VIDEO RESPONSE SYSTEM AND METHOD
BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION
This invention relates to a system and method for servicing machinery in operation and/or training operational personnel in an industrial plant by service personnel and technicians at a geographically remote service center.
Previously, it has been known to monitor the production of machinery and processes, and communicate production and other data to a remote facility. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,309,351 discloses a system for transmitting maintenance and diagnostic information over a communication satellite between a computer or hand held unit, and factory machinery.
It is also known to use video cameras to observe events from a remote location. For example, U.S. Pat. No. 5,382, 943 discloses a security system which uses a video camera for monitoring the security of a remote building site from a central control center via radio transmission. U.S. Pat. No. 5,384,588, discloses wire and wireless transmission of video signals, such as in a video conferencing system, wherein the video signal may be split up into different components for viewing different sites. U.S. Pat. No. 4,789,947 discloses a video camera mounted on a guide rack for monitoring the condition of a bridge from a remote location. U.S. Pat. Nos. 4,656,509 and 5,241,380 disclose track mounted video cameras for monitoring a condition from a remote location. U.S. Pat. No. 5,350,033 discloses a robotics inspection vehicle and video camera operated by a joystick at a remote location using radio transceiver devices.
However, none of the above systems and methods are suitable for servicing machinery in operation at an industrial plant from a remote service center, particularly where the machinery is dispersed at several locations in the plant, and allow audio and video communication between plant and service personnel.
Accordingly, an object of the present invention is to provide a system and method for the servicing of machinery operating in a plant from a geographically remote service center;
Another object of the present invention is to provide a system and method for the remote servicing of machinery operating and/or training at a plant facility whereby the operation of the machinery may be viewed at a geographically remote service center at which trained technicians may communicate with plant personnel to service the machinery and train personnel without the need of costly travel;
A further object of the present invention is to provide a means to train machinery operators from a remote location so that a number of operators at different locations can receive the best real-time training available;
Another object of the present invention is to provide a remote servicing system by which operating machinery at a plant may be serviced at a remote service center by trained service personnel wherein video monitoring may be controlled remotely by the service personnel to allow video focusing on a desired area of the operating machinery for servicing;
Another object of the present invention is to provide a system and method for the remote servicing of machinery operating in a plant by experienced service personnel at a geographically remote location wherein machinery operating at various dispersed locations within a plant facility, or multiple plants, may be viewed using the system and method;
Another object of the present invention is to provide a system and method for the servicing of machinery operating in a plant by trained service personnel at a geographically remote location wherein both video and audio monitoring of 5 the machinery may be provided at different machinery locations between service and plant personnel to eliminate the need of costly travel for the servicing of the machinery.
SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION
10 The above objectives are accomplished according to the present invention by providing a video response system for communicating the operation and servicing of machinery between a plant where the machinery is located and a remote service center wherein a wireless, portable video camera is
15 provided having a video signal depicting the operation of the machinery in the plant. The system further comprises an audio unit for the wireless transmission and reception of audio signals by attending plant personnel; and a first base unit located in the plant for receiving the video and audio
20 signals. The base unit comprises an audio transceiver for receiving audio signals from the plant personnel and for transmitting audio signals to plant personnel, and a signal processor for receiving the video and audio signals to convert the signals into modulated digital signals for trans
25 mission to remote service center. An output interface provides the digital signals in a form to be delivered over a telecommunication system to the service center.
Preferably, a receiving antenna and a transmitting antenna are wired to the audio transceiver at the base unit for
30 receiving and transmitting radio frequency (RF) audio signals. The audio unit includes at least one wireless audio headset to be worn by plant personnel for communicating with transmitting and receiving antennas. The output interface may include an inverse multiplexor for strapping
35 together multiple lines of an integrated services digital network to transmit digital signals to a second base unit at the service center at a high data rate for generating a high resolution video display at the service center.
4Q The base unit may also include a base unit camera for viewing personnel at the location of the base units and generating a base video signal, and a monitor for displaying the camera video signals or base video signals.
A second base unit is provided at the remote service center
45 having a video monitor for displaying video signals from the first base unit; and an audio transceiver for receiving audio signals from the first base unit, and producing an audible message at the service center. The second base unit includes a signal processor for receiving video signals from the first
50 base unit, and processing the video signal for display on a monitor.
At least one zone interface unit is located within an area of the operating machinery for receiving video signals from the wireless, portable video camera and transmits the video
55 signal to the first base unit. A radio frequency (RF) transmitter is associated with the portable camera for transmitting video signals to the zone interface unit. Preferably, a plurality of zone interface units is associated with different zones of operating machinery, and a switch is provided for
go selecting a particular zone interface unit to provide a video signal of high quality with regard to the location of the portable video unit.
In an alternate arrangement, the base unit maybe portable and may be moved to one of the zones as desired. Abase unit
65 cable is provided for plugging the base unit into a zone interface unit. The zone interface unit is wired to the telecommunication system for transmitting video and audio