METHODS AND APPARATUS FOR AUTOMATED TRAVEL

US 2009 210 262A1

drawing #0

Show all 11 drawings

Methods and apparatus for arranging travel according to various aspects of the present invention operate in conjunction with one or more computers. The computer may automatically identify appointment data associated with a scheduling application. The computer automatically researches one or more travel arrangements according to the appointment data.

PatentSwarm provides a collaborative workspace to search, highlight, annotate, and monitor patent data.

Start free trial Sign in

Tip: Select text to highlight, annotate, search, or share the selection.

Claims

1. A computer-implemented method for arranging travel, comprising:
automatically identifying appointment data associated with a scheduling application of a first participant for an appointment requiring travel; and
automatically researching a travel arrangement for first participant for the appointment according to the appointment data.

Show 7 dependent claims

9. A computer-implemented method for arranging travel, comprising:
automatically analyzing data associated with a scheduling application for an appointment to identify a time and location for the appointment;
automatically identifying a possible travel arrangement for the appointment;
receiving an approval for the possible travel arrangement;
automatically booking the travel arrangement in response to the receipt of the approval; and
automatically updating the data associated with the scheduling application with information for the booked travel arrangement.

Show 6 dependent claims

16. A computer system for arranging travel, wherein the computer system is configured to:
automatically identify appointment data associated with a scheduling application of a first participant for an appointment requiring travel; and
automatically research a travel arrangement for first participant for the appointment according to the appointment data.

Show 7 dependent claims

24. A medium storing instructions for causing a computer to implement a process for arranging travel, the process comprising:
automatically identifying appointment data associated with a scheduling application of a first participant for an appointment requiring travel; and
automatically researching a travel arrangement for first participant for the appointment according to the appointment data.

Show 7 dependent claims

Description

This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/028,964, filed Feb. 15, 2008, and U.S. Provisional Patent Application No. 61/085,684, filed Aug. 1, 2008, and incorporates the disclosure of each application by reference.

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

Many web-based travel systems have been developed. These systems are targeted toward both the consumer and business travelers. Most of these systems allow the user to search for travel and pricing options, prompt the user to make selections, and then utilize web-based credit card processing to complete the transaction for the travel arrangements. Generally, the information pertaining to the date, time and location of a trip must be entered by the user of such systems. The user or a proxy for the user must manually enter the trip information, obtain approval for such trips, pay for the travel arrangements, and then finally obtain a travel itinerary.

Some solutions attempt to automatically inform travelers of their trip reservations or changes to their trip reservations via web or wireless technologies, but are not capable of dynamically making changes on their own if the meeting or trip changes. In these cases, the user is required to manually initiate the travel arrangements. These systems also are not capable of adjusting the traveler's schedule to avoid conflicts with other travel plans or other meetings or events which may already be on their calendars.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Methods and apparatus for arranging travel according to various aspects of the present invention operate in conjunction with one or more computers. The computer may automatically identify appointment data associated with a scheduling application. The computer automatically researches one or more travel arrangements according to the appointment data.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING FIGURES

A more complete understanding of the present invention may be derived by referring to the detailed description and claims when considered in connection with the following illustrative figures. In the following figures, like reference numbers refer to similar elements and steps throughout the figures.

FIG. 1 is a diagram of an automated travel system according to various aspects of the present invention configured to interact with a scheduling application and various information sources;

FIG. 2 illustrates a data flow for interaction of a user with the automated travel system;

FIG. 3 is a block diagram of the automated travel system and various resources interacting with the automated travel system;

FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating data interaction of a user's calendar with a travel client application and/or the automated travel system;

FIG. 5 illustrates a data flow for updating a traveler profile;

FIG. 6 illustrates various input data to a queue;

FIG. 7 is a now diagram for handling an emergency request;

FIG. 8 illustrates a data flow for group travel;

FIG. 9 illustrates a pre-trip form;

FIG. 10 illustrates a summary report form for business and personal charges; and

FIG. 11 illustrates an interface for requesting travel arrangements for a particular event.

Elements and steps in the figures are illustrated for simplicity and clarity and have not necessarily been rendered according to any particular sequence. For example, steps that may be performed concurrently or in different order are illustrated in the figures to help to improve understanding of embodiments of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

The present invention may be described in terms of functional block components and various processing steps. Such functional blocks may be realized by any number of hardware or software components configured to perform the specified functions and achieve the various results. For example, the present invention may employ various computers, communication devices and media, interfaces, mobile and immobile devices, and servers which may carry out a variety of functions. In addition, the present invention may be practiced in conjunction with any number of travel and/or scheduling applications, and the system described is merely one exemplary application for the invention. Further, the present invention may employ any number of conventional techniques for data parsing and processing, communications among the various elements, presenting and exchanging data and commands, and the like.

Various representative implementations of the present invention may be applied to systems for automated travel. Referring now to FIGS. 1 and 3, methods and apparatus for automated travel according to various aspects of the present invention may operate in conjunction with an automated travel system (ATS) 380 including an ATS application 130 operating on a computer. The ATS 380 may be accessible to one or more individuals 100, 110, 120, such as via the Internet and various devices adapted to communicate with the ATS 380.

The ATS 380 may connect to other services and data sources, including but not limited to data sources and devices for users 100, 110, 120, 125, ticketing systems 140, billing and credit card payment systems 144, and flight information and/or reservation systems 146. The ATS 380 may also communicate with other travel-related systems 148 that may provide information useful to the traveler and/or the ATS application 130, such as via web services, data requests or feeds, and/or web-enabled links. Such resources may include, for example, travel maps, regional maps, maps for segments of the trip including but not limited to travel routes from the airport to the venue or hotel, airport terminal maps, local attractions including shows, dining venues, concerts and sporting events, restaurants, road closures, and other travel information like national security terrorist alerts, international travel alerts, and similar data.

Each of the individuals 100, 110, 120 may be associated with one or more devices, accounts, and/or systems that may interact with the ATS 380. For example, a first traveler A 100 may be associated with one or more mobile devices, such as a handheld device 102 or laptop computer 103, that may interact with the ATS application 130 via the Internet or other packet network. The first traveler A may also be associated with one or more computer accounts on one or more computer networks, such as a business network operating in conjunction with a database 105. The database 105 may store any suitable information, such as calendar data, billing data, and/or contact information. Other individuals, such as traveler B 110 and traveler C 120, may be likewise associated with one or more devices, accounts, and/or systems.

In the present embodiment, one or more individuals 100, 110, 120 may have one or more handheld devices 102, such as cellular telephones, personal digital assistants, or personal media players adapted to directly or indirectly communicate with the ATS 380. The individuals 100, 110, 120 may also or alternatively have one or more computing devices, such as a laptop computer 103. In one embodiment, such devices 102, 103 may comprise wireless components adapted to communicate via broadband or modem access over the public switch telephone network (PSTN). The users' devices 102, 103 may connect to the Internet and to the Internet-enabled ATS application 130 via voice or data connection, such as but not limited to cellular, cellular data (such as Evolution-Data Optimized or EV-DO, UMTS/HSDPA), WIFI, or WiMax. In the present embodiment, the devices 102, 103 may support voice or data access to the traveler's itinerary or other travel information. Such information may be stored locally on the device itself or remotely, such as on the ATS 380. Localized information stores may be synchronized with system data stores periodically, such as via a network or direct connection. The devices 102, 103 may also communicate with the ATS application 130, for example via commands and data embedded in chat, SMS, or similar messages.

The devices associated with the individuals 100, 110, 120 may operate in conjunction with a scheduling application, such as conventional calendaring and/or appointment applications like Microsoft Outlook or Google Calendar. In one embodiment, the scheduling application may include an invitation function to invite other individuals to an appointment, such as a meeting at a particular location. The devices 102, 103 may communicate and synchronize data through the Internet or other packet network, such as via a corporate mail and calendar application, and/or communicate directly with the ATS 380, such as via the Internet or other appropriate communication medium. The various devices, accounts, and systems of a particular user may synchronize with each other, as well as the database 105 or other system, such as via a back office server operating Microsoft Exchange Server or a web-enabled server.

For example, traveler B 110 may electronically invite traveler A 100 to an appointment via the scheduling application, such as using the INVITE ATTENDEES functions associated with Microsoft Outlook's calendar functions. The invited traveler A 100 can electronically accept the invitation from the meeting inviter traveler B 110. Each calendaring application notes the particulars of the appointment, such as time, location, subject matter, and other participants. The information on the appointment is synchronized to all of the relevant devices, accounts, and systems, such as using conventional synchronization processes.

PatentSwarm provides a collaborative workspace to search, highlight, annotate, and monitor patent data.

Start free trial Sign in