Interesting Patents | Thursday, May 25, 2023
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CUP DISPENSER SENSOR FOR AUTOMATICALLY GENERATING REFILL ALERTS
ASSIGNEE: 7-Eleven, Inc.,
US PAT. Appl. NO. 2023/0162555 Al
In the fast-paced world of hospitality and food service, efficient inventory management is crucial. 7-eleven has a new patent application published, offering an innovative solution for monitoring cup dispensers. This technology, recently disclosed in a patent application, introduces a smart system that measures the number of cups housed within a dispenser, ensuring that establishments never run out of essential supplies.
The disclosed technology is a system that provides a measure of the number of cups housed within a cup dispenser. The cup dispenser includes a body configured to house a stack of cups, a spring within the body, and a plunger coupled to the spring. The plunger engages the first cup of the stack and biases the stack of cups towards a discharge opening defined by one end of the body.
The system includes a sensor coupled to the plunger, designed to measure the distance from the plunger to the opposite end of the body and transmit this measured distance across a network. A computing system, communicatively coupled to the sensor, stores a threshold. A hardware processor, linked to the memory, receives the measured distance from the network. Based on this measured distance, it determines the number of cups housed within the cup dispenser. If the number of cups is less than the threshold, the system transmits an alert for display on a user device.
The sensor can be a time of flight (ToF) sensor that uses a laser to produce a beam of infrared light. This light is bounced off an object and returned to the sensor to measure the distance to the object. Alternatively, the sensor can be an ultrasonic sensor that emits a high-frequency sound pulse towards a surface and calculates the distance to that surface based on the time taken by the echo signal to travel back after reflecting from the surface.
This technology offers several advantages. For instance, it automatically adjusts the threshold against which a cup dispenser fill level measure is compared, based on the demand for the cups housed within the cup dispenser. This feature helps to reduce the likelihood that the cup dispenser will reach an empty state, while avoiding the generation of unnecessary alerts.
Moreover, the system can obtain alert thresholds for use with one or more cup dispenser sensors located within a physical building from those used with cup dispenser sensors located in similar, nearby buildings. This feature increases the likelihood that maintenance issues associated with such thresholds are addressed prior to impacting customers, while avoiding unnecessary alerts.
In conclusion, this smart cup dispenser technology is set to revolutionize inventory management in the hospitality and food service sectors. By ensuring that establishments never run out of essential supplies, it enhances customer satisfaction and operational efficiency. As businesses continue to seek innovative solutions to streamline their operations, technologies like this smart cup dispenser system will undoubtedly play a pivotal role.
PATENT ABSTRACT & ART:Source: USPTO
A system for providing a measure of a number of cups housed within a cup dispenser includes a sensor and a computing system. The cup dispenser includes a body configured to house a stack of cups, and a plunger configured to engage a first cup of the stack of cups and to bias the stack of cups toward a discharge opening defined by a first end of the body. The sensor is coupled to the plunger and is configured to measure a distance from the plunger to a second end of the body, and to transmit the measured distance across a network. The computing system receives the measured distance from the network, and determines, based on the measured distance, the measure of the number of cups housed within the cup dispenser. In response to determining that the number of cups is less than the threshold, the system transmits an alert.
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