Title:
Walk-in crib
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A walk-in crib supply system. The system includes a room with an interior, an exterior, and a locked electric door. The system further includes an identity key reader, and a computing terminal. The networked computing terminal verifies a user identity based on the identity key, sends an unlock signal to the locked electric door and logs in the user identity and a login time. The system also includes a shelf in the interior, which has a monitoring device that monitors an item inventory of the shelf. The monitoring device reports the item inventory to the computing terminal, and the computing terminal reports the item inventory to a remote inventory data center.



Inventors:
Holmes, William (San Diego, CA, US)
Application Number:
10/000822
Publication Date:
08/08/2002
Filing Date:
10/23/2001
Assignee:
SupplyPro, Inc. (San Diego, CA, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
340/540
International Classes:
A47B88/00; A47F7/00; G06Q10/08; G07C9/00; G07C11/00; G07F9/02; (IPC1-7): G08B23/00
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CUFF, MICHAEL A
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
MICHAEL BEST & FRIEDRICH LLP (Mke) (MILWAUKEE, WI, US)
Claims:

what is claimed is:



1. A method of automated monitoring of a walk-in crib supply system, the method comprising: scanning an identity key from a user; verifying a user identity based on comparing the identity key against a user-database; automatically logging the user identity and a login time in a computing terminal; sending an unlocking signal from the computing terminal to unlock a locked electric door of a supply room; opening the door and entering the supply room; electronically logging in the computing station whether a take button or a return button is pushed based on whether an item is to be taken or returned; electronically logging in the item being taken or returned when the item is taken or returned; electronically monitoring a closing of the electric door when the user leaves the supply room; and sending a locking signal from the computing terminal to lock the unlocked electric door.

2. The method of claim 1, further comprising: displaying an inventory question provided by the computing terminal on a display; and receiving an inventory answer to the inventory question from the user.

3. The method of claim 1, further comprising monitoring for the presence of an identity key in the proximity of the room.

4. The method of claim 1, wherein the identity key comprises a bar code.

5. The method of claim 1, wherein the identity key comprises a magnetic stripe.

6. The method of claim 1, further comprising reporting the user identity and the login time to a remote inventory data center.

7. The method of claim 1, further comprising automatically reporting to the computing terminal and the remote inventory center whether an item is returned or taken.

8. The method of claim 1, further comprising indicating “exit” on the display.

9. A walk-in crib supply system comprising: a room with an interior, an exterior, and a locked electric door, the locked electric door being coupled to a computing terminal networked to a remote inventory data center; identity key reader on the exterior and coupled to the computing terminal, the identity key reader scanning in an identity key from a user and sending the identity key to the computing terminal, the networked computing terminal verifying a user identity based on the identity key, sending an unlock signal to the locked electric door and logging in the user identity and a login time; and a shelf in the interior, the shelf having a monitoring device which monitors an item inventory of the shelf, the monitoring device being coupled to the computing terminal and reporting the item inventory to the computing terminal, the computing terminal reporting the item inventory to the remote inventory data center.

10. The system of claim 9, further comprising a display on the exterior, adjacent to the locked door and coupled to the computing terminal.

11. The system of claim 9, wherein the computing terminal further comprises a computer and a communication hub.

12. The system of claim 9, wherein the monitoring device further comprises a take button, a return button and a display.

13. The system of claim 9, further comprising an electrical door, adjacent to the locked door, and coupled to the computing station.

14. The system of claim 9, further comprising a refrigeration device in fluid communication with the interior.

15. The system of claim 9, further comprising a display operably coupled to the computing terminal.

16. The system of claim 15, wherein the display further comprises a touch screen.

17. The system of claim 15, wherein the display further comprises a keypad.

18. The system of claim 9, further comprising a network connection coupled to the computing terminal.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATION

[0001] This application claims priority under 35 U.S.C. § 119 to a provisional patent application serial No. 60/242,417, filed on Oct. 23, 2000.

BACKGROUND AND SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

[0002] The invention relates to a dispensing cabinet. Specifically, the invention relates to the monitoring of an item dispensing cabinet.

[0003] Conventional supply cabinets or stock rooms or tool cribs or dispensing cabinets include a locked cabinet or a locked room and supplies, which are typically manned. The locked supply cabinets either are inaccessible or cause unnecessary delay to employees needing supply. Furthermore, the inventory of the supply cabinets usually requires manual accounting and manual re-ordering, which result in errors leading to either under-stocking or over-stocking. It is also well known that some of the supplies in the supply cabinets are used very infrequently, and that theft and misuse are also common. A supply cabinet which more efficiently controls the supply inventory, and still provides adequate monitoring and refilling of the supply would therefore be welcomed by users of such cabinets.

[0004] Accordingly, the present invention provides a method of automated monitoring of a walk-in crib supply system. The method includes scanning an identity key from a user, verifying a user identity based on comparing the identity key against a user-database, and automatically logging the user identity and a login time in a computing terminal. The method further includes sending an unlocking signal from the computing terminal to unlock a locked electric door of a supply room, opening the door and entering the supply room, and electronically logging in the computing station whether a take button or a return button is pushed based on whether an item is to be taken or returned. The method still further includes electronically logging in the item being taken or returned when the item is taken or returned, electronically monitoring a closing of the electric door when the user leaves the supply room, and sending a locking signal from the computing terminal to lock the unlocked electric door.

[0005] Furthermore, the present invention also provides a walk-in crib supply system. The system includes a room with an interior, an exterior, and a locked electric door, the locked electric door being coupled to a computing terminal networked to a remote inventory data center. The system further includes an identity key reader on the exterior and coupled to the computing terminal, the identity key reader scanning in an identity key from a user and sending the identity key to the computing terminal, the networked computing terminal verifying a user identity based on the identity key, sending an unlock signal to the locked electric door and logging in the user identity and a login time. The system also includes a shelf in the interior, the shelf having a monitoring device which monitors an item inventory of the shelf, the monitoring device being coupled to the computing terminal and reporting the item inventory to the computing terminal, the computing terminal reporting the item inventory to the remote inventory data center.

[0006] Other features and advantages of the invention will become apparent by consideration of the detailed description and accompanying drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

[0007] In the drawings:

[0008] FIG. 1 shows a walk-in crib supply system according to the present invention; and

[0009] FIG. 2 shows flow diagram of walk-in crib control and monitoring procedures according to the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

[0010] Before any embodiments of the invention are explained in detail, it is to be understood that the invention is not limited in its application to the details of construction and the arrangement of components set forth in the following description or illustrated in the following drawings. The invention is capable of other embodiments and of being practiced or of being carried out in various ways. Also, it is to be understood that the phraseology and terminology used herein is for the purpose of description and should not be regarded as limiting. The use of “including,” “comprising,” or “having” and variations thereof herein is meant to encompass the items listed thereafter and equivalents thereof as well as additional items.

[0011] Referring to FIG. 1, a walk-in crib supply system 100 according to the present invention is shown. The walk-in crib supply system 100 includes a room 105, an interior 110, an exterior 115, and a locked door 120 with an electric lock 125. The locked door 120 with the electric lock 125 is coupled to a computing terminal 130, which is networked to a remote inventory data center (not shown) through a network connection 135 and obtains its power through a power outlet 137.

[0012] When a user approaches the system 100, the user swipes an identity key (not shown), such as an ID badge containing a bar code or a magnetic stripe, across an identity key reader 140 on the exterior 115 of the room 105. The identity key reader 140 is also coupled to the computing terminal 130. Once the identity key reader scans in an identity key from a user, the identity key reader 140 sends the identity key to the computing terminal 130. When the networked computing terminal 130 verifies the user identity, the computing terminal 130 logs in the user identity and a login time. The computing terminal 130 may show on a display 145 an inventory question or survey. Once the user enters an answer to the inventory question, the computing terminal 130 sends an unlock signal to the locked electric door 120. Once the door 120 is unlocked, and the door 120 is opened (which is monitored by an electric door switch 150), the user is allowed to enter the room 105. The identity key reader 140 may also include a monitoring device that monitors the presence of an identity key in the proximity of the room 105. The identity key may include a lanyard with barcode or a smart chip attached. This arrangement provides hands-free access to the room. It will also be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that the display 145 may include a touch screen and a keypad.

[0013] Once in the interior 110 of the room 105, the user will have access to a shelf 155. The shelf includes a monitoring device 160 which monitors an inventory of an item 165. The monitoring device further includes a take button 170, a return button 175, and a display 180. The monitoring device 160 is also coupled to the computing terminal 130 through a communication hub 185. The user will have to push the take button 170 or the return button 175 for taking or return an item. Once the item 165 is taken or returned, the monitoring device 160 reports to the computing terminal 130 through the communication hub 185. The inventory information is then reported to a remote inventory data center. It should be apparent to those of ordinary skill in the art that a communication hub may be unnecessary when the room is relatively small or there is a relatively small inventory to track.

[0014] FIG. 2 shows a flow diagram 200 of walk-in crib control and monitoring procedures according to the present invention. The procedure starts (step 205) when a user approaches the system, the user swipes an identity key, such as an ID badge containing a bar code or a magnetic stripe, across an identity key reader in step 210. A computing terminal (as shown in FIG. 1) verifies a user identity based on the identity key in step 215, and then logs in the user identity and a login time in step 220.

[0015] At this point, the computing terminal may show on a display 145 (FIG. 1) an inventory question or survey. Once the user answers the question in step 225, the computing terminal sends an unlocking signal to a locked electric door 120 of Figure 1 to unlock the door (step 230). The user may enter the crib or the room (step 235), and have access to the supply. When the user decides to take an item from the shelf (determined in 240), the user is required to push a take button 170 (FIG. 1) on a monitoring device 160 (FIG. 1) in step 245, before the item is taken from the shelf in step 250. Otherwise, when the user decides to return an item to the shelf (determined in 255), the user is required to push a return button 175 (FIG. 1) on the monitoring device 160 (FIG. 1) in step 260, before the item is returned to the shelf in step 265. Thereafter, the user exits the room (step 270), closes the door (step 275), and hits “exit” on the display (step 280). The computing terminal may be programmed to skip the question session and unlock the door to allow the user to enter the room. Furthermore, the computing terminal will also send a locking signal to the electric lock 125 (FIG. 1) to lock the door when the door is closed.

[0016] Thus, the invention provides, among other things, a walk-in crib supply system. Various features and advantages of the invention are set forth in the following claims.