US Patent No. 6,772,229

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Issue Date: 08/03/2004

Abstract: A system for communicating information among participants in a distributed application having peripheral communications devices comprises a central agent having two-way links to the peripheral devices, a notice generator triggered by an information input from one participant directed to at least one other participant, the notice generator generating a notice for the other participant(s) and pushing the notice to the peripheral device of the other participant(s) only if the information input was directed to the other participant(s), a central storage medium storing the information input, and an access channel by which the other participant(s) may receive the information input only if the other participant(s) responds to the notice. The links may form a computer network, cable network, telecommunications network, wireless network, or other network, or a combination. Additional information inputs may be associated with the first information input or may modify or delete it.

What is claimed is: 

1. A system for communicating information among participants in a distributed application comprising:

for each participant, a peripheral device capable of transmitting and receiving information; and a central agent comprising:

two-way links to the peripheral devices capable of receiving and transmitting information, a notice generator, a notice sender, and a central storage medium able to store information inputs from participants, the central storage medium storing a first information input from an inputting participant directed to at least one receiving participant; the notice generator, responsive to said first information input, being able to generate a notice selectively for the at least one receiving participant and to push the notice to the notice sender, the notice comprising a channel to a memory location of said first information input in the central storage medium; and the notice sender, responsive to the notice pushed from the notice generator, being able to send the notice selectively to the peripheral devices of the receiving participant; whereby the receiving participant can access said first information input directly using the channel in the pushed notice; the central storage medium being further able to store a second information input from a participant in response to said first information input and to associate it with said first information input while subsequently retaining said first information input or modifying or deleting said first information input in accordance with said second information input; the notice generator, responsive to said second information input, being able to generate a second notice selectively directed to at least one other participant in said distributed application, which at least one other participant may or may not include said inputting participant, the second notice comprising a channel to a memory location of said second information input in the central storage medium, and said second notice being pushed to said notice sender; said notice sender, responsive to said second notice being pushed, being capable of sending said second notice to the peripheral devices of the at least one participant to whom the second notice is selectively directed; and the central storage medium being further able to store a third information input from a participant in response to said second information input and associate it with said first and second information inputs while subsequently retaining said first and second information inputs or modifying or deleting one or both of said first and second information inputs in accordance with said third information input.

2. The system according to claim 1, wherein said links form at least one of a computer network, a cable network, a wireless network, a television network, a telephone network, and a radio network.

3. The system according to claim 1, wherein said links form a combination of at least two of the following: a computer network, a cable network, a wireless network, a television network, a telephone network, and a radio network.

4. The system according to claim 1, wherein said central agent comprises:at least two distributed central agent components, in at least two locations.

5. The system according to claim 4, wherein at least one of said at least two distributed central agent components is located at a participant site.

6. The system according to claim 4, wherein at least one of said at least two distributed central agent components is located at a facility other than a participant site.

7. The system according to claim 1, wherein said central storage medium comprises: at least two distributed central storage medium components, in at least two locations.

8. The system according to claim 7, wherein at least one of said at least two distributed central storage medium components is located at a participant site.

9. The system according to claim 7, wherein at least one of said at least two distributed central storage medium components is located at a facility other than a participant site.

10. The system according to claim 1, wherein said central agent is located on a participant’s peripheral device.

11. The system according to claim 1, further comprising: means for synchronizing information inputs stored on more than one device.

12. The system according to claim 11, wherein said means for synchronizing performs data synchronization on a periodic basis.

13. The system according to claim 11, wherein said means for synchronizing performs data synchronization on a real-time basis when a device is activated.

14. The system according to claim 1, wherein said central agent further comprises: means for manipulating information inputs to accommodate particular capabilities and capacities of a particular participant’s peripheral device.

15. The system according to claim 14, wherein said means for manipulating information inputs includes: means for manipulating information inputs to provide such information inputs in a format chosen by a particular participant.

16. The system according to claim 1, wherein said central agent further comprises:
means for manipulating information inputs to accommodate the particular capabilities and capacities of one or more communication networks servicing said participants.

17. The system according to claim 1, wherein the central agent further comprises:
means for selectively permitting one or more activities to a given participant based on a privilege level assigned to the given participant.

18. The system according to claim 17, wherein said activities include at least one of posting information inputs, receiving information inputs, editing other participants’ information inputs, deleting other users’ information inputs, and removing a participant from participating in said distributed application.

19. The system according to claim 1, wherein said distributed application comprises one or more of the following: a distributed discussion group, a distributed scheduling application, a distributed contact management application, a distributed document management application, and a distributed project management application.

20. The system according to claim 1, wherein said central agent further comprises:
a database, connected to said two-way links, to said central storage medium and to said notice generator.

21. The system according to claim 20, wherein said database comprises one of a relational database, an object-relational database and a flat-file database.

22. A method of communicating information among participants in a distributed application having peripheral devices capable of transmitting and receiving information, comprising:
providing a central device capable of receiving information from the peripheral devices and transmitting information to the peripheral devices,
linking the central device to the peripheral devices,
responsive to a first information input transmitted from the peripheral device of a first participant directed to at least one other participant,
centrally receiving and storing the first information input,
associating the first information input with the at least one other participant,
preparing a notice of the first information input for the at least one other participant, the notice comprising a channel to a memory location of the first information input, and sending the notice to the peripheral device of the at least one other participant only if the at least one other participant is one to whom the associated information input is directed, responsive to a second information input by the at least one other participant, in response to said notice,
centrally receiving, storing, and associating the second information input with the first information input, while retaining the first information input or modifying or deleting the first information input in accordance with the second information input,
preparing a second notice of the second information input directed to at least one other participant, which may or may not include said first participant, the second notice comprising a channel to a memory location of the second information input, and
sending the notice to the peripheral device of the at least one other participant only if the at least one other participant is one to whom the associated information input is directed, and
responsive to a third information input by the at least one other participant to whom said second notice was directed and in response to said second notice, centrally receiving, storing, and associating the third information input with the first and second information inputs, while retaining the first and second information inputs or modifying or deleting one or both of the first and second information inputs in accordance with the third information input,
preparing a third notice of the third information input directed to at least one other participant, the third notice comprising a channel to a memory location of the third information input, and
sending the third notice to the peripheral device of the at least one other participant only if the at least one other participant is one to whom the associated information input is directed.

23. The method according to claim 22, wherein at least one participant is a participant in multiple distributed applications, and wherein each of said steps of preparing that prepares a notice to said at least one participant in multiple distributed applications comprises the step of:including in said notice any notices to the at least one participant in multiple distributed applications relating to any of said multiple distributed applications.

24. The method according to claim 23, wherein the notice generated by said step of including includes a single channel specific to the participant receiving the notice.

25. The method according to claim 24, further comprising the step of:
activating, by said receiving participant, the channel included in said notice, said channel linking said receiving participant to a list of various applications in which he or she is a participant, the entries in the list corresponding to any of said multiple distributed applications for which a notice to said receiving participant was included in the notice prepared in whichever preparing step comprises the step of including.

26. The method according to claim 25, further comprising the step of:using said list of various applications to receive information inputs destined for said receiving participant.

27. The method according to claim 22, each of said steps of preparing comprising the step of: including in said notice information describing the content of the information input whose presence is being announced by the notice.

28. The method according to claim 27, wherein each of said steps of preparing further comprises the step of: including, in addition to said information describing the content, additional information about said information input.

29. The method according to claim 28, wherein said additional information includes at least one of an indication of a level of urgency and an indication as to whether or not action is required by a participant receiving the notice.

30. The method according to claim 22, wherein said step of linking comprises the step of:
using at least one of a computer network, a cable network, a telecommunications network, a wireless network, a radio network, a telephone network, and a combination of networks to link the central device and the peripheral devices.

31. The method according to claim 22, wherein said step of providing a central device comprises the step of:
deploying a central device having at least one component collocated with at least one of said peripheral devices.

32. The method according to claim 22, wherein said step of providing a central device comprises the step of:
deploying a central device, all of whose components are collocated with at least one of said peripheral devices.

33. The method according to claim 22, wherein said step of providing a central device comprises the step of:
deploying software implementing a central device on one of said peripheral devices.

34. The method according to claim 22, wherein said step of providing a central device comprises the step of:
deploying components of a central device in multiple locations not collocated with any of said peripheral devices.

35. The method according to claim 22, further comprising the step of:
periodically synchronizing information inputs stored on at least two devices, wherein said devices include the central device and the peripheral devices.

36. The method according to claim 22, further comprising the step of:
synchronizing information inputs stored on at least two devices in real time, upon start-up of one of the at least two devices, wherein said devices include the central device and the peripheral devices.

37. The method according to claim 22, further comprising the step of:
allowing a non-participant in the distributed application to become a participant in the distributed application.

38. The method according to claim 37, wherein the step of allowing a non-participant to become a participant comprises the steps of:
permitting public access to the distributed application; and
publicizing the distributed application.

39. The method according to claim 37, wherein said step of allowing a non-participant to become a participant comprises the step of:
inviting a non-participant to participate in the distributed application.

40. The method according to claim 39, wherein said step of inviting is performed by any participant in the distributed application.

41. The method according to claim 39, wherein said step of inviting includes the step of: authorizing the invitation of a non-participant to become a participant.

42. The method according to claim 41, wherein said step of authorization can only be performed by a subset of the participants, the subset being less than all participants.

43. The method according to claim 42, wherein said subset of the participants comprises an initiating participant and a group of other participants including agents of an initiating participant and any other participants authorized by an initiating participant to authorize invitation.

44. The method according to claim 42, wherein said subset of the participants comprises one or more initiating participants, only.

45. The method according to claim 22, further comprising the step of:
manipulating, by the central device, one or more information inputs to accommodate particular capabilities and capacities of a particular participant’s peripheral device.

46. The method according to claim 22, further comprising the step of:
manipulating, by the central device, one or more information inputs to provide the one or more information inputs in a format chosen by a particular participant.

47. The method according to claim 22, further comprising the step of:
manipulating, by the central device, one or more information inputs to accommodate particular capabilities and capacities of one or more communication networks servicing said participants.

48. The method according to claim 22, further comprising the step of:
differentiating, by the central device, among activities permissible and not permissible to a given participant based on a privilege level assigned to that participant, thus permitting the participant to engage in the permissible activities and not in those that are not permissible.

49. The method according to claim 48, wherein said activities include at least one of posting information inputs, receiving information inputs, editing other participants’ information inputs, deleting other users’ information inputs, and removing a participant from participating in said distributed application.

50. The method according to claim 22, wherein said distributed application comprises one or more of the following: a distributed discussion group, a distributed scheduling application, a distributed contact management application, a distributed document management application, and a distributed project management application.

51. The method according to claim 22, wherein notices are sent asynchronously and in real time, upon receipt of corresponding information inputs.

52. A system for communicating information among participants in a distributed application having peripheral devices capable of transmitting and receiving information, comprising:
means for centrally receiving a first information input transmitted from the peripheral device of a participant directed to at least one other participant; means for generating a notice of the first information input, the notice comprising a channel linking the at least one other participant to the first information input; means for sending the notice to the peripheral device of the at least one other participant selectively if the participant is one to whom the associated information input was directed, and means for centrally storing the first information input such that when the at least one other participant receives the notice, the at least one other participant can retrieve the first information input at the respective peripheral device via the channel, and can transmit to the central receiving means at least one response to the first information input, the central receiving means comprising means for associating the first information input with the at least one response, said means for associating being capable of modifying or deleting the first information input if indicated by the at least one response,
said means for generating a notice generating, responsive to said at least one response, at least one second notice directed to at least one participant other than the participant sending the particular response, said notice containing at least one channel linking the at least one other participant to said at least one response, and said means for sending sending the at least one second notice to the peripheral device of the at least one participant to whom it is directed,
said means for centrally storing providing the at least one other participant the capability of retrieving the at least one response at the respective peripheral device via the at least one channel, and further associating with said first information input and said at least one response any further responses from said at least one other participant to said at least one response or modifying or deleting one or both of said first information input and said at least one response if indicated in a further response.

53. A system for communicating information among members of a distributed application comprising: for each participant, a peripheral device capable of transmitting and receiving information; and a central agent comprising: two-way links to the peripheral devices capable of receiving and transmitting information, a notice generator, a notice sender, and a central storage medium able to store information inputs from participants,
the central storage medium storing a first information input from a first participant directed to at least one other participant; the notice generator, responsive to said first information input, being able to generate a notice selectively for the at least one other participant and to push the notice to the notice sender, the notice comprising a channel leading to a memory location of said first information input in the central storage medium, said channel containing all information necessary to automatically access said first information input, including authentication information containing a password; and the notice sender, responsive to the notice pushed from the notice generator, being able to send the notice selectively to the peripheral devices of the at least one other participant; whereby the at least one other participant can access said first information input directly and automatically using the channel in the pushed notice; the central storage medium being further able to store a second information input from a participant in response to said first information input and associate it with said first information input while subsequently retaining said first information input or modifying or deleting said first information input in accordance with said second information input.

54. A method of communicating information among participants in a distributed application, said participants having peripheral devices capable of transmitting and receiving information, the method comprising the steps of: providing a central device capable of receiving information from the peripheral devices and transmitting information to the peripheral devices,
linking the central device to the peripheral devices, responsive to a first information input transmitted from the peripheral device of a first participant in the application directed to at least one other participant in the application: centrally receiving and storing the first information input,
associating the first information input with the at least one other participant,
preparing a notice of the first information input for the at least one other participant, the notice comprising a channel to a memory location of the first information input, said channel permitting automatic, direct access to said first information input by the at least one other participant and including such information as is needed to facilitate such automatic, direct access, including authentication information containing a password, and
sending the notice to the peripheral device of the at least one other participant only if the at least one other participant is one to whom the associated information input is directed, and responsive to a second information input by the at least one other participant, in response to said notice, centrally receiving, storing, and associating the second information input with the first information input, while retaining the first information input or modifying or deleting said first information input in accordance with said second information input.

55. A system for communicating information among participants in a distributed application, said participants having peripheral devices capable of transmitting and receiving information, the system comprising: means for centrally receiving a first information input transmitted from the peripheral device of a participant in the application directed to at least one other participant in the application; means for generating a notice of the first information input, the notice comprising a channel automatically and directly linking the at least one other participant to the first information input, said channel including all information necessary to provide such automatic and direct linking, including authentication information containing a password; means for sending the notice to the peripheral device of the at least one other participant selectively if the at least one other participant is one to whom the associated information input was directed; and
means for centrally storing the first information input such that when the at least one other participant receives the notice, the at least one other participant can automatically and directly retrieve the first information input at the respective peripheral device via the channel, and can transmit to the central receiving means at least one response to the first information input, the central receiving means comprising means for associating the first information input with the at least one response or modifying or deleting said first information input in accordance with the at least one response.