Invented by Edward Locke, William Hamilton, Franco Savoni, Damon D. Shaw, Raymond T. Hecker, Joel E. Leiser, Ellen Sajdak (Felicelli), Trevor Robert Smouter, Timothy Scott Edward Hiller, Elkay Manufacturing Co

The market for system and method for dispensing consumable liquids has been experiencing significant growth in recent years. This can be attributed to the increasing demand for efficient and convenient solutions in various industries such as food and beverage, healthcare, and automotive. One of the key drivers of this market is the need for precise and controlled dispensing of liquids. In industries like food and beverage, where accuracy is crucial for maintaining product quality, the use of automated dispensing systems has become essential. These systems ensure consistent portioning of ingredients, reducing waste and improving overall efficiency. Similarly, in healthcare settings, precise dispensing of medications and other consumable liquids is vital to patient safety and effective treatment. Another factor contributing to the growth of this market is the rising focus on hygiene and sanitation. With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, there has been a heightened awareness of the importance of maintaining clean and germ-free environments. Automated dispensing systems offer touchless operation, minimizing the risk of cross-contamination and ensuring a hygienic dispensing process. This has led to increased adoption of such systems in public spaces, hospitals, and other high-traffic areas. Furthermore, the market for system and method for dispensing consumable liquids is also driven by the growing trend of customization and personalization. Consumers today have diverse preferences and requirements when it comes to their consumable liquids, whether it’s a specific coffee blend, a personalized cocktail, or a customized skincare product. Automated dispensing systems can be programmed to cater to individual preferences, allowing for a more personalized experience. This level of customization not only enhances customer satisfaction but also opens up new opportunities for businesses to differentiate themselves in the market. In addition to these drivers, advancements in technology have played a significant role in the growth of this market. The development of smart dispensing systems, equipped with sensors and connectivity features, has revolutionized the way consumable liquids are dispensed. These systems can monitor inventory levels, track usage patterns, and even send alerts when refills are needed. This level of automation and data-driven insights not only improves operational efficiency but also enables businesses to make informed decisions regarding inventory management and product development. Overall, the market for system and method for dispensing consumable liquids is expected to continue its upward trajectory in the coming years. The demand for precise, hygienic, and customizable dispensing solutions is likely to drive innovation and further advancements in this field. As industries continue to prioritize efficiency, convenience, and customer satisfaction, automated dispensing systems will play a crucial role in meeting these evolving needs.

The Elkay Manufacturing Co invention works as follows

A networked system is described for the provision and maintenance of a number of liquid dispenser stations. Fluid dispensers are connected to a cloud server that manages and supervises them via an intermediary base station. Fluid dispensers can communicate with the basestation via wireless network links. The base station acts as an accumulator for status/usage data provided by dispenser stations, and a bridge to pass information and control commands from the cloud server to the individual dispensers stations. Dispenser stations are equipped with controllers to perform a range of local control functions associated with dispensing liquids which have been heated or cooled prior to being dispensed by the dispenser station. The dispenser stations also work in conjunction with the cloud server via the base station to perform a wide range of real-time control and maintenance tasks relating to dispenser stations that may be located at thousands of different geographic locations.

Background for System and Method for Dispensing Consumable Liquids

In recent years, there have been significant improvements to public liquid dispensers. Public water dispensers are no longer limited to bubblers that deliver water at a temperature that is relatively variable (based on the source water temperature and usage rate). Many public water dispensers now have bottle-filling taps. Water bottle filling taps are more popular and deliver more water. The providers of this high-quality service have also embraced the chance to offer filtered/cooled filtered water. Providing such systems introduces a variety of control, maintenance and repair issues addressed by a variety of features described herein in the context of a comprehensive networked system comprising communicatively coupled liquid dispensing stations incorporating/exhibiting a variety of enhanced capabilities exploiting local programmed processing and wireless data network interface communications functionality.

Herein is described a liquid dispenser station. The liquid dispenser station has a filler with a filler outlet for delivering liquid. The liquid dispenser station includes a sensor that is configured to send an electronic signal indicating the presence of objects near the filler outlet. The liquid dispenser stations further includes a controller with a processor, and a computer-readable medium containing computer-executable instructions to carry out a series of liquid dispenser management operations.

Additionally, a networked system is described for supporting coordinated management of liquid dispenser infrastructure. The networked system includes a networked administrative server including database and application components. Additionally, the networked system includes a plurality of liquid dispenser stations, wherein each one of the dispenser stations comprises: a filler including a filler outlet for delivering a liquid; a sensor assembly configured to provide an electronic signal indicative of object presence proximate the filler outlet; a network communications interface; and a controller configured with a processor and a computer readable medium including computer executable instructions for carrying out a set of liquid dispenser station management operations. The plurality of liquid dispenser stations are configured to communicate with the networked administrative server to provide operational information accumulated by the controller operating in a local supervisory role within the liquid dispenser station. Additionally, the networked administrative server is configured to act upon received operational information received from the liquid dispenser stations by executing administrative tasks including: storing the received operational information, and issuing electronic messages relating to management of the liquid dispenser stations.

The figures and written descriptions provide examples of systems and ways to dispense consumable liquids such as liquid containers (e.g. Bottle filling stations are now located in many public places, including airports and sports stadiums. They can also be found in office buildings, museums, trains stations, offices, and other public spaces. The following is a list of the many enhancements and advanced features provided by these systems.

With a rapid response refrigeration system, the water dispenser has traditionally used a simple temperature-sensing on/off system based on set points. To account for the sensing delay, ambient temperature, and the continued cooling even after the compressor has been shut off, settings must be approximated. This has traditionally been done by a thermostatic mechanical device. A microprocessor with an electronic thermistor is used to implement a control according to a predictive algorithm that takes into account the system’s historical response. The microprocessor, in particular, is programmed with computer-executable commands that allow the microprocessor use predictive temperature responses, including a system time constant and a response coefficient.

A liquid dispenser station can be enhanced by integrating a wireless data networking interface. This allows the station to send data (such as usage profiles, operational conditions, etc.) to a central data base and to receive remote messages, instructions and configuration definitions issued by a remote administrator. Communication can be done via cellular technology, radio technology (proprietary ISM), or a wired connection. The central database uses the collected data from a global community of liquid containers (e.g. The central database then uses collected data from the global community of liquid container (e.g. This could increase energy efficiency and operational efficiency.

The determined information can be used to apply global setting to the entire installation base or customized settings for individual or group dispensing devices at a specific location.

The connectivity allows for remote parameter setting, such as proximity sensor sensitivity and water temperature. It also allows remote firmware updates. The remote connectivity allows a remote administrator to shut down a malfunctioning device. This could be either a supervisory processor/controller programmed by the user or a human operator.

Collecting actual usage information could be used to predict when maintenance, such as cleaning or wear-part replacement, could take place. It would be more accurate because it would be based on actual usage, rather than just time. Accumulated data could also help identify warranty issues, or detect irregular/inappropriate usage or maintenance history.

Enhancements to a liquid dispenser station, operating under the control of a local programmed processor/controller, include utilizing sensors within the liquid dispenser station to monitor various system parameters such as evaporator temperatures, water temperatures, condenser temperatures, compressor temperatures, etc. The local microprocessor controller can be programmed to monitor system performance, and make adjustments. The system can be disabled or enabled for a short or long period of time in order to perform maintenance or normalization. Sensors can also be inputs to logical and predicative algorithms that optimize operation time periods, heating or cooling cycles, etc. Modifications to the refrigeration or heating cycle may include parameters that limit the minimum run time, minimize off-times to prevent short-cycling and adaptive logic parameters. To increase performance, component life, or reduce overload conditions.

Enhancements to a liquid dispenser station, operating under the control of a local programmed processor/controller, include incorporating closed loop controls into the liquid dispenser station to allow feedback-adjusted system activation of dispensing and temperature control. For example, a refrigeration system can be controlled by electronically sensing water temperature or liquid dispensing is based upon proximity sensing. Target sensing closed-loop control is unique because it uses movement (based on a change in a sensor’s signal, like an infrared intensity reading) to determine when to start the flow and continuously monitors the sensor’s signal to determine its “zero setting”. (i.e. When a target does not fall within the general detection zone. Update the “zero setting” The updating of the?zero-setting? reduces and may even eliminate sensitivity adjustments. This makes proximity detection more accurate. Closed loop control of a condenser fans continuously monitors the temperature during non-use periods to determine the ambient temperature and then uses the ambient temperature for the condenser fans on/off threshold temperature.

Enhancements to a liquid dispenser station, operating under the control of a local programmed processor/controller, include utilizing historical data and trends to facilitate proactive, operational mode selection, maintenance and repair activities. The 24 hour clock/7-day calendar can track usage patterns to track the volume dispensed. This information is then used to control the energy consumption components, such as the compressor, to run in an energy-saving mode that reflects times when less liquid is dispensed. The system, for example, keeps a record on the maximum temperature of the condenser and uses the trending data recorded to identify instances where debris has accumulated (e.g. Dust is detected and notified to maintenance personnel in advance of system failure or excessive stress. Such automated detection and notification of maintenance requirements, involving critical system components, increases overall system reliability/efficiency and reduces overall energy consumption by the liquid container filling station. Another exemplary use of recording trending data is tracking of minimum evaporator temperatures, which enables proactive maintenance of the refrigeration system, and thereby increases overall system reliability/efficiency and reduces overall energy consumption by the liquid container filling station. Another example is the tracking of maximum compression temperatures. This allows preventative maintenance before catastrophic compressor failure.

The enhancements to a liquid dispenser station, operating under the control of a local programmed processor/controller, further include supporting a derated mode of operation to enable the liquid dispenser station to operate at a lower level of operation until the station can be serviced/repaired and prevent damage to other potentially affected components.

Yet other enhancements to a liquid dispenser station, operating under the control of a local programmed processor/controller, relate to using an ?adaptive? Based on the tracked usage patterns of bottle filling units to specify autonomously and adaptively periods of time of on/off (to ensure adequate supplies while reducing total energy consumption). Moreover, ?adaptive? Temperature set points are determined based on historical usage rates for specific bottle filling units (volume over a period of time). This is done to improve system efficiency and maintain a satisfactory supply of cooled fluid.

An enhancement to a liquid dispensing station that operates under the control and programming of a local processor/controller, and includes network communication capabilities” includes configuring the liquid dispensing station to notify both locally and remotely of special operational events. Notifications can be informative, like a warning/alert when certain operating limits are exceeded, or urgent alarms that indicate an important event. The local processor/controller can initiate operational adjustments to the dispenser station in conjunction with the warning/alert notification, for example temporarily disabling refrigeration. More extreme actions can be initiated by the local processor/controller, such as shutting down operation of the dispenser station until service is performed on the malfunctioning station and the local alarm on the station is reset. Notifications can be displayed on the dispenser, as a text message or graphic on a display with alphanumeric characters or a similar display. Remote notifications can be sent via email, SMS or any other means.

The described system also includes an RFID reader which facilitates the use of RFID tags on water filters in order to identify genuine filters, track consumption and prevent’resetting’. The filter status is displayed, preventing an incorrect overuse of an expired filter. This can be done by falsely reporting to the system that the filter has been replaced (by manually resetting a counter or volume monitor). The bottle filling method and system described herein tracks water and filter consumption, and reports that data to a central server via a base station node connected in an intermediate manner. The filter stores data on usage, which allows it to be marked as expired even if there is no internet connection. RFID-tagged filters can also be used to track and replace filters in a proactive manner, reducing the time between filter expiration and replacement, and allowing automatic replenishment.

Turning FIG. The following is an example of a networked system that can be used to implement the improvements described in this document. Initially, an overview is provided of the primary components of the exemplary system that together comprise the overall networked dispensing system, including (in addition to a plurality of liquid dispenser stations including local configured processors/controllers) supporting devices, communication networks/links, and servers. Below are detailed design and functionality features of hardware and software for individual components of the system.

At first, a number of types of system users are identified and described. In the illustrative case, four different types of users are envisioned for the services offered by a cloud server network. Below is a description of each user type.

Administrators”: A small group of employees has password-protected web access to the cloud server. Administrators are able to manage user accounts, media files and generate reports about the health of the system and usage. “Administrators also manage the uploading of firmware updates.

Customers: Customers are building owners’ representatives who are responsible for buying filters, monitoring and maintenance Liquid Dispenser Stations (LDSs), and uploading media to display on their LDSs. Customers have access to a cloud server that is limited to their own account and equipment.

Commissioner”: A Commissioner is the representative of a client who is responsible for setting up and configuring network aspects at base stations and liquid dispensing stations. The Commissioner can access devices via a wired connection with a Laptop computer. They can also access information about device setup and system diagnostics via cloud servers.

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