The present application claims priority to U.S. Provisional Application Ser. No. 61/014,962, filed Dec. 19, 2007.
Lottery tickets are sold at many types of retail locations including, stores, such as grocery stores, general merchandise stores, and the like. Many such stores feature one or more check-out points, commonly referred to as check-out lanes, with each check-out lane equipped with a point-of-sale (POS) terminal. In contrast, lottery tickets are typically sold at a separate lottery point-of-sale terminal or terminals within the same retail establishment. This system generally requires additional personnel to staff the lottery ticket POS terminal, or requires the store clerk to divide their time and responsibility between the lottery POS terminal and the store POS terminal. The conventional system and method also require a separate accountability and tracking system for lottery ticket sales, which can add significantly to the cost and burden of providing the lottery to players at the retail establishment.
The present invention, referred to as Lottery InPlay, provides a system and method for providing lottery ticket sales at multiple POS terminals within a retail establishment that offer significant advantages over the conventional methodology.
Objects and advantages of the invention will be set forth in part in the following description, or may be obvious from the description, or may be learned through practice of the invention.
A lottery system and methodology are provided that can support sales of lottery products at multiple checkout lanes at a retail location. This may advantageously reduce wait times, as lottery consumers need not necessarily go to a separate lottery point-of-sale terminal to purchase lottery products. Additionally, the retailer may benefit from reduced labor costs, since employees at the checkout lanes can handle some or all of the work which otherwise would be handled by employees at one or more lottery point-of-sale terminals.
In some embodiments, an in-lane lottery sales computing device is interfaced to the point-of-sale equipment at each checkout lane. Lottery customers present a bar coded or otherwise machine-readable lottery “token” to the cashier. The token may be any type of readable device, such as a coupon, ticket, chip, and so forth, and is scanned using the point-of-sale terminal and the in-lane lottery sales computing device that captures lottery data as the token is “rung up” at the point-of-sale terminal. Additionally or alternatively, the request can be entered at the point of sale terminal in any other suitable manner, such as by entering a price look up (PLU) code, manually entering UPC data, and/or by pressing a specific key or touch screen “button” mapped to the specific lottery product.
In any event, the request data can then be forwarded on to a centralized lottery system for handling the request. Then, assuming a favorable response or verification from the centralized lottery system, one or more corresponding lottery tickets are printed in-lane on appropriate material, such as secure lottery paper stock.
The data obtained by scanning or otherwise reading the token can be used to treat the lottery ticket sale(s) in the same manner as other items of inventory. Namely, the amount of lottery sales can be tracked using the retailer point-of-sale system, the retailer point-of-sale system can be used to handle funds tendered for lottery sales, and customers can be provided with an integrated purchase experience.
In some embodiments, an in-lane system can advantageously avoid the need for substantial modifications to retail point-of-sale systems which would otherwise be required to integrate lottery and retailer sales. Instead, through use of a loosely coupled interface (which could be considered similar in at least some respects to the CONVENIENCE CENTRAL SYSTEM available from Scientific Games, Inc., of Alpharetta, Ga.), there is no lottery-specific software running on the retail point of sale system or terminals. Thus, setup, configuration, and maintenance of the system may proceed significantly faster than in the case of an interface that is not loosely-coupled.
In certain embodiments, the in-lane lottery systems can comprise one or more monitors which are used to communicate marketing and other messages directly to players (or potential players) in-lane. For instance, for checkout lanes that include a marketing display, one or more monitors can be positioned at or near the display for the consumer to view upon entry to the checkout lane. Additionally or alternatively, the monitor(s) can be placed at or above the checkout counter for viewing while the customer is checking out. In some embodiments, the retailer could be allowed to use the lottery monitor(s) to display point-of-sale transaction information, advertisements, or other purposes.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
A full and enabling disclosure including the best mode of practicing the appended claims and directed to one of ordinary skill in the art is set forth more particularly in the remainder of the specification. The specification makes reference to the appended figures, in which:
FIG. 1 is a block diagram showing a plurality of exemplary checkout lanes at a retail location;
FIG. 2 is a block diagram illustrating components at an exemplary check-out lane and other in-store components; and
FIG. 3 is a flowchart showing exemplary parallel steps which may occur after the identification of a lottery product at a check out lane of a retail location configured in accordance with some aspects of the present subject matter.
Reference will now be made in detail to various and alternative exemplary embodiments and to the accompanying drawings, with like numerals representing substantially identical structural elements. Each example is provided by way of explanation, and not as a limitation. In fact, it will be apparent to those skilled in the art that modifications and variations can be made without departing from the scope or spirit of the disclosure and claims. For instance, features illustrated or described as part of one embodiment may be used on another embodiment to yield a still further embodiment. Thus, it is intended that the present disclosure includes modifications and variations as come within the scope of the appended claims and their equivalents.
FIG. 1 is a block diagram showing a plurality of exemplary checkout lanes 104-1, 104-2, 104-3, and 104-4 at a retail location. For example the checkout lanes may be positioned near the entrance/exit of the location, although it will be understood that checkout lanes could be placed at one or more other positions in a retail location or even outside.
In this example, checkout lanes 104-1, 104-2, and 104-3 each comprise a conveyor or conveyors 114 and bagging area 115. Items can be selected by persons at the retail location and placed onto conveyor(s) 114, which move the items into reach of a cashier. The approximate locations of respective cashiers for each lane are shown at C1, C2, C3, and C4. A customer/lottery game player (“player”) P, Q, R, and S is shown in each respective lane.
Each cashier can pass items over a scanner 106 which is in operative association with a point-of-sale computer system, typically via a point-of-sale terminal at each checkout lane. In FIG. 1, point-of-sale terminals 108 are shown at each lane. Scanner 106 may comprise, for example, a bar code scanner which uses reflected laser light to recognize machine-readable bar codes, such as UPC codes, on items. However, scanner 106 may discern machine-readable information about items in any suitable manner, and need not comprise a bar code scanner in all embodiments.
Further, lanes 104-1, 104-2, and 104-3 each include a merchandising area 116. Each merchandise area 116 may comprise, for example, one or more racks, shelves, or other displays whereby items can be offered to persons in line at the checkout lane. For example, in a grocery store, merchandising areas 116 may be used to promote candy, magazines, and other impulse items.
Checkout lane 104-4 is configured as a stand without a conveyor 114, bagging area 115, or merchandise area 116. For instance, checkout lane 104-4 may comprise a desk or other area which can also provide point-of-sale services. Lane 104-4 is meant to indicate how checkout lanes can take any suitable shape or arrangement, and need not necessarily comprise an elongated area with a conveyor belt in all embodiments. In some embodiments, the present subject matter can be used alongside checkout lanes which are not each individually serviced by a cashier (i.e. so-called “self checkout” lanes).
In this example, each checkout lane further includes a check writing stand 110. For example, each stand 110 may comprise a generally planar area which can be used as a writing surface for those persons who desire to write checks. Additionally, each check writing stand of this example supports a card terminal 112. For example, each card terminal 112 can comprise a magnetic or other card reader and keypad. The card terminals can be interfaced to the point-of-sale terminals (and/or other suitable systems at the retail location) to facilitate the use of electronic payment cards, such as check cards, credit cards, gift cards, and the like.
In this example, each checkout lane further includes a lottery printer 118 which can be used to provide one or more lottery products 120 to interested customers while such customers are at the checkout lanes. Thus, the customers do not necessarily need to visit a separate lottery point-of-sale terminal to purchase every type of lottery product. In an alternate embodiment, the lottery tickets may be purchased at the checkout lane with the customers being directed to a central station, such as a kiosk, to pick up their lottery tickets. This configuration may be desired in that it reduces the number and complexity of hardware components. The central location may be located, for example, at the service desk or a location near the exit of the establishment.
Further, in this example, each checkout lane 104-1, 104-2, and 104-3 further includes a lottery display monitor 122-1. In lane 104-1, the monitor is positioned at the end of conveyor 114-1. In lane 104-2, monitor 122-2 is positioned on merchandise area 116-2. In lane 104-3, monitor 122-3 is positioned in the same general area as check writing stand 110. As will be noted below, lottery display monitors 122 may be used to promote lottery products and otherwise provide information to lottery customers.
Each lane further includes an in-lane lottery sales computing device 119 interfaced via a connection 166 to a central lottery system 202 via a router 204. In this example, connection 166 comprises a wireless connection, and the retail location includes a wireless router 204 for communicating with the in-lane lottery sales computing devices and providing a connection 167 to the lottery central system 202. In this example, the retail location also includes a lottery administrative/sales terminal 205; interfaced to router 204. Lottery terminal 205 can comprise any suitable computing device. In some embodiments, the lottery terminal 205 can include a built-in wireless router or otherwise replace or complement the functionality of router 204.
As will be set forth below, the in-lane lottery computing devices 119 collect data from the respective point-of-sale terminal devices 108 in each lane to facilitate in-lane lottery sales. Further, connections between the in-lane lottery sales computing devices 119 and respective printers 118 and monitors 122 are also shown. It will be appreciated that not all possible connections amongst components are shown in FIG. 1 for purposes of clarity (e.g. connections between keyboards 109, scanners 106, card terminals 112, etc. and each point of sale terminal device 108 at each lane, connections between each lane and back-office systems are not shown).
Turning now to FIG. 2, the specifics of in-lane point-of-sale systems and lottery sale systems will be discussed in more detail. This example uses block diagrams to represent the various components which can be found at a checkout lane, e.g., one or more of lanes 104-1, 104-2, 104-3, and 104-4.
Additionally, FIG. 2 shows additional components (systems 200 and 202) which are not necessarily at a checkout lane, as signified by the double lines. However, systems 200 and 202 are typically not at the same location as one another, either. For instance, connection 162 represents a local area network or other connection to a retail back office system 200, which may, for instance, comprise a server or other system used to track sales, inventory, and other store data and activities based on data received from one or more POS terminals 108. Back office system 200 may be connected to other systems, such as a retailer's enterprise-level accounting, inventory, and sales systems via additional connections, such as a LAN/WAN connection.
As was noted above, a checkout lane can feature a point of sale terminal device (POS device) 108. Device 108 can comprise a general purpose or specialized computer system that runs one or more programs to facilitate the purchase process. For instance, POS device 108 may be interfaced via connection 150 to a bar code or other scanner 106 which can identify items so a cashier need not manually input product information. Typically, a laser-based scanner is used to read UPC bar codes which are then correlated to a listing of items available from back office system 200. Items may also be identified by PLUs, manual entry, specific keys, and the like. As items are rung up and/or after a sale is completed, POS device 108 can provide data to retail back office system indicating which items were sold, the sale amount, etc.
POS device may further be interfaced to a scale 106A for use in weighing items (e.g. at a supermarket), a keyboard 109 for user input, one or more printers 111, and one or more displays 107 for use by the cashier and/or customers in reviewing sales and other activity at the checkout lane. Display(s) 107 can comprise, for instance, black-and-white or color monitors (using CRT, plasma, LCD, or other suitable technology), LCD, LED, or other text displays, and the like. Additionally, some checkout lanes may include a card terminal and keypad 112, which can be used by the cashier and/or customers to input data for making payments via credit, debit, gift, and other cards. For instance, card terminal and keypad 112 may comprise a magnetic stripe reader and numerical input pad, along with a capture area for obtaining electronic signatures.
The various point-of-sale terminal components can be connected to POS device 108 in any suitable manner. The connections can include, but are by no means limited to, USB, RS-232, IEEE 1394, or another serial, parallel, or other data connections.
The discussion above of exemplary aspects of checkout lanes and POS terminal device 108 is for purposes of example only and is not intended to be limiting. Rather, the particulars arrangement and setup of a checkout lane, POS terminal, and back office system will depend on the needs of the retailer or other entity.
In any event, FIG. 2 further illustrates additional exemplary components which can be used to provide in-lane sales of lottery products in accordance with one or more aspects of the present subject matter. In this example, the checkout lane further includes an in-lane lottery sales computing device 119, one or more lottery monitors or displays 122, and one or more lottery printers 118. Monitor(s) and printer(s) 118 are connected to the in-lane lottery sales computing device 119 via any suitable connections including, but not limited to, USB, RS-232, IEEE 1394, or another serial, parallel, or other data connection.
In-lane lottery sales computing device 119 can comprise any suitable type of computer system. In some embodiments, device 119 is a streamlined computer with minimal memory, processing, and other capabilities can be positioned under a checkout counter or otherwise in an unobtrusive location. In-lane lottery sales computing device 119 is also connected via connection 164 to POS device 108. Connection 164 may, for instance, represent a single cable between the computer comprising POS device 108 and the computer comprising in-lane lottery sales computing device 119. Any suitable connection standard/data format supported by POS device 108 can be used. As will be discussed below, connection 164 can be used by the in-lane lottery sales computing device to “watch” for lottery products that are processed by POS device 108.
In-lane lottery sales computing device 119 is connected to a router 204 (not shown in FIG. 2), which can be located away from the checkout lane, via connection 166, which could comprise, for example, a local area network, local loop, etc. However, in some embodiments, connection 166 is a wireless connection made via a wireless router 204 interfaced to lottery central system 202 over connection 167, which may represent a wide-area connection. In-lane lottery sales computing device 119 may accordingly comprise suitable hardware to support a Wi-Fi (IEEE 802.11) or other wireless communication protocol.
Lottery central system 202 can also be connected (via connection 167, router 204, and local area connection 166) to one or more terminals or devices 205 at the retail location which are used to administer and coordinate the sales of lottery products at the retail location. Terminal(s) 205 may be used for tracking sales and the like at the retail location and/or dispensing lottery products and prizes, for instance. Lottery central system 202 may further be connected to other appropriate systems operated by a lottery sales authority or provider in order to track and validate the sales of lottery products across multiple locations. In some embodiments, lottery central system 202 can be configured to support consolidated reporting so that lottery sales reports from multiple in-lane lottery sales computing devices could be viewed in a single store report.
In-lane lottery sales computing device 119 is configured to “watch” the activities of POS device 108 in order to discern when bar codes or other suitable identifier(s) of lottery products are processed by POS device 108. For instance, lottery sales computing device 119 can be programmed to recognize the various data format(s) and/or communication protocol(s) used by POS device 108 to communicate sales data to back office system 200.
When the data indicates that POS device 108 has processed a lottery product, in-lane lottery sales computing device 119 can relay a request to lottery central system 202 for the particular lottery product (or products) that have been processed. For example, when connection 166 is a wireless connection, data identifying the requested lottery product(s) can be relayed to lottery system 202 for validation. Assuming the request is proper, lottery system 202 can confirm the request to in-lane lottery sales computing device 119. Then, in-lane lottery sales computing device 119 can send appropriate data/commands to in-lane printer(s) 118 for the appropriate lottery product(s) 120 to be printed.
For example, in some embodiments, printer 118 comprises a thermal printer with access to secure lottery paper stock. When an instant ticket is requested, in-lane lottery sales computing device 119 can use printer 118 to provide an instant lottery ticket in-lane.
In-lane purchase of lottery products can be facilitated in any suitable manner. For example, in some embodiments, shoppers are provided access to lottery “tokens” corresponding to different products. The tokens can represent any particular games for which in-lane sales are desired. The tokens may be placed in-lane for players to pick up while waiting to check out (e.g. in merchandising area 116) and/or at one or more other positions at the retail location.
Each particular lottery product can have a unique identifier which can be identified by the point-of-sale system used at the retail location. For example, if a retail location uses UPC bar codes, the point-of-sale system can be configured so that the token for each lottery product sold in-lane has a corresponding UPC bar code. This allows the sales of lottery products to be tracked using the same point-of-sale software and systems that the retailer uses to track other products. Further, the accounting and payment handling (i.e. tender) for lottery products and other products can be combined. The retailer can use the sales data gathered via the existing point-of-sale system in order to separate lottery sales and perform any needed balancing, tender transfers, etc. Further, balancing and reconciling lottery sales and other sales may be facilitated by lottery sales reports available from lottery central system 202.
Generally speaking, using a loosely-coupled interface as discussed herein can greatly simplify the task of integrating lottery sales with a retailer's existing point-of-sale system. For instance, as noted above, by using a point-of-sale lottery computing device at each lane, only a single connection between the lottery computing device and the POS terminal device is needed. To integrate the systems, the lottery computing device need only be configured to recognize data sent using the data interface specifications used by the existing retail point-of-sale system. This is in contrast to tightly-coupled systems, which generally require the use of lottery-specific applications at POS terminals and/or on the retail back office system(s).
Briefly, FIG. 3 is a flowchart showing an exemplary process 250 that includes parallel steps which are triggered by processing of a lottery product at a point of sale terminal. Steps carried out by the lottery-specific systems (i.e. the in-lane lottery sales computing device, lottery central system, etc.) are on the right side of the page.
At 252, a point-of-sale terminal scans or otherwise obtains data indicating a lottery product code. For instance, as was noted above, a UPC code corresponding to a lottery product may be scanned by a laser bar code scanner. The point-of-sale terminal at 254 adds the lottery product to the current sale. At 253, the in-lane lottery sales computing device routes a request to the lottery central system. The request may simply comprise the UPC or other code for the lottery product in some embodiments. However, in other embodiments, the in-lane lottery sales computing device can correlate the UPC to a specific lottery product, with the request identifying the lottery product and any particular options, etc. for the lottery product.
Depending upon other purchases (if any) to be made by the shopper, additional products (lottery or non-lottery) may be scanned or otherwise identified at the point of sale terminal. Each lottery product sold in-lane can trigger a corresponding request to the lottery system when identified based on data from the point of sale system. At 256, the sale amount is totaled by the point of sale system and tender (i.e. payment) is accepted. At 258, the point of sale system updates the sale/tender total and other data in the retail back office system.
At 255, after appropriate requests are made to the lottery system (and assuming such requests are validated), the in-lane lottery printer provides the requested lottery product(s). For example, online lottery tickets can be printed on secure lottery stock. The numbers may be received from the lottery central system.
Of course, the in-lane lottery sales computing device and/or lottery central system/terminal can be configured to address common point-of-sale situations, such as conditions under which lottery sales are temporarily prohibited, enforcing other regulations (e.g. age verification for ticket sales), and addressing cases in which tickets fail to print or are otherwise not available. Further, the system could be configured not to print tickets until appropriate payment is verified, etc.
As was mentioned above, in some embodiments, a checkout lane can comprise one or more lottery monitors 122 which are connected to the in-lane lottery sales computing device 119. Monitors 122 can comprise, for example, one or more LCD or other flat panel displays. The use of one or more such displays can advantageously allow for in-lane marketing of lottery or other products. As was noted above, a lottery display may be positioned at one or more of the check writing stand, merchandising area, or bagging area. In some embodiments multiple monitors are provided per checkout lane.
The use of such monitors could further allow for retailer incentives to encourage selling of lottery tickets in-lane. For instance, the in-lane lottery sales computing device could be configured to provide marketing messages specified by the retailer for some or all of the lottery displays. Further, the lottery displays could be configured to support input from the retailer point of sale systems (e.g. POS device 108) for use in displaying sales amounts, item descriptions, etc. This functionality could compliment or replace the display functionality provided by point-of-sale system display(s) 107. Point-of-sale display data could be provided by a connection between lottery monitor(s) 122 and POS device 108 and/or by in-lane lottery sales computing device 119.
Examples of lottery tickets above included instant-win tickets. However, the present subject matter can be used to sell any suitable type or variety of loftery product which can be printed by an in-lane printer. For example, the system could be configured to support in-lane sales and printing of “quick pick” tickets in which random numbers are selected for one or more lottery drawings.
The technology discussed herein makes reference to systems, servers, databases, software applications, and other computer-based systems, as well as actions taken and information sent to and from such systems. One of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that the inherent flexibility of computer-based systems allows for a great variety of possible configurations, combinations, and divisions of tasks and functionality between and among components. For instance, server or other processes discussed herein may be implemented using a single server or multiple servers or other devices working in combination. Databases and applications may be implemented on a single system or distributed across multiple systems. Distributed components may operate sequentially or in parallel.
When data is obtained or accessed between a first and second computer system or component thereof, the actual data may travel between the systems directly or indirectly. For example, if a first computer accesses a file or data from a second computer, the access may involve one or more intermediary computers, proxies, and the like. The actual file or data may move between the computers, or one computer may provide a pointer or metafile that the other computer uses to access the actual data from a still further computer.
The various computer systems discussed herein are not limited to any particular hardware architecture or configuration. Embodiments of the methods and systems set forth herein may be implemented by one or more general-purpose or customized computing devices adapted in any suitable manner to provide desired functionality. For instance, one or more computing devices may be adapted to provide desired functionality by accessing software instructions rendered in a computer-readable form. The device(s) may be adapted or configured to provide additional functionality complementary or unrelated to the present subject matter, as well.
When software is used, any suitable programming, scripting, or other type of language or combinations of languages may be used to implement the teachings contained herein. However, software need not be used exclusively, or at all. For example, some embodiments of the methods and systems set forth herein may also be implemented by hard-wired logic or other circuitry, including, but not limited to application-specific circuits. Of course, combinations of computer-executed software and hard-wired logic or other circuitry may be suitable, as well.
Embodiments of the methods disclosed herein may be executed by one or more suitable computing devices. As noted above, such devices may access one or more computer-readable media that embody computer-readable instructions which, when executed by at least one computer, cause the at least one computer to implement one or more embodiments of the methods of the present subject matter. Additionally or alternatively, the computing device(s) may comprise circuitry that renders the device(s) operative to implement one or more of the methods of the present subject matter. Furthermore, components of the presently-disclosed technology, such as databases used to store lottery sales data, other lottery activity data, and other data may be implemented using one or more computer-readable media.
Any suitable computer-readable medium or media may be used to implement or practice the presently-disclosed subject matter, including, but not limited to, diskettes, drives, and other magnetic-based storage media, optical storage media, including disks (including CD-ROMS, DVD-ROMS, and variants thereof), flash, RAM, ROM, and other memory devices, and the like.
The present disclosure also makes reference to the relay of communicated data over one or more communications networks. It should be appreciated that network communications can comprise sending and/or receiving information over one or more networks of various forms. For example, a network can comprise a dial-in network, a local area network (LAN), wide area network (WAN), public switched telephone network (PSTN), the Internet, intranet or other type(s) of networks. A network may comprise any number and/or combination of hard-wired, wireless, or other communication links.
The material particularly shown and described above is not meant to be limiting, but instead serves to show and teach various exemplary implementations of the present subject matter. As set forth in the attached claims, the scope of the present invention includes both combinations and sub-combinations of various features discussed herein, along with such variations and modifications as would occur to a person of skill in the art.