Title:
TRACKING OF PRODUCTS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A method of detecting designated products from a number of sources includes the step of applying (12) a unique code to each one of a plurality of products at a first location (14). The method also includes determining which of the plurality of products become designated. The method further includes the steps of recording the codes of the designated products, reading (26) the codes of products distributed at a second location (16) and comparing (28) the read codes with the recorded codes to determine if any of the distributed products are designated products. The invention also includes a system for detecting designated products.



Inventors:
Davis, Roelof Daniel Jacobus (GAUTENG, ZA)
Rabe, Frederick Jacobus (GAUTENG, ZA)
Application Number:
09/463526
Publication Date:
04/11/2002
Filing Date:
02/11/2000
Assignee:
DAVIS ROELOF DANIEL JACOBUS
RABE FREDERICK JACOBUS
Primary Class:
International Classes:
G08B13/24; G08B21/24; (IPC1-7): G06F17/60
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
KIM, AHSHIK
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
LADAS & PARRY (NEW YORK, NY, US)
Claims:
1. A method of detecting designated articles from a number of sources, the method including the steps of applying a respective unique code to each one of a plurality of articles at at least one of a number of sources; designating at least one article among said plurality of articles coded at sources; recording the respective unique codes of said designated articles; reading the codes of articles distributed from said sources; and comparing the read codes of articles distributed from said sources with the recorded codes of designated articles to determine if any of the distributed articles are designated articles.

2. The method as claimed in claim 1, in which the codes of the designated articles are determined by retaining a first list of the unique codes which are applied to the articles at a first location, and comparing the first list to a second list of codes of articles which are decoded at a second location, with the codes which appear on the first list and not the second list comprising the codes of the designated articles.

3. The method as claimed in claim 1, in which the codes of the designated articles are recorded at a central loss control station.

4. The method as claimed in claim 3, which includes transmitting the read codes to the central loss control station, for comparing the read codes with the recorded codes.

5. The method as claimed in claim 4, which includes transmitting data on the identity of the second location to the central loss control station.

6. The method as claimed in claim 5, which includes transmitting data on the time at which the read codes are transmitted to the central loss control station.

7. The method as claimed in any one of claims 3 to 6, which includes triggering an alarm at the central loss control station if designated articles are detected to alert a person on duty.

8. The method as claimed in any one of claims 3 to 6, which includes retaining a record of the data and the read codes at the central loss control station if the articles are designated articles.

9. A system for detecting designated articles from a number of sources, the system including an encoding means for applying a respective unique code to each one of a plurality of manufactured articles at at least one of a number of sources; a means for designating at least one article among said plurality of encoded articles; a recording means for recording the respective unique codes of designated articles among said articles coded at said sources; a reading means for reading the codes of articles distributed from said sources; and a comparator for comparing the read codes of articles distributed from said sources with the recorded codes of designated articles to determine if any of the distributed articles are designated articles.

10. The system as claimed in claim 9, in which the encoding means is at a first location, the reading means is at a second location.

11. The system as claimed in claim 10, in which the comparator is located at a central loss control station.

12. The system as claimed in claim 11, in which the codes of designated articles are retained in a database of the comparator at the central loss control station.

13. The system as claimed in claim 11, which includes a transmitting means for transmitting the read codes to the comparator at the central loss control station.

14. The system as claimed in claim 13, in which the transmitting means transmits data on the second location to a central loss control station.

15. The system as claimed in any one of claims 10 to 14, in which the first location is a manufacturing plant, with the codes being applied to manufactured articles on an assembly line.

16. The system as claimed in any one of claims 10 to 14, in which the first location is a warehouse for imported products.

17. The system as claimed in any one of claims 10 to 14, in which the first location is a warehouse for export articles.

18. The system as claimed in any one of claims 10 to 14, in which the second location is a retail outlet, with the reading means forming part of a bar code scanning system.

19. The system as claimed in any one of claims 10 to 14, in which the second location is a retail outlet, with the reading means being in the form of a free-standing scanner.

20. A method of recovering designated articles, substantially as herein described with reference to the accompanying diagrammatic drawing.

21. A system for recovering designated articles, substantially as herein described with reference to the accompanying diagrammatic drawing.

Description:
[0001] THIS INVENTION relates to the tracking of products. More particularly, this invention relates to a method of detecting designated products and to a system for detecting designated products.

[0002] According to a first aspect of the invention, there is provided a method of detecting designated products from a number of sources, the method including the steps of

[0003] applying an unique code to each one of a plurality of products at a first location;

[0004] determining which of the plurality of products become designated;

[0005] recording the codes of the designated products;

[0006] reading the codes of products distributed at a second location;

[0007] and

[0008] comparing the read codes with the recorded codes to determine if any of the distributed products are designated products.

[0009] It will be appreciated that the term “designated products” includes products that are stolen, products that are lost by undetermined means and picked up as lost through stock taking or other methods of reconciling numbers of products, products not intended for re-sale to consumers, sample batches of products, defective products, products sold to a Government sector, export products, imported products, or the like. “Products” is also meant to include three-dimensional articles and other articles such as cheques, tickets or the like. Designated products which are detected may then be recovered. It will be appreciated that the method and system may also be used as an audit system for keeping track of designated products, in particular, for products not intended for re-sale.

[0010] The codes of the designated products may be determined by retaining a first list of the unique codes which are applied to the products at the first location, and comparing it to a second list of codes of products which are decoded at another authorised location, with the codes which appear on the first list and not the second list comprising the codes of the designated products.

[0011] The codes of the designated products may be recorded at a central loss control station. The method may include transmitting the read codes to the central loss control station, for comparing the read codes with the recorded codes.

[0012] The method may also include transmitting data on the identity of the second location and data on the time at which the read codes are transmitted to the central loss control station.

[0013] The method may include triggering an alarm at the central loss control station if designated products are detected to alert a person on duty. The data may also be visually displayed at the central loss control station in such a way that it alerts a person on duty.

[0014] A record of the data and the read codes may be retained at the central loss control station if the products are designated products.

[0015] According to a second aspect of the invention, there is provided a system for detecting designated products from a number of sources, the system including

[0016] an encoding means for applying an unique code to each one of a plurality of products at a first location;

[0017] a designated products determining means for determining which of the plurality of products become designated;

[0018] a recording means for recording the codes of the designated products;

[0019] a reading means for reading the codes of products distributed at a second location; and

[0020] a comparator for comparing the read codes with the recorded codes to determine if any of the distributed products are designated products.

[0021] The comparator may be located at a central loss control station. The codes of the designated products may be retained in a database of the comparator at the central loss control station.

[0022] The system may include a transmitting means for transmitting the read codes to the comparator at the central loss control station. The transmitting means may also transmit data on the second location to a central loss control station.

[0023] The first location may be a manufacturing plant, with the codes being applied to manufactured products on an assembly line. Alternatively, the first location may be a warehouse for imported products or for export products.

[0024] The second location may be a retail outlet, with the reading means forming part of a bar code scanning system. Alternatively, the second location may be a retail outlet, with the reading means being in the form of a free-standing or hand held scanner suitable for use by a till operator or an independent user of the system.

[0025] It is to be appreciated that the system is not limited to use with retail products or products earmarked for re-sale.

[0026] The invention is now described, by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawing which shows a schematic flow chart representing a system, in accordance with the invention, for recovering designated products.

[0027] In the drawing, reference numeral 10 generally indicates a flow chart representing a system, in accordance with the invention, for recovering designated products.

[0028] The system includes an encoding means 12 for applying an unique forgery resistant code to each one of a plurality of manufactured products. The encoding means 12 is located in a manufacturing plant 14, with a code being applied to each product on an assembly line. The code may be in the form of a forge-resistant mark such as a hologram.

[0029] The manufactured products are transported from the plant 14 to the premises 16 of a distributor, who, in turn, supplies the products to an end retail outlet 18 where they are sold to the public.

[0030] It will be appreciated that the manufactured products can reach the end retail outlet 18 though different routes. Some of the manufactured products may be stolen or otherwise designated from the plant 14, from the premises 16 of the distributor, or at any stage when being transported from the plant 14 to the premises 16 or the retail outlet 18. The stolen or designated products land up with an unauthorised distributor at a venue 20 through any one of routes 19. The unauthorised distributor sells the products and they may also be distributed through the retail outlet 18.

[0031] The quantity of manufactured products is checked by the distributor when the products are received at the premises 16. If the quantity received does not tally with the quantity of manufactured products dispatched by the manufacturer, the distributor knows that some of the products have become designated products. The distributor receives a list of codes applied to the manufactured products and a decoding device from the manufacturer to determine the codes of the designated products. The quantity of manufactured products may also be checked at the retail outlet 18 in the same way or at any other stage, if theft is suspected.

[0032] A recording means 22 for recording the codes of designated products is located at a central loss control station 24. The codes of the designated products are supplied to the central loss control station 24 where they are entered into the recording means 22 which is in the form of a database.

[0033] A reading means in the form of a scanner 26 for reading the codes of distributed products is located at the retail outlet 18. The control station 24 includes a comparator 28 for comparing the read codes with the recorded codes to determine if the products are designated products. The read codes are transmitted to the station 24 on a daily or more regular basis.

[0034] In use, all of the distributed products located at the retail outlet 18 are scanned at point of sale or on the shelves. The comparator 28 at the station 24 compares the read codes with the recorded codes to determine if any of the distributed products are designated products which have been received by an unauthorised route or dealer. If it is determined that the distributed products are designated products, data is retained at the central loss control station 24. The data includes the codes of the detected designated products, the identity of the second location and the time of the reading. The data are visually displayed at the central loss control station in such a way that it alerts a person on duty. The person on duty will act on the information in an appropriate way, for example, by alerting the police. A record of the data is maintained at the central loss control station 24 for evidence purposes.

[0035] The inventors believe that the invention has several advantages. Firstly, a central database of designated products is established. Also, designated products are accurately marked by each having an individual code which can be identified in a simple operation. Further, accurate records of the process are available for possible criminal prosecution.