Title:
NETWORK FOR ELECTRONIC NOTIFICATION OF WIND FOR INSTANT PRIZE GAMES, USING RFID IDENTIFIERS FOR THE PARTICIPANTS
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
Network for electronic notification of wins in prize games, comprising:
    • at least one portable electromagnetic identifier, provided with a medium to which is fixed a transponder, the transponder including a memory containing an item of personal information for unique recognition of a user or object carrying the identifier;
    • at least one mediation device accessible to the user and equipped with a contactless reader of the transponder's memory and with means of transmitting the recognition information read in the transponder's memory;
    • a remote processor connected to the mediation device through a data communication network, the processor including means of verifying the recognition information transmitted by the mediation device over the data communication network, and a random generator of notification of a winning status matching the verification;
    • a means of communicating the notification of the winning status to the user of the identifier, the communication means being connected to the data communication network.



Inventors:
Balosetti, Claudio (Borgosesia, IT)
Application Number:
12/309881
Publication Date:
03/25/2010
Filing Date:
07/27/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
A63F9/24; G06Q30/00
View Patent Images:



Primary Examiner:
VO, PETER DUNG BA
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
JACOBSON HOLMAN PLLC (Washington, DC, US)
Claims:
1. 1-10. (canceled)

11. An apparatus for the participation of a user to a plurality of prize games related to products on sale in a plurality of commercial establishments without paper medium, comprising transponders incorporated in respective products transmitting recognition signals to transponders readers of mobile phones, characterized in that it also includes a remote processor provided with archives of products authorized for a price game and of users subscribed to one or more price games connected by a data communication network to said mobile phones, said recognition signals being transmitted to the remote processor and matched with product's recognition codes stored in said archives, said matching being notified to the user by the same mobile phone, registering means, in particular a website, transmitting signals to the remote processor for registering and updating said archives, a random generator generating a win or loose signal transmitted to the mobile phone for notification of the user, said transponders being provided with a rewritable memory in which is stored at least one updatable code for re-participating in different or the same prize game.

12. The apparatus according to claim 11, characterized in that said mobile phone is provided with means actuating the transmission of a signal to the remote processor to authorize the participation to a price game.

13. The network according to claim 12, wherein the mediation device comprises means for contactless updating of the contents of the rewritable memory of said transponder, each time the reader detects said transponder.

14. The network according to claim 11, wherein said means of communicating the notification is comprised in said mediation device.

15. The network according to claim 11, wherein said means of communicating the notification is a mail server to which said user is registered or is an SMS messaging server-of a mobile phone network to which said user is subscribed, an email address or mobile telephone number of said user, being stored in said remote processor in association with said unique recognition information.

16. The network according to claim 11, wherein either one of said mediation device and said remote processor comprises means of controlling a transaction, said processor including memorised instructions for activating said random generator in response to said means of controlling the transaction.

17. The network according to claim 11, wherein said mediation device is installed in a commercial establishment and said medium is an object on sale at said commercial establishment.

18. The network according to claim 11, wherein said medium is any object belonging to the user, selected preferably between a mobile telephone, a smartphone, a rigid card and a token.

19. The network according to claim 11, wherein said mediation device is any object belonging to the user, selected preferably between a mobile telephone, a smartphone or other portable mediation device.

20. The network according to claim 11, wherein said transponder is of RFID type and said memory is comprised in a smartcard of contactless type, or RFDC, NFC or ZigBee or WiFi.

Description:

The present invention has as its subject a network for electronic notification of wins in instant prize games, using RFID identifiers for the participants.

Electronic apparatuses are currently known, capable of locally or remotely generating notifications of wins of money, goods or services, through the users' participation in prize competitions or lotteries, or the purchase of so-called “Scratch and Win” cards or the use of slot-machines.

The paper media which enable the generation of the request for an immediate or deferred draw, to be submitted to the electronic apparatuses, can carry printed on them a bar-code for validating the win, and obviously require printing. This entails the preparation and distribution of a large number of tickets which, among other things, notwithstanding that they carry sufficient information to validate the win, impose limitations principally because of their static quality and poor security.

An example which avoids some of the disadvantages which characterise paper ticketing by bar-code is described in U.S. Pat. No. 7,017,805, which proposes a disposable paper ticket on which the traditional validation bar-code is replaced by an RFID (Radio Frequency Identifier) circuit, attached to the paper medium and accompanied by the conventional layer, removable by scraping, which hides the immediate notification of the win. By means of the RFID circuit attached to each paper ticket, the seller of the ticket can activate the individual ticket before sale, in such a way that in case of a win the ticket is recognised as valid.

However, a paper ticket equipped with RFID has the disadvantage of being able to be used for only one game and exclusively in anonymous form.

Further examples are price contests called by single firms which promote the sell of products, and the user after buying a product can, by a mobile telephone, send a SMS to a reserved number receiving immediately on the cellular phone the result of the winning or of the not winning.

Further examples are kiosk in shopping centers which can call price contests reading the bar code of the product just bought and participate to the extraction of a price.

Further examples are nominative cards which can be read by device like POS to participate again to price contests, point accumulation, gifts, discounts and similar.

All these examples need simple apparatus manageable on-site or from a remote site like kiosks or need paper supports difficult to manage like “Scratch & Win” useable only once, obviously without any data connection, very expensive and difficult to manage, or using a mobile telephone, the user inputs only few informations which result expensive and little manageable.

These are only some examples mostly used in price contests.

The principal task of the present invention is to obviate the disadvantages mentioned above, by contriving a solution which enables participation in a plurality of lotteries or prize games while providing a unique identification for the player, which may even be in anonymous form.

Within the scope of this task, an object of the invention is to facilitate the player or user in the communication of his/her participation in the lottery or prize game and in notification that a win has occurred, in whatever environment the player or user may be.

Another object of the invention is to create a ticketing system which is not limited to the paper medium only.

Again, the present invention aims at the further object of ensuring security in the communication of the player's participation in the game and in notification that a win has occurred.

Not the least of the objects of the invention is to create a system of high reliability, which can be relatively easily implemented at competitive cost.

This task, as well as other objects which will appear more clearly in what follows, are achieved by a network for electronic notification of wins in prize games, comprising:

    • at least one portable electromagnetic identifier, provided with a medium to which a transponder is fixed, the transponder including a memory containing an item of personal information for unique recognition of a user or object carrying the identifier;
    • at least one mediation device accessible to the user and equipped with a contactless reader of the transponder's memory and with means of transmitting the recognition information read in the transponder's memory;
    • a remote processor connected to the mediation device through a data communication network, the processor including means of verifying the recognition information transmitted by the mediation device over the data communication network and a random generator of notification of a winning status matching the verification;
    • a means of communicating the winning status to the user of the identifier, the communication means being connected to the data communication network.

The transponder's memory is preferably rewritable, for example of R/W EEPROM type, so that the identifier can be re-used for an unlimited number of games. In particular, the transponder's memory can be rewritten by the mediation device used for participating in the prize game.

The expression “prize game” will be used hereinafter to mean in general any game which requires a random draw of an item of information, code or winning event (for example a lottery, but also a slot machine, a video poker game or an online scratch-and-win game), with or without payment of money by the participating user or player.

Further characteristics and advantages of the invention will become more evident from the description of preferred, but not exclusive, embodiments of the network according to the invention, illustrated by way of indication but without limiting effect in the attached drawings, where:

FIG. 1 is a block diagram of the network according to the invention;

FIG. 2 is an RFID transponder used in the invention;

FIG. 3 is a block diagram of a first embodiment of the network according to the invention;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram of a second embodiment of the network according to the invention;

FIG. 5 is a block diagram of a third embodiment of the network according to the invention;

FIG. 6 is a block diagram of a fourth embodiment of the network according to the invention.

With reference to the figures mentioned, in which equal reference numbers correspond to equal or equivalent characteristics, network 1 for electronic notification of wins in prize games according to the invention is made up of at least one portable electromagnetic identifier 2, provided with a medium 21 to which is fixed a transponder 22 having a memory 23 containing an item of personal information for unique recognition of a user or object carrying the identifier 2.

Medium 21 can be any mobile phone or smartphone 27, but even a card 28 or a personal token 29, the latter being particularly practical because it is usable with a standard token machine accompanied by an RFID reader or similar inside it or other portable mediation device.

Alternatively, medium 21 can be an object or product 211 on sale in a commercial establishment, to which transponder 22 is attached in such a way that it can be removed.

Transponder 22 is preferably of RFID or RFDC (Radio Frequency Data Communication) or contactless smartcard type. In particular, transponder 22 is equipped with an antenna 26 and an electronic chip 24 which is programmed for managing all the intelligent activity of communication and identification. Chip 24 includes a permanent memory, in which is indelibly stored a code which represents the unique recognition information of the owner or user of the identifier 2 or of the object to which the identifier 2 is attached. Chip 24 is also programmed for managing the power supply of the entire transponder, taking it from the signals received from the antenna 26.

By contrast with the transponders used in known identifiers or tags, the transponder 22 is equipped with a further, rewritable, memory 23, for example of R/W EEPROM type, which has stored in it at least one updatable code for participation in the prize game, so that the identifier can be re-used in different prize games or in the same prize game. Other information can be updatably stored in memory 23, for example an ON/OFF flag for activating the “unaware” mode of participating in prize game.

Memory 23 is readable and rewritable by means of suitable signals (e.g. RFID, RFDC or NFC or ZigBee or WiFi) received from the antenna 26 and forwarded through the chip 24.

Optionally, the identifier 2 can also include a marker 25 of EAS (Electronic Antitheft System o Electronic Article Surveillance) type, to signal that the identifier may be leaving a delimited area such as, for example, a commercial establishment where products are sold which are fitted with the identifier 2.

The network according to the invention includes furthermore at least one mediation device 3, accessible to the user. The mediation device 3 is electronic, for example a slot-machine or other electronic amusement station situated in a commercial establishment, and is equipped with a contactless reader 4 (for example RFID, RFDC or NFC or ZigBee or WiFi) for memories 23-24 of transponder 22. The reader 4 includes at least one antenna capable of providing a power supply for transponders 22 which are in its vicinity, and of interrogating such transponders for communication of the stored codes, whether these be identification codes for the user/object or participation codes, and capable also of updating the codes stored in the rewritable memories 23 of identifiers 2.

The mediation device 3 also includes a control unit 5 connected to the reader 4 and programmed for providing a means of transmitting the recognition information read in the permanent memory of the transponder 22 via reader 4. The control unit 5 is preferably a microcomputer equipped with suitable software for managing in real time the interfaces with the antennae of the reader 4, as well as conducting interrogations and updates of the transponders 22, and managing possible collisions between the reply messages from the transponders, and the interfaces with the information systems in the mediation device 3.

The mediation device 3 can furthermore contain a means of checking transactions, for example a token machine or banknote reader or credit cards reader, to verify that payment has been made of the fee for participation in the prize game, if required. Alternatively or in addition, the means of checking the transaction can exploit apparatuses 10 outside notification network 1, for example being accessible in known manner via mobile phone or smartphone 27 or other portable mediation device, as will be described in relation to FIG. 5.

In a particular embodiment of the invention, illustrated schematically in FIG. 5, the mediation device 3 can be the user's mobile phone itself or smartphone 27, which contains the transponder reader 4 and the control unit 5. In this case, the identifier 2 is attached to the object or product 211 on sale in the commercial establishment, and the recognition information for the object 211 is suitable for uniquely identifying the object or the type of product.

According to another embodiment of the invention, illustrated schematically in FIG. 6, the mediation device 3 is an automatic distributor 30, in which are stored foodstuffs or other products such as shoes, pullovers, mobile telephones, ecc. (represented in FIG. 6 by the generic object 211), each of them possibly provided with its own identifier 2 if the distributor includes a traditional coinbox for receiving coins 31. The automatic distributor 30 anyway contains the reader 4, which may be positioned so as to be able to read the recognition information of the identifier 2 located on the object 211 or on the external personal media 21 of the user, which are provided with an identifier 2, such as the card 28 and/or the token 29.

Returning to FIG. 1, the network according to the invention includes furthermore a remote processor or host 6, connected to the mediation device 4 through a data communication network 7, for example the internet or an intranet, a telephone network or a wireless network, or a satellite communication network 8. The processor 6 can be located at the premises of a operator of the entire notification network 1, and is able to manage a plurality of mediation devices 3.

The remote processor 6 includes means of verifying the recognition information transmitted by the mediation device 3 over the data communication network 7, and a random notification generator (of any information: numerical, alphanumeric, nominative) of a winning status matching the verification.

The verification means and the random generator are suitable software procedures preferably installed on the remote processor 6. In particular, the verification means include software instructions suitable for extracting the recognition information of the identifier 2 from an appropriate message transmitted by the mediation device 3 and from an archive of personal data relating to the user of the identifier 2, or to the products to which the identifier 2 is attached, or to the vendor of such products. This archive can be a database 61, a web service 62, a messaging service 63, an ERP (Enterprise Resource Planning) system 64 or other archive 65, remote or local.

Correspondence between the identification information received from the mediation device 3 and the pre-existing information in the archive accessible by the processor 6 leads to the activation of the random notification generator of the winning status, possibly after verification that a payment has been made.

The random generator is any software application capable of randomly generating the information of a win, for example by randomly choosing a time of day at which to treat as winner the recognition code or participation code of the identifier 2 received from the processor 6, or by performing a random draw of numbers or alphanumeric characters and reporting a winning outcome in the event of correspondence between the sequence of numbers/characters generated and the recognition or participation code received, or using an algorithm designed according to the type and needs of the game, and so forth. An expert in the field will have no difficulty in creating other types of random generators matching the characteristics required by the invention.

The network 1 according to the invention is completed by a means of communicating the winning status detected by the generator to the user of the identifier 2. The means of communication is connected indirectly to the data communication network through the mediation device 3 or through the remote processor 6, and receives the instruction to notify the win from the remote processor 6.

In more detail, the means of communication can be a software application 9a installed on the control unit 5 of the mediation device 3, capable of advising the user that he/she has won or failed to win, for example using the display on the device 3 with which the user was able to interact to participate in the prize game, or a loudspeaker.

Alternatively or in addition, the communication means can be installed in a position remote from the user, for example it can be an SMS messaging application 9b or an email server 9c (FIG. 5).

The operation of the invention is as follows. A user who wishes to participate in a prize game in non-anonymous form, enrols his/her personal data in an archive accessible by the remote processor 6, using any intermediary enabled for enrolment, for example at a shop or an office or registering in the dedicated website.

After enrolment has been completed, the user is provided with a personal identifier 2, which contains a personal recognition code which is also stored in the area of the remote processor archive 6 reserved for the user. At this point, the user is authorised to participate in numerous prize games which exploit mediation devices 3 having RFID, RFDC, NFC or ZigBee or WiFi or similar readers. This participation can occur even if the user does not pay, for example in prize competitions.

With reference to FIG. 3, identifier 2 is fitted to a personal object belonging to the user, in such a way as to be always available especially in those situations where the user is not aware of the existence of mediation devices inside the store visited. Participation in the prize game may require payment of the participation fee, which the user can make directly through the mediation device 3 or by means of a mobile phone or smartphone 27 or other portable mediation device.

Obviously, it is possible for participation in the prize game not to require any outlay of money by the user, for example in cases where the prize game is offered by the store visited by the user. The fact that the transponder includes a rewritable memory with an updatable participation code allows the user to take part in the prize game each time he/she visits the same store, even without being aware of it.

Advantageously, if identifier 2 is built into a token 29, it is possible to use a traditional token machine as a reader 4, making participation in the game extremely intuitive.

Once token 29 has been inserted or, more generally, once medium 21 of transponder 22 has come into proximity with reader 4, the mediation device 3 interrogates the transponder 22 in a traditional manner, through reader 4, and waits for the communication of the unique recognition information stored in it. The transponder 22 can also communicate to the reader 4 the participation code stored in the rewritable memory 23.

The mediation device 3, after carrying out some formal checks on the correctness of the codes received and of the payment of any fee for participation in the game or paying the bought goods, creates and sends to the remote processor 6 a message containing the unique recognition code and the participation code.

If necessary, the mediation device 3 updates the participation code stored in the identifier 2, so that the identifier can be used for a subsequent game.

The processor 6 verifies the correspondence of the recognition code received with the recognition code stored in archive 61-65 and, if it matches, activates the random generator and verifies the winning status, on the basis of any participation code received.

Finally, the processor 6 creates a message notifying the outcome of the game, which is communicated to the user, for example, by a display on the mediation device 3 or via the user's mobile phone, whose number is known because it is recorded in the archive in the remote processor 6 in association with the unique recognition code.

With reference to FIG. 4, the identifier 2 is attached to an object or product 211 purchased by the user. The personal recognition information stored in the identifier 2 may correspond to the naming of the specific product 211, or to the type of product, possibly in association with the personal data of the vendor of product 211. In this case, from the point of view of the user who purchases the product, participation in the game can be completely anonymous, being based entirely on the identifier fixed to the product 211 and on a reader or mediation device in the possession of the vendor; or it can be not anonymous and be integrated with the basic functionality as “activator” of the game which is provided by the transponder 22 fitted to the user's personal media, e.g. mobile phone or smartphone 27, which can be used to authorise participation in the prize game.

Alternatively, as said above in relation to FIG. 5, the user can make use of a personal portable apparatus 271 as a mediation device to read an identifier 2 attached to a purchased product 211. By bringing the personal apparatus 271 into proximity with the product 211, the user activates participation in the game. If the personal apparatus 271 is the user's mobile phone or smartphone, it is possible, advantageously, to authorise the payment of the participation fee through the GSM (BSS) base station and the mobile phone network which the user can access.

Once authorisation, or the confirmation of the occurrence of the transaction, has been received, the unique recognition code stored in the transponder 22 of the product 211 is sent automatically by the telephone 271 to the remote processor 6 over the network 7, which in this case coincides with the mobile phone network which the user can access.

When the draw has taken place, the remote processor 6 proceeds to send the message notifying the win over the same mobile phone network, for example by SMS message, or over a different network, for example by email.

It has been established in practice that the device according to the invention fully performs the task which has been set for it, as it allows participation in a plurality of lotteries or prize games while ensuring a unique identification for the player, even in the event that the player wishes to remain anonymous. In fact, by specifying the use of a transponder with a unique item of recognition information, the user can receive notification of the win because he/she is already provided with a nominative identifier or because he/she comes into possession of an identifier at the moment of purchase of a product, without the mediation devices being able to extract or interpret the user's personal data.

In addition, both the communication of the player or user's participation in the prize game and the notification that a win has occurred are very much facilitated, in whatever environment the player may be.

In addition, the rewritable memory allows the player or user to take part in a potentially infinite number of games.

Clearly, numerous modifications will be apparent and can be readily performed by an expert in the field without departing from the protective scope of the present invention.

It is also evident that the inventive concept at the base of the present invention is independent of the actual implementation of the software, which can be embodied in any language and on any hardware platform.

Therefore, the protective scope of the claims must not be limited by the illustrations or by the preferred forms of embodiment illustrated in the description by way of examples, but rather the claims must include all the characteristics of patentable novelty inherent in the present invention, including all the characteristics which would be treated as equivalent by an expert in the field.