Digital Camera Patent Abstract
A system and method for obtaining prints or other services from
a digital camera uses a camera and a transceiver module, each having
unique identifiers that are stored in a database stored on a remote
print routing server. To obtain the service, the user couples the
camera to the transceiver module and requests an image service,
such as by pressing a button. The transceiver module sends image
files and a request for prints to the routing server. The routing
server confirms that the request is authorized by querying its database
to determine if the camera identifier is authorized for use with
the transceiver module. Provided the service request is authorized,
the routing server sends the image files to a print center. The
service request is coupled with shipping and billing information,
such that the print center is able to ship prints to the shipping
address and bill the appropriate account.
Digital Camera Patent Claims
1. A method for obtaining digital services from a digital camera,
comprising the steps of: a) associating a unique camera identifier
with a camera; b) associating a unique transceiver identifier with
a transceiver module; c) communicating image data from the camera
to the transceiver module; d) transmitting the image data, the transceiver
identifier, and the camera identifier from the transceiver module
to an image services routing server; e) ensuring by consulting a
database that the camera associated with the camera identifier is
authorized to transmit image data through the transceiver module
associated with the transceiver identifier, wherein the database
contains a transceiver data construct associated with a plurality
of transceiver modules from which information about a particular
transceiver module can be obtained utilizing the transceiver identifier,
and further wherein the transceiver data construct includes the
ability to associate a plurality of camera identifiers with each
transceiver identifier; and f) fulfilling a service request associated
with the image data.
2. The method of claim 1, wherein the transceiver data construct
is chosen from the set comprising a database table and a database
3. The method of claim 1, wherein the database contains a camera
data construct associated with a plurality of cameras.
4. The method of claim 3, wherein the transceiver data construct
contains billing information.
5. The method of claim 4, wherein the camera data construct contains
6. The method of claim 5, further comprising: g) submitting the
image data from the image services routing server to a print center
for creating at least one physical print from the image data.
7. The method of claim 6, wherein the print center is chosen from
a plurality of possible print centers based upon information in
8. The method of claim 6, wherein the print center is chosen from
a plurality of possible print center based upon information transmitted
from the transceiver module with the image data.
9. The method of claim 6, wherein the print center creates the
at least one physical print based upon a service request submitted
to the print center from the print routing server.
10. The method of claim 9, wherein the service request is transmitted
to the print routing server from the transceiver module.
11. The method of claim 9, wherein the service request is based
upon a default service request found in the database.
12. The method of claim 1, further comprising: g) submitting the
image data from the image services routing server to a services
center for providing a service based upon the image data, the service
being selected from the set of the creation of a physical print,
the creation of a physical book from the image data, the storing
of an archival copy of the image data for later retrieval, and the
creation of an on-line image album.
13. A camera system for routing digital images to obtain image
based services, comprising: a) a camera having a unique identifier
stored electronically therein and memory for storing image data;
b) a transceiver module having a unique identifier stored electronically
therein, said transceiver module being removably coupled to said
camera to receive the image data from the camera; c) a remote routing
server in data communication with the transceiver module for receiving
the image data from a plurality of cameras and transceiver modules,
the remote routing server having a database storing the camera identifier
in association with the transceiver module identifier, the database
having a data construct for each of the plurality of cameras and
each of the plurality of transceiver modules, wherein the data constructs
for at least one of the plurality of transceiver modules associates
a plurality of cameras as authorized cameras for the at least one
14. The camera system of claim 13, wherein the transceiver module
has a wireless local area network transceiver.
15. The camera system of claim 14, wherein the wireless local area
network transceiver is defined by one of the IEEE 802.11 standards.
16. The camera system of claim 15, further comprising a local transceiver
receiving wireless communications from the transceiver module and
forwarding the communications to the remote routing server.
17. The camera system of claim 13, wherein the routing server contains
intelligence that rejects image data received from the camera and
the transceiver module if the camera is not an authorized camera
for the transceiver module.
Digital Camera Patent Description
FIELD OF THE INVENTION
The present invention relates generally to a system for obtaining
prints from a digital camera in a simple, user-friendly manner that
safeguards a user's payment information. More specifically, the
present invention relates to a base transceiver module and a paired
digital camera for wireless routing of images to obtain prints shipped
to a designated address or to obtain other digital image services.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
Digital cameras have captured a significant share of the market
for both consumer and professional cameras. While photos or images
in digital form are convenient for many uses, users oftentimes desire
to obtain prints of their captured images. There are several known
ways to obtain a paper print of a digital photo. The most common
technique is to print the photographs on a local color printer.
To accomplish this, the user downloads the photos from the camera
to a personal computer. Using software on the computer, the user
can then select photographs for printing, and send them to their
printer. Although the cost of color printers continues to decrease,
users have been frustrated with this technique for creating prints
of digital photographs for a number of reasons. First, the ink cartridges
used by home color printers frequently run out of ink or dry out
because of non-use. Purchasing and replacing the ink cartridges
remains expensive and time consuming. In addition, the expense of
buying the quality paper necessary for good photo prints means that
there is little cost savings in printing photographs on home equipment.
To avoid the hassle of home printing, a user may email photographs
from their personal computer to a photo printing service, such as
Snapfish.com. This is disadvantageous because a computer is required
and thus the locations from which the user may accomplish this task
are limited. Further, this process has many steps and is cumbersome
and time-consuming. Alternatively, the media on which the digital
camera stores images, such as on a compact flash memory card, can
be transported to a photo lab for print processing. It may, however,
be inconvenient for a user to travel to a photo lab. Furthermore,
the user's preferred print lab may be remote from the user's location,
such as when the user is traveling. In addition, flash memory cards
and the like are small and may easily be lost or misplaced. What
is needed is a simple way to submit images directly from a digital
camera to a preferred photo lab for the creation and delivery of
prints. Prior art techniques that accomplish this suffer in that
wireless transceivers are embedded in the camera, meaning that the
camera becomes bulky and that the transceiver quickly drains battery
resources on the camera. Furthermore, a theft of one of these cameras
may allow a thief access to a user's payment mechanism.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
The present invention provides a simple, user-friendly way for
a digital camera user to obtain prints of captured images delivered
to a designated address. Alternatively, the present invention could
be used to route service requests for digital images such as archival
services, book creation, on-line photo albums and the like. The
user simply connects their camera to a base or "transceiver
module" and then indicates their desire to obtain prints from
a print center such as by pushing a single button on their camera
or the transceiver module or by selecting a command on the user
interface of the camera.
A print routing server hosts a database having a table to store
unique camera identifiers and a table storing unique transceiver
module identifiers. Stored in association with the camera identifiers
are a name and shipping address. In one embodiment, a list of available
services is also stored in association with the camera identifier.
The transceiver module table tracks a username and password in association
with the unique module identifier. The transceiver module table
further includes billing information, such as a credit card number
and expiration date, and a list of services available for that transceiver
module. One or more camera identifiers are associated with each
transceiver identifier in the transceiver database.
To obtain prints, a user connects a camera to a transceiver module
and transmits desired images to the print routing server. The transceiver
module appends to this transmission the identifiers for the camera
and the transceiver module. Upon receiving the print request transmission,
the print routing server checks its databases to determine whether
the camera identifier is associated with the transceiver module
in the transceiver module table. If so, the digital image files
are forwarded to a print center along with a shipping address and
billing information. The print center generates the prints, ships
them to the shipping address, and forwards billing information as
directed. The user receives prints at their previously selected
address and is billed for the prints according to payment information
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
An exemplary version of a system and method for routing digital
prints is shown in the figures wherein like reference numerals refer
to equivalent structure throughout.
FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of the present invention technique
for routing prints from digital cameras to print centers.
FIG. 2 is a schematic illustration of the technique of FIG. 1 including
further details on the print routing server of FIG. 1.
FIG. 3 is a flow chart depicting a method of verifying that a request
for prints in authorized according to the present invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENT(S)
FIG. 1 schematically illustrates a system 1 for obtaining digital
image services from a digital camera in a simple, user-friendly
manner that provides for security to safeguard a user's payment
information. The possible digital image services that could be provided
through the present invention include the delivery of physical prints
to a destination address, the creation of prints available for pickup,
the creation of a physical book from the images, the making of archival
copies made for later on-line download, the creation of on-line
photo albums, and the like. For simplicity, the description below
is presented in the context of a request for physical prints to
be delivered to a destination address, although the invention should
not be considered so limited.
The system 1 supports one or more camera families and yields prints
or other digital image services from one or more print centers.
Three representative camera families 5, 6, 7 and three representative
print centers 10, 11, 12 are depicted in FIG. 1. It will be understood
that the system 1 may support any number of camera families and
any number of print centers.
Coordinating the routing of the digital images from the camera
families 5, 6, 7 to the print centers 10, 11, 12 is a print routing
server 20. The camera families 5, 6, 7 communicate with the print
routing server 20 via a network 25, such as the Internet. The print
routing server 20 also communicates to print centers 10, 11, 12
via a network 30, such as the Internet.
Each camera family 5, 6, 7 includes a single base or transceiver
module 50, 60, 70, respectively, and one or more associated digital
cameras 80, 81, 82, 83, 84, 85. More specifically, camera family
5 includes three cameras 80, 81, 82 which are affiliated, in a manner
that will be described below, with transceiver module 50; camera
family 6 includes one camera 83 which is affiliated with transceiver
module 60; camera family 7 includes two cameras 84, 85 which are
affiliated with transceiver module 70. A camera family can contain
any number of cameras, and these depicted families 5, 6, 7 are merely
examples. The cameras 80 85 within a family 5 7 communicate with
their associated transceiver module via a communicator coupling
90, such as a physical USB or USB2 coupling. This communication
coupling allows data and commands to be shared between the cameras
80 85 and the transceiver modules 50 70. Couplings other than USB
connections are possible and within the scope of the present invention,
so long as the coupling includes an ability to share data and commands
between the cameras 80 85 and the transceiver modules 50 70.
Each camera 80 85 is assigned a unique identifier, such as a serial
number, that is stored in built-in memory on the camera. Each transceiver
module 50, 60, 70 similarly is assigned a unique identifier, such
as a serial number, that is stored in built-in memory on the transceiver.
Each camera 80 85 is equipped to capture images and store image
files in memory.
Each transceiver module 50, 60 70 is equipped with hardware and
software that allows the transfer of image files, commands, and
other data to the print routing server 20 over the network 25. For
example, to provide wireless transfer of data from the transceiver
module 50, 60, 70 to the server 20, a transceiver module 50, 60,
70 may contain a wireless transceiver defined by one of the IEEE
802.11 standards, such as 802.11a, 802.11b, or 802.11g. This transceiver
can then communicate to a local transceiver (not shown in FIG. 1)
that may be physically connected to the network 25.
The system 1 is further illustrated in FIG. 2. Camera 80 contains
a camera ID, and is in communication with the transceiver module
50. This communication could take a variety of forms, but preferably
is made over a physical, wired connection 90. The transceiver module
50 contains a transceiver module ID and communicates image data
received from the camera 80 to the print routing server 20. In the
preferred embodiment, the transceiver module 50 contains a wireless
transceiver 51 that communicates with local transceiver 40. The
local transceiver does not need to be specially programmed for the
present invention, although it may be possible to do so. The primary
purpose of the local transceiver 40 is to accept wireless communications
received from the transceiver module 50 and communicate them to
the print routing server 20, such as through a wired Internet connection.
In the preferred embodiment, the transceiver module 40 contains
its own power supply such that the battery power in camera 80 is
not utilized to operate the wireless transceiver 51.
In addition, it would be within the scope of the present invention
for the transceiver module 50 to perform additional functions for
the camera 80, such as to serve as a stable base (like a tripod)
for stabilizing the camera during image acquisition. The transceiver
module 50 may allow the camera to utilize battery power or other
power source associated with the module 50 to power the camera 80
or to recharge batteries found within the camera 80. For instance,
the transceiver module 50 may take the form of a traditional recharging
base for the camera 80, where the transceiver module 50 or associated
circuitry transforms AC power into the DC power needed for the camera
80. The transceiver module 50 may also contain storage compartments
for storing batteries, memory cards, and the like for the camera
80. Furthermore, the transceiver module 50 may contain internal
memory that can be used to store image data from the camera 80.
This internal memory might take the form of RAM, flash memory, a
traditional memory card, a writable optical drive, or an internal
or external hard disk.
The print routing server 20 hosts a database 100. The database
100 includes a camera table 105 and a base station or transceiver
module table 110. There is one record in the camera table 105 for
each camera 80 serviced by the print routing server 20, and one
record in the transceiver module table 110 for each serviced transceiver
module 50. Stored in each record in camera table 105 is a camera
identifier, a name, and shipping information, such as a physical
shipping address. In some instances, services available to that
camera 80 may also be stored in each record of the camera table
105. The information to populate the camera table 105 will be provided
by the camera user or owner at the point of sale or later through
other means, such as an online registration process.
Stored in each record of the transceiver module table 110 is a
module identifier, a user name, a password, billing information
(such as a credit card information and/or a billing address), and
an identification of a preferred print center. In addition, the
records in the transceiver module in table 110 are associated with
one or more camera identifiers. It is this association that groups
one or more cameras 80 85 together with a transceiver module 50
70 to form a camera family 5, 6, 7. In some instances, services
available to the transceiver module 50 may be stored in the transceiver
module table 110. The information to populate the transceiver module
table 110 is provided by the owner of the base transceiver module
50 at the point of sale or later via an online registration process.
The user name and password are used to prevent unauthorized modification
of the information in the transceiver module table 110 and in the
camera table 105. Where the user name and password are stored only
in connection with the transceiver module table 110, any user knowing
this information can update this record 110 and the records in the
camera table 105 relating to authorized cameras. Alternatively,
the user name and password fields could be included in the camera
table 105 as well. Adding a camera ID to the list of authorized
cameras in a record of the transceiver module table 110 requires
at a minimum the user name and password found in that record of
table 110. This prevents an unauthorized user of the transceiver
module 50 to allow use of the module 50 (and its associated billing
information) with a new camera 80. In addition, by associating a
username and password with each camera 80 in table 105, one can
prevent any camera 80 from being authorized with a new transceiver
module 50 without knowledge of the camera's password.
In operation, a user will capture images with a digital camera
80. When the user has images that he or she would like to have printed,
the user couples the camera 80 to an associated transceiver module
50 and presses the button or makes a menu selection to obtain prints.
The transceiver module 50 connects to the print routing server 20
via the local transceiver 40 and transmits to the print routing
server 20 the images to be printed, the camera identifier and the
module identifier. This transmission can optionally include a service
request (such as a request for two 4.times.6 physical prints for
each image transmitted). Alternatively, no service request is explicitly
included in the transmission, meaning the image data will processed
according to a default service request pre-established by either
the camera user or the print service provider.
Upon receipt of this transmission, the print routing server 20
will query database 110 to find a record for the transaction module
identifier and determines whether the transmitted camera identifier
matches an authorized camera identifier as indicated by the record
in table 110. If a match is made, the print request is authorized
and the server 20 sends the image files to the preferred print center
10 along with other details, such as the service request, and shipping
and billing information. Again the service request could be explicitly
defined in the transmission from the transceiver module 50, or could
be based on defaults defined by the user in the database 110. Alternatively,
no service request could be sent to the print center 10, allowing
the print center 10 to handle the image data according to its own
default service procedures. Once the image data is successfully
sent to the print center 10, a confirmation of successful transmission
can be sent back to the camera 80 so that the user will know the
print request has been successful.
The print center 10 will then make prints 125 of the images based
upon these service instructions. The print center 10 then forwards
the resulting prints 125 to the shipping destination or address
130 and sends a bill 145 to the billing destination or address 150.
The user receives the prints 125 at the shipping address 130 or
can instruct the print center 10 to hold the prints for later pickup.
The user will receive a bill 145 at the billing address 150 for
the prints. It would also be possible to have the billing information
in the transceiver module table 110 to include credit card information,
thereby allowing the print center to directly charge the transaction
to a credit card account.
This process, to the extent it involves the print routing server
20, is shown in the flow chart of FIG. 3. At the point of sale to
the consumer or through a later registration process, the transceiver
module identifier is stored in the transceiver module table 110
of the database 100 (step 200). Similarly, at point of sale or through
a later registration process, one or more camera identifiers are
stored (step 205) in the camera table 105 and associated with a
transceiver module 50 by being added to the authorized camera fields
of the appropriate record of the transceiver module table 110. When
a user sends a request for prints, the server 20 receives the transmission
from the transceiver module 50 (step 210). The transmission includes
the camera identifier and the transceiver module identifier, along
with image data.
In step 215, the server compares the camera identifier in the transmission
to the camera identifier(s) listed in the database 100 in association
with the given transceiver module identifier. If the camera identifier
does not match any of the camera identifiers association with the
transceiver module identifier, the prints are not authorized and
the print request found in the transmission is refused (step 220).
If a match is made, the print server then determines in step 225
whether the transmission includes a service request that is authorized
in the database 100. This is accomplished by comparing the service
request in the transmission to the available service requests in
the appropriate records of the camera table 105 or the transceiver
module table 110. In one embodiment, both tables 105, 110 must indicate
that the requested service is authorized. Alternatively, step 225
may be skipped, thereby authorizing all requested services. If step
225 indicates that the requested service is not authorized, the
transmission is refused in step 220. Otherwise, the print routing
server 20 will send the image file(s) and service request found
in the transmission, along with the shipping and billing information
from the database 100 to the selected print center 10 (step 230).
The print center 10 can be selected through the database 100, or
through information found in the transmission itself. Step 230 also
involves sending a confirmation notice back to the camera 80 to
inform the user of the successful handling of the print request.
Alternatively, this confirmation notice could be triggered only
after the print request is successfully received by the print center
By requiring that the camera identifier match a previously established
association with a transceiver module identifier, the system 1 prevents
prints from being ordered where the user does not have a matching
camera 80 and transceiver module 50. This precludes unauthorized
attempts to obtain prints. Thus, a user must have both the camera
80 and the proper transceiver module 50 to order prints. If a camera
80 is stolen without the transceiver module 50, the thief cannot
obtain prints simply by attaching the camera 80 to another transceiver
module 50, and thus the camera owner will not be charged for unauthorized
prints. Similarly, if a transceiver module 80 is stolen, the thief
cannot obtain prints by attaching a different camera 50 to the transceiver
The user name and password provide an additional layer of security
since a thief cannot access sensitive account information, such
as address or credit card information. With the user name and password,
the legal, authorized user can access their account information
to modify their billing or shipping information.
The system provides convenient ordering of prints from anywhere,
provided the user has both their camera 80 and a paired transceiver
module 50. Local transceivers 40 can be purchased for use within
a user's home. Alternatively, the user can find a "hot spot"
where a local transceiver 40 has been made available for public
use, such as in a coffee shop, a hotel, or an airport. Regardless
of the location where the user accesses the system 1, the user can
be assured that their preferred print center 10 12 will receive
their image, create prints according to their instructions, deliver
the prints to their shipping address, and properly bill their account.
The operator of the print routing server 20 can receive income
for its service in a variety of ways. For instance, the operator
can sign up a plurality of print centers 10 12 to service clients
of the print routing server 20, and receive a fixed fee or a percentage
of all business sent to the print centers 10 12 through the print
routing server 20. Alternatively, the operator can charge the fee
to users of the system who send image data to the print centers
Although an illustrative version of the device is shown, it should
be clear that many modifications to the device might be made without
departing from the scope of the invention. For instance, although
the above description and figures depict the data in database 100
as a plurality of data tables 105, 110, any known technique for
maintaining data in a database could be used, such as by defining
one or more data objects. Consequently, the scope of the present
invention should be defined only by the following claims.