Title:
Digital audio system
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method and system for limiting transmission to a single operator is provided. The system and method determines if another user in the audio system is currently transmitting before allowing a new transmission from another user to proceed. This assures that the only one member of the vehicle crew can transmit at a time, limiting the opportunity for outputs from multiple users to garble the transmission. In another embodiment of the present invention, a system and method are provided that allows for the transmission of aural warning on a digital bus. The system and method allows different types of warnings to be delivered to vehicle crew members throughout the vehicle. This facilitates efficient and reliable distribution of warnings to remote crew members. In another embodiment of the present invention, a system and method are provided that notifies the user of an audio system when all outputs of the audio system have been disabled. This provides warnings to those users who may otherwise be unaware that the system outputs have been disabled.



Inventors:
Goldberg, Mark L. (Peoria, AZ, US)
Snodgrass, Ken L. (Peoria, AZ, US)
Application Number:
10/251456
Publication Date:
03/20/2003
Filing Date:
09/19/2002
Assignee:
GOLDBERG MARK L.
SNODGRASS KEN L.
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
381/104
International Classes:
B64D45/04; G01S5/14; G01S11/02; G01S19/07; G01S19/13; G01S19/15; G01S19/20; G01S19/35; G01S19/40; G01S19/48; G08G5/02; H04B7/185; H04L12/40; H04L12/56; H04L29/06; H04L29/08; H04R3/00; H04L12/28; (IPC1-7): G06F17/00; H03G3/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
BRINEY III, WALTER F
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
HONEYWELL INTERNATIONAL INC. (PATENT SERVICES 115 Tabor Road P O BOX 377, MORRIS PLAINS, NJ, 07950, US)
Claims:
1. An apparatus comprising: a) a bus, the bus transmitting a bus signal, the bus signal comprising a plurality of audio signals from a plurality of audio devices; b) an audio processor, the audio processor coupled to the bus and receiving the bus signal, the audio processor determining if one of the plurality of audio signals is being transmitted on a transmitter, the audio processor preventing other of the plurality of audio signals from transmitting on the transmitter if one of the plurality of audio signals is being transmitted.

2. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the audio processor receives a request-to-transmit signal from each of the plurality of audio devices seeking to transmit, and wherein the audio processor checks to determine if any other request-to-transmit signals are enabled to determine if one of the plurality of audio signals is being transmitted.

3. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the audio processor prevents the other of the plurality of audio signals from transmitting by preventing the other of the plurality of audio signals from passing to the transmitter.

4. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the audio processor further allows another of the plurality of audio signals to transmit when the one of the plurality of audio signals being transmitted ceases to be transmitted.

5. The apparatus of claim 1 wherein the plurality of audio devices comprises a plurality of audio devices designed to receive communication from crew members on an aircraft.

6. An apparatus comprising: a) a bus, the bus transmitting a bus signal to a plurality of audio devices; b) an audio processor coupled to the bus, the audio processor receiving at least one warning signal, the audio processor converting said at least one warning signal to a digital signal and transmitting the converted at least one warning signal on the bus to the plurality of audio devices.

7. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein the at least one warning signal includes a ground proximity warning signal.

8. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein the at least one warning signal includes a collision avoidance warning signal.

9. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein the at least one warning signal includes a fire warning signal.

10. The apparatus of claim 6 wherein each of the plurality of audio devices includes a microphone input and a speaker output, and wherein the plurality of audio devices transmit communication signals on the bus to provide communication between crew members.

11. An apparatus comprising: a) an audio volume sensing device, the audio volume sensing device determining an output volume for an aircraft audio communication device; b) a visual notification device, the visual notification device activated when the audio volume sensing device determines the output volume for the aircraft audio communication device is below a predetermined level.

12. The apparatus of claim 11 wherein the aircraft audio communication device includes a speaker output and a headset output, and wherein the audio volume sensor monitors the speaker output volume and the headset output volume.

13. The apparatus of claim 1I1 wherein the audio volume sensing determining when an output volume for an aircraft audio communication device determines when the audio communication device is off.

14. The apparatus of claim 11 wherein the visual notification device displays text indicating the output volume is below the predetermined level.

Description:

CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

[0001] This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 60/324,035, filed Sep. 20, 2001.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

[0002] 1. Technical Field

[0003] This invention generally relates to electronic systems, and more specifically relates to distributed audio systems.

[0004] 2. Background Art

[0005] Modern life is becoming more dependent upon electronic systems. Electronics devices have evolved into extremely sophisticated devices, and may be found in many different applications. As electronics become more integrated into daily life, their ability to communicate and work together becomes a greater and greater necessity.

[0006] The ability for electronic devices to work together is particularly problematic where the multiple remote devices are linked together. In many applications, remote devices must share limited resources to function properly. For example, in some distributed audio systems, remote audio devices must share transmission paths. Where multiple remote audio devices share transmission paths simultaneous use of the transmission path can result in garbled and incoherent audio. This can be problematic in some situations and dangerous in others.

[0007] For example, in aircraft communication systems multiple crew members may all be linked to one transmission system. When multiple crew members attempt to use the transmission system at the same time, the resulting transmission can be garbled and incoherent. This is especially problematic in aircraft communication systems because incoherent transmissions may be misinterpreted as indicative of a security problem on the aircraft

[0008] Unfortunately, in the past it has been difficult to provide the needed sharing of distributed audio systems without introducing the possibility of incoherent transmissions that result from multiple transmission sources all transmitting at once. Thus, what is needed is an improved system and method for selectively controlling transmission in shared distributed audio systems.

BRIEF SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0009] The present invention provides a method and system for limiting transmission to a single operator. The system and method determines if another user in the audio system is currently transmitting before allowing a new transmission from another user to proceed. This assures that only one member of the vehicle crew can transmit at a time, limiting the opportunity for outputs from multiple users to garble the transmission.

[0010] In another embodiment of the present invention, a system and method are provided that allows for the transmission of aural warnings on a digital bus. The system and method allow different types of warnings to be delivered to vehicle crew members throughout the vehicle. This facilitates efficient and reliable distribution of warnings to remote crew members.

[0011] In another embodiment of the present invention, a system and method are provided that notify the user of an audio system when outputs of the audio system have been disabled. This provides warnings to those users who may otherwise be unaware that the system outputs have been disabled.

[0012] The foregoing and other objects, features and advantages of the invention will be apparent from the following more particular description of a preferred embodiment of the invention, as illustrated in the accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS

[0013] The preferred exemplary embodiment of the present invention will hereinafter be described in conjunction with the appended drawings, where like designations denote like elements, and:

[0014] FIG. 1 is a schematic view of a distributed audio system;

[0015] FIG. 2 is a schematic view of audio device;

[0016] FIG. 3 is a flow diagram of a method for granting access to a transmitter;

[0017] FIG. 4 is a schematic view of an apparatus for granting access to a transmitter;

[0018] FIG. 5 is a schematic view of an apparatus for presenting aural warnings;

[0019] FIG. 6 is a schematic view of an apparatus for visual notification of disabled audio.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0020] The present invention provides a method and system for limiting transmission to a single operator. The system and method determine if another user in the audio system is currently transmitting before allowing a new transmission from another user to proceed. This assures that only one member of the vehicle crew can transmit at a time, limiting the opportunity for outputs from multiple users to garble the transmission.

[0021] In another embodiment of the present invention, a system and method are provided that allow for the transmission of aural warning on a digital bus. The system and method allow different types of warnings to be delivered to vehicle crew members throughout the vehicle. This facilitates efficient and reliable distribution of warnings to remote crew members.

[0022] In another embodiment of the present invention, a system and method are provided that notify the user of an audio system when outputs of the audio system have been disabled. This provides warnings to those users who may otherwise be unaware that the system outputs have been disabled.

[0023] The systems and method are particularly applicable to aircraft audio systems. In aircraft audio systems, several audio panels are located throughout the aircraft to facilitate communication between crew members and/or ground stations. In these applications, each audio panel typically includes a microphone input and a speaker output. Each audio panel is connected to a bus. Thus, audio information can be received at each microphone unit and put on the bus for distribution to other audio panels, where it is outputted by the speakers on the audio panels. This distributed audio system thus allows crew members at different locations throughout the plane to effectively communicate to each other.

[0024] In aircraft, the audio quality provided by the distributed audio system is of paramount importance. Turning now to FIG. 1, an exemplary distributed audio system 100 is illustrated schematically. The distributed audio system 100 includes audio devices 1-5 and audio processor 6, coupled together with bus 104. The distributed audio system 100 facilitates communication between people at remote locations, such as between different crew members of an aircraft. Audio communication is received at each audio device, and is transmitted across the bus 104 to the other audio devices where it is outputted by speakers on those devices. The bus 104 is preferably a digital bus that uses multiplexing to allow communication from each audio device to every other audio device in the system 100 on a single bus.

[0025] As will be explained in greater detail below, the audio processor 6 also receives bus transmissions from the audio devices 1-5. The audio processor 6 demultiplexes bus transmissions to generate request-to-transmit signals and audio signals from any of the audio devices 1-5 that are transmitting. The demultiplexed bus transmissions can then be passed to a transmitting device to send the communication off the vehicle. The audio processor 6 also allows aural warnings from various warning systems to be placed on the bus 104 and delivered to crew members through audio devices 1-5.

[0026] Turning now to FIG. 2, a more detailed schematic view of an exemplary audio device 200 is illustrated. The audio device 200 includes a bus I/O, a microphone input, a speaker output, an analog-to-digital converter (ADC) and a digital-to-analog converter (DAC). The microphone input receives audio communication from a user and sends it to the ADC, where it is converted to digital and put on the bus I/O. The DAC receives audio signals from the bus I/O and passes the converted signals to the speaker where they are outputted back the user. The microphone input can be any suitable type of audio input that converts sound waves into a suitable electrical signals, including headset microphones commonly used in aircraft, telephonic devices, and other input devices. The speaker output can be any suitable audio output that converts electrical signals to audible sound, including loudspeakers, headphones, intercom systems, telephonic devices and other such devices.

[0027] The ADC and DAC can be any suitable type of converter. For example, they can comprise linear converters that convert 16 bit audio to a 16 bits per sample signal. These samples can then be converted to 8 bits per sample so two samples can be transmitted at a time at the slower rate.

[0028] Likewise, the bus I/O can be any suitable type of bus interface. In one example, the bus is a digital time multiplexed bus. In this type of bus, each audio device transmits in its own specified time slot. In such the bus I/O could comprise a CODEC that encodes data to be put on the bus and decodes data from the bus, using any suitable encoding scheme. The bus I/O thus receives audio samples taken by the microphone input and converted by the ADC and encodes those samples into a format suitable for digital bus transmission. The bus I/O then puts those samples on the bus at a time slot specified for the audio device. Likewise, the bus I/O receives signals from the time slots associated with other audio devices and the audio processor. These signals can be decoded, filtered and summed, and the resulting output passed to the DAC. The DAC converts the resulting output and sends it to the speaker for outputting to the user.

[0029] The distributed audio system and audio devices illustrated in FIGS. 1 and 2 thus facilitates communication between people at remote locations, such as between different crew members of an aircraft. Audio communication can be generated at any audio device, placed on the bus, and delivered to the other audio devices where it is outputted by speakers on those devices. The system also allows for crew members at different audio devices to transmit off the vehicle through the audio processor 6. Specifically, the audio processor 6 also receives bus transmissions from the audio devices 1-5. The audio processor 6 demultiplexes bus transmissions, which can then be passed to a transmitting device to send the messages off the vehicle.

[0030] Turning now to FIG. 3, a method 194 is illustrated for limiting transmission capability to a single operator of a vehicle (not shown) according to a preferred exemplary embodiment of the present invention. The method 194 begins with a determination as to whether a first user has requested a transmission capability 196. If the first user has requested a transmission capability, the method continues with an evaluation of whether the second user is currently transmitting 198. If the second user is currently transmitting, the first user is denied access to the transmitter 200. Otherwise, if the second user is not currently transmitting, the first user is provided access to the transmitter 202. Similarly, the method 194 is executed for the second user, and the second user is denied access if requesting a transmission capability while the first user is currently transmitting and provided access if the first user is not currently transmitting. It should be understood that while the method 194 is described with reference to only two exemplary users, it is applicable to audio systems that include more than two users. In those cases, the additional users will take on the role of the first user or the second user described above.

[0031] Turning now to FIG. 4, an apparatus 400 presented as a functional logic diagram illustrating how the above-described method might be implemented in accordance with the present invention. It should also be understood however, that the function can also be implemented in whole or in part using different circuit systems as well as known software techniques.

[0032] In FIG. 4, the apparatus 400 receives four signals, ON1, ON2, AUD1 and AUD2. ON1 and ON2 comprise request-to-transmit signals that are sent to identify that a user has requested transmission. AUD1 and AUD2 comprise the audio signals received from the audio device. As discussed above, each audio device on the distributed audio system preferably communicates to other audio devices and to the audio processor using a multiplexed bus. Transmissions on the bus preferably include encoded request-to-transmit signals and audio signals from any transmitting audio devices. An audio processor receives the bus transmission and demultiplexes the bus transmissions to generate the separate request-to-transmit signals (e.g., ON1 and ON2) and the audio signals (e.g., AUD1 and AUD2).

[0033] These request-to-transmit signals (ON1 and ON2) and audio signals (AUD1 and AUD2) are delivered to apparatus 400. The apparatus 400 selectively delivers the AUD1 and AUD2 signals to the transmitter for transmission off the vehicle. Specifically, apparatus 400 prevents more than one of the audio signals AUD1 and AUD2 from being transmitted at the same time.

[0034] In apparatus 400, AND function 402 has a first input configured to receive the first request-to-transmit signal (ON1), which is logical “1” when a first user requests transmission access to a transmitter 420. This corresponds, for example, to a first user depressing the push-to-talk switch on a first microphone. The output of the first AND function 402 is applied to a clocked logic gate 410. The clocked logic gate 410 also receives a clock signal input. The clocked logic gate 410 passes the output of the first AND function 402 when it receives clock signal inputs. This helps prevent the formation of indeterminate states that could otherwise arise in the feedback loops. The output of the clocked logic gate 410 is applied to the input of an inverter 408 and an audio transmission gate 416. A second input to audio transmission gate 416 is coupled to receive an audio signal (AUD1) which corresponds to the actual audio signals generated by the first user, as for example, by making an announcement over a passenger address system or other forms of internal or external transmission. AND function 404 has a first input coupled to the output of inverter 408 and a second input coupled to a second request-to-transmit signal (ON2), which indicates that a second user is attempting to transmit. That is, ON2 becomes a logical “1” when the second user depresses a switch on a microphone. The output of AND function 404 is applied to a second clocked logic gate 412. The clocked logic gate 412 also receives the clock signal input, and passes the output of AND function 404 when it receives clock signal inputs. This again helps prevent the formation of indeterminate states in the feedback loops. The output of the clocked logic gate 412 is applied to the input of an inverter 406 and an audio transmission gate 418. A second input of the audio transmission gate 418 is coupled to receive AUD2, which corresponds to the audio being generated by the second user. Finally, the outputs of the first audio transmission gate 416 and the second audio transmission gate 418 are applied to the first and second inputs of an audio summing device 414. The audio summing device 414 sums the outputs of first audio transmission gate 416 and the second audio transmission gate 418 and passes the summed output to the transmit device 420.

[0035] The apparatus 400 operates as follows. Assume that ON1 is a logical “1” indicating that a first user has requested access to transmit device 420, and further assume that the second input of AND function 402 is a logical “1”. The output of AND function 402 is therefore a logical “1” allowing the first operators audio (AUD1) to pass through audio transmission gate 416 and thus be applied to the audio summing device 414 and outputted on transmit device 420.

[0036] The output of AND function 402 is clocked and inverted by inverter 408, and then also applied to the first input of AND function 404. Thus, the output of inverter 408 is a logical “0”, disabling AND function 404 and transmission gate 418 thus preventing any audio generated by a second user from reaching audio summing device 414. The output of AND function 404 (logical “0”) is clocked and inverted by inverter 406 producing a logical “1” at the second input of AND function 402. Thus, it can be seen that if the first operator has access to the transmission device 420, the apparatus will deny any request for access by a second operator. In a similar fashion, if the second operator has access to the transmission device 420 (i.e., a logical “1” at the output of AND function 404) a logical “0” will appear at the output of inverter 406, thus disabling AND function 402 and preventing transmission through audio transmission gate 416.

[0037] The embodiments of the present invention thus provide a method and system for limiting transmission to a single operator. It should be understood that the method and apparatus described with reference to FIGS. 3 and 4 are applicable to audio systems that include a large number of users. For example, the system and method can be applied to the distributed audio system 100 of FIG. 1, where five audio devices allow communication between five crew members on a vehicle. There the system and method can be used to limit transmission to one communication from one of the five audio devices. Those skilled in the art will also recognize that the logic levels described here are merely exemplary, and that apparatus 400 could instead by implemented using different logic levels and/or different logic structures.

[0038] In another embodiment of the present invention, a system and method are provided that allow for the transmission of aural warning on a digital bus. The system and method allows different types of warnings to be delivered to vehicle crew members throughout the vehicle. This facilitates efficient and reliable distribution of warnings to remote crew members. Additionally, because the system and method transmits the aural warnings on a digital bus, the need for running dedicated audio lines for each of these warning signals is eliminated. In a large vehicle with multiple crew members, this can greatly reduce the amount of wiring needed in the vehicle.

[0039] Returning briefly to FIG. 1, the audio system 100 again includes five audio devices 1-5 connected to each other with audio bus 104. Each of the five audio devices 1-5 includes a speaker output for delivering audio to a crew member. Also included in audio system 100 is the audio processor 6. The audio processor 6 is configured to receive system warnings and pass aural warnings to the crew members at each of the audio devices 1-5. The audio processor 6 thus allows warning signals to be delivered to crew members using the same bus system that is used for communication between crew members.

[0040] Turning now to FIG. 5, an exemplary audio processor 502 is illustrated as part of a communication system 500 for presenting aural warnings. The audio processor 502 is configured to receive warning signals and pass an aural warning to the bus. For example, the audio processor 502 is configured to receive a ground proximity warning signal, a collision and avoidance warning signal, and a fire warning signal. The received warning signals are processed by the audio processor 502. This can include conversion of any analog warning signals to digital warning signals. The digital warning signals are provided to the digital bus 104 (FIG. 1) which distributes the digital warning to all of the audio devices 1-5. Each audio device 1-5 receives the digital warning signal and converts it using its DAC, and outputs it to the user using its speaker output (FIG. 2). Those skilled in the art will thus appreciate that the system provides an efficient and effective digital distribution of warning signals to crew members at remote locations throughout the vehicle. Specifically, the system reduces wiring requirements by sending aural warnings across the same digital bus used for crew communications. This reduces wiring needs and can improve the efficiency of the system.

[0041] In another embodiment of the present invention, a system and method are provided that notifies the user of an audio system when all outputs of the audio system and have been disabled. This provides warnings to those users who may otherwise be unaware that the system outputs, have been disabled. In modern audio systems, traditional volume knobs have been replaced with electronic volume control systems. While offering many advantages over traditional volume knobs, the electronic volume control systems have some significant disadvantages. One of these is that the state of the audio system cannot be readily ascertained by visual examination of the volume knob. This means that a user of an audio system may inadvertently turn the volume down below audible levels and have no easy way to ascertain that the volume has been turned down. Such a user may miss critical information, such as air traffic control commands transmitted through the system.

[0042] Additionally, in systems that provide multiple selective outputs, a user may turn off the volume for the external speaker, intending to rely instead on a headphone output. Such a user may not immediately realize that that volume on the headphone output has been previously reduced below audible levels.

[0043] The embodiments of the present invention provide visual notification to a user when the output volume of a system has been turned below a specified level. This alerts the user that the volume has been reduced, warning the user that they may not hear communication or warnings on the system.

[0044] Turning now to FIG. 6, an apparatus 600 is illustrated for visually notifying a vehicle operator that all audio has been disabled (i.e., turned off) in accordance with a preferred exemplary embodiment of the present invention. The apparatus 600 receives a plurality of disable signals (608, 610, 612) from a plurality of activation devices (614, 616, 618) respectively, generated by a plurality of audio sources (620, 622, 624), respectively. The disable signals (608, 610, 612) from the plurality of activation devices (614, 616, 618) can be logical “1” if an audio source is deactivated (i.e., “off”) and a logical “0” if the audio source is activated (i.e., “on”) and /or can be logical “1” if the magnitude of the volume of an audio source is less than a predetermined volume level and a logical “0” if the magnitude of the volume of the audio source is greater than or equal to the predetermined level.

[0045] The apparatus 600 also comprises coincidence function 626 (e.g., an AND operator) that evaluates each of the disable signals (608, 610, 612) and generates an output signal 228 if all the disable signals indicate that each of the plurality of audio sources (620, 622, 624) are disabled. The output signal is provided to a display 630 that generates a visual indication if all the audio sources are disabled, such as “AUDIO OFF”. The display 630 can be further configured to generate visual effects that are designed to attract the attention of a vehicle operator, such as blinking text or symbol on the display 630.

[0046] The present invention thus provides a method and system for limiting transmission to a single operator. The system and method determines if another user in the audio system is currently transmitting before allowing a new transmission from another user to proceed. This assures that the only one member of the vehicle crew can transmit at a time, limiting the opportunity for outputs from multiple users to garble the transmission. In another embodiment of the present invention, a system and method are thus provided that allows for the transmission of aural warning on a digital bus. The system and method allows different types of warnings to be delivered to vehicle crew members throughout the vehicle. This facilitates efficient and reliable distribution of warnings to remote crew members. Finally, in a third embodiment of the present invention, a system and method are thus provided that notifies the user of an audio system when all outputs of the audio system have been disabled. This provides warnings to those users who may otherwise be unaware that the system outputs have been disabled.

[0047] The embodiments and examples set forth herein were presented in order to best explain the present invention and its particular application and to thereby enable those skilled in the art to make and use the invention. However, those skilled in the art will recognize that the foregoing description and examples have been presented for the purposes of illustration and example only. The description as set forth is not intended to be exhaustive or to limit the invention to the precise form disclosed. Many modifications and variations are possible in light of the above teaching without departing from the spirit of the forthcoming claims.