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Method and apparatus for placing telephone calls while connected to the internet


No:

6188688 -

Application no:

08853231 -

Filed date:

1997-05-21 -

Issue date:

2001-02-13



Abstract:


The present invention enables a user, logged on to a data network over a traditional telephone line, to place additional outgoing calls over that same line without interruption of the data session. The user is also able to provide communication between the outgoing call and the data session such that, voice over the data session can be conferenced into voice over the newly outgoing telephone session.

US Classes:



Inventors:



Agents:


Assignees:


Claims:


What is claimed is:

1. A non-disruptive method for placing one or more outgoing voice calls over a telephone line while said telephone line has an existing data session between a user workstation and a data service provider established, said method comprising the steps of: establishing a data channel from said user workstation, through a central office switch, to a mux/demux device, further comprising the steps of: executing a first dial request from said user workstation to said central office switch, said first dial request requesting said data session with said data service provider; sending a first request for instructions from said central office switch, responsive to receiving said first dial request, to a computer telephony interface server (CTI); sending a first response from said CTI to said central office switch, responsive to said first request for instructions, instructing said central office switch to redirect said first dial request to a first telephone number representing a first free port on said mux/demux device; and redirecting, by said central office switch, said first dial request to said first telephone number, thereby establishing a first connection between said user workstation and said mux/demux device; establishing said existing data session between said user workstation and said data service provider over said telephone line using said data channel; establishing a control channel between said user workstation and said mux/demux device over said telephone line; indicating to said user workstation, by a user of said user workstation, that an outgoing voice call is requested; establishing said outgoing voice call on a voice channel while said existing data session continues to concurrently operate on said data channel and retains an ability to simultaneously transmit data, further comprising th steps of: sending, responsive to said indicating step, a second dial request from said user workstation to said mux/demux device on said control channel, said second dial request requesting said outgoing voice call to an external telephone number; forwarding said second dial request from said mux/demux device to said CTI; and completing said requested outgoing voice call, further comprising the steps of: sending a message from said CTI to said central office switch, instructing said central office switch to connect said second dial request from one of a second telephone number or a port identifier representing a second free port on said mux/demux device to said external telephone number; connecting, by said central office switch, said second dial request to said second telephone number or said port identifier; and dialing, by said central office switch, said external telephone number; communicating on said outgoing voice channel while said existing data session on said data channel continues to simultaneously operate and transmit data; demultiplexing, in said user workstation, information received at said user workstation on said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; multiplexing, in said user workstation, information to be transmitted from said user workstation on said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; demultiplexing, in said mux/demux device, information received on said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; multiplexing, in said mux/demux device, information to be sent over said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; and retaining an ability to place an additional outgoing telephone call on said telephone line.

2. The method as claimed in claim 1, wherein, prior to the step of said CTI server sending said first response, said CTI server contacts said mux/demux device to determine said first telephone number and said first free port number.

3. The method as claimed in claim 1 or claim 2, wherein, prior to the step of said CTI server sending said message, said CTI server contacts said mux/demux device to determine said second free port number.

4. The method as claimed in claim 1, wherein said CTI maintains ongoing information as to a status of connectivity of said user workstation.

5. A system for non-disruptively placing one or more outgoing voice calls over a telephone line while said telephone line has an existing data session between a user workstation and a data service provider established, said system comprising: means for establishing a data channel from said user workstation, through a central office switch, to a mux/demux device, further comprising: means for executing a first dial request from said user workstation to said central office switch, said first dial request requesting said data session with said data service provider; means for sending a first request for instructions from said central office switch, responsive to receiving said first dial request, to a computer telephony interface server (CTI); means for sending a first response from said CTI to said central office switch, responsive to said first request for instructions, instructing said central office switch to redirect said first dial request to a first telephone number representing a first free port on said mux/demux device; and means for redirecting, by said central office switch, said first dial request to said first telephone number, thereby establishing a first connection between said user workstation and said mux/demux device; means for establishing said existing data session between said user workstation and said data service provider over said telephone line, using said data channel; means for establishing a control channel between said user workstation and said mux/demux device over said telephone line; means for indicating to said user workstation, by a user of said user workstation, that an outgoing voice call is requested; means for establishing said outgoing voice call on a voice channel while said existing data session continues to concurrently operate on said data channel and retains an ability to simultaneously transmit data, further comprising: means for sending, responsive to said means for indicating, a second dial request from said user workstation to said mux/demux device on said control channel, said second dial request requesting said outgoing voice call to an external telephone number; means for forwarding said second dial request from said mux/demux device to said CTI; and means for completing said requested outgoing voice call, further comprising: means for sending a message from said CTI to said central office switch, instructing said central office switch to connect said second dial request from one of a second telephone number or a port identifier representing a second free port on said mux/demux device to said external telephone number; means for connecting, by said central office switch, said second dial request to said second telephone number or said port identifier; and means for dialing, by said central office switch, said external telephone number; means for communicating on said outgoing voice channel while said existing data session on said data channel continues to simultaneously operate and transmit data; means for demultiplexing, in said user workstation, information received at said user workstation on said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; means for multiplexing, in said user workstation, information to be transmitted from said user workstation on said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; means for demultiplexing, in said mux/demux device, information received on said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; means for multiplexing, in said mux/demux device, information to be sent over said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; and means for retaining an ability to place an additional outgoing telephone call on said telephone line.

6. A computer program product for non-disruptively placing one or more outgoing voice calls over a telephone line while said telephone line has an existing data session between a user workstation and a data service provider established, said computer program product embodied on a computer-readable storage medium and comprising: computer-readable code means for establishing a data channel from said user workstation, through a central office switch, to a mux/demux device, further comprising: computer-readable code means for executing a first dial request from said user workstation to said central office switch, said first dial request requesting said data session with said data service provider; computer-readable code means for sending a first request for instructions from said central office switch, responsive to receiving said first dial request, to a computer telephony interface server (CTI); computer-readable code means for sending a first response from said CTI to said central office switch, responsive to said first request for instructions, instructing said central office switch to redirect said first dial request to a first telephone number representing a first free port on said mux/demux device; and computer-readable code means for redirecting, by said central office switch, said first dial request to said first telephone number, thereby establishing a first connection between said user workstation and said mux/demux device; computer-readable code means for establishing said existing data session between said user workstation and said data service provider over said telephone line, using said data channel; computer-readable code means for establishing a control channel between said user workstation and said mux/demux device over said telephone line; computer-readable code means for indicating to said user workstation, by a user of said user workstation, that an outgoing voice call is requested; computer-readable code means for establishing said outgoing voice call on a voice channel while said existing data session continues to concurrently operate on said data channel and retains an ability to simultaneously transmit data, further comprising: computer-readable code means for sending, responsive to said computer-readable code means for indicating, a second dial request from said user workstation to said mux/demux device on said control channel, said second dial request requesting said outgoing voice call to an external telephone number; computer-readable code means for forwarding said second dial request from said mux/demux device to said CTI; and computer-readable code means for completing said requested outgoing voice call, further comprising: computer-readable code means for sending a message from said CTI to said central office switch, instructing said central office switch to connect said second dial request from one of a second telephone number or a port identifier representing a second free port on said mux/demux device to said external telephone number; computer-readable code means for connecting, by said central office switch, said second dial request to said second telephone number or said port identifier; and computer-readable code means for dialing, by said central office switch, said external telephone number; computer-readable code means for communicating on said outgoing voice channel while said existing data session on said data channel continues to simultaneously operate and transmit data; computer-readable code means for demultiplexing, in said user workstation, information received at said user workstation on said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; computer-readable code means for multiplexing, in said user workstation, information to be transmitted from said user workstation on said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; computer-readable code means for demultiplexing, in said mux/demux device, information received on said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; computer-readable code means for multiplexing, in said mux/demux device, information to be sent over said data channel, said voice channel, and said control channel; and computer-readable code means for retaining an ability to place an additional outgoing telephone call on said telephone line.


Text:


RELATED INVENTIONS

IBM application Ser. No. 08/861,295 entitled "A Method and Apparatus for Receiving Conventional Telephone Calls While Connected to the Internet" filed May 21, 1997.

FIELD OF THE INVENTION

The present invention relates in general to a communications system establishing additional communications without disrupting any existing communications. In specific, this invention describes a method and apparatus for placing calls on a telephone network while connected to a data transmission device or data service provider and without disrupting existing data communications.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

With the explosive growth of the Internet, multitudes of users are connecting to the Internet through their phone lines. While many businesses allow for dedicated phone lines to their computers and different dedicated lines for voice communications, many smaller businesses and home users cannot afford the expense of a dedicated phone line. If a user chooses to use their voice phone line for their Internet communications, while the person is logged on to the Internet (or any other form of data communications) the phone will ring busy if anyone tries to call the phone number being used for the outgoing connection. This can be problematic since access to online services and online providers often results in intervals of long duration in which the user is logged on to the communication provider. This means long intervals where the phone line will ring busy if someone is trying to reach the user over a conventional telephone. In addition, using the existing technologies, someone desiring to place a call while logged on to a data network would cause the data portion of the line to time-out due to inactivity while the user toggled to the other session using 3-way calling or similar technology.

In theory, this is solved by `call waiting` in that a user who is talking on the phone will hear a tone if someone else is trying to reach them. This is not the case where the initial usage is with a data service provider which sends and receives all messages as tones. Since the data service will receive the `call waiting` tone as part of the message, most applications will terminate with fatal or unrecoverable errors if a `call waiting` interrupt comes in while a data communication session is established causing the workstation to hang-up on the call with the data service provider. While this may allow the user to receive incoming calls, it is not desirable to force the user off the data communications session to be notified of the incoming call. The user should have a choice as to whether they are going to receive the incoming call without disconnecting them from the data communications network to which they are connected.

OBJECTS OF THE INVENTION

It is an object of the present invention to allow a user logged onto a data network over a conventional telephone network to place additional outgoing calls without being forced off of their data network.

It is yet a further object of the present invention to allow concurrent conversations of the newly established outgoing call and voice and/or data over the existing data communications physical transport (telephone wire or wireless path).

It is yet a further objective of the present invention to allow the user to do a multitude of additional telephone functions such as making an outbound call, transferring or forwarding a call, alternating between the calls, and conferencing the calls.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a method and system of allowing communication over an existing telephone line (such as a public switched telephone network or PSTN or any voice switch) using a data communications provider and known transmission media, such as traditional analog or digital phone lines or cellular transmission, while enabling a user receiving the communications to be notified if an incoming caller is attempting to reach the user or to establish additional connections over the same physical link. The method comprises the establishment of three channels, the original data service channel, a channel which will be referred to for purposes of this invention as a control channel, and a voice quality channel for incoming and outgoing voice switch calls. All of the channels are routed to a `black box` which could be implemented as a portion of the central office switch or independent of the switch. This `black box` provides a multiplexer/demultiplexer function which allows the user to receive the messages from the caller interspersed with the information being received from the data service provider. This is extremely interesting with respect to the Internet and the Internet service providers. It allows multiplexing of voice, data, video or other information using ATM or IP with RSVP protocols. This results in the ability to merge the PSTN with packet switch technology in a manner controlled by the end user of the workstation or sending terminal.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is an overview of a present network configuration.

FIG. 2A is a flow diagram of the current flow where the user has a conventional telephone connection and does not have call waiting.

FIG. 2B is a flow diagram of the current flow where the user has a conventional telephone connection and does have call waiting.

FIG. 3 is a flow diagram of the flow of information between a computer user accessing a remote computer system and an incoming caller using the present invention.

FIG. 4 is a diagram of a system containing an embodiment of the present invention.

FIG. 5 is a diagram of a system comprised of a multitude of connections utilizing the present invention.

FIG. 6 is a graphical representation of the port associations made in the CTI server of the preferred embodiment.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENT

The detailed description of the preferred embodiment is implemented using the TCP/IP protocol although any packet based protocol can be used without modifying the invention. The preferred embodiment utilizes simultaneous voice and data technology where voice is given precedence over data transmissions, local Internet Protocol (IP) routing, a computer telephony interface (CTI) server connected to the central office switch and a CTI client on an end user's multimedia workstation with a `black-box` multiplexer/demultiplexer which handles (1) a control channel to the CTI server (2) the original dial-up connection data, (using the i.e. data service channel) and (3) a voice stream containing the PSTN voice (using the i.e. voice quality channel). It provides a peer to peer CTI link carrying control information between a CTI server and workstation applications, through a multiplexer/demultiplexer, herein after referred to as the control channel. While the preferred embodiment differentiates between voice and data, it will be easily understood by one skilled in the art that any information may be sent over the channels, including but not limited to voice, data and video. In addition, the preferred embodiment contains an association between the originating number of the dial-up connection, the corresponding terminating telephone number or port address on the multiplexing device, and a central office telephone line address corresponding to the termination of the external call on the multiplexing device. Utilizing the preferred embodiment of the present invention, a user can be alerted to the fact that they have an incoming call, is given choices as to how to handle the incoming call such as answering the call and using the workstation sound card and microphone as the telephone instrument while remaining connected to the Internet and continuing to simultaneously talk and do work on the world wide web. Likewise, the user of the present invention is able to make an outgoing call while concurrently accessing the Internet, as well as invoking conventional telephone functions such as conference calling and placing a call on hold. The preferred embodiment also refers to only two concurrent sessions. The technology divulged in the present invention makes it obvious to one skilled in the art how to extend this invention to more than two concurrent sessions.

FIG. 1 depicts a network configuration in which a computer 103 is connected to a remote computer such as an Internet provider 110 by way of one of a multitude of conventional telephone lines 115 where the telephone lines 115 are connected to a central office or public switch 105 which in turn is connected to the remote computer 110 through a central office switch 107 associated with the remote computer. In this simplified example of data devices using the telephone network, if a traditional telephone user 101 attempts to contact the computer user 103 who, in turn, is accessing the remote computer 110, the central office switch 105 associated with the computer user 103 will detect that the line to the requested computer 103 is busy. This will result in the central office switch 105 sending a busy signal to the caller 101. Alternatively, the central office switch 105 might send a call waiting interrupt tone to the requested computer 103 which is an in-band frequency that is interpreted by the requested computer 103 as corrupted data from the remote computer 110 (since the requested computer 103 does not understand the call waiting tone) and the session between the remote computer 110 and the requested computer 103 is terminated due to its perceived corruption.

FIG. 2A depicts the prior art flows between the components in the network of FIG. 1 when a caller attempts to call a telephone number which is currently logged on to a data network such as the Internet. The user of the calling computer 103 sends a message 201 to the Data Service provider 110 by way of the central switches for the calling computer 105, the central switch for the data service provider 107 and any other intermediate switches. The message 201 sent by the calling computer 103 requests the establishment of a session between the calling computer 103 and the data service provider 110. The data service provider 110 then sends a positive response 205 to the calling computer by way of the central office switch 105 for the calling computer and the central office switch 107 for the data service provider confirming the establishment of the session. From that point information flows freely 209 between the two computers over the session that has been established between them.

When an external caller 101 places a call to the requesting computer 103, a request 211 is made from the external caller's switch to the central office switch 105 of the requesting computer to establish a session with the requesting computer 103. The central office switch 105 checks the connection to the requesting computer 103 and detects that the line (or telephone number) is already in use, therefore the central office switch 105 sends a busy indication 213 back to the external caller's switch. At this point, the external caller 101 is not permitted access to the requesting computer 203.

As is shown in FIG. 2B, the scenario is slightly different if the telephone line which the requesting computer is using supports call waiting. In FIG. 2B, the flows are the same as in FIG. 2A while establishing the session between the requesting computer 103 and the remote computer 110. Once the session 209 has been established, if the line the requesting computer 103 is using supports call waiting, when the external caller's switch sends a message 211 to the central office switch for the requesting computer 105 requesting to connect to the requesting computer 103, the central office switch for the requesting computer 105 sends a call waiting tone 220 to the requesting computer 103. The requesting computer 103, responding to what it interprets as a corrupted transmission from the remote computer 110, hangs up 213 which terminates the session with the remote computer. The requesting computer 103 is then available to answer the call 222 from the external caller 101 and establish a communications session 226 if the requesting computer is equipped to accept an incoming call using call waiting. This is definitely undesirable in that the user did not intend to terminate the session with the data service provider at this time. The user may have taken considerable time and expense to navigate to where he was in the databases of the data service provider and that information may be very difficult to replicate. For that reason, many data service providers strongly urge their users not to subscribe to call waiting.

FIG. 3 depicts the flow of information between a computer user accessing a computer data network over a telephone line and an incoming call using the present invention. Using the present invention, a black box 407 (see FIG. 4) is placed either inside of or next to the central office switch and a CTI Server 405 is attached to or part of the Central Office Switch. A communications link is established between the black box 407 and the CTI server 405. Matching SVD (simultaneous voice and data) technology is present in the workstation 401 and the black box such that multiple channels (3 or more) can be dynamically or statically established over the path between them. This black box, the CTI Server, and the various communications connections will be described further with respect to the following figures. In addition, the devices referenced in the description of FIG. 3 are visually apparent in FIG. 4.

When the computer user at workstation 401 executes a dial 301 to the central switch for connectivity to the data service provider, the central switch 403 issues a request 303 to the CTI server 405 requesting that the CTI server 405 provide the central switch with instructions as to what to do with the dialing request. The CTI server 405, knowing that this is a request to a service provider 413, instructs 305 the switch 403 to redirect the call to a telephone number representing a free port on the black box 407. (Note, there can be a dialog 306 between the CTI Server 405 and the black box 407 to determine the appropriate terminating port and associated telephone number). The black box 407 will then establish the path to the service provider 413 and information will flow freely between the computer workstation 401 and the service provider 413. Flow 307 represents the flow between the black box 407 and the workstation 401 through the central office switch 403. Flow 309 represents the flow between the data service provider 413 and the black box 407. The black box 407 also establishes a control channel 317 and a voice channel 327 with the workstation 401.

When an external caller 411 dials the requesting computer 401, a request 311 is made from the external caller's switch to the central office switch 403. The central office switch 403 sends a request 313 to the CTI server 405 to provide it with instructions on what to do with the dialing request. The CTI server 405, knowing the status of the workstation 401 connectivity, sends a request 315 through the black box, over the control channel 317, to the workstation 401 for instructions as to what to do with this call along with information as to who is calling. The end user's choice of what to do with the call 319, 321 is forwarded from the workstation 401 through the black box 407 to the CTI server 405 over the control channel. If the choice is to accept the call, the CTI server 405 instructs 323 the central switch 403 to redirect the call to a specific telephone number or port id on the black box 407 that will terminate the call from the external caller 411. Either the black box 407 or the CTI server 405 will answer the call on behalf of the computer user 401. (Note, there can be a dialog between the CTI Server 405 and the black box 407 to determine the appropriate terminating port and associated telephone number). The black box 407 will begin multiplexing the voice over the voice channel 327 together with the current service provider data on the data channel 307, and the computer user 401 can begin speaking with the external caller 411 using the microphone, speaker and sound card in the workstation 401, while the computer user 401 simultaneously continues to communicate 307 with the data service provider 413 using the keyboard and display of the workstation 401.

The above example of the preferred embodiment can, using the same methodology, be extended to handle additional incoming and outgoing calls. This is done by multiplexing additional telephone numbers associated with the requesting computer's telephone number. A graphical representation of two incoming telephone calls and two outgoing data sessions is shown in FIG. 5. FIG. 6 depicts the organization in the CTI server of the port associations supporting FIG. 5.

FIG. 5 depicts a configuration similar to that of FIG. 4 except that additional connections are multiplexed to the workstation through the black box. The computer user 501 executes a dial to the central switch 503 for connection to the data service provider 511, the central switch 503 for the computer user then issues a request to the CTI server 507 requesting instructions on connecting to the data service provider 511. The CTI server 507, recognizing that this is a request to connect to a data service provider, instructs the switch 503 to redirect the call to a telephone number representing an unoccupied port on the black box 509. The black box 509 will then establish the path (using the i.e. data channel) to the service provider 511 and information will flow freely between the computer user 501 and the service provider 511. This flow of information from the computer user 501 and the service provider 511 is by way of the central office switch 503 and the black box 509 which have, at that time, established a control channel and a data channel both over the same physical line to the computer user 501.

A request from an external telephone caller 505 then comes in to the computer user 501 by way of the external telephone caller dialing the phone number of the computer user. A request is made from the external caller's switch 503 (which in this case is the same switch as the computer user's switch) to establish the connection. The central office switch 503 for the user's computer 501 sends a request to the CTI server 507 to provide instructions on direction of the dialing request. The CTI server 507, detecting the status of the workstation connectivity, sends a request through the black box 509, over the control channel between the black box 509 and the user computer 501 for instructions as to how to handle this call. This dialog over the control channel may also contain data concerning the call such as the caller's telephone number or caller-id. The end user's choice of how to handle the call is then forwarded from the workstation 501 through the black box 509 to the CTI server 507. If the choice is to accept the call, the CTI server 507 instructs the central switch 503 for the user computer 501 to redirect the call to a specific port id on the black box 509 that will terminate the call. At that point either the black box 509 or the CTI server 507 will answer the call on behalf of the computer user 501. At this point there are three logical channels multiplexed over the connection between the user computer 501 and the black box 509, one data channel, one voice channel and one control channel.

Referring to FIG. 6, the CTI server contains information on the assignment of the ports and associations for the black box. The phone number 601 associated with the user's computer is associated with the port number associated with the data service provider 603 and also with the port number associated with the external caller 605.

Next, in the present example, the computer user 501 desires an additional connection to a second data service provider 515. The computer user 501 sends a request to the central office switch 503 requesting a session with a second data service provider 515. The central office switch 503 issues a request to the CTI server 507 requesting routing instructions for the requested connection. The CTI server 507, recognizing that the requested connection is with a data service provider, instructs the switch to redirect the call to a telephone number associated with an unoccupied port on the black box 509. Referring to FIG. 6, the requested connection is then associated with port X" 607. The black box 509 then establishes a path to the service provider 515 and the information between the computer user and the second data service provider 515 begins to be multiplexed across the physical connection. This results in four logical channels, one between the user computer 501 and the first data service provider 511, one control channel between the black box 509 and the user computer 501, one between the user computer 501 and the external telephone caller 505 and another between the computer user 501 and the second data service provider 515.

In the example of FIG. 5, a second external telephone user 513 requests a connection to the computer user 501. The second external telephone user of this example is associated with a different central office switch 517 than the computer user, therefore, the request for connection comes from the telephone user to the user's central office switch 517 to the computer user's central office switch 503 and is then handled by the CTI server 507 as in the prior connection with an external telephone user. This results in one additional association 609 in the CTI server.

While there are a limited number of embodiments listed in the application, this invention in conjunction with existing features such as phone mail and conference calling, provide a multitude of means for utilizing existing telephony hardware and software, in conjunction with a multiplexer/demultiplexer and an application program at the user's workstation, to enhance the productivity and usefulness of the existing telephone line(s) to a user's computer.


Field of search:

subclass No:201 - subclass
UNKNOWN No:202 - UNKNOWN
No:215 - Telephonic communications

References:




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