US 6031836 Web-page interface to telephony features

ABSTRACT – A method is provided for clients to access server-based telephony features in the Internet or other non-telephony client-server network, in a platform-independent and network-independent fashion and without modification of the clients. A user of a client (101) uses the client’s World Wide Web (WWW) browser (113) to download from a WWW server (104) a page (115) that defines a blank feature form that has virtual actuators and associated parameters fields for the telephony features. The user marks up the downloaded page via the WWW browser to indicate feature selection and any feature parameters, and uploads the marked up page to the WWW server. A form-interpreting script (116) executed by the WWW server interprets the marked up page, and the WWW server sends a feature request that corresponds to the user’s feature selection and user-specified parameters to a telephony feature server (105). The telephony feature server responds to the request by providing the requested feature to the user’s client. If needed, the WWW server also requests the client to establish a TCP/IP connection with the telephony feature server.

TECHNICAL FIELD

This invention relates to communication systems, including telephone systems and the Internet.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

It is known in the communications arts that voice calls can be carried by the Internet (or some other data transport network) between a pair of Internet phones or voice-enabled computers. It is also known that voice calls carried by the Internet can be interfaced by a gateway to the telephone network so that an Internet phone or a voice-enabled computer connected to the Internet can engage in a voice call with a standard telephone connected to the telephone network. Illustrative examples of such capabilities are disclosed in “Netspeak’s Hot Internet Sun Product”, Computer Telephony, Vol. 5, Issue 8 (August 1996), pp. 120-124, and in “Internet Hop Off”, Computer Telephony, Vol. 4, Issue 3 (March 1996), pp. 10-11. It is further known that telephony features can be provided to computers or terminals on a local area network (or some other data transport network) via a feature server. An illustrative example of such capability is disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,550,906. Telephony features are features that are provided to telephones and telephone calls by modern telecommunications switching systems, such as the Lucent Technologies Inc. Definity® private branch exchange. They may include, by way of example and without limitation, features such as call redirection (e.g., call forwarding, call coverage), multiple call appearances (e.g., hold, drop, transfer, conference), call center agent features (e.g., agent login, agent logout, after-work mode, etc.), call center management information features (e.g., maximum time in queue, queue length, skill-based split staffing levels, etc.), and calling party information features (e.g., position in queue, advertising-on-hold, etc.). Providing a Web-page-like interface for system management and administration of Internet-accessible systems is also known. An example thereof may be found in the router products of the Advanced Computer Communications company.

Standards have not been developed for protocols by which computers, terminals, Internet phones, and other devices–jointly referred to as clients–can interact with feature servers over the Internet and other non-telephony communications networks in order to access telephony features. Consequently, the clients and the servers must be specifically designed and configured to work with each other, typically via a proprietary protocol that includes telephony feature access commands, and they typically are unable to work with servers or clients of a different design or configuration–other manufacturers’ equipment, for example. This has the serious and unfortunate consequence that the use of feature servers is limited to “closed” networks that are controlled by a single entity–e.g., a single company’s local area network–that can dictate what equipment and feature-access protocol is used on the network, and that the use of feature servers is not possible on “open” networks such as the Internet.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

This invention is directed to solving these and other problems and disadvantages of the prior art. According to the invention, there is provided a way for clients to access server-based telephony features in a non-telephony client-server network, such as the Internet, in a platform-independent and network-independent fashion and without need for any modifications to the clients. Illustratively, World-Wide Web (WWW) browsers allow Internet clients to access WWW information servers over the Internet in a platform-independent and network-independent fashion, and this capability is exploited by the invention in that clients use browsers to access server-based telephony features via the Internet in a manner similar to how they conventionally access information via the WWW. As a consequence, the feature accesses are affected in a platform-independent and network-independent fashion by conventional Internet clients.

Specifically according to an aspect of the invention, a method of accessing telephony features in a non-telephony client-server network (e.g., the Internet) wherein clients and servers communicate with each other via a predefined communications protocol (e.g., the WWW) that lacks telephony feature-access commands comprises the following steps. The client requests an individual telephony feature by communicating data (e.g., a marked up feature-form page) that correspond to that feature with the server via the predefined protocol. Hence, no changes are required either to the client or to the network’s protocol. The server then responds to the communicated data by requesting a provider of the telephony features to provide the individual telephony feature to the client, and the provider does so. The server thus does for the client what the client was not able to do itself. Hence, the capability to access telephony features is easily implementable in and retrofittable into conventional networks, such as the Internet, without modification of either the Internet or its communication protocol, or the clients.

Specifically according to another aspect of the invention, a method of accessing telephony features over the Internet by using the World Wide Web (WWW) comprises the following steps. A WWW browser of a client requests a WWW page that defines a telephony feature form from a WWW server via the Internet. The WWW server responds by providing the requested WWW page to the client via the Internet. The WWW browser indicates selection of an individual telephony feature by marking up the telephony feature form of the received WWW page, and the client sends the marked up WWW page via the Internet to an interpreter (e.g., to the WWW server). The interpreter interprets the marked up telephony feature form to determine the selected individual telephony feature. In response to the determination, a provider of the telephony features then provides the selected individual telephony feature. Thus, the conventional WWW and WWW browsers are used without modification to access telephony features via the Internet

These and other features and advantages of the invention will become more apparent from the following description of an illustrative embodiment of the invention taken together with the drawing.

 

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