Title:
Video game console and cashless method of use
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A novel video game console and method of use are disclosed and described. The invention also presents a game counting process and application thereof. A secure gaming information storage system is also detailed.



Inventors:
Petruccelli, Matthew (Hollywood, FL, US)
Application Number:
10/963153
Publication Date:
03/24/2005
Filing Date:
10/12/2004
Assignee:
PETRUCCELLI MATTHEW
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F13/08; (IPC1-7): A63F9/24
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20050212206Onion skins- lottery betting gameSeptember, 2005Tarasuk
20090017916Cross-Virtual-World Resource Scheduling FrameworkJanuary, 2009Blanchard III et al.
20080041932Casino Deposit Unit and SystemFebruary, 2008Christophersen et al.
20090011834LOCATION AWARE AD-HOC GAMINGJanuary, 2009Chhabra
20090124340METHOD OF GAMING AND A GAMING SYSTEMMay, 2009Visser
20040072618Random bonus prize shown on the system displayApril, 2004Bartholomew et al.
20080311973Gaming Machine Having Incremental Bonus AwardsDecember, 2008Jaffe
20070060366Hybrid network system and methodMarch, 2007Morrow et al.
20050288103Online game irregularity detection methodDecember, 2005Konuma
20090209335SYSTEM AND METHOD OF AUTOMATIC ENTRY CREATION FOR BLOGS, WEB PAGES OR FILE-SHARING SITES BASED ON GAME EVENTSAugust, 2009Pearce
20040229670Preliminary bonus feature for electronic casino gamesNovember, 2004Potter et al.



Primary Examiner:
KOYAMA, KUMIKO C
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
RUDEN, MCCLOSKY, SMITH, SCHUSTER & RUSSELL, P.A. (P.O. BOX 1900, FORT LAUDERDALE, FL, 33301, US)
Claims:
1. A video game playing system with a subsystem comprising: a first electronic circuit module operatively associated with the calculation of an electronic game count; and a second electronic circuit module operatively associated with storage, retrieval and protection of electronic gaming information.

2. The video game playing system of claim 1, wherein said first electronic module comprises: at least one processing element; at least one memory element; at least one element for inputting information associated with the calculation of said electronic game count; and at least one element for outputting said electronic game count to other system elements; for the purpose of calculating, manipulating, and storing said electronic game count.

3. The video game playing system of claim 1, wherein said second electronic module comprises: at least one memory element; at least one element for inputting said electronic gaming information; and at least one element for outputting said electronic gaming information to other system elements; for storing and retrieving said electronic gaming information.

4. The video game playing system of claim 3, wherein said second electronic module further comprises at least one processor element for manipulating and encrypting said electronic gaming information.

5. The video game playing system of claim 1, wherein said gaming information comprises a game count, a monetary credit, a monetary debit, and at least one unique identification indicator.

6. The video game playing system of claim 1, wherein said subsystem is retrofit to a previously existing video game playing system.

7. The video game playing system of claim 1, wherein said subsystem is fit into a newly manufactured video game playing system.

8. The video game playing system of claim 1, wherein said first electronic circuit module is operatively associated with a set of rule-based processes to determine said game count.

9. The video game playing system of claim 8, wherein said rule-based processes are stored within at least one of said memory elements.

10. The video game playing system of claim 1, wherein said second electronic module is housed in a protective carrier.

11. The video game playing system of claim 1, wherein an interface module receives said second electronic module housed in a protective carrier, and acts to allow said first electronic module to communicate with said second electronic module for transfer of gaming information.

12. The video game playing system of claim 11, wherein said game count information is communicated between said game playing system and said second electronic module by at least one of electrical, optical, magnetic, and mechanical means.

13. The video game playing system of claim 11, wherein said second electronic module communicates with said game playing system through a first electrode and a grounded second electrode on said interface module.

14. The video game playing system of claim 1, wherein said housing comprises a physical locking mechanism to prevent removal of said module during operation of said game playing system.

15. The video game playing system of claim 14, wherein said physical locking mechanism comprises an electronically activated motor drive to actuate a pin blocking removal of the second electronic module carrier.

16. The video game playing system of claim 1, wherein a network allows communication between said game playing system and another computer-controlled system.

17. The video game playing system of claim 16, wherein said computer-controlled system monitors said gaming information for tax and jurisdictional analysis and regulation.

18. A video game playing method comprising: a first electronic circuit module operatively associated with processes that calculate an electronic game count; wherein said electronic game count shows the number of games played by a user.

19. The video game playing method of claim 18, wherein said game count influences award entitlement.

20. The video game playing method of claim 18, wherein said electronic game count is stored in a memory element of a second electronic circuit module for retrieval at a later time.

21. The video game playing method of claim 20, wherein said electronic game count is retrievable from said second electronic circuit module on a different game playing machine from which the game count was originally stored.

22. The video game playing method of claim 18, wherein said game count information is subject to at least one information security provision.

23. The video game playing method of claim 22, wherein said information security provision comprises encryption, biometric data analysis, and personal identification information.

24. The video game playing method of claim 18, wherein said game count information is used for tax and jurisdictional analysis and regulation.

25. The video game playing method of claim 18, wherein said game count information is used to monitor and reward customers for purchase of manufactured goods.

26. The video game playing method of claim 18, wherein said game count information is used to monitor and reward customers for purchase of vendor services.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCES TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a Continuation-In-Part of U.S. Nonprovisional patent application Ser. No. 10/191,250, filed on Jul. 8, 2002, entitled VIDEO GAME CONSOLE AND CASHLESS METHOD OF USE.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The current invention relates to an improved video game console. More specifically, the current invention discloses and describes a video game console, which is designed to be quickly and easily reconfigured for changing games, and a cashless method for playing a game on said console. Furthermore, the current invention presents a game counting process and application. Finally, a secure gaming information storage and retrieval system is presented.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

In 1974 the world first witnessed the beginning of what was to be a new revolution in entertainment. It was in that year that “Pong” a video game depicting a ping-pong game was first introduced. Once the consumer public was overtaken, the industry has been on an odyssey to continually entertain and captivate their enthusiasts. As technology became more advanced, so did the games and the machines which play them. The machines have taken us from “Pong” through three-dimensional graphics and virtual reality. What has also continued to grow is the extraordinary revenue generated by the video game industry. Today, complex and sophisticated games are commonplace. Since the humble beginnings, video gaming has blossomed into a multi-billion dollar a year industry. Commercial video games, of the kind usually found in arcades and played on a pay-per-game basis, are still the backbone of the industry. These commercial machines are usually large, sturdy, and have the most sophisticated games. There is one major drawback. When a machine is assembled and configured, it is most often for one specific game. When that game no longer has the same popularity, the owner is forced to discard the entire unit. Attempts have been made, with varying degrees of success, to reconfigure older consoles to run newer games. Most of the time, the reconfigurations are logistically difficult to perform, and there are limitations as to the extent of reconfiguration possible. Also, reconfiguration of video game consoles can be costly. Oftentimes, it is easier and more cost effective to simply discard the unwanted console and purchase a new game. One such limitation is the user controls. They may or may not be compatible with multiple games. This can be illustrated using two very well known games from the past. The game Centipede is played with a track ball control, while the game Pac Man is played with a joystick. In order to change from one of these games to another, the control panel must be changed. Most video game consoles are not designed for the control panel to be changed. If there are opportunities to change, it is at a great expense of time and effort. The current invention is designed to overcome the difficulties of reconfiguration.

It is an object of the invention to provide a novel video game console that is easily reconfigured.

It is another object of the invention to provide a video game console in which the control panel is easily detachable.

It is another object of the invention to provide a video game console in which the control panel can be quickly and easily interchanged.

It is yet another object of the invention for the entire video game drawer to be easily disconnected and interchanged.

It is another object of the invention to provide a video game console in which the control panel can be interchanged to easily adapt to numerous games.

It is another object of the invention to provide a video game console in which the game played is quickly and easily changed.

It is another object of the invention to provide a video game console in which the game played is interfaced from a circuit board placed within the machine.

It is another object of the invention to provide a video game console in which the circuit board has quick connects and disconnects to both the control panel and display.

It is another object of the invention to provide a video game console which can be played with or without the use of currency.

It is another object of the invention to provide a video game console, which can be played without the use of currency or tokens. The user uses a computer read only chip to deduct money from a chip in which money was deposited and the value stored on the chip.

It is another object of the invention for the cashless system to be used with a casino gambling machine, wherein debits are deducted from the stored cash value on a semiconductor chip, and winnings are credited to said chip.

It is another object of the invention to introduce a game count parameter for use in determining winnings entitlement. The game count, which determines the number of games played by a user, shall be recorded on removable media that can be transported among a group of properly configured and receptive machines.

It is another object of the invention to introduce a game-playing method using said game count.

It is another object of the invention to introduce an interface module that communicates game playing information between said game console and removable media.

It is another object of the invention to provide an accounting of promotional credit owed to patrons of retail establishments and automated vending systems.

It is another object of the invention to provide a physical security mechanism to retain the semiconductor chip carrier in the game playing console during game operation. This carrier acts as protective packaging for the chip.

It is another object of the invention to provide data security capabilities using encryption, biometric data, and personal identification information stored locally or retrieved from remote resources.

It is another object of the invention to provide wired or wireless data communication capabilities for the purpose of monitoring game playing conditions and for adherence to legal and tax regulations.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is the front view of the assembled console.

FIG. 2 is a person sitting at the console.

FIG. 3 is the console showing removable computer motherboard.

FIG. 4 is the console showing removable and interchangeable game controls.

FIG. 5 shows removal of the monitor and game housing from the console stand.

FIG. 6 is a schematic showing the integration of multiple game circuit boards within a single unit.

FIG. 7a &7b are diagrams showing the chip carrier, indicating placement of the I-Chip semiconductor device including its Input/Output mechanism. The chip reader and some of the related components are also shown.

FIG. 8a-FIG. 8c are diagrams showing the internal mechanism of the I-Chip reader device.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The current invention allows a user to access commercial pay-for-play video consoles, without the need for depositing currency or tokens. There is a commercially available product called the “I Chip” available from Dallas Semiconductor, Dallas, Tex. The chip is described in U.S. Pat. No. 6,085,983, incorporated herein by reference. This patent describes a secure monetary system, by which monetary deposit information is stored on said chip. The current invention has produced novel software for performing the monetary transfer. A copy of one embodiment is submitted on CD-ROM and the contents are incorporated herein by reference. It is this novel software that provides a method for use of the established technology in a previously unexplored arena of commerce.

The commercial video arcade has been a major icon in our society for the previous 20+ years. Conventionally, patrons would use change machines to receive either quarters or tokens. Then, they would proceed from machine to machine with pockets filled with coins. The novel video game apparatus described herein would completely eliminate the need for any coins. Additionally, a method for transacting video gaming without the need for coins is sought as part of the invention. The method would be carried out as follows: A patron would enter an arcade or other appropriate area where commercial pay-for-play games are available. The patron would obtain a holder, which has a permanently mounted semiconductor chip. The patron would proceed to a terminal, which has mounted a standard dollar bill reader as is commonly known and used in commerce. The terminal would also have appropriately formed first and second conductive surfaces, which are combined to form a cavity appropriate for the insertion of the semiconductor chip. For the purposes of this invention, these combined conductive surfaces will be referred to as the chip receiver. The patron then inserts the semiconductor chip into a chip receiver. The chip receiver is interfaced, through said novel software, to provide a method transaction. The patron will deposit a desired amount of currency into the dollar bill reader, and the amount of deposit is subsequently stored on a chip. The patron will then remove the semiconductor chip and proceed to a gaming machine. The gaming machine can be any suitable electronic gaming device (or gaming system). Said gaming devices and gaming systems can include, but are not limited to: video arcade games, gaming machines, gambling machines, casino games, video gambling games, automated vending systems, I-chip interface equipped satellite signal and CATV receiver systems, and computers with an I-chip interface reader attached. The method is directed to removing a user initiated amount of currency and receiving credit on the desired gaming device. Internet game play and merchandise purchase using a gaming device with an I-chip reader is also supported. It should be understood that the desired gaming device will have a chip receiver and appropriate software for initiating and completing the transaction. Once the chip receiver transmits the presence of the chip, the software provides a method for the circuit board to read the stored information and ascertain if there is any monetary value on the chip. This is done using the aforementioned software. Each video game also has appropriate software to read the monetary information stored on the chip, and deducts appropriate amounts for games played. The user approaches a machine, inserts the semiconductor chip into the chip receiver, selects the amount of game credits desired, and starts playing.

Another novel feature of the current invention provides for the return of unused credits. An example is a patron that selects for two games to be played, and at the completion of the first game, desires to play a different game, or not play any more. The patron can have the game credits refunded and the monetary value restored to his semiconductor chip. Thus the current invention provides for a novel method for the commercial video patron to play multiple games, without the need for currency, coins or tokens.

In another embodiment, the software will place a series of award points onto the chip. In many arcades, tickets are awarded for attaining certain levels of scores on the games. These award tickets are then redeemed for prizes. This embodiment would eliminate the need for these award tickets. Alternatively, in a casino setting, the patron will have winnings deposited onto the chip. The patron will then redeem the total winnings at a cashier for cash or a cashiers check.

In another embodiment, the software may be used to track a patron's usage to determine the relative popularity of various games. The data relating to a patrons activity may include, but would not be limited to amount of time played, amount of money played, amount of winnings earned, or any combination thereof.

In another embodiment, casino or “gaming” games are equipped to receive payment from a user using the semiconductor chip. Additionally, in a casino atmosphere where allowable by law, the winnings of a patron may be credited onto the users chip. The user would cash in the winnings by going to a cashier and having the chip read for a current monetary value, and receiving compensation, in the form of a cash, check, or other appropriate payment for the value recorded on the chip.

In situations where earnings from gaming are highly regulated by Government, some jurisdictions only permit winnings of up to a fixed dollar amount or some multiple of a fixed dollar amount per game played. In these situations, it might be extremely helpful to know the number of games that had been played by a patron in order to permit earnings commensurate with the allowable award limits. Toward this end, the present invention provides a means for keeping an electronic game count. As an example, Florida statute permits an arcade amusement center to dispense a merchandise or prize value no greater than $0.75 for each game played. If, for example, a patron purchases $100 worth of games at $0.10 per game, then the patron is entitled to play 1000 games and the maximum merchandise value, in Florida, may not exceed $750.00 after completing those 1000 games. If, after playing 10 games, the patron wins the jackpot, then the entitlement is for a merchandise value not greater than $7.50. Not until all 1000 games are played is the patron entitled to a merchandise or prize with an equivalent value of $750.00. Therefore, the ability to accurately determine the number of games played (game count) is essential to the legal operation of the game center.

Current patrons of an amusement center in the state of Florida buy a set of tokens from a concession. Game winnings are tabulated by counting tickets dispensed from the game machine or by the use of script writers. The sum of the tickets represent the merchandise or prize that the customer is entitled to receive. Problems with these methods include miscounting and dispensing machine malfunctions causing inconvenience, earnings loss, and disagreements between patrons and management. Additional problems with this method include increased maintenance costs for machines with ticket dispensers. The present invention provides an improved system, allowing a patron to insert a portable chip carrier into a receptive gaming machine prior to play allowing an electronic record of the game count to be stored into a non-volatile memory. This operation has the added advantage of allowing eligibility for merchandise and prizes to be transferred from one game machine to the next.

An extension to the embodiments described in the previous paragraphs relates to promotional credit received for purchase of commercial goods. In this scenario, the game count would reflect the quantity of merchandise of a given type purchased by a customer. As an example, a soft-drink vendor or manufacturer may award a cash value or cash-equivalent prize after purchase of a quantity of a name-brand soda. This entitlement may be entered into the semiconductor chip for later redemption. Deductions and credits can be automatically registered on the chip by a reader and its associated circuitry and processes as awards are redeemed and received, respectively. The method of purchase could be made through traditional retail establishments, automated vending machines, or through Internet purchases using computer systems outfitted with appropriately configured chip reader devices. In a similar manner, retail services, such as car washing services, could be outfitted with appropriate chip reader systems and configured to convey award entitlement based on the number of times the services were purchased.

It is also envisioned that keeping an accurate game count might facilitate State and Federal tax collection. Game playing information could be electronically transmitted from the game playing system to State offices for purposes of tax assessment. One way that current systems tax patrons is at the time that currency or tokens are entered into the game playing system by including taxes in the cost of game play. This method is readily supported using the I-chip system described herein by deducting the appropriate value electronically from the device.

Example source code that increments a game count for the present invention and calculates bonus-time is shown below.

If ((GameIndex==1) && (STATUS==1))) { //changed
Delay_10ms(50);
GameCount++;
GameIndex=0;
If (isTournament) {
tLong = GetRawTime( ) − TimeStart;
If (tLong > BonusTime) {
BonusTime=0;
} else if (tLong>0) {
BonusTime=BonusTime−tLong;
}
SaveBalance( );

The game count is recorded onto a removable media, such as the I-chip, and displayed on the game video display during game play. The source code that displays the game count is shown below.

If (Show_Balance) {
clear_screen( );
PrintHeader( );
PrintBalance( );
CoverPts( );
} else { // just show game count on bottom of screen
x=7;
y=1;
setXY( );
FillRow( );
x=7;
y=1;
setXY( );
inverse=1;
sprintf(buffer,”Game Count: %1d”,GameCount);
print(buffer);
}

The video console itself has been improved to provide several unique characteristics that are not found on commercially available machines. The control panels of commercially available video gaming equipment are not easily changed. If there were a machine capable of changing the game, it would be limited to interchange based on the control panel. It has been discovered that one is able to form the control panel onto a detachable door. Said detachable door is able to be unlocked and removed from the body of the console. The electronic and/or computer circuitry mounted to the board for both the controls and the semiconductor chip are designed so they may be disconnected from the video and electrical interfaces by means of a quick connect/disconnect mechanism. In forming the machine with the quick connect/disconnect, the entire drawer assembly may be removed and the commercial video game machine can be quickly and easily reconfigured to play another game. The electronic circuitry for individual games can be stored in the circuitry mounted to the board.

In another embodiment, the games are computer based and generated.

In another embodiment, the control panel also is removable and interchangeable by means of standard quick connect/disconnect. In this manner, if the game board already contains the appropriate programming for running multiple games, only the controls need be changed to accommodate the games' control requirements. The machine is readily changeable and reconfigurable to facilitate the change of games and controls.

Another feature of the console provides for the easy removal of the video monitor housing. Again, because the machine has electronic quick connect/disconnect, the monitor can be easily separated from its computer and electronic connections. The monitor is secured to the base with a plurality of mounting screws or other appropriate mounting means. The size, type, and number of mountings are easily ascertained and assigned by the machine designer and is determined by methods commonly known in the art.

Another embodiment provides for the mounting of more than one game circuit board within the video game assembly. The games may be interchanged externally, or internally by changing the connection using the quick connect/disconnect. The advantage of this embodiment is that it does not limit the owner of the console in the offering of games to the consumers.

In another embodiment the unit is portable and removable from the lower cabinet. In this embodiment, the machine can be placed on a tabletop, countertop or bar.

FIG. 1 shows the video console 100 with lower cabinet 102 that supports upper cabinet 104. Lower cabinet 102 may incorporate a footrest 106 for use when user is seated at the console. Incorporated into upper cabinet 104 is a video display 108 for viewing the game. Game drawer assembly 300 is mounted into upper cabinet 104 and locked and unlocked at 320 by any commonly used locking mechanism.

FIG. 2 shows a patron seated in front of the video console 100 with the aforementioned elements. Also shown in FIG. 2 is the electrical power cord 504, which connects to an appropriate source of electricity 502.

FIG. 3 shows the removal of the game drawer assembly 300. The drawer is disconnected from the video game console by removing both the electronic quick disconnect output 318, which supplies power to the power supply 316 which in turn delivers current to printed circuit board 308. Printed circuit board 308 is mounted onto drawer 300. Complete removal game drawer assembly 300 also requires removal of electronic quick disconnect input 314 from the electronic quick disconnect output 312 which supplies the signal to the video display. The game drawer assembly 300 also has mounted a speaker 306 suitable for providing appropriate audio for the game being played. The game drawer assembly 300 further contains a kill switch 322 and kill switch wires 324, which leads to the display 326. The kill switch provides a means of security by providing a mechanism by which the machine becomes disabled, either temporarily or permanently in order to prevent unauthorized access to any of the components housed within the console. The display can be a light emitting diode (LED), liquid crystal display (LCD) or any other suitable display. Mounted under display 326 is a circuit board 328, which provides the signal for the display 326. Mounted directly under display 326 is a chip receiver 330. The chip receiver is of appropriate size and shape to allow for the insertion of a mounted semiconductor chip. This allows for the patron to prepurchase a monetary value, which is stored on the chip. The video console has appropriate software, which allows for the circuitry to read the monetary value stored on the semiconductor chip, deduct an amount as determined by the user, and receive credit on the video game. FIG. 3 also shows varied embodiments of the game drawer. Game drawer 332 shows one possible configuration. Game drawer 334 shows an embodiment wherein the controls 302 have a joystick. Game drawer 336 shows even another embodiment showing the arrangement of the controls. These embodiments are given by way of example and are in no way intended to be limiting in their scope.

FIG. 4 shows another embodiment by which only the user controls dismount from the board and provide a means for reconfiguring the console. In this embodiment more than one circuit board is mounted within the console and the reconfiguring of the game is achieved by manually or electronically switching boards, and by changing the user controls, which are mounted to the drawer of the console.

FIG. 5 shows the console 100 and depicts the mounting of upper cabinet 104 onto lower cabinet 102. The mounting in one embodiment can be conventional mounting screws 402. The mounting can be by any appropriate means.

One advantage of the use of the I-chip by Dallas Semiconductor is that it is possible to embed the integrated circuit in a portable chip carrier that can be conveniently placed into a gaming machine prior to game play. A chip carrier 600 for this application has been designed, as shown in FIG. 7a. The I-chip 602 is shown embedded in the carrier, with electrical contacts rising above the surface of the carrier. A corresponding reader 604 has been designed to accept the carrier for reading and writing relevant game playing and user identification information from/to the I-chip. Important game playing information may include monetary data (funds remaining, money played, and winnings earned), game count, time/date played, and bonus time earned. User identification information can be stored and accessed for security screening. Such information might include encryption, biometric data, photographic, and third party identification information such as passport or driver's license numbers. One application of such information is the restriction of fund access without proper identification. As an example, a fingerprint reader device connected to the I-chip reader may require matching with fingerprint data stored on the I-chip before allowing access to the funds stored on the I-chip.

The portable chip carrier reader communicates with other game playing system components through a set of electrical contacts 606 and 608. Insertion of the chip carrier into the reader toggles a switch 610 that initiates data communication with the I-chip. The switch also activates a motor driven mechanical locking device 612 that blocks the withdrawal of the carrier from the gaming machine during play. A fully inserted carrier is shown in FIG. 7b.

FIG. 8a through FIG. 8c show details of the electrical and mechanical operation of the reader assembly. Insertion of the chip carrier into the reader engages an electrical switch 610 that initiates exchange of information between the game module and the I-chip-602. It also initiates operation of an electric stepper motor 612 that actuates a rod 614 to extend 616, blocking movement of the carrier during game play, as shown in FIG. 8a. A simplified diagram of the operation that initiates communication between the I-chip and the game playing console is shown in FIG. 8b. The manual movement of the chip carrier 600 into the reader 604 causes an open switch 618 to close 620, allowing current to flow between the I-chip and the game playing console. The electrical connections, shown collectively 622 in this diagram, make contact with the electrodes on the I-chip. Details of the electrical contact between the I-chip electrodes and the electrodes on the reader are shown in FIG. 8c. The ground electrode 624 and data electrode 628 on the I-chip are separated by an electrical insulator 626. As the carrier 600 is inserted, a metal spring 630, that is also connected to chassis ground 632, is forced open and maintains electrical contact with the ground electrode 624. Electrical contact is made between electrode 634 on the reader and the larger diameter I-chip electrode 628. The I-chip is an integrated circuit module specifically designed to securely handle monetary transactions using a two electrode data communications channel. Having only 2 electrodes makes interconnection with the chip relatively simple and reliable. While only electrically conductive contact has been described with regard to communication between the game playing system and the I-chip carrier, it should be understood that such communication can be achieved by a wide range of other mechanical and electromagnetic means. These communication means are intended to be included in the scope of this invention.

The invention can also be used with wired or wireless data communication capabilities for the purpose of monitoring game playing conditions and for communication with State and Federal agencies to help adhere to legal and tax regulations. Appropriate networking equipment and protocols would need to be fitted.

It should be understood that the I-chip by Dallas Semiconductor is but one semiconductor device that can be specified for use with the present invention. Other competing devices with similar characteristics are applicable, as are future versions of the described semiconductor device.

These are provided by way of example and are in no means intended to limit the scope of the invention. While the invention has been described in its preferred form or embodiment with some degree of particularity, it is understood that this description has been given only by way of example and that numerous changes in the details of construction, fabrication, and use, including the combination and arrangement of parts, may be made without departing from the spirit and scope of the invention.