Patent number 8796958 is assigned to
The following quote was obtained by the news editors from the background information supplied by the inventors: "Residential home owners often wish to remotely control electrical components in their homes. A home owner may, for example, wish to control the electrical components from a control device at a single, central location. Using one prior art system, the home owner can press one sequence of buttons on the control device to turn on one remote light, or he can press a second sequence of buttons on the control device to turn on another remote light. Using this system, the control device first learns or is programmed with a unique address for each remote light. The system is then able to individually address each remote light to thereby control it, such as by sending it a command to turn on or off. The system can also be used to commission multiple lights into a set so that each light in the set is identified by the same set address. In this way, all the lights in the set can be addressed and thereby controlled by transmitting a single command to the set. This latter address is generally referred to as a multicast address.
"This and other prior art systems have several drawbacks. First, when commissioning lights or other electronic devices into a set, the control device must learn or be programmed to contain the unique address of an individual light or other electronic device. Second, these systems do not scale well. When individually controlling multiple devices in a room, the control device must send commands to each device, a time-consuming process. Third, these systems are difficult to maintain. When a device is replaced, all control devices used to control it must learn the address of the replacement device. For these reasons, it is also difficult to automate or customize a system to control these devices."
In addition to the background information obtained for this patent, VerticalNews journalists also obtained the inventors' summary information for this patent: "The present invention is directed to a method of and a system for commissioning and controlling electronic devices using location-based addresses instead of device or logical addresses. Devices are preferably light fixtures, light switches, power outlets and combinations thereof. However, it will be clear to one skilled in the art that the device can be any number of electronic devices or appliances, including, but not limited to, heating units and air-conditioning units.
"In accordance with the present invention, devices are commissioned into a set that preferably corresponds to a physical location, such as determined by a floor plan for a home, corporate building, or other structured physical environment. Electronic devices that are commissioned in accordance with the method of the present invention operate and inter-operate by messages directed to spatial locations rather than individual device addresses and thus require less bandwidth to implement the controls in contrast to two-way or 'hand-shaking' methods of messaging typically used to communicate between devices.
"In accordance with the present invention, a first device transmits control signals used to control the devices having corresponding location descriptors (LDs) using anonymous multicast signals. LDs designate the physical locations where the devices are commissioned. Each control signal contains a location-based address (LBA) that selects a set or group of electronic devices (target devices) and a function code corresponding to a specific function to be performed by the target devices. LBAs are address codes contained in a message or signal that selected the corresponding to target devices.
"A function code, for example, can instruct each target device to turn on or off or to adjust its settings. Because one control signal can control multiple devices, fewer control signals are needed to control these devices, reducing both the bandwidth used and the complexity of devices to be controlled.
"As used herein, when an electronic device transmits a control signal to control devices in a set, it is referred to as a transmitting device; when an electronic device receives a control signal and performs a function corresponding to a function code contained in the control signal, it is referred to as a receiving device. Preferably, each electronic device is able to function as both a transmitting device and a receiving device, also referred to as a 'controlling device' and a 'controlled device,' respectively.
"The system in accordance with the present invention efficiently controls devices using various means. For example, a transmitting device in the system transmits control signals as anonymous multicast signals, which do not use any handshaking protocols. The use of anonymous multicast signals reduces the number of control signals transmitted in accordance with the present invention, thus reducing traffic. Each receiving device is also programmed with a number of programmed functions. Each programmed function can be performed on the receiving device when the device is initially commissioned into a set, when the device receives a control signal containing a function code associated with the programmed function, or when an execution criterion is met, such as the occurrence of a programmed time. Thus, for example, by executing a programmed function on lighting units contained in a set, all of the lights in the set can be dimmed to a specific level at a specific time. As a fail-safe measure, the transmitting device can assure that the receiving devices receive the control signal by repeatedly transmitting the control signal multiple times within a given time window.
"By organizing the LBAs in a hierarchical manner, devices can be more conveniently controlled. Sets corresponding to an LBA can, however, be configured in any number of ways. In one embodiment, a set contains a first set of devices located at a first location (such as a first area of a room) and a second set of devices located at a second location (such as a second area of a room). The first and second sets or groups of devices can be commissioned so that they have a LDs that are selectable or operable using a single LBA. Thus, these devices are addressable and can thus be controlled using a single control signal addressed with a single LBA. Sets can thus be configured and thus controlled in any number of ways to fit the application at hand.
"In accordance with the present invention, a system for controlling a device using location-based addresses comprises a first device and a second device. The first device is configured to transmit control signals containing LBAs and function codes. The second device is commissioned to have a one or more LDs. That is, the second device has stored in memory one or more LDs that correspond to one or more sets of devices to which the second device has been commissioned into. The second device is said to be bound to the one or more set corresponding to the one or more LDs, a concept referred to as address binding. The second device is further configured to receive the control signals and to automatically execute functions corresponding to the function codes in response to a match of the LBAs and the one or more LDs. It is understood from the description below, that a match between an LBA of a control signal and an LD of a device does not require that the LBA and the LD have the same value. For example, the LBA can include a data field with a 'wild card' code, in which case multiple LDs provide a match and all receiving devices with matching LDs will execute the corresponding function codes.
"It will also be appreciated that the first device can be commissioned with one or more LDs that are the same or different from the one or more LDs of the second device and can be configured to receive control signals. Thus the first device can be a controlled device and a controlling device. In fact a number of devices in a system are preferably configured to and can be both controlled and controlling devices. However it is understood that a number of devices in the system can be dedicated controller devices or dedicated controlling devices.
"Preferably, the LBAs have a hierarchical structure represented by a data structure. The data structure has a first field corresponding to a building, a second field corresponding to one of a house within the building or a floor within the building, a third field corresponding to a room on one of the house and the floor, a fourth field corresponding to an area within the room, and a fifth field corresponding to one of a device type or a set of devices within the area.
"Devices in the system of the present invention preferably transmit and receive control signals over a wireless medium. Accordingly, devices preferably include transceivers that are for transmitting and receiving radio control signals or infrared control signals. Where the transceivers are radio transceivers, the devices preferably transmit and receive control signals using frequencies between 902 MHz and 928 MHz. Alternatively, devices transmit and receive control signals over hard-wired media including, but not limited to, Ethernet cabling, power lines in a power-line network, fiber optic cables, or any combination of these.
"Preferably, control signals are anonymous multicast signals. Alternatively, the control signals are multicast signals, broadcast control signals, or any other kind of transmitted control signals, depending on the application at hand. It will be appreciated that devices can be configured to transmit different types of control signals. Devices can transmit and receive multicast signals or unicast signals when a direct response to a transmitted control signal is appropriate, or based on the time of day or other suitable criteria. For example, during the day (a high traffic period), the devices can communicate using anonymous multicast signals. Later, when the traffic is lower, such as at night, on weekends, or on holidays, the system can switch to use multicast or other control signals.
"In another embodiment, the system includes a device that is configured to receive and store location-based addresses and function codes corresponding to a sequence of previously transmitted control signals. The device is also configured to generate and transmit a sister set of control signals that correspond to the sequence of transmitted control signals. Such a device is referred to herein as a 'playback' device. The playback device is particularly useful for operating lights and appliances when a residence is unoccupied and thus provides the appearance that the residence is occupied. The sister set of control signals do not necessarily provide a one-to-one correspondence to the sequence of previously transmitted control signals and selective playback of any portion of the sequence of previously transmitted control signals by the playback device is considered to be within the scope of the invention.
"In accordance with the method of the present invention, a device commissioned with one or more LDs is controlled by transmitting control signals containing LBAs and function codes, receiving the control signals at the device and automatically executing functions corresponding to the function codes when the one or more LDs and the location based address match. Preferably, the device is one of a plurality of devices commissioned to the set having a common LD wherein each device is configured to receive the control signal and, in response, execute the function.
"In yet further embodiments of the invention, the function comprises transmitting status about each device that can be received and stored to compile a history about a system. This history can be used for maintenance, security, the development of new protocols or any other purpose."
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