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WIRELESS NETWORKED PERIPHERAL
The invention relates to computers and computer networks. More particularly, the invention relates to computer peripheral devices and networked organization and utilization thereof.
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
A modern computer system typically includes one or more peripheral devices, e.g., a printer, a scanner, a facsimile machine, a display screen, a keyboard, a mass storage device, or the like. In particular, a hard-copy device, e.g., a printer, a facsimile machine, or the like, allow conversion of electronic information, e.g., a document file, into printed texts and/or graphics, and are ubiquitous parts of modem computer systems. Typically, the electronic information is sent from a requesting entity, e.g., a personal computer (PC), laptop computer, personal digital assistant (PDA) or the like (collectively referred to hereinafter as a "host computer"), to a hard-copy device through a communication link. The communication link may be, for example, a direct communication cable through parallel (or serial) communication port interfaces, or through a network, e.g., a local area network (LAN) or a wide area network (WAN).
Particularly, in the case where peripheral devices are connected to a host computer through a network, finding and making use of a peripheral device that may be available in the network becomes increasingly important and yet less intuitive. Often, a host computer does not know which one of the available peripheral devices provides the optimal service, mainly because the network connection path between the user host computer and the peripheral device is less intuitive than the case with a direct cable connection. This requires a network-centric pre-arrangement of the peripheral devices, which in turn requires that each user host computer to know the logical and/or physical locations of the peripheral devices within the network in order to establish a communication link with a desired one of the peripheral devices available over the network. Typically, this is accomplished by a user of a host computer manually searching for one desired peripheral device from the available peripheral devices on the network, or by a network administrator familiar with the topology of the network making the selection for the user.
The above conventional network-centric static arrangement of the peripheral devices suffers from many shortcomings, particularly when a host computer is accessing the network through a wireless communication means, e.g., when the geographical location of the user relative to the peripheral devices in the network may not be fixed. As society becomes increasingly mobile, more and more user host computers are being equipped with mobile communication capabilities, allowing users of host computers to become mobile. When a user moves into a particular geographical region of a computer network, the user, without a complete knowledge of the topology of the network, would not know which available peripheral devices are within close proximity of the current location of the user and/or which peripheral device(s) may have the optimal capabilities for the user.
For example, recently introduced electronic commerce services, e.g., ones offered by the Sir Speedy, Inc. of Mission Viejo, Calif, (http://www.sirspeedy.com) or by the Kinko's
Inc. of Ventura, Calif, (http://www.kinkos.com), offer on-line printing services over the Internet. In these on-line printing services, a user may send a print request to an electronic commerce server, which than directs the print job
5 to print centers selected by the user. While these on-line printing services typically allow a user to manually select the nearest printing center from which the completed print job may be picked up, e.g., based on the name of the city, the zoning improvement plan (ZIP) code, or the like, the user is
10 nevertheless still required to know his or her current geographical location to base the selection of the print center.
However, when a user is accessing the on-line printing service through a mobile communication network while moving into, or passing through, a particular geographical
15 location, the user may not be aware of his or her exact geographical location, and may be unable to select a nearby print center. Thus, it is desirable for the user to be able to locate a peripheral device that is within the nearest proximity to the user particularly when the user is in an unfamiliar
20 geographical location and when the user is not aware of the topology of the network.
Moreover, because the above described network-centric arrangement of peripheral devices are fixedly arranged, when a new peripheral device is added to the network, the
25 topology of the network must be manually changed to reflect the addition. This network topology change must be made known to the user. For example, a peripheral device having a better capability and/or in closer proximity to a user may be added, and yet the user may not be aware, and thus is
30 unable to take advantage of the newly added peripheral device. Moreover, a user must be aware of features and capabilities of the peripheral devices available on the network in order to fully utilize the available capabilities, and thus is required to manually keep track of the capabilities of
35 the peripheral devices.
The above described manual selection of a peripheral device from the available networked peripheral devices, and the manual network topology information update and main
4Q tenance of a network-centric arrangement are inefficient, inconvenient and wasteful of time and effort.
Thus, there is a need for a more efficient and convenient system and method for locating and using networked peripheral devices, which do not require user's knowledge of the
45 topology of the network, and which do not require a manual search for the peripheral devices.
Thus, there is also a need for a more efficient and convenient system and method for utilizing networked peripheral devices, which do not require manual update and
50 maintenance of the information regarding the network topology
SUMMARY OF INVENTION
In accordance with the principles of the present invention, 55 a method of utilizing one or more peripheral devices by a host computer over a network comprises providing a geographical location determination capability to the host computer, the geographical location determination capability allowing the host computer to determine a current 60 location of the host computer automatically without an intervention by a user of the host computer, sending a peripheral device service request from the host computer to the network, the peripheral device service request including a location information indicating the current location of the 65 host computer, selecting ones of the one or more peripheral devices being in close proximity with the host computer based at least in part on the location information, and
fulfilling the peripheral service request by the selected ones of the one or more peripheral devices.
In addition, in accordance with another aspect of the principles of the present invention, a method of utilizing one or more peripheral devices by a host computer comprises 5 providing each of the one or more peripheral devices a geographical location determination capability, the geographical location determination capability providing a geographic location of an associated one of the one or more peripheral device, detecting, by at least a first one of the one 1° or more peripheral devices, presence of one or more peripheral devices within a predetermined distance from the at least first one of the one or more peripheral devices, and organizing the detected ones of the one or more peripheral devices into a cluster of peripheral devices, the cluster being :5 configured to allow peripheral devices with complementary capabilities (i.e., color, monochrome, and devices with paper finishing capabilities) to fulfill a service request from the host computer collectively as one logical device based at least in part on the service capabilities database. 20
In accordance with yet another aspect of the principles of the present invention, a networked peripheral devices system comprises a communication network, and a cluster of one or more peripheral devices, each of the one or more peripheral devices having a geographical location determi- 25 nation capability, the geographical location determination capability providing a geographic location of an associated one of the one or more peripheral device, the one or more peripheral devices being within a predetermined distance from each other, the cluster being configured to fulfill a 30 service request from a host computer received over the communication network collectively as one logical device.
DESCRIPTION OF DRAWINGS
Features and advantages of the present invention will become apparent to those skilled in the art from the following description with reference to the drawings, in which:
FIG. 1 is a block diagram showing relevant portions of an exemplary embodiment of the networked peripheral devices 40 system in accordance with the principles of the present invention;
FIG. 1A is a block diagram showing relevant portions of an alternative exemplary embodiment of the network system including self-organizing wireless peripheral devices in 45 accordance with the principles of the present invention;
FIG. 2 is an exemplary flow diagram of the peripheral device service request handling process in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention;
FIG. 3 is an exemplary flow diagram of the selforganization process in accordance with the principles of the present invention;
FIG. 4 is an exemplary flow diagram of the peripheral device(s) discovery process in accordance with the prin- 55 ciples of the present invention; and
FIG. 5 is an exemplary flow diagram of the default peripheral device setting and clustered peripheral devices utilization process in accordance with the principles of the present invention. 60
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE
For simplicity and illustrative purposes, the principles of the present invention are described by referring mainly to an 65 exemplar embodiment thereof, particularly with references to an exemplary embodiment involving hard-copy devices.
However, one of ordinary skill in the art would readily recognize that the same principles are equally applicable to, and can be implemented in, any peripheral devices that can be organized as a network or networks, and that any such variation would be within such modifications that do not depart from the true spirit and scope of the present invention.
In accordance with the principles of the present invention, an apparatus for, and a method of, organizing and utilizing networked peripheral device include peripheral devices, which are aware of their respective geographical location and operational capabilities, and self-organization of the peripheral devices into a cluster of networked peripheral devices based on the service capability of each respective peripheral device and the relative physical proximity with respect to each other.
The host computer is also made aware of its geographical location. One or more peripheral device(s) that are optimally suited to fulfill the request is selected based on the physical proximity of the selected peripheral device(s) to the requesting user host computer and/or the capabilities of the selected peripheral device(s). The selection of the optimal peripheral device(s) is made by the networked peripheral devices without requiring the user of the host computer to know the topology of the network, e.g., the locations and capabilities of each of the networked peripherals. Device driver(s) for the selected peripheral device(s) may be dispensed to the host computer as required in order for the host computer to utilize the selected peripheral device(s).
In an embodiment of the present invention, the host computer may include its geographical location in a request for a peripheral device service. The service request including the geographical location information of the user host computer may enable an on-line service provider, e.g., a provider of an on-line printing service, to direct the service request to the closest service center that may be able to fulfill the request by the user.
In particular, FIG. 1 shows an exemplary embodiment of the networked peripheral device system 100 in accordance with the principles of the present invention. The networked peripheral device system 100 comprises a communication network 101, which may be, e.g., a wide area network (WAN) (e.g., the Internet including the world-wide-web (WWW), the public switched telephone network (PSTN), or the like), a wireless communication network, (e.g., a personal communications service (PCS) network, a code division multiple access (CDMA) network, a time division multiple access network (TDMA), or the global system for mobile communications (GSM), or the like), or a combination thereof. Peripheral devices 106 may be any peripheral devices, e.g., a printer, a scanner, a facsimile machine, a display screen, a keyboard, a mass storage device, or the like.
A host computer 103 may comprise, e.g., a personal computer (PC), laptop or portable computer, personal digital assistant (PDA) or the like, and communicates with a network administration or service provider server 105 and one or more of peripheral devices 106 through the communication network 101. Although for simplicity, only one host computer 103 and administration server 105 are shown, it should be understood and readily apparent that there may be any number of host computers 103 and administration servers 105. In an embodiment of the present invention, the host computer 103 may be equipped with a wireless communication device (not shown)), e.g., a wireless modem, a BLUETOOTH wireless connection device sold by the Telefonaktiebolaget L M Ericsson, whose US corporate office is