United States Patent 3728521

An encoded card having a layer of light-transmitting elements such as fibers extending between two edges, the fibers being individually capable of transmitting magnetic radiant energy, in the visible, ultraviolet or infrared spectral regions. The ends of the energy-transmitting fibers along at least one edge of the card are irregularly arranged in a linear information-related pattern which is decoded into discrete information such as numbers, letters or words by transmitting electromagnetic radiation, such as visible or invisible light through the fibers and sensing and decoding the transmitted pattern. The card is encoded either by selectively placing the fibers; or by cutting, removing, or otherwise impairing the energy-transmitting ability of selected fibers.

Borough, Howard C. (Seattle, WA)
Pontarelli, Donald A. (Chicago, IL)
Application Number:
Publication Date:
Filing Date:
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
70/DIG.51, 235/473, 235/487, 250/227.21, 250/568, 385/114, 385/121
International Classes:
G06K19/14; (IPC1-7): G06K19/00; G06K7/10; G06K19/06
Field of Search:
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US Patent References:
3470359ANTI-COUNTERFEIT DOCUMENT1969-09-30Esterly
3335265Punched card reader1967-08-08Apfelbaum et al.
3241986Optical infrared-transmitting glass compositions1966-03-22Jerger
3163758Automatic character reader utilizing infrared radiation1964-12-29Treacy
3101411Light conducting device to transmit ultra-violet radiation for specimen fluorescenceunder a microscope1963-08-20Richards
2939016Detecting apparatus1960-05-31Cannon
2177077Photoelectric transmitter1939-10-24Potts

Primary Examiner:
Wilbur, Maynard R.
Assistant Examiner:
Sloyan, Thomas J.
We claim as our invention

1. An encoded card comprising:

2. An encoded card according to claim 1 in which said light-transmitting fibers are substantially parallel to each other.

3. An encoded card according to claim 1 in which the light-transmitting fibers are capable of transmitting light which is primarily visible.

4. An encoded card according to claim 1 in which said light-transmitting fibers are capable of transmitting light primarily in the infrared spectral region.

5. An encoded card according to claim 1 in which said light-transmitting fibers are capable of transmitting light primarily in the ultraviolet spectral region.

6. An encoded card according to claim 1 in which right filter means is provided with said light-transmitting fibers to inhibit the transmission of light which is primarily visible and to enable the transmission only of light which is primarily invisible.

7. An encoded card according to claim 1 in which said layer is comprised of uniformly transversely spaced fiber optics fibers consisting of optical material, certain of said fiber optics fibers having their light-transmitting ability impaired in selected portions of said layer according to said predetermined code, said light-transmitting fibers comprising the remaining unimpaired fiber optics fibers with their light emitting ends irregularly spaced.

8. An encoded card according to claim 2 in which said light-transmitting fibers are straight and said light-receiving and light-emitting edge surfaces are at opposite sides of said card.


Encoded cards such as conventional credit cards, identification cards, parking lot passes, and railway commuter tickets, store information by means of embossing, magnetic ink records, printed data, and punched holes. Embossed and punched cards are decoded by mechanical feelers and electrical styli, which limit card life. Magnetic ink and printed data can be removed or mutilated. All such cards have been successfully counterfeited.

There is a need for a encoded card which can be decoded without physical contact, which is not easily mutilated, and which is very difficult to counterfeit.


The general object of this invention is to provide an encoded card capable of transmitting energy such as electromagnetic radiation in the visible, ultraviolet or infrared spectral region, from one edge to another where it appears in a decodable pattern.

A specific object of this invention is to provide an encoded card such as a credit or identification card having a series of light-transmitting fibers extending from one edge to another and arranged to contain information which can be read by transmitting light edgewise through the card and decoding the resulting pattern of lighted and unlighted areas.

Another object is to provide a fiber optics card having a plurality of light-transmitting fibers extending from one edge to another and which has been encoded by selective placement of the fibers, or by selective impairment of the light-transmitting ability of certain of the fibers, to conduct light from one edge to the other in an intelligent, decodable pattern.

Another object is to provide an encoded fiber optics card which can be decoded without contact and which is very difficult to counterfeit.

Other objects and advantages will be apparent from the following description in connection with the drawings in which:

FIG. 1 is a perspective view of an encoded fiber optics card illustrating a preferred form of the invention;

FIG. 2 is a view similar to FIG. 1, showing a card in which the light-transmitting ability of certain fibers has been impaired or modified in several alternate ways;

FIG. 3 is a view similar to FIG. 1, illustrating a card encoded by arranging individual light-transmitting fibers in unique patterns as a result of the selective placement or removal of entire fibers;

FIG. 4 is a fragmentary edge view of an encoded card with light-transmitting fibers arranged in groups displaying binary numbered information;

FIG. 5 is a fragmentary edge view of FIG. 1, in which an individual light-transmitting fiber is shown as a monofilament rod, or light pipe;

FIG. 5A is an exploded view of FIG. 5, before lamination;

FIG. 6 is similar to FIG. 5, in which the light-transmitting fiber comprises multiple small-diameter light-transmitting filaments;

FIG. 7 is a fragmentary cross-section of a laminated fiber optics card having a light-transmitting fiber core sheet between sheets of non-transmitting material, encoded by punching out a section of the fiber core sheet;

FIG. 8 is a cross-section of FIG. 7, taken along the line 8--8, showing in plan view the punched-out portion of the fiber core sheet;

FIG. 9 is a fragmentary edge view of the card taken along the line 9--9 of FIG. 8 and showing the light and dark pattern which would be transmitted edgewise through the card where the energy transmitted is visible light;

FIG. 10 is a perspective, schematic view of the card of FIG. 1, placed in one form of reader;

FIG. 10A is a schematic plan view of a modified form of encoded card, in a reader similar to that shown in FIG. 10;

FIG. 10B is another modified form of card;

FIG. 11 is a perspective schematic view of the card of FIG. 1, in a movable reader; and

FIG. 12 is a perspective view of a laminated form of fiber optics card employing multiple layers of coded light-transmitting fibers.

Like parts are referred to by like reference characters throughout the drawings.

Depending on the material from which the energy-transmitting fibers are made, an encoded card in accordance with this invention can be read by a decoder using visible light, or invisible light in the ultraviolet or infrared spectral ranges. This specific disclosure will be limited to visible light-transmitting fibers.

For the light-transmitting fibers to function with light in the visible spectral region (wave lengths of 4,000 - 7,000 Angstrom Units), the fibers will be made of glass, or plastics such as polymerized methyl methacrylate ("LUCITE") or polystyrene. As is usual practice, each such fiber will preferably, but not necessarily, have a lower-refractive-index cladding of glass or plastics. Optical fibers are cladded to maximize light transmission and minimize crosstalk between fibers. The cladding must be compatible with the fiber core, particularly with respect to expansion coefficients, and must show no deterioration with use or age.

For the light-transmitting fibers to function with invisible light in the ultraviolet spectral region (wave lengths below 4,000 Angstrom Units), the fibers may be quartz with an appropriate cladding. One particular grade of quartz, produced under the trade name, "SUPRASIL," by Englehard Industries Inc., Newark, N.J., can be fabricated into fibers usable in the present invention. It transmits visible light and ultraviolet light to wave lengths of 1,840 Angstrom Units. Especially good cladding materials for quartz are MgF2, LiF, CaF2 and a liquid preparation known in the trade as Type 176-C-198 "SUPERTHER" Coat manufactured by the Standard T Chemical Co., of New York City, N.Y.

For the light-transmitting fibers to function with invisible light in the infrared spectral region (wave lengths above 7,000 Angstrom Units), the fibers may be quartz, as described above, which transmits to varying degrees in both infrared and ultraviolet regions, as well as the visible region. Two types of glasses, metallic oxide and nonoxide, are used for infrared fiber optics. The oxide glasses transmit most of the visible spectrum, whereas most of the nonoxide glasses do not. Glasses of the metallic oxide types which are used extensively for infrared transmission are commonly known in the trade as Types IR442 and DBF61, the cladding for these glasses being soda lime tubing. Fibers made from these glasses, and with this cladding, having useful transmission at wave lengths from 4,000 to 50,000 Angstrom Units. Hollow metal wire fibers, preferably highly polished or plated internally, may be used to transmit infrared radiation.

By using suitable optical filters on the card to filter out visible light, the card can be read only in a special decoder with a particular range of wave lengths of ultraviolet or infrared radiation.

Any counterfeit card not identically filtered would be rejected by such a special decoder.

The encoded cards described in connection with the drawings are all examples which transmit visible light through optical fibers. It should be understood that encoded cards employing the invention may function with ultraviolet or infrared light conductive fiber materials such as metal wire.

The embodiments disclosed in the drawings will now be described.

The card shown in FIG. 1 is a flat sheet comprising a body 20 having long edges 22, 24 and short edges 26, 28. The body has a plurality of parallel light-transmitting fibers 30. The body is preferably tough plastics material having a substantially lower light-transmitting ability than the fibers 30. It may be opaque or colored to contrast with the fibers. Each fiber 30 is of optical material and may be a monofilament element such as a single glass or plastics filament, rod or pipe as shown in FIG. 5. Or, each fiber may be a bundle 34 of multifilament optical elements 38 as shown in FIG. 6.

In the embodiment of FIGS. 7 and 8, a continuous sheet 36 of small-diameter light-transmitting filaments 40 may be used, with portions removed at locations such as 42, to impair the transmission of light from one edge of the card to the other. This produces a light and dark pattern as shown in FIG. 9. The light-transmitting "fibers" are the continuous (uncut) bundles of small filaments 40.

The card may be manufactured by any suitable laminating process. This is not part of the present invention so will not be described in detail. Briefly, and referring to FIG. 5A, a sheet 44 having light-transmitting fibers 30 in a body or matrix 46 may be laminated by conventional hot pressure or adhesive techniques between cover sheets 48 and 50. The cover sheets and the matrix 46 may be of the same plastics material to form a one-piece body enclosing the fibers 30 in the finished card shown in FIGS. 1 and 5.

Cards utilizing this invention may have various shapes and sizes. A convenient carrying size is about 31/4 × 23/8" and 0.030" to 0.050" thick. The thickness has been exaggerated in the accompanying drawings.

The card shown in FIG. 1 has nineteen light-transmitting fibers 30. This is merely by way of illustration and not by way of limitation because in actual practice each card may have from 10 to 600 fibers, each comprising a separately readable information channel.

Light-transmitting fibers may have a wide variety of sizes and shapes. Fibers varying from 0.003" to 0.010" in thickness provide a practical compromise between the maximum number of fibers per inch and the maximum light-transmission per fiber. For fuller explanation of the manner in which light is transmitted by optical fibers from point to point, refer to "FIBER OPTICS, PRINCIPLES AND APPLICATIONS" by N. S. Kapany, 1967 Edition, published by Academic Press, New York City, N.Y.

As stated, light-transmitting elements 30, 34 and 40 may be optical glass, or plastics material such as polymerized methyl methacrylate, or polystyrene, appropriately cladded. Each fiber extends continuously between card edges (except where rendered discontinuous by coding). The card is encoded by individually cutting, darkening, partially removing, or otherwise impairing the light-transmitting ability of selected fibers. In FIG. 1, 52 indicates a fiber which is continuous and capable of transmitting light from one edge of the card to the other; 54 is a fiber which is discontinuous in the area 56 and therefore incapable of transmitting full intensity light. This area 56, as well as area 42 in FIG. 7, may be filled with opaque material if desired to completely block light transmission for maximum contrast.

Various ways of modifying, impairing or blocking the light-transmitting ability of selected fibers are shown in card 58 (FIG. 2). Fiber 60 is cut, with the cut ends transversely displaced. A portion of fiber 62 is darkened or made opaque by localized heat or radiation, for which purpose a special heat- or radiation-sensitive material may be incorporated in the fiber. Fiber 64 is cut or pinched by heat or pressure to reduce its effective cross-section. Fiber 66 has an entire section cut and removed similar to the section 56 in FIG. 1.

In FIG. 3, a card 68 has eight light-transmitting fibers 70 spaced in a predetermined pattern. Such a card, manufactured in this manner initially, would be difficult to counterfeit.

Cards are decoded by illuminating one edge, sensing the lighted and unlighted fiber ends along another edge with a photo-sensor, and sending the output signal to a decoder and a visual readout, or to a computer through a proper interface. Visual readout has the advantage of low cost and size and could be put in small scale operations, such as gasoline stations and small stores. Sending the signal to a central computer allows checking against hot card lists, and central data banks.

A fiber optics card according to this invention may be read while stationary; or when either the card or reader is moved relative to the other.

A stationary reading apparatus is shown in FIG. 10 where a 19-fiber card 72 is placed between a light source 74 and a photo-sensor reader 76. Card 72 is similar to card 20 except that light transmission in four specific fibers has been impaired. Normally, the light source and reader will be close to the card, but in FIG. 10 are slightly withdrawn to clarify the illustration.

The light source 74 comprises 19 fiber optics rods or light pipes 78, each having an end 80 aligned with one of the card fibers 30. At the other end of each light pipe 78 is a high-intensity miniature lamp 82. Alternatively, the entire light source 74 may be a single elongated, high-intensity lamp (not shown).

The reader 73 has nineteen photo detectors 79 aligned with the ends 80 of light pipes 78 and with card fibers 30. Conventional circuitry (not shown) identifies each information-related linear pattern of lighted and unlighted fibers 30 along the edge of the card and places a signal in output line 92 (or a plurality of lines 92) to identify the numbers, letters or other information represented by such encoded pattern. This information is used or displayed in a conventional readout apparatus which is not a part of the present invention and therefore not specifically shown.

Counting from the left to right in FIG. 10, light transmission through the third, ninth, 13th and 15th fibers 30 in card 72 is impaired by cutouts 84, 86, 88 and 90. The pattern of lighted and unlighted fiber ends which the reader 76 "sees" will be unique for each differently coded card.

If fibers 30 are of small cross-section, 0.003 inch or less, the reader circuit may require amplification to bring the signal in line 92 up to a usable value.

FIG. 10A shows a modified card 81 in which fibers 83 extend in non-parallel, random arrangement between the input edge 85 and the output edge 87. Among the applications for this arrangement is a railroad commuter monthly pass system in which the light source and reader could be reprogrammed several times during the month, daily if necessary, to verify bona fide cards and reject expired and counterfeit cards. For example, and counting from left to right in FIG. 10A, the light source 74 could be programmed by illuminating only the first, third, seventh and 11th lamps, at the same time, the reader 76 could be programmed to verify the card only if it senses the third, fourth, ninth and 15th lighted fiber ends while all other positions are unlighted. The light source and reader could be reprogrammed, if necessary, to verify other combinations of fibers in the same card.

FIG. 10B shows another modified card 224 in which the input and output ends of fibers 226 and 228 (which may be in the same or separate levels) are in non-opposed edges of the card. The fibers may be encoded by selectively impairing or darkening them.

Reading apparatus 94 in which the card 72 is scanned upon relative movement between the card and a scanner is shown in FIG. 11. For comparison with FIG. 10, the same card 72 is shown. Whether the card moves or the reader moves is of no significance as long as there is relative movement. A suitable reader is shown here merely as one example. This will now be described in detail.

Card 72 in FIG. 11 is held stationary by a support not shown. A scanning reader 96 has a generally U-shaped housing and moves (by means not shown) from left to right in the direction of arrow 98, along the card. The housing end portion 100 has a miniature high-intensity lamp 102 energized through a conductor 104. A photo detector 106 is mounted in the opposite housing portion 108, aligned with the lamp 102; it will place an electrical signal or pulse in an output conductor 110 when a clear fiber 30 is between lamp 102 and detector 106.

The output conductor 110 is connected to a bush 112 which progressively engages contacts 114 in the upper bank 116 as the reader 96 moves along the card.

Another brush 118 is carried as a lower extension of brush 112 and is electrically insulated from it by an insulator 120. The lower brush successively engages contacts 122 in the lower bank 124. It connects though a line 126 to a fixed voltage source. Contacts 122 are interconnected by resistors 128 which comprise part of a voltage divided network in which output line 130 connects into a decoder 132 for identifying the position of the reader relative to the card.

The individual contacts 114 (19 in all, corresponding to the 19 light-transmitting fibers 30 in the card) are connected through individual wires 134 to an amplifier 136.

T0 read card 72 with the FIG. 11 apparatus, the reader 96 moves along the card, placing an output signal in conductor 110 each time the lamp 102 is aligned with a clear, continuous fiber 30. The darkened ends of fibers 30 indicate the third, ninth, 13th and 15th fibers which do not transmit light.

At the position shown in FIG. 11, the sixth fiber is a clear one. The detector 106 "sees" lamp 102 through the fiber. At this position, brush 112 engages the sixth contact 114 in the upper bank. Brush 118 engages the sixth contact 122 in the lower bank. The signal in conductor 110 passes through the engaged contact 114 and via its corresponding wire 134 into amplifier 136 and an amplified signal is sent through line 141 to the decoder 132. The amplifier is supplied with power through a line 139 from power supply 138. Coincident with the signal into the decoder from line 141, another signal is applied to the decoder through line 130 from the voltage divider circuit to identify the particular fiber 30 involved.

Thus, the decoder 132 simultaneously receives two kinds of information about each fiber: First, its position in the card; and second, whether it transmits light. The decoder may include a memory bank (not shown) with which it compares the signal combinations obtained from the card, and then generates an appropriate signal in line 140 into controlled apparatus 142. The latter may be an information display board, screen, or a printer for recording the information on tape, or the like.

Typically, the information obtained from the encoded card, if the latter is a credit card, for example, may be the holder's identification number and the expiration date.

Data can be stored in a card in at least two different ways.

One way of storing information is shown in FIGS. 3 and 10, in which the various combinations of lighted and unlighted fiber ends correspond to data in a memory bank. Each combination read from card 68 or 72 may correspond to a different number, name, or other information. The number of possible usable combinations of lighted and unlighted fibers is determined by the following formula:


where n = the total number of lighted and unlighted fibers. Using this formula, a 16-fiber card has 65,536 different combinations possible.

Another way of storing information is shown in FIG. 4 where the fibers are arranged in groups of four, each group being coded to designate a digit in the binary numbering system. Coding is done by impairing the light transmission through selected fibers in each group, or by selectively placing the fibers in each group.

Referring to FIG. 4, the individual fibers in each group of four fibers 30 are respectively assigned values of "8," " 4," " 2," and "1," according to the binary code. Individual fibers are impaired or omitted as shown by the darkened circles, to display the number 782193 in the six groups of fibers shown. The reading device of either FIGS. 10 or 11 can decode this.

This invention provides a unique means of comparing a card to a "hot" card list (stolen or expired cards). The list can be prepared as a photo transparency with the card numbers coded in as on the edge of the card. This list can then be scanned by the edge of the card or by a fiber optic element coupling the edge of the card to the list.

It will be apparent that the embodiments shown are exemplary only and that various modifications can be made in construction and arrangement within the scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.