cellular phone user (communication net participant) is represented by symbol 34 which is a small square (but could be any shape or icon) to represent an individual cellular phone device in the display area. The ring 32 around symbol 30 indicates that the symbol 30 has been touched and that a telephone call can be initiated by touching the soft switch that says “call.” When this is done, the telephone call is initiated. Other types of symbolic elements on the display 16 can indicate that a cellular phone call is in effect. Additionally, the operator can touch both symbol 34 and symbol 30 and can activate a conference call between the two cellular phones and users represented by symbols 30 and 34. Again, a symbolic ring around symbol 34 indicates that a call has been initiated.
Equally important, a user can call the police station, or any other specific geographical facility displayed on the map including: buildings, locations of people, vehicles, facilities, restaurants, or the like, whose cellular phone numbers and, if available, Email addresses, IP addresses and their URLs (previously stored in the database) by touching a specific facility location on the map display using the stylus 14 and then touching the cellular phone call switch. As an example, the operator can touch and point to call a restaurant using a soft switch by touching the restaurant location with a stylus and then touching the call soft switch. The cellular phone will then call the restaurant. Thus, using the present invention, each participant can touch and point to call to one or more other net participants symbolically displayed on the map, each of whom has a device as shown in FIG. 1, and can also point to call facilities that had been previously stored in the phone's database. Furthermore, this symbol hooking and soft switch technique can be used to go to a fixed facility's website or to automatically enter the fixed facility's email address in an email.
Each cellular phone/PDA/GPS user device is identified on the map display of the other network participant user's phone devices by a display symbol that is generated on each user phone display to indicate each user's own location and identity. Each symbol is placed at the correct geographical location on the user display and is correlated with the map on the display and is transmitted and automatically displayed on the other network participant's PC and PDA devices. The operator of each cellular phone/PDA/GPS device may also enter one or more other fixed entities (buildings, facilities, restaurants, police stations, etc.) and geo-referenced events such as fires, accidents, etc., into its database. This information can be likewise transmitted to all the other participants on the communications net and automatically displayed. The map, fixed entities, events and cellular phone/PDA/GPS device communication net participants' latitude and longitude information is related to the “x” and “y” location on the touch screen display map by a mathematical correlation algorithm.
When the cellular phone/PDA/GPS device user uses a stylus or finger to touch one or more of the symbols or a location displayed on the cellular phone map display, the system's software causes the status and latitude and longitude information concerning that symbol or location to be displayed. In order to hook a symbol or “track” such as another net participant which represents an entity on the geo-referenced map display, or a fixed geographical entity such as a restaurant, police station or a new entity observed by a cell phone user which is discussed below, the operator touches at or near the location of a geo-referenced symbol appearing on the cellular phone/PDA display that represents a specific track or specific participant or other entity. The hook application software determines that the stylus (or finger) is pointed close to or at the location of the symbol and puts a circle, square or other indication around the symbol indicating that amplification information concerning the symbol is to be displayed. The operator can hook entered tracks or his own track symbol and add data or change data associated with the indicated symbol. The hook application code then sends a message to the database application code to store the facility or entity's updated data. The display application code retrieves the primary data and amplification data concerning the symbol or entity from the database and displays the information at the correct screen location. The operator can then read the amplification data that relates to that specific symbol at the specific location. The cell phone operator can also select soft switches on the touch screen display to change the primary data and amplification data. Furthermore, the operator can use a similar method of hooking and selecting to activate particular soft switches to take other actions which could include: making cellular phone calls, conference calls, 800 number calls; sending a free text message, operator selected preformatted messages, photographs or videos to the hooked symbol; or to drop an entered symbol.
Each known net participant has a cellular phone number, IP address and, if available, Email address that is stored in each participant's device database.
To use the communication system, a user starts the PDA/cellular phone device system by turning on the cell phone power and selecting the cell phone and network software which causes: a) the cellular phone to be activated (if it has not already been activated); b) the GPS interface receiver to be established; c) a map of the geographic area where the operator is located and operator's own unit symbol to appear at the correct latitude and longitude on the map on the display; d) the locations of fixed facilities such as restaurants, hotels, fire departments, police stations, and military barracks, that are part of the database to appear as symbols on the map; e) the device selected item read out area which provides amplification information for the communications net participants or the entity that has been hooked (on the display screen) to appear on the display; f) an insert area that contains various data including: the list of net participants, a list of messages to be read, an indication of what portion of the map is being displayed in major map area and other information to appear on the display; and g) a row of primary software created “soft switches” that are always present on the display to appear.
For point to call network units and fixed facilities, the application code detects the x, y display screen location of the symbol that is designated by the user's stylus and translates the x, y coordinates to latitude and longitude and then: (1) searches the database to find the symbol at that location, (2) places a “hook” indicator (a circle, square or other shape) around the symbol, (3) displays any amplifying data and (4) obtains the symbol's associated phone number (or, for Voice over IP (VoIP) an IP address) from the database. Upon receiving a “call” designation from the soft switch, the operator's device's ACS causes the appropriate phone number or IP address to be called. Upon receiving an indication that the phone number is being called, the application code places a box around the symbol (color, dashed or the like). When the call is connected, the box changes to indicate that the connection is made. When the other party hangs up, the box disappears.
As each of the cell phone participants reports its identity, location and status to the other participants' devices, the received data is automatically geo-referenced and filed in their databases that are accessible by identity and by location. This data is then displayed on each cell phone display. When a request for data is received by touching the display screen, a location search is made by the ACS and a symbol modifier (circle, square, etc.) is generated around the symbol closest to the x, y position of the stylus. When the application code receives a soft switch command to place a phone call or send data, the software uses the phone number (or IP address) associated with the unit to place the call or to send data.
If a cell phone device receives a digital message that a call is being received, the receiving cell phone's ACS application code places a box or similar object around the transmitter symbol indicating who the call is from. When the call is answered, the application software changes the visual characteristics of the box. In a similar manner, when a phone receives a digital text message, photograph or video, a box appears around the transmitter's symbol indicating the transmitter of the message. The point to call network devices are network participants and each one has a PC/PDA device with the same software for use as a total participant network. Other situations for calling facilities that are not network participants are also described below.
Thus, a user is capable of initiating a cellular phone call by touch only and initiating conference calls by touching the geo-referenced map symbols. Furthermore, by using a similar symbol touching technique, a cellular phone can send user selected messages to cause a remote cellular phone to display and optionally announce emergency and other messages and to optionally elicit a response from the remote cellular phone.
All of the network participants have the same communication cell phone/PDA/GPS device described herein. The method and system include the ability of a specific user to provide polling in which other cellular phones, using SMS, internet or WiFi, report periodically based on criteria such as time, speed, distance traveled, or a combination of time, speed and distance traveled. A user can manually poll any or all other cell phone devices that are used by all of the participants in the communication network having the same devices. The receiving cellular phone application code responds to the polling command with the receiving cellular phone's location and status which could include battery level, GPS status, signal strength and entered track data. Optionally, the phone operators can set their phones to report automatically, based on time or distance traveled intervals or another criterion.
The soft switch application software causes a visual display of a matrix such as five across by six up (or another matrix) in which switch names are placed on the cellular/PDA display. The soft switch network application software knows the touch screen location of each of the switches in the matrix and the software routines that will be activated upon touching the switch.
The bottom row of soft switches displayed on the touch screen remains visually fixed. These switches concern the functions that are the most often used. One of the switches causes a matrix of other soft switches to appear above the visually fixed soft switches. These switches are function soft switches, the activation of any one of which causes a different matrix of soft switches to appear, which are known as the action soft switches. When the action soft switches appear, the function soft switch, which caused the action soft switches to appear, itself appears as a label in the lower left (or some other standard location) indicating to the operator the function soft switch that has been selected. When the operator selects an action soft switch, the appropriate application software to accomplish the action is activated.
Upon receiving a soft switch activation message, the ACS accesses the appropriate task execution software which accomplishes the required tasks including: entry of track data, entry of track amplification data, transmission of alpha/numeric messages, photographs, videos, display of messages to be read, selection of map types, placing voice calls, placing conference calls and 800 conference calls, presenting different potential operator selections, control of the display actions, polling network participants, establishing nets of participants (groups) so that communications with all in the group can be accomplished with a single soft switch action, and dropping a previously entered track. By providing a matrix and layers of soft switches which are easily manipulated by a stylus, each cell phone device in the communication network is extremely efficient in accessing and coordinating the appropriate application program for the device to perform.
Users such as emergency groups, police, fire personal, military, first responders and other groups need to be able to set up ad hoc digital and voice networks easily and rapidly. The users need to be able to rapidly coordinate activities eliminating the need for pre-entry data as discussed above. Users are required to enter the Servers' IP address and an ad hoc event name, a password and, for first responders and military, the names of their units. This will normally be controlled by the PDA/PC user's position in the chain of command. For others it can be any selected name and, if desired, password.
Referring now to FIG. 2, the PDA/PC screen displays an IP address entry menu. The user inserts the Server's IP address. Thus, as shown in FIG. 2, the user has entered in the cell phone/PDA the Server IP address and port number along with the GPS port listing and other information. Once that information is entered, referring now to FIG. 3, the user now enters the ad hoc event network name which is shown in this example as “Katrina” along with a password. Referring now to FIG. 4, the user then enters the user name or a unit name. FIG. 4 shows the entered user name and a phone number. The phone number may be automatically entered by the ACS or manually entered. The phone number is not required unless using the phone system (not VoIP) to make calls. These are the initial user steps required to establish an ad hoc network or to join onto an existing ad hoc network.
Referring now to FIG. 5, these actions cause the user cell phone/PDA or PC to commence reporting to the Server. Upon receipt of the initial message from the user's PDA/PC, which may also contain additional data such as a license number, the Server stores the IP address of the user's PDA/PC unit and responds with a message notifying the user that he or she is connected to the Server. The PDA/PC then automatically commences to report its GPS derived location and other status information to the Server. Since there are no other devices initially communicating with the Server, the Server just retains the information. When other devices sign on to the Server with the same ad hoc event name and password, the Server's software recognizes this and stores their IP addresses. Since the Server has all parties' IP addresses, the server is able to pass location and status information automatically between the ad hoc network participants. This can occur even though the ad hoc network participants have not entered other network participant's names, telephone numbers or Email addresses and do not have the other network participants' IP addresses, phone numbers or Email addresses. Once this connection is made, data types that are entered on one display that is of interest to all is sent from the server to all others in the network. Such data types include track location and track amplification data, geo-referenced white boards, and chat.
When the PDA/PC user wants to address particular data (a text message, photograph, video clip, voice recording, white board, or chat), the user enters the name of the other ad hoc network participant by either entering a name or touching his or her symbol. Since the Server knows the IP address of the name or symbol, the Server forwards the data appropriately to that network participant. When a unit signs off the network, it transmits a message to the Server which then transmits a message to all the network participants to drop the unit and its associated tracks. If a unit loses communications for a variable time period, the unit's data is flushed from each of the recipient network participants systems according to a variable time period. After a separate variable time period, the Server also flushes the non-reporting units data.
As can be seen in FIG. 6, provisions have been made for the PDA/PC to report on multiple networks thus allowing both digital communications up and down the chain of command and with adjacent units that have entered a common ad hoc network name and password.
Typically military and First Responder units use Push-to-Talk (PTT) communications. Units in an organization's chain of command typically have instituted a method to establish voice communications between themselves for they know each other's cellular phone numbers, PTT cellular group identifiers and radio frequencies or channel numbers. However, in a disaster there are many different units (fire, police, EMS, Military, and the like) involved all of whom need to establish voice communications between each other. The issue then becomes how to coordinate these PTT voice communications with the ad hoc digital communications so that all on the digital data network automatically also have PTT voice communications with each other. If the PCs and PDAs in a group have manually entered their phone numbers, or the ACS has automatically entered their phone numbers, and sent their phone numbers as part of their initial message to the Server, this data is then sent by the Server to all others in the network. Upon receiving the phone number data, the recipients' ACS loads the cell phones numbers into their databases creating a phone number PTT group common with the digital IP network group.
The issue when using radios, however, is different. PTT radio coordination between multiple people is achieved by using a common radio frequency “Channel”.
Furthermore, it is desirable to enable it so that, when new network participants join the digital network, they are automatically included in the voice network and, when they leave the digital network, they are automatically dropped from the digital network.
As can be seen in FIG. 6 and FIG. 7, a network participant currently can establish a new ad hoc digital network or join an existing ad hoc digital network by entering the ad hoc network name and password into his PDA/PC. To enable voice coordination with all that are a part of the ad hoc digital network, the user then enters (if user is authorized to do so) a Channel or Group number that the user is commanding all in the ad hoc network to establish as their PTT voice net. As seen in FIG. 6, the operator has commanded all to shift to Radio Channel or to a specific PTT cellular or radio channel; i.e. Group 7.
This action causes the PTT Channel, or PTT Group 7, to be sent to the other PDA/PC users in the ad hoc password protected network through the Server.
As shown in FIG. 6 and FIG. 7, the Group leader enters the Katrina Fire ad hoc network and issues a command which is sent to the Server to cause the PDAs/PCs that are in the Katrina Fire Group to automatically shift their Radio or cellular device to Channel 7. Each PDA cell phone can connect to the user's Radio for control with a USB cable, or WiFi, Bluetooth, or Near Field Communications (NFC) signals or other communications that are contained in the PDA/PC cellular device. This enables the Radios to shift to a common channel. This action is received by the Server which then sends the “Shift to Channel 7 Command” to all network participants in the Katrina Fire ad hoc network. When the PDA/PC/Tablet Katrina Fire network participant's software receives the command to shift its Radio Channel PPT to Group 7, this action causes the PDA's ACS to establish a new Channel 7 group (or to override an old Channel 7 group) that consists of all on the digital ad hoc network. The PC and PDAs then send their radios' digital interfaces messages to shift to Channel 7 or to the frequency associated with Channel 7. The digitally networked PC's and PDA's ACS devices then send a message to all on the digital network that they have shifted to Channel 7 (or to the appropriate frequency) and also further send the Group Leader's identifier and Command to shift to Channel 7 so that the ACS' devices associated with new users joining the digital network will automatically digitally set their radios to Channel 7 or the appropriate frequency.
As shown in FIG. 7, each time one of the network participants reports to the Katrina Fire network its Name, Position and Status, it now also reports that it is in PTT Channel 7 enabling the PTT group to grows in size until it encompasses all in the ad hoc password protected digital network. When units drop out of the Common Interest Network or lose communications because they are no longer active or they are out of range, their PTT Channel data is likewise dropped as they dropped out of the digital because their reports have not been received for a set, but adjustable, time period. If a unit rejoins the network, their PTT Name and Phone number is again automatically added to the Katrina Fire Interest Group as they are accepted by the Server into the Katrina Fire Interest digital Group.
When using the PTT feature, the ACS can enable the network participant to: 1. PTT with all that are in the ad hoc digital network, or 2. PTT with select specific network participants, by touching their symbol(s) and then selecting PTT soft switch or 3. Specify a group of the network participants by assigning their symbol or unit name to a list of network participants and then associating the list with a soft switch whose function is to enable the operator to have PTT communications with all in the list.
Since only one person is transmitting on a PTT voice network at any given time, the receiving network participant's ACS can relate the PTT IP address to the IP address of the unit transmitting his identification on the digital ad hoc network. This information can then be used by the other PTT networked participant's ACS to: 1. flash the transmitting unit's name on their PDA/PC screens or 2. if a photograph has been attached to the ad hoc digital network symbol of the PTT transmitting person, to flash that photograph on the receiving unit's PDA/PC display.
Referring now to FIG. 8, for some Emergency events, and in particular military operations, it is desirable to further define ad hoc networks so that the networks encompass only a certain geographical area defined by boundary lines on a map. To accomplish this, an enhancement to the ad hoc digital and voice PTT password protected network is provided. As an example, once the Katrina Fire digital and PTT network is established, the ad hoc network can be further refined by the Group Leader defining a map area that limits the participating group to only those users within a geographically defined area by the Group Leader, creating on his PC/PDA display a box that defines a geographic area on a map.
As shown in FIG. 8, the Latitude/Longitude points that define the rectangle of the boundary area are sent from the Group Leader's device to the Server which relays the data to the other participating unit PC/PDA devices in the Katrina Fire network. When the participating unit devices receive the Latitude/Longitude points, their software computes whether their PC/PDA unit is inside or outside a boundary area. If the users are inside the defined area, the users retain but disregard the Latitude/Longitude data and continue to report on the digital password protected network and to use the commanded PTT channel/frequency. However, if the users are outside the area, the users send a “drop me message” to the Katrina Fire PDA/PC digital network Server and cease reporting on the network. When Katrina Fire network PDA/PC user units leave the defined area or lose communications for a specified, but adjustable, time period, the Server drops the unit from the network and informs all network users that the unit is dropped from the digital network and from voice PTT Channel 7 which causes all others on the network to drop them. When Katrina Fire networked PDA/PC user units re-enter the area, the unit's ACS detects the fact and commences reporting as it receives reports from other network participants it will receive the current PTT channel or frequency.
In disasters, battery life is essential as there may not be extra batteries available or a power available to recharge the battery. It is therefore essential to lessen battery utilization. The normal method by which this is accomplished is to not use software that keeps the display on, uses the GPS or transmits on the communications. However, deactivating any one of these processes produces a problem with providing location data to all on the network.
With location sharing there are essentially two times when the location information is essential: a) Where the user wants all to know his/her location and status and the location and status of others and b) When the commander wants to know the location and status of all or of a particular unit.
When the user wants others to know the user location and status, the user can simply turn on location reporting software which then turns on the display, the GPS and the communications reporting software causing the reporting of the user location to the ad hoc password protected digital network. However, when the commander or someone else wants to know the location and status of the PDA/PC unit that is conserving battery usage by having user display, GPS and communications transmission turned on, the commander has no method to accomplish this.
This problem is overcome by enabling the commander to transmit a “turn on” IP message to the battery conserving(s) unit(s) by addressing the message to the ad hoc network Server which then sends an SMS message to the addressed phone. The SMS message will be received as long as the phone is powered on, as SMS is integrated with the cell phone's voice communications. The Server could also send a turn on IP message to networked radios, which will then cause the radio's computer to send a digital message to the receiving PC/PDA to activate the user display and location and status reporting software.
Referring now to FIG. 9, the diagram illustrates the enabling of location, status, VoIP, PTT, and video communications between radios and cell phones. The server maintains a temporary retention of names and IP addresses and sends data between all with the same ad hoc name unless addressed to a specific IP address. This requires that there is a radio with digital capabilities attached to the server shown in FIGS. 5, 6, and 7. These radios are set so that they each have a unique IP address. All of the participants have either PDA cell phones or PDAs without cellular. Those that also have PDAs without cellular (or choose not to use cellular) are connected to their radios via a USB cable or Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or near field communications (NFC) that is part of the PDA/PC OR PDA cell phone. This is illustrated in FIG. 9.
Referring now to FIG. 10 the diagram shows enabling non-RFID equipped PDA phones to receive RFID tag data. The server maintains a temporary retention of how Tags relate to names and sends data to local display and to other ACS network participants. Currently RFID tags are used for many functions, one of which is to track personnel inside a building to the room or compartment in which they are located. This is accomplished by RFID readers that are in each of the rooms. When personnel with an RFID tag get within a particular distance or range of the RFID reader, the reader detects their presence and sends it to a central site server via a USB cable or Wi-Fi. The PC connected to the server displays the personnel room locations. With the invention described herein, the server would then send the location to the ACS PDA/PC phones that would be carried by individuals located throughout the building or ship. The PDA/PC phones would display the room or ships compartments and the location of individuals with RFID tags and simultaneously enable PTT, chat, messaging, whiteboards, commands geo-fence penetration alerts or other types of messages between each of the PDA cell phones. The RFID tag would provide room location data of all to all that are on the ACS Wi-Fi network without their PDA cell phone having an RFID Reader attached to it. The operation is explained in detail in FIG. 10.
The instant invention has been shown and described herein in what is considered to be the most practical and preferred embodiment. It is recognized, however, that departures may be made there from within the scope of the invention and that obvious modifications will occur to a person skilled in the art.


1. A computer-implemented method comprising:
with a first device, receiving a message from a second device, wherein the message relates to joining a group;
based on receiving the message from the second device, participating in the group, wherein participating in the group includes sending first location information to a server and receiving second location information from the server, the first location information comprising a location of the first device, the second location information comprising a plurality of locations of a respective plurality of second devices included in the group;
presenting, via an interactive display of the first device, a first interactive, georeferenced map and a plurality of user-selectable symbols corresponding to the plurality of second devices, wherein the symbols are positioned on the first georeferenced map at respective positions corresponding to the locations of the second devices, and wherein the first georeferenced map includes data relating positions on the first georeferenced map to spatial coordinates;
sending, from the first device to the server, a request for a second georeferenced map different from the first georeferenced map, wherein the request specifies a map location;
receiving, from the server, the second georeferenced map, wherein the second georeferenced map includes the requested location and data relating positions on the second georeferenced map to spatial coordinates;
presenting, via the interactive display of the first device, the second georeferenced map and the plurality of user-selectable symbols corresponding to the plurality of second devices, wherein the symbols are positioned on the second georeferenced map at respective positions corresponding to the locations of the second devices; and
identifying user interaction with the interactive display selecting one or more of the user-selectable symbols corresponding to one or more of the second devices and positioned on the second georeferenced map and user interaction with the display specifying an action and, based thereon, using an Internet Protocol to send data to the one or more second devices via the server,
wherein the first device does not have access to respective Internet Protocol addresses of the second devices.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the data includes a short message service message, a text message, an image, or a video.
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the first device is a personal digital assistant (PDA) or a personal computer (PC).
4. The method of claim 1, wherein the second map is a satellite image.
5. The method of claim 1, further comprising sending, by the first device, updated location information comprising an updated location of the first device, the updated location information being sent based on passage of a predetermined time interval since sending previous location information comprising a previous location of the first device, displacement of the first device by a predetermined distance relative to a previous location of the first device, or both.
6. The method of claim 1, further comprising identifying second user interaction with the interactive display selecting at least one of the user-selectable symbols corresponding to at least one of the second devices and user interaction with the display specifying an action and, based thereon, initiating a phone call or phone conference with the at least one second device.
7. The method of claim 1, wherein the message from the second device is a Short Message Service (SMS) message or a text message.
8. The method of claim 1, wherein participating in the group further includes sending first status information to the server and receiving second status information from the server, the first status information comprising a battery level of the first device, a signal strength of a wireless signal of the first device, a status of a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver of the first device, or a combination thereof, the second location information comprising a plurality of battery levels of the respective plurality of second devices included in the group, a plurality of signal strengths of wireless signals of the respective plurality of second devices included in the group, a plurality of statuses of GPS receivers of the respective plurality of second devices included in the group, or a combination thereof.
9. The method of claim 1, wherein the first device is a smart phone.
10. The method of claim 1, further comprising:
with the first device, transmitting a group identifier associated with a second group, the second group including a second plurality of second devices; and
based on transmitting the group identifier associated with the second group, participating in the second group, wherein participating in the second group includes receiving third location information from the server, the third location information comprising a plurality of locations of the respective second plurality of second devices included in the second group.
11. The method of claim 1, wherein the data includes a voice recording.
12. The method of claim 1, further comprising: using a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver of the first device to obtain data indicative of the location of the first device, wherein sending the first location information to the server comprises using the Internet Protocol (IP) to send the first location information to the server.
13. The method of claim 1, further comprising identifying, by the first device, user interaction with the display selecting a particular user-selectable symbol positioned on the second georeferenced map and corresponding to a particular second device, wherein identifying the user interaction selecting the particular user-selectable symbol comprises:
detecting user selection of a portion of the interactive display corresponding to a position on the second georeferenced map;
based at least in part on coordinates of the selected position on the second georeferenced map and on the data relating positions on the second georeferenced map to spatial coordinates, determining spatial coordinates of a location represented by the selected position on the second georeferenced map; and
identifying the particular user-selectable symbol based, at least in part, on the spatial coordinates represented by the selected position.
14. The method of claim 13, wherein identifying the particular user-selectable symbol based, at least in part, on the spatial coordinates represented by the selected position comprises:
searching a database of entities for an entity located nearest to the spatial coordinates represented by the selected position, wherein the entities represented by data in the database include the second devices, wherein the database data include locations of the respective entities, and wherein the database is searchable by location; and
based on a result of searching the database, identifying the particular second device as the entity located nearest to the spatial coordinates represented by the selected position, wherein the particular user-selectable symbol corresponds to the particular second device.
15. The method of claim 14, wherein the entity is a first entity, and wherein the method further comprises performing by the first device:
receiving user input via user interaction with the interactive display of the first device, the user input specifying a location and a symbol corresponding to a second entity other than the first device and the second devices; and
based on the user input, adding the user-specified symbol to the interactive display at a position on the second georeferenced map corresponding to the user-specified location of the second entity.
16. The method of claim 15, further comprising performing by the first device:
transmitting the user-specified symbol and location of the second entity to the second devices for addition of the user-specified symbol to respective interactive displays of the second devices at respective positions on respective georeferenced maps corresponding to the user-specified location of the second entity.
17. The method of claim 16, wherein the user input further specifies information associated with the second entity, and wherein the method further comprises performing, by the first device: transmitting the user-specified information associated with the second entity to the second devices.
18. The method of claim 17, further comprising performing by the first device:
adding data representing the spatial coordinates of the location of the second entity and data representing the information associated with the second entity to the database.
19. The method of claim 15, wherein the portion of the interactive display is a first portion, wherein the position of the symbol corresponding to the particular second device is a first position, and wherein receiving the user input specifying the location of the second entity comprises:
detecting user selection of a second portion of the interactive display corresponding to a second position on the second georeferenced map; and
based at least in part on coordinates of the second position on the second georeferenced map and on the data relating positions on the second georeferenced map to spatial coordinates, determining spatial coordinates of a location represented by the second position on the second georeferenced map, wherein the location represented by the second position is the location of the second entity.
20. The method of claim 14, wherein the database is stored on the first device.
21. The method of claim 14, wherein the database is stored on the server.
22. The method of claim 1, wherein the spatial coordinates comprise latitude and longitude coordinates.
23. The method of claim 1, further comprising performing, by the first device:
identifying user interaction with the interactive display selecting a particular user-selectable symbol corresponding to a particular second device and user interaction with the display specifying an action and, based thereon, initiating voice-over-IP (VOIP) communication with the particular second device.
24. A system comprising:
a first device programmed to perform operations comprising:
receiving a message from a second device, wherein the message relates to joining a group;
based on receiving the message from the second device, participating in the group, wherein participating in the group includes sending first location information to a server and receiving second location information from the server, the first location information comprising a location of the first device, the second location information comprising a plurality of locations of a respective plurality of second devices included in the group;
presenting, via an interactive display of the first device, a first interactive, georeferenced map and a plurality of user-selectable symbols corresponding to the plurality of second devices, wherein the symbols are positioned on the first georeferenced map at respective positions corresponding to the locations of the second devices, and wherein the first georeferenced map includes data relating positions on the first georeferenced map to spatial coordinates;
sending, from the first device to the server, a request for a second georeferenced map different from the first georeferenced map, wherein the request specifies a map location;
receiving, from the server, the second georeferenced map, wherein the second georeferenced map includes the requested location and data relating positions on the second georeferenced map to spatial coordinates;
presenting, via the interactive display of the first device, the second georeferenced map and the plurality of user-selectable symbols corresponding to the plurality of second devices, wherein the symbols are positioned on the second georeferenced map at respective positions corresponding to the locations of the second devices; and
identifying user interaction with the interactive display selecting one or more of the user-selectable symbols corresponding to one or more of the second devices and positioned on the second georeferenced map and user interaction with the display specifying an action and, based thereon, using an Internet Protocol to send data to the one or more second devices via the server,
wherein the first device does not have access to respective Internet Protocol addresses of the second devices.
25. The system of claim 24, wherein the data includes a short message service message, a text message, an image, or a video.
26. The system of claim 24, wherein the first device is a personal digital assistant (PDA) or a personal computer (PC).
27. The system of claim 24, wherein the second map is a satellite image.
28. The system of claim 24, wherein the operations further comprise sending updated location information comprising an updated location of the first device, the updated location information being sent based on passage of a predetermined time interval since sending previous location information comprising a previous location of the first device, displacement of the first device by a predetermined distance relative to a previous location of the first device, or both.
29. The system of claim 24, wherein the operations further comprise identifying second user interaction with the interactive display selecting at least one of the user-selectable symbols corresponding to at least one of the second devices and user interaction with the display specifying an action and, based thereon, initiating a phone call or phone conference with the at least one second device.
30. The system of claim 24, wherein the message from the second device is a Short Message Service (SMS) message or a text message.
31. The system of claim 24, wherein participating in the group further includes sending first status information to the server and receiving second status information from the server, the first status information comprising a battery level of the first device, a signal strength of a wireless signal of the first device, a status of a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver of the first device, or a combination thereof, the second location information comprising a plurality of battery levels of the respective plurality of second devices included in the group, a plurality of signal strengths of wireless signals of the respective plurality of second devices included in the group, a plurality of statuses of GPS receivers of the respective plurality of second devices included in the group, or a combination thereof.
32. The system of claim 24, wherein the first device is a smart phone.
33. The system of claim 24, wherein the operations further include:
with the first device, transmitting a group identifier associated with a second group, the second group including a second plurality of second devices; and
based on transmitting the group identifier associated with the second group, participating in the second group, wherein participating in the second group includes receiving third location information from the server, the third location information comprising a plurality of locations of the respective second plurality of second devices included in the second group.
34. The system of claim 24, wherein the data includes a voice recording.
35. The system of claim 24, wherein the first device includes a Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receiver, and wherein the operations further include: using the GPS receiver to obtain data indicative of the location of the first device, wherein sending the first location information to the server comprises using the Internet Protocol (IP) to send the first location information to the server.

 

 

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