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Programmable security system and method for protecting merchandise

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Title: Programmable security system and method for protecting merchandise.
Abstract: A programmable security system and method for protecting an item of merchandise includes a programming station, a programmable key and a security system. The programming station generates a security code and communicates the security code to a memory of the programmable key. The programmable key initially communicates the security code to a memory of the security device and subsequently operates the security device upon a matching of the security code in the memory of the security device with the security code in the memory of the programmable key. The programmable key may also transfer power via electrical contacts or inductive transfer from an internal battery to the security device to operate a lock mechanism. The security code may be communicated by wireless infrared (IR) systems, electrical contacts or inductive transfer. A timer inactivates the programmable key and/or the security device after a predetermine period of time. A counter inactivates the programmable key after a predetermined maximum number of activations. ...


Browse recent Invue Security Products Inc. patents - Charlotte, NC, US
USPTO Applicaton #: #20110254661 - Class: 340 561 (USPTO) - 10/20/11 - Class 340 


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The Patent Description & Claims data below is from USPTO Patent Application 20110254661, Programmable security system and method for protecting merchandise.

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CROSS REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application is a continuation-in-part of U.S. application Ser. No. 12/770,321, filed on Apr. 29, 2010, which is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/639,102, filed on Dec. 14, 2006, and now U.S. Pat. No. 7,737,846, which claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/753,908, filed on Dec. 23, 2005, the entire disclosures of which are incorporated herein by reference.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The invention relates to security systems and methods for protecting merchandise from theft, and in particular, to a security system and method including a programmable key that is programmed with a security code from a programming station and is subsequently used to program and/or operate an alarm module attached to an item of merchandise.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

Retail stores use numerous types of theft deterrent security devices and security systems to discourage shoplifters. Many of these security systems use an alarm module or other security device that is attached to an item of merchandise to be protected. When the integrity of the security system or the item of merchandise protected thereby is compromised in any manner, such as by cutting a cable that attaches the item of merchandise to the alarm module, by removing the merchandise from the alarm module, by removing the alarm module from a fixture or support, or by interrupting a sense loop monitoring one or more sensors, the alarm module causes an audible alarm to be sounded to alert store personnel of a potential theft. The alarm module, as well as the item of merchandise protected thereby, may also contain various electronic article surveillance (EAS) devices that sound an alarm upon passing through a security gate.

These alarm modules or other security devices that are attached to the item of merchandise usually have some type of key, either mechanical, electrical or magnetic, which is used to arm and disarm the alarm associated with the alarm module, and in certain instances, to unlock or remove the item of merchandise from the alarm module to allow the merchandise to be taken to a cashier for purchase or to be taken from the checkout counter after purchase. A known problem with such security systems is that the keys may be stolen from the retail store and used at the same store or at another store using the same type of alarm module or other security device, to enable a shoplifter to disarm the alarm module or to unlock the security device from the merchandise. Keys may also be stolen by a dishonest employee and used by the employee in an unauthorized manner or passed to a shoplifter for use at the same store or at another store having the same type of alarm module or security device controlled by the key. It is extremely difficult to prevent the theft of security system keys by shoplifters or dishonest employees within a retail store due to the large number of keys that must be made available to store personnel in various departments of the store to facilitate use of the numerous alarm modules and other security devices needed to protect the valuable items of merchandise on display in the retail store.

Thus, the need exists for an improved security system and method including an alarm module or other security device for protecting an item of merchandise attached to the alarm module or other security device for display in a retail store. There exists a further and more particular need for a security system and method including a programmable key that is configured to prevent a shoplifter or dishonest store employee from using a key stolen from a retail store to disarm or unlock an alarm module or other security device at the same store or at another store that utilizes the same type of alarm module or other security device.

BRIEF

SUMMARY

OF THE INVENTION

In one aspect, the present invention provides a security system and method for protecting an item of merchandise including a programmable key for arming and disarming an alarm module or other security device attached to the item of merchandise. The key is programmable with a unique security code, referred to herein as a Security Disarm Code (SDC), which code is provided to the key by a programming station. The SDC is unique to a particular retail store, thereby preventing a key from being used at a different retail store than the one from which the key is stolen.

Another aspect of the present invention is to use the SDC programmed into the key by the programming station to program each alarm module or other security device used in that retail store with the same SDC when the alarm module or other security device is first activated. In a preferred embodiment, the SDC then remains with the alarm module throughout its use in that retail store.

Another aspect of the present invention is to provide such a security system and method including a programmable key provided with an internal timer that after a predetermined (i.e. factory set) or preset (i.e. at the retail store) period of time, for example 96 hours, automatically invalidates or inactivates the SDC in the key, thereby preventing its unauthorized use even in the retail store in which the programming station is located and the SDC was initially programmed into the key.

A feature of the present invention is to require the programmable key to be reprogrammed with the SDC by the programming station within a predetermined or preset period of time. In a preferred embodiment, the act of reprogramming the key may be performed only by authorized store personnel, thereby ensuring that the key will only be used by authorized persons and only in the retail store having the programming station and unique SDC for the alarm modules or other security devices in that store.

Another aspect of the present invention is to provide the programmable key with an internal counter that counts the number of activations of an alarm module or other security device performed by the key, for example the initial activation (i.e. arming) of alarm modules or other security devices as well as each time the key is used to disarm or re-arm the alarm module or other security device. In a preferred embodiment, upon a predetermined maximum number of activations occurring the key will become permanently inactivated, thereby ensuring that a useable key always has a sufficient amount of internal power to receive the SDC from the programming station and to subsequently communicate (i.e. transmit and receive data) with the alarm module or other security device to arm and disarm the alarm module or other security device, as required. Furthermore, the internal counter may cause a logic control circuit to activate an indicating signal a predetermined time before the logic control circuit of the key is permanently deactivated upon the predetermined maximum number of activations occurring.

Another aspect of the present invention is to provide various forms of data communication between the various elements of the security system, namely the programming station, programmable key, and the alarm modules or other security devices activated and deactivated by the key. In one preferred embodiment, data (e.g. the SDC) is communicated between the various components of the security system by wireless communication, such as infrared (IR), radio frequency (RF) or similar wireless communication system. In another preferred embodiment, data is communicated between the various components of the security system through electrical contacts. In yet another preferred embodiment, data is communicated between the various components of the security system by induction, for example electromagnetic induction, magnetic induction, electrostatic induction, etc.

Another aspect of the present invention is to provide such a security system and method including a programmable key and an alarm module or other security device configured to actuate an alarm if a key programmed with a different SDC than the alarm module or other security device is used to attempt to disarm the alarm module or other security device.

Another feature of the present invention is that the security system may be configured to retain the SDC in the programming station within a non-volatile memory, thereby enabling the SDC to survive a power interruption.

Another feature of the present invention is that the security system may be configured to enable the programming station to immediately “time-out” the key, thereby preventing subsequent use of the key, upon the programming station reading a SDC stored in the key that does not match the SDC of the programming station.

Another feature of the present invention is that the programming station may be provided with a plurality of visual indicators that are illuminated and/or pulsed to indicate the operational status of the programming station.

Another feature of the present invention is that the a logic control circuit of the alarm module or other security device may include an operational lifetime timer that is preset for a predetermined lifetime to ensure that an internal battery maintains sufficient power for operating the alarm module or other security device, and further, that the alarm module or other security device includes a timer that records the amount of time an alarm is activated by the alarm module or other security device and the logic control circuit automatically reduces the lifetime of the operational lifetime timer. In a preferred embodiment, the logic control circuit automatically disables the alarm module or other security device at the end of the lifetime of the operational lifetime timer.

Another feature the present invention is that the operational lifetime timer of the alarm module or other security device may be configured to activate a near end-of-life signal a predetermined time before the logic control circuit completely disables the alarm module or other security device, thereby enabling store personnel to substitute an alarm module or other security device having a sufficiently charged internal battery.

Another feature of the present invention is that the alarm module or other security device may be provided with a plurality of connection ports for attaching one or more attachment cables extending between the alarm module or other security device and items of merchandise. Each such attachment cable may contain a sense loop that will activate an alarm in the event that the integrity of the sense loop is compromised.

Another feature of the present invention is that the logic control circuit of the programming station may be configured to permanently inactivate the SDC in a programmable key if the SDC programmed in the key does not match the SDC of the programming station when a logic control circuit of the programmable key is in communication with a logic control circuit of the programming station.

Another feature of the present invention is that the programming station may be provided with a plurality of light-emitting diodes (LEDs) that indicate various status displays depending upon the condition and state of operation of the programming station.

Another feature of the present invention is that the programming station may be provided with mechanical attachment means for securing it to a supporting structure in a secure location in which the programming station is connected to an external power source, thereby ensuring that power is available to the programming station and avoiding the use of an internal battery.

Another aspect of the present invention is to provide such a security system and method including a programming station for programming a programmable key and an alarm module or other security device each having a light pipe to facilitate the transfer of infrared (IR) wireless communication between the key and the alarm module or other security device. In a preferred embodiment, at least a portion of a housing of the programming station is formed of a material suitable to facilitate the transmission of infrared (IR) waves between the wireless communication systems of the programming station and the key.

Another feature of the present invention is that sense loops extending between the alarm module or other security device and the item of merchandise may be formed of an electrical conductor or fiber optic conductor located within an outer mechanical attachment cable.

The above aspects and features are provided by a security system for protecting an item of merchandise according to the present invention, the general nature of which may be stated as including a programmable key, a programming station for generating a security code in the key and a security device, such as an alarm module, for attachment to an item of merchandise wherein the security device receives the security code from the key to initially activate the security device and to subsequently disarm and re-arm the security device.

The above aspects and features are further provided by a method for protecting an item of merchandise according to the present invention, the general nature of which may be stated as including the steps of attaching a security device, such as an alarm module, to the item of merchandise, programming a programmable key with a security code, programming the security code from the key into the security device, disarming the security device upon verifying that the security code in the alarm module with the security code in the key, and invalidating the security code in the key after a predetermined or preset period of time to prevent subsequent disarming of the security device unless the security code is refreshed in the key within the predetermined or preset period of time.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

One or more exemplary and preferred embodiments of the invention illustrating the best mode presently contemplated for applying its principles is set forth in the following detailed description, is shown in the accompanying drawings and is particularly and distinctly pointed out and set forth in the appended claims.

FIG. 1 is a diagrammatic view showing the components of a security system according to the present invention.

FIG. 2 is a side elevation view of the programming station and the programmable key of the security system of FIG. 1.

FIG. 3 is a cross-sectional elevation view of the programming station shown in FIG. 2.

FIG. 4 is a block diagram depicting the logic control circuit of the programming station shown in FIG. 2.

FIG. 5 is a side elevation view of a security device for use with the security system of FIG. 1.

FIG. 6 is a cross-sectional elevation view of the security device shown in FIG. 5.

FIG. 7 is a block diagram depicting the logic control circuit of the security device shown in FIG. 5.

FIG. 8 is a top plan view of the programmable key of the security system shown in FIG. 1.

FIG. 9 is a cross-sectional elevation view of the programmable key show in FIG. 8 taken along line 9-9.

FIG. 10 is a block diagram depicting the logic control circuit of the programmable key shown in FIG. 8.

FIGS. 11, 11A and 11B are a flow chart depicting the operation of the logic control circuit of the programmable key shown in FIG. 8.

FIGS. 12, 12A and 12B are a flow chart depicting the operation of the logic control circuit of the programming station shown in FIG. 2.

FIG. 13 is a flow chart depicting the operation of the logic control circuit of the security device shown in FIG. 5.

FIGS. 14-17 are diagrammatic views of other security devices for use with the security system of FIG. 1.

FIG. 18 is a diagrammatic view showing the components of another security system according to the present invention.

FIG. 19 is a diagrammatic view showing the programmable electronic key positioned on the programming station of the security system of FIG. 18 to be programmed with a security code.

FIG. 20 is a diagrammatic view of a merchandise security device for use with the security system of FIG. 18.

FIG. 21 is a diagrammatic view showing the programmable electronic key positioned on the charging station of the security system of FIG. 18 to recharge the internal battery of the key.

FIGS. 22 and 22A are top plan and diagrammatic sectional views, respectively, of the charging station of the security system of FIG. 18.

FIG. 23 is a diagrammatic sectional view of the programmable electronic key of the security system of FIG. 18.

FIG. 24 is a diagrammatic sectional view of the programmable electronic key of the security system of FIG. 18.

FIG. 25 is a diagrammatic view of a programmable electronic key with inductive transfer for use with a security system according to the invention.



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stats Patent Info
Application #
US 20110254661 A1
Publish Date
10/20/2011
Document #
13169968
File Date
06/27/2011
USPTO Class
340/561
Other USPTO Classes
340/565
International Class
06F7/04
Drawings
24


Infrared
Matching
Programming
Security
Security Device


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