Integrating an Online Meeting with an Offline Calendar

US 2012 278 381A1

drawing #0

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A method is provided for integrating an online meeting with an offline calendar. The method provides an offline calendar software application. A meeting originator (user) schedules a meeting in the offline calendar via a user interface, and selects a virtual room resource having an email address. The offline calendar sends an email meeting invitation to the virtual room resource email address. An online meeting service software application has an email client monitoring emails sent to the virtual room resource email address. The online meeting service automatically scheduling an online meeting associated with the virtual room resource.

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Claims

1. A method for integrating an online meeting with an offline calendar, the method comprising:
providing an offline calendar, enabled as a sequence of software instructions stored in a memory and executed by a microprocessor;
a meeting originator scheduling a meeting in the offline calendar via a user interface;
selecting a virtual room resource having an email address;
the offline calendar sending an email meeting invitation to the virtual room resource email address;
an online meeting service, enabled as a sequence of software instructions stored in a memory and executed by a microprocessor, having an email client monitoring emails sent to the virtual room resource email address; and,
the online meeting service automatically scheduling an online meeting associated with the virtual room resource.

Show 13 dependent claims

15. A method for planning an online meeting from an offline calendar, the method comprising:
providing an offline calendar, enabled as a sequence of software instructions stored in a memory and executed by a microprocessor;
a meeting originator scheduling a meeting in the offline calendar via a user interface;
selecting a virtual room resource having an email address;
the offline calendar sending an email meeting invitation to the virtual room resource email address; and,
the offline calendar receiving an online meeting confirmation from the online meeting service.

Show 4 dependent claims

20. A method for integrating an online meeting with an offline calendar enabled as a sequence of processor executable software instructions stored on a tangible computer-readable medium, the instructions comprising:
a menu for scheduling a meeting in the offline calendar via a user interface;
a menu for selecting a virtual room resource having an email address;
sending an email meeting invitation to the virtual room resource email address; and,
receiving an online meeting confirmation from an online meeting service.

Description

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

This invention generally relates to online meeting and calendar software applications and, more particularly, to a system and method for integrating an offline calendar with online meeting scheduling.

2. Description of the Related Art

Almost all online meeting services have integrated some meeting scheduling functions with Microsoft's (MS's) Outlook calendar feature. Some examples of online meeting scheduling services include Cisco WebEx, Citrix GotoMeeting, Microsoft LiveMeeting, Adobe Connect, IBM Lotus Sametime, and DimDim. But each of these services requires non-automated steps to import a meeting scheduled in an MS Outlook calendar to an online meeting.

Cisco WebEx

The WebEx integration with MS Outlook requires a user to download and install a plugin into MS Outlook. The plugin adds a toolbar to Outlook, where the toolbar contains a tab for scheduling a meeting. The procedure to start an online meeting from OutLook is as follows:

1. Open MS Outlook's New Meeting function and schedule a meeting;

2. Select the WebEx tab;

3. Select online meeting enter additional information.

At this point, a meeting will he scheduled for bath MS Outlook calendar and the WebEx meeting service. Additionally, MS Outlook will send out an email invite message which contains a link to the online meeting. However, this method has the following limitations:

the user must install a plugin into the user's calendar program (e.g., MS Outlook), which is only downloaded to a paying account;

the user must perform manual steps (e.g., WebEx tab) after scheduling a meeting in the user's calendar program, to make the meeting an online meeting as well; and,

there is no means to import a document when scheduling the meeting.

Citrix GotoMeeting

The GotoMeeting integration with MS Outlook requires a user to download and install a plugin into MS Outlook. The plugin adds a toolbar to Outlook, where the toolbar contains a tab for scheduling a meeting, or for launching a meeting now. The procedure for starting an online meeting from OutLook is as follows:

1. Select Schedule Meeting from the GotoMeeting toolbar in Outlook;

2. Login into your GotoMeeting account;

3. Enter meeting information into the GotoMeeting menu;

4. Add email invitees when Outlook meeting schedule appears.

At this point, a meeting is scheduled for both MS Outlook calendar and the GotoMeeting meeting service. Additionally, MS Outlook sends out an email invite message which contains a link to the online meeting. However, this method has the following limitations:

the user must install a plugin into the user's calendar program (e.g., MS Outlook);

the user must perform manual steps (e.g., GotoMeeting tab) before scheduling a meeting in the user's calendar program, to make the meeting an online meeting as well;

the user must log into the service; and,

there is no means to import a document when scheduling a meeting.

Microsoft Live Meeting

The LiveMeeting integration with MS Outlook requires a user to download and install a plugin into MS Outlook. The plugin adds a toolbar to Outlook, where the toolbar contains a tab for scheduling a meeting, or for launching a meeting now. The procedure for starting an online meeting from OutLook is as follows:

1. Select the Scheduling Meeting from the LiveMeeting tab in Outlook;

2. Fill in the meeting information when Outlook meeting schedule appears.

At this point, a meeting is scheduled for both MS Outlook calendar and the Live Meeting meeting service. Additionally, MS Outlook sends out an email invite message which contains a link to the online meeting. However, this method has the following limitations:

the user must install a plugin into the user's calendar program (e.g., MS Outlook);

the user must schedule the meeting in the plugin's form, instead of the calendar's (Outlook) forms; and,

there is no means to import a document when scheduling a meeting.

Adobe Acrobat Connect

The Acrobat Connect integration with MS Outlook requires a user to download and install a plugin into MS Outlook. The plugin adds a toolbar to Outlook, where the toolbar contains a tab for scheduling a meeting. The procedure for starting an online meeting from OutLook is as follows:

1. Enter account information (one-time) after installing the plugin;

2. Select the Add Acrobat Meeting Room from the Acrobat Connect tab in Outlook;

2. Select the meeting room;

4. Fill in the meeting information when Outlook meeting schedule appears.

At this point, a meeting is scheduled for both MS Outlook calendar and the Acrobat Connect meeting service. Additionally, MS Outlook sends out an email invite message which contains a link to the online meeting. However, this method has the following limitations:

the user must install a plugin into the user's calendar program (e.g., MS Outlook)the plugin download requires a paid account;

the user must enter (one-time) service login/account information;

the user must perform manual steps (e.g., using the Acrobat Connect tab) before scheduling a meeting in the user's calendar program, to make the meeting an online meeting as well; and,

there is no means to import a document when scheduling a meeting.

Dimdim

A meeting cannot he exported or scheduled from within MS Outlook. A Dimdim iCAL file can be downloaded and imported into MS Outlook.

IBM Lotus Sametime

The IBM website states as follows, (i)n scheduling web conferences, a new tab has been added to the Calendar dialog of Outlook which allows the user to schedule web conferences, creating, changing, and deleting Sametime web conferences through the Calendar feature within Outlook. The meeting information is sent electronically in a meeting invitation.

All of the aforementioned solutions require each meeting organizer to download and install a plugin into their MS Outlook client. Additionally, each has to perform at least one manual step when scheduling a meeting to indicate this is an online meeting.

It would be advantageous if an offline calendar program existed that could automatically schedule an online meeting, without the use of a plugin or manual non-native client calendar step.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

Almost all major online collaboration service providers offer a means of integration with the MS Outlook calendar. Disclosed herein is a method for integration that requires neither a plugin nor the performance of manual, user enacted steps. In an exemplary Operating environment, the online meeting service may be enterprise hosted or hosted by a 3rd party service. When scheduling the online meeting, the user performs typical tasks with scheduling an event in the offline calendar, including: 1) Setting Time and Location, 2) Inviting attendees, 3) Selecting a room resource, and 4) sending invites to the attendees. Each invited attendee has an email address associated with them. A meeting request is then sent to the email address of each attendee. Each attendee receives the email message via an email client running on a computing device, such as a PC, laptop or mobile device. The computing device from which the user operates the email client can additionally store or access documents, and send documents as attachments via email.

More explicitly, the user can automatically schedule an online meeting using their offline meeting calendar, and import documents into a scheduled or live meeting using the offline calendar. For example, a corporate email administrator creates a special email account for each physical meeting room, and designates each email account as a meeting resource, which is referred to herein as a virtual room resource. When a user schedules a meeting, they perform their normal operations, with one exception: when selecting a room resource, the user (meeting organizer) selects the resource associated with the room as an online meeting, as opposed to selecting the physical room resource. In some cases, the user may select both the online and physical meeting room resource. In other cases, the user may select the online meeting room as a participant instead of a resource, and may or may not select a physical room resource. When scheduling the meeting, the user may also include one or more documents in the scheduled meeting by importing them into scheduled meeting via the meeting calendar program.

When the user completes scheduling the meeting, the user selects SEND to cause the meeting calendar program to send an email meeting invite to each participant. An email meeting invite is also sent to the email address of the selected online meeting resource. The online meeting (room) service has an email client that monitors emails sent to the email address of the online meeting resource. When the email is received by the email meeting service client, the body of the email and its associated attachments are parsed. Preconfigured in the meeting service email client is the ability to recognize meeting invite messages from the offline calendar. When such an email message is recognized, the meeting service email client parses out the meeting information (e.g., time, location, organizer, agenda, attendees) from the email message according to a predetermined format for the email message.

Using the extracted information, the online meeting service email client automatically (programmatically) schedules an online meeting with the meeting service for the online meeting (room) resource according to the meeting information extracted from the email message. The online meeting service email client may also extract other information from the email message that is used in scheduling the meeting, whose format is generic to the email message. For example, if the email message contains documents as attachments, the documents can be added to the scheduled meeting as preloaded content. Additionally, the non-online meeting resource participants (attendees) can reply back to the email meeting invite to the online meeting resource with additional content which can he preloaded in the meeting or added to a live meeting.

Unlike prior art methods, a separate plugin need not be installed in the offline meeting calendar application. Neither is there the requirement of selecting buttons and filling in menus that are not native to the offline meeting calendar application (i.e. added by the plugin). Integration of an online meeting with the offline meeting calendar application is based solely on the format of that calendar application's email invite.

This disclosed method automatically schedules an online meeting from an offline calendar, as the result of an email invite message sent from the offline calendar to an email address monitored by the online meeting service. Preloaded content (e.g., file attachments) can be added into a scheduled meeting as a file attached to the meeting email invite. The meeting service sends a secondary email to all the participants with information specific to the online meeting, such as meeting login information, security information, etc.

Accordingly, a method is provided for integrating an online meeting with an offline calendar. The method provides an offline calendar software application. A meeting originator (user) schedules a meeting the offline calendar via a user interface, and selects a virtual room resource having an email address. The offline calendar sends an email meeting invitation to the virtual room resource email address. An online meeting service software application has an email client monitoring emails sent to the virtual room resource email address. The online meeting service automatically schedules an online meeting associated with the virtual room resource.

Additional details of the above-described method are provided below.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram depicting a computing device capable of supporting the methods associated with the integration of an offline calendar with an online meeting.

FIG. 2 is a flowchart illustrating a method or integrating an online meeting with an offline calendar.

FIG. 3 is a flowchart illustrating a method for planning an online meeting from an offline calendar.

FIG. 4 is a schematic block diagram depicting participants integrating an offline calendar with an online meeting.

FIG. 5 is a flowchart illustrating the process by which the online service email client extracts meeting information from an email sent to a virtual room resource by offline calendar.

FIG. 6 is a drawing illustrating an invitation reply email.

FIG. 7 is a flowchart illustrating an invitation reply parsing process.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION

As used in this application, the terms component, module, system, and the like may be intended to refer to an automated computing system entity, such as hardware, firmware, a combination of hard are and software, software, software stored on a computer-readable medium, or software in execution. For example, a component may be, but is not limited to being, a process running on a processor, a processor, an object, an executable, a thread of execution, a program, and/or a computer. By way of illustration, both an application running on a computing device and the computing device can be a component. One or more components can reside within a process and/or thread of execution and a component may be localized on one computer and/or distributed between two or more computers. In addition, these components can execute from various computer readable media having various data structures stored thereon. The components may communicate by way of local and/or remote processes such as in accordance with a signal having one or more data packets (e.g., data from one component interacting with another component in a local system, distributed system, and/or across a network such as the Internet with other systems by way of the signal).

The computer devices described below typically employ a computer system with a bus or other communication mechanism for communicating information, and a processor coupled to the bus for processing information. The computer system may also include a main memory, such as a random access memory (RAM) or other dynamic storage device, coupled to the bus for storing information and instructions to be executed by processor. These memories may also be referred to as a computer-readable medium. The execution of the sequences of instructions contained in a computer-readable medium may cause a processor to perform some of the steps associated with integrating an offline calendar with an online meeting service. Alternately, some of these functions may be performed in hardware. The practical implementation of such a computer system would be yell known to one with skill in the art.

As used herein, the term computer-readable medium refers to any medium that participates in providing instructions to a processor for execution. Such a medium may take many forms, including but not limited to, non-volatile media, volatile media, and transmission media. Non-volatile media includes, for example, optical or magnetic disks. Volatile media includes dynamic memory. Common forms of computer-readable media include, for example, a floppy disk, a flexible disk, hard disk, magnetic tape, or any other magnetic medium., a CD-ROM, any other optical medium, punch cards, paper tape, any other physical medium with patterns of holes, a RAM, a PROM, and EPROM, a FLASH-EPROM, any other memory chip or cartridge, a carrier wave as described hereinafter, or any other medium from which a computer can read.

FIG. 1 is a schematic block diagram depicting a computing device capable of supporting the methods associated with the integration of an offline calendar with an online meeting. The system 100 comprises a first computing device 102 including a processor 104, a memory 106, and a network interface 108 connected to the network on line 110. An offline calendar application 112 is stored in the memory 106, and enabled as a software application of sequential instructions stored in the memory 106 and executed by the processor 104.

The first computing device 102 may be a personal computer (PC), workstation, server, or processor-enabled printer. The processor or central processing unit (CPU) 104 may be connected to memory 106 via an interconnect bus 116. The processor 104 may include a single microprocessor, or may contain a plurality of microprocessors for configuring the computer device as a multi-processor system. Further, each processor may be comprised of a single core or a plurality of cores. The memory 106 may include a main memory, a read only memory, and mass storage devices such as various disk drives, tape drives, etc. The main memory typically includes dynamic random access memory (DRAM) and high-speed cache memory. In operation, the main memory stores at least portions of instructions and data for execution by the processor 104.

The memory 106 may also comprise a mass storage with one or more magnetic disk or tape drives or optical disk drives, for storing data and instructions for use by processor 104. For a workstation PC, for example, at least one mass storage system in the form of a disk drive or tape drive, stores the operating system and application software. The mass storage may also include one or more drives for various portable media, such as a floppy disk, a compact disc read only memory (CD-ROM), or an integrated circuit non-volatile memory adapter (i.e. PC-MCIA adapter) to input and output data and code to and from the first computing device 102.

The first computing device network interface 108 may be more than one interface, shown by way of example as an interface for data communications via a network 110. The interface may be a modem, an Ethernet card, or any other appropriate data communications device. The physical communication links may be optical, wired, or wireless.

A method has been provided for integrating an offline calendar with an online meeting service. Examples of particular message structures, formats, and software instructions have been presented to illustrate the invention. However, the invention is not limited to merely these examples. Other variations and embodiments of the invention will occur to those skilled in the art.

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