The invention relates to a system and method for managing a mobile communication device, and more particularly, to a system and method for providing enhanced control over a smartphone device.
The use of mobile phones, and in particular, smart phones, has increased markedly. Unlike traditional mobile phones, smart phones provide enhanced data management and processing capabilities. For example, smart phones are capable of: connecting to the Internet, presenting image files, running videos, streaming media, opening and editing documents, files and presentations, and downloading and installing numerous types of applications to run on the smartphone.
Increasingly smart phones are being used by students and young family members who have virtually unlimited access to the above-described functionality, some of which are very data intensive. Lack of experience in using and paying for telecommunications services, coupled with heavy data usage may lead to a large voice/data bill at the end of the billing cycle sometimes called “bill shock.” This is especially so with the rising popularity of streaming media, text messaging and the proliferation of numerous applications “Apps” that can be purchased for a relatively low price (or provided free of charge) and downloaded directly to a smart phone.
In addition to the freedom to access and download vast amounts of data with a smart phone, the growing popularity of smart phones is increasing the use of these devices by younger generations (e.g., school age users). Rather than waiting for breaks between classes to communicate, students have the ability to communicate anytime and anywhere (including while in classes). With the rising popularity of text messaging, data usage by younger uses continues to escalate as well as the ability to access multimedia while in class. Another problem with smart phone use by students is the unlimited ability of students to access and obtain information during class when they shouldn't, such as, for example, when taking a test. Additionally, younger users of mobile devices have increasingly utilized voice and data features late into the evening hours, which can have a negative impact on the amount of sleep they obtain.
In addition to the many voice and data features listed above, smart phones are capable of providing for other functionality relating to location finding. For example, smartphones are capable of locating the device so as to provide a current location and directions for the user of the device. As students increasingly face a range of personal safety issues, it is contemplated that the location finding technology can be utilized in a number of ways to enhance security for the student.
Accordingly, what is desired then is a system and method that helps to prevent mobile device “bill shock” and provide parental control for mobile device use.
It is also desired to provide a system and method that allows for checking on the current usage of a voice and/or data plan during a billing cycle so as to determine actual usage at that point during the billing cycle.
It is further desired to provide a system and method that will provide a notification to a user/administrator/parent/etc. when certain thresholds have been reached or exceeded relating to a voice/data plan during a billing cycle.
It is still further desired to provide a system and method that will allow a user/administrator/parent/etc. to set custom criteria for receiving a notification relating to a voice/data plan during a billing cycle.
It is yet further desired to provide a system and method that will allow a user/administrator/parent/etc. to set restrictions on the time, location, phone number(s), applications and data source(s) a user may access with a mobile device(s).
It is also desired to provide a system and method that utilizes the location finding ability of a mobile device to provide enhanced security and alerting capabilities for parents and for users.
These and other objects are achieved by the provision of a system that allows, for example, for a parent to monitor and set limits as well as limit usage periods on a student's voice/data usage with the student's smart phone. The term “smart phone” as used herein means a mobile device built on a mobile computing platform.
In one embodiment, the present invention provides a fully integrated system where an administrator (e.g., a parent), may log onto a website and register various mobile devices for inclusion in the family's telecommunications network for monitoring of a user (e.g., a child) mobile device. The website provides a real-time, user-friendly solution that allows the parent to easily monitor and limit telecommunications expenses, while ensuring the safety of their loved ones in an increasingly mobile world.
In one embodiment, the administrator can define notifications that will notify the administrator if the user has exceeded a voice and/or data limit for a mobile device during a billing cycle. The administrator can set usage limits such that the mobile device is “cut off” when certain defined limits are reached to ensure that “bill shock” is avoided. Likewise, the notifications can be based, not only on voice/data usage, but on the time of the usage and duration of the usage. For example, a parent may want to be notified that a child was using the mobile device from 2 am to 4 am. It is further contemplated that the administrator may desired to provide for limited mobile device usage during certain hours of the day (e.g., no voice/data usage from 12 midnight through 7 am; or no voice/data usage during school hours).
Still further, an administrator may want to define particular limitations, but still allow for use of other features on the mobile device based on time and/or location. For example, a parent may want to restrict the voice/data usage for a mobile device when the student is at school during class hours. However, the parent wants the child to always be able to call certain phone number the parents phone (home/mobile/work/etc.), a relative's phone, the school number, or an emergency number (police/fire/911/etc.). As stated above, the restriction in voice/data usage could be based on both time and location. In the circumstance stated above, the student's mobile device would be restricted when the mobile device was in a pre-defined geo-fence (e.g., surrounding the school or area defined by the parent). During weekends, the restriction would not apply, or if the student was outside the geo-fence, the restriction would not apply. Alternatively, the student's voice usage could be restricted in duration. In this embodiment, the parent could limit the duration (i.e., 5 minutes) of phone calls during school hours, while still providing exceptions to this rule. It can be seen that the parent can create a fully customized system effectively mixing and matching rules for voice/data usage as desired where each mobile device can be treated separately.
Alternatively, the administrator could define a notification to be generated if the mobile device left the geo-fence during a defined time (e.g., left the school area during school hours).
It should be understood that the term “notification” as used herein can be applied to an alert that an administrator has access to informing the administrator that a threshold has been reached or exceeded or that attention should be given to a matter. For example, the notification may comprise an email or a text message that is pushed out to the administrator. The email or text may define the issue or may alert the administrator to log onto the website to see the notification. Alternatively, the notification may be in the form of an alert that is presented to the administrator when the administrator logs onto the website (e.g., a red message flag is presented). In any event, the purpose is to bring a message to the administrator's attention. The administrator may further be presented with an option or series of options as to whether to limit further access by the mobile device or to continue to allow the mobile device to function. For example, in one embodiment, a notification may be generated and sent to a parent's mobile phone that a child's data limit is 50% consumed while only one week into the billing cycle. The parent has the option to limit data usage for the next week until the billing cycle is halfway complete. Alternatively, the parent could allow continued usage, but automatically shut off usage when 100% usage for the billing cycle is reached. Still further, a notification could also be sent to the user device (the child's phone) informing the child of the usage. For example, a notification could be sent to the user device at 25% usage, at 50% usage, at 75% usage and at 100% usage, or any defined percentage. Whereas, a notification may be sent to the parent's mobile device (or email, etc.) at selected times and usage thresholds. The object is to provide feedback so as to avoid overages charges. While the use of a percentage has been provided above, it should be understood that other categories may be monitored and/or reported, including, for example but not limited to, measuring bytes, measuring dollars or money such that an alert could be provided on a dollar/money overage basis, and so on. This would provide maximum flexibility for the parent to monitor and set up alerts as desired.
In still another embodiment, the administrator could be provided with a notification that identifies that a usage threshold has been reached (whether usage amount only, or a combination of usage and time in the billing cycle) and could provide feedback or input to the administrator relating to a possible adjustment in the billing plan. For example, the system could analyze the family voice/data usage versus the current voice/data plan and suggest migration to an alternative voice/data billing plan that would save the family money. In this manner, the system functions not only to limit voice/data usage to avoid “bill shock”, but actively assists the administrator to proactively avoid overage charges by helping to facilitate a change to a voice/data plan that better fits the family usage. It should be noted that the system would not be limited to only suggesting a voice/data plan that would increase the voice/data limits, but could further analyze the family usage and suggest lowering the plan to a more economical plan if the family's voice/data usage is consistently below the current plan limit.
The system may further provide for cost projection analysis. In one embodiment, the system can look at the current trend of the billing cycle and can “project” a cost based on the current trend. Still further, the system can “project” a cost based, not only on the current usage for the billing cycle, but can include analysis information from previous billing cycles. For example, it could be that there is heavy usage for the first week of the billing cycle, however, the trend for the past number of billing cycles is that the usage typically tails off for the second week, and so one. In this manner, a notification would not necessarily be generated based solely on usage in that one billing cycle. Alternatively, if voice/data usage is at 75% at the end of the third week of the billing cycle (assuming a four week billing cycle), if the trend has been heavy data usage at the end of the billing cycle, a notification may be generated that alerts the user to this effect. For example, a text or email can be sent to the administrator, who, when they log onto the website, can access a graph that illustrates the current usage in the billing cycle versus an average usage for the past number of billing cycle with a cost projection for the current billing cycle.
As family members increasingly become more mobile, the security of family members is a concern. Parents can also rest comfortably knowing theft child's smart phone is being safely monitored including location tracking. Parents can receive email/text alerts about critical events, for example, my/our child has left a geo-fence area (e.g., school area) during school hours. Alternatively, families looking to keep track of an elderly parent may be alerted if the individual leaves a geo-fence defined area or fans to move in a given time period indicating they are perhaps injured or disabled, and can provide for GFS tracking of the mobile device for location of the elderly parent.
Security for family members is further enhanced by an emergency alerting function such that if certain phone numbers are dialed on the mobile device (i.e., 911 is called), an emergency text message or email is sent to the parent(s) alerting the parents that a call was made and providing an location of where the call was made from. Still further, an anti-bullying function may be provided in the mobile device such that, in the event a child is in a situation that they do not feel comfortable with, they can one-touch dial a predetermined number (e.g., the school office, a parent, etc.) and a text message or email can again, automatically be sent to a parent or other individual identifying that an emergency was made and can provide a location of the device when the call was made and provide for active tracking of the device and could be made available to authorities if necessary.
In still another embodiment, reports may also be generated by the system detailing mobile device usage for each user at the end of each billing cycle or at any time the administrator logs on to the system and decides to generate a report. For example, at the halfway point of a billing cycle, the parent could generate and print a report including a graph of voice/data usage, which could then be presented to the student to show the child their current usage for the month with a projected usage and cost for the entire billing cycle. Additionally, based the current and historical usage patterns, the system could provide suggestions for lowering cost.
For this application the following terms and definitions shall apply:
The term “data” as used herein means any indicia, signals, marks, symbols, domains, symbol sets, representations, and any other physical form or forms representing information, whether permanent or temporary, whether visible, audible, acoustic, electric, magnetic, electromagnetic or otherwise manifested. The term “data” as used to represent predetermined information in one physical form shall be deemed to encompass any and all representations of the same predetermined information in a different physical form or forms. “Data” may be accessible, whether over-the-air, or via cable, satellite, network, distributed on storage media, or otherwise, without regard to the form or content thereof, and including but not limited to audio, video, text, images, animations, web pages and streaming media data.
The term “network” as used herein includes both networks and internetworks of all kinds, including the Internet, and is not limited to any particular network or inter-network.
The terms “coupled”, “coupled to”, “coupled with”, “connected”, “connected to”, and “connected with” as used herein each mean a relationship between or among two or more devices, apparatus, files, programs, media, components, networks, systems, subsystems, and/or means, constituting any one or more of (a) a connection, whether direct or through one or more other devices, apparatus, files, programs, media, components, networks, systems, subsystems, or means, (b) a communications relationship, whether direct or through one or more other devices, apparatus, files, programs, media, components, networks, systems, subsystems, or means, and/or (c) a functional relationship in which the operation of any one or more devices, apparatus, files, programs, media, components, networks, systems, subsystems, or means depends, in whole or in part, on the operation of any one or more others thereof.
The term “object” as used herein means a distinct software module or collection of computer code that possesses (1) data that uniquely separates the module or collection of computer code from other similar modules or collections, (2) attributes constituting a predetermined subset of data types describing media data usage and/or media data users and/or any other supporting datatypes or users, and (3) behavior which (i) limits access to such attributes by responding only to requests conforming to a predetermined published interface, and (ii) gathers data of such predetermined subset or merges objects which possess such data.
The terms “process” and “processing” as used herein each mean an action or a series of actions including, for example, but not limited to, the continuous or non-continuous, synchronous or asynchronous, direction of data, modification of data, formatting and/or conversion of data, tagging or annotation of data, measurement, comparison and/or review of data, and may or may not comprise a program.
In one advantageous embodiment a system for managing a telecommunications device is provided comprising a server coupled to a network, the server having a webpage accessible by a user with a user computer and a storage accessible by the server. The system further comprises a registration module on the server and allowing the user to register a mobile device, and a mobile device plan module on the server and receiving information relating to a telecommunications service plan associated with the mobile device. The system still further comprises a threshold module on the server, where the threshold module allows a user to set at least one threshold for the mobile device. Finally, the system comprises a notification module on the server, where the notification module generates a notification accessible by the user when the at least one threshold is reached.
In another advantageous embodiment a method for managing a telecommunications device is provided comprising the steps of providing a webpage on a server connected to a network that is accessible by a user computer, and providing a registration module on the server allowing a user to register a mobile device. The method also includes the steps of providing a mobile device plan module on the server for receiving information relating to a telecommunications service plan associated with the mobile device, and providing a threshold module on the server allowing a user to set at least one threshold for the mobile device. Finally, the method includes the step of generating a notification with a notification module on the server when the at least one threshold is reached, the notification accessible by the user.
Other objects of the invention and its particular features and advantages will become more apparent from consideration of the following drawings and accompanying detailed description.
Referring now to the drawings, wherein like reference numerals designate corresponding structure throughout the views.
Server 104 is provided with a server storage 110 accessible by the server 104, whether locally provided or provided remote from server 104. Server storage 110 may comprise virtually any type of storage device for storing electronic data and may be comprise, for example, but not limited to, RAM, ROM, CD, DVD, solid state, magnetic, optical or any other means for storing electronic data.
Server 104 is also illustrated coupled to service provider system 112 via a network connection 114. The service provider system 112 comprises an interface to the system used by the service provider(s) that provides mobile telecommunications services for the user. For example, server 104 may communicate with the service provider that provides commercial telecommunications services to the user relating to the mobile devices 102, 102′, 102″, 102n. For example, server 104 may confirm user account information and mobile device 102, 102′, 102″, 102n information. As will be seen, server 104 may communicate with service provider system 112 to provide instructions relating to the operation of the mobile devices 102, 102′, 102″, 102n. While mobile devices 102, 102′, 102″, 102n are shown wirelessly connected to a block entitled service provider system 112, it should be understood that service provider system 112 includes all the necessary wired and wireless communication equipment and computers used by a commercial service provider to provide wireless telecommunications services to the public.
Turning now to
The registration process may further include an install link that gets sent to each mobile device(s) 102, 102′, 102″, 102n. For example, the user could click on an “install link” that gets sent to each device such that each mobile device(s) 102, 102′, 102″, 102n can navigate to and install the application.
Once the user has provided all of the registration and device plan information, the user may have the option to set thresholds and set rules with threshold module 124. For example, the user may decide to set a threshold of 50% for voice, data and/or text messaging (SMS) usage. If the threshold is reached, a number of actions are possible. In one embodiment, notification module may provide a notification that the threshold has been reached. It should be noted that any level may be selected for a notification. For example,
The process of receiving a notification is further illustrated in
The user further has the option to request a report be generated that may include graphs illustrating total and individual mobile device 102, 102′, 102″, 102n usage as illustrated in
In the example shown in
Another aspect of the invention allows the user to set rules for the mobile devices mobile device(s) 102, 102′, 102″, 102n. This can be done by means of rules module 126 shown in
It is further contemplated that restrictions could be applied to the mobile device(s) 102, 102′, 102″, 102n based on the time of day. For example, a parent could restrict the mobile device(s) 102, 102′, 102″, 102n from sending/receiving/accessing voice/data/SMS from 11 pm to 6 am as a parent does not want the student text messaging at 2 am or talking on the phone at that time. Alternatively, the restriction may be adjusted based on the day of the week, such that the restrictions are not applied on the weekend or during holidays. It is understood that the system 100 provides complete versatility allowing the user to set rules with the rules module 126 for the use of the mobile device(s) 102, 102′, 102″, 102n as they see fit.
As seen in
In addition to providing notifications about projected overage fees and suggesting potential service plan migration, the system 100 can further suggest additional ways in which to save the family money. For example, information relating to the current service plan may include a “friends and family” feature allowing individuals in the “friends and family” defined network to communicate with each other at a discounted rate. The system 100 can monitor usage for the mobile device(s) 102, 102′, 102″, 102n and suggest adjustments to the numbers in the “friends and family” defined network. For example, “Carrie” (a friend of Lisa) may be listed in the “friends and family” defined network, however, over time Lisa's calling habits have changed such that she is now spending more minutes communicating with David than Carrie. The system could provide a suggestion to replace Carrie with David and could provide an estimated cost savings for doing so based on the historical data.
Additional rules that can be provided are illustrated in
This feature can also be used as a safety feature such that if the student is forced to leave the geo-fence area, a notification is sent to the parent without the student having to send any type of message. The location of the mobile device(s) 102, 102′, 102″, 102n can be tracked. Alternatively, for elderly individuals, a similar feature can be used to help identify their location if necessary.
It is contemplated that when setting up geo-fences, the user may simply be presented with a map and could draw a circle around the area. While hexagons are shown in
As the system 100 is web-based, users (parents) can login from virtually anywhere to monitor usage, run reports, receive notifications and administer rules as the system 100 is accessible via the web portal.
Although the invention has been described with reference to a particular arrangement of parts, features and the like, these are not intended to exhaust all possible arrangements or features, and indeed many other modifications and variations will be ascertainable to those of skill in the art.