US 5958016 Internet-web link for access to intelligent network service control

ABSTRACT – A web page type interface is provided, which enables subscriber access to control and reporting functionalities of a communication network, such as the advanced intelligent telephone network, via a public packet data network, typically the network now commonly known as the Internet. The web page based Internet access opens the personal control of services provided by the communication network to any subscriber who also uses the Internet, for example using the subscriber’s existing PC and browser software or their Web-TV terminal. A secure access platform provides the interface and communicates via a private data network with various systems used to manage the communication network. The secure access platform includes a firewall coupled between the public data network and the private data network. The firewall implements the web page interface and validates certain users of the public data network as subscribers to services of the communication network. The secure access platform also includes a web services management system, which communicates with the firewall and with the communication network management systems via the private data network. The platform enables persons surfing the web to control their services and receive various reports relating to status and/or usage of their network services.

TECHNICAL FIELD

The present invention relates to a system and methodology for providing telephone service customers with a standardized interface for access to service control and management elements of a communication network, such as the telephone network, via a public packet switched data network, such as the Internet.

BACKGROUND

For some years, the telephone industry has been developing an enhanced telephone network, sometimes referred to as an Advanced Intelligent Network (AIN), for providing a wide array of new voice grade telephone service features. In an AIN type system, local and/or toll offices of the public telephone network detect one of a number of call processing events identified as AIN “triggers”. An office which detects a trigger suspends processing of a call, compiles a call data message and forwards that message via a common channel interoffice signaling (CCIS) link to a database system, such as an Integrated Service Control Point (ISCP) which includes a Multi-Services Application Platform (MSAP) database. If needed, the ISCP can instruct the central office to obtain and forward additional information. Once sufficient information about the call has reached the ISCP, the ISCP accesses its stored data tables in the MSAP database to translate the received message data into a call control message and returns the call control message to the office of the network via CCIS link. The network offices then use the call control message to complete the particular call. For an ordinary telephone service call, there would be no event to trigger AIN processing; and the local and toll office switches function normally and process such a call without referring to the central database for instructions. An AIN type network for providing an Area Wide Centrex service, for example, was disclosed and described in detail in commonly assigned U.S. Pat. No. 5,247,571 to Kay et al.

In an AIN network developed by the Regional Bell Operating Companies (RBOCs) and Bell Communications Research (Bellcore), a terminal and software system referred to as `SPACE` functions as the service creation environment and/or service provisioning system for the AIN control functions in the central database system. For example, as disclosed in U.S. Pat. No. 5,241,588 Babson, III et al., customized call processing information records are created and/or modified in a graphical environment, by creating or modifying a customer’s service graph-on the display terminal. Data corresponding to the service graph is then stored in a service control point (SCP) database. Other terminal and software systems could be used to create and provision the AIN services. For AIN services today, however, telephone company personnel utilize the SPACE system to create templates for the service logic for new services. When customers subscribe to the services, the templates are filled in with the subscribers’ data to create individual call processing records (CPRs). The CPRs are stored in the database in the SCP or in an ISCP, for controlling actual call processing.

Many of the enhanced communication services offered by the AIN permit a subscriber to input control information, to manage services as desired. For example, in a simple forwarding or redirection service, the subscriber might change the `forward to` number from time to time to route calls to different destinations. As another example, a subscriber might want to block calls unless they are to or from numbers on a list, and the subscriber would want to change the list of numbers from time to time. Some subscribers need to change certain information quite frequently, even for relatively simple AIN services. It is too cumbersome to require the subscriber to call the local telephone company’s business office and request each and every one of the routine changes.

At present, automated subscriber interactions to modify the subscribers’ AIN services rely mainly on a voice response type interaction. The subscriber calls a special number, hears recorded announcements or synthesized voice prompts and inputs a PIN number and service related information. Typically, the subscriber inputs the various information by keying buttons on a Touch Tone telephone, but use of speech recognition technology has been proposed to enable a subscriber to vocally input the information.

Consider for example, commonly assigned U.S. Pat. No. 5,572,583 to David F. Wheeler, Jr. and Robert D. Farris. This Patent discloses an intelligent peripheral (IP) for providing enhanced call processing functions, such as announcement and digit collection, voice recognition, facsimile mail and voice mail, in an AIN type telephone network. The IP connects through telephone line groups to one or more Service Switching Point (SSP) offices of the telephone network. The IP also communicates with an ISCP via a signaling network separate from the voice circuits and from the CCIS network that interconnects the ISCP to the SSP offices. One major use for the disclosed IP relates to provisioning and/or modifying services. The IP provides prompts and receives dual-tone-multi-frequency tone signals or speech inputs from subscribers.

Typically, a telephone company technician initially sets up a subscriber’s service using the Service Creation Environment or SCE in the ISCP. As part of this procedure, the technician establishes one or more data tables for the subscriber in the service control point (SCP) database 43. Subsequently, the subscriber controls the service by inputting data to populate the subscriber’s data table(s) through an interaction with the IP. The newly input control data is transferred from the IP to the ISCP for storage and for subsequent control of the subscriber’s communication services. The IP also may provide a data interface for PC based access,

Such interactive voice response processing provides only limited input capabilities and is subject to input errors, because the subscriber accidently hits the wrong button or incorrectly pronounces a spoken input. Many of the AIN services require subscriber inputs, for example combinations of blocked numbers, time of day and day of the week, that are too complex for the average subscriber to input using the interactive voice response procedures.

Several other patents have suggested data terminal or PC access, through a local area network or direct dial-up links to a host computer in the telephone network.

For example, commonly assigned U.S. Pat. No. 5,436,957 to Von K. McConnell relates to an AIN-based technique enabling a commercial telephone subscriber to selectively activate service through a group of lines assigned to the subscriber. To facilitate input of the data for controlling the selective service activation, McConnell suggested use of PC type data terminals. One PC connects to the service management system (SMS) in the ISCP via a dedicated data communication line. Another PC communicates with the SMS via a dial-up modem session through the telephone network. Either PC may store information relating to the subscriber’s products and services and preset tables or forms for entry of the necessary data to control that subscriber’s restricted access communication services.

With the McConnell system, when the subscriber wants to activate communication services in relation to one or a series of products or services (e.g., a delayed or canceled airline flight), the representative accesses the necessary data relating to products or services and completes the data tables to activate the communication services, for example identifying the particular line(s) for which service will be active and the on and off times. When the representative has entered and confirmed the data for activating the service, the PC downloads that data to the SMS within the ISCP. The SMS updates the appropriate records in the ISCP, after which the ISCP activates services from the subscriber lines in accord with the most recently entered data.

Commonly assigned U.S. Pat. No. 5,526,413 issued Jun. 11, 1996 to Frank C. Cheston, III, James E. Curry and Robert D. Farris suggests extending AIN into customer premises equipment (CPE). The CPE system includes a signaling transfer point (STP) coupled to the CCIS system of the public telephone network as well as an ISCP database. The ISCP on the customer premises may be implemented in software in a personal computer. Although not disclosed in detail in the issued Cheston, III, et al. Patent, a related application (Ser. No. 08/508,428) adds the teaching of customer programming of the network ISCP from the CPE equipment. In accord with this aspect of the Cheston et al. invention, a PC or other computer on the customer premises will run telephone service programming software. The signaling communication link to the CCIS network of the exchange carriers permits the subscriber using the on-premises PC and software to load AIN service information into the relevant CPE devices as well as into the ISCPs and switches of the local exchange carrier network and the interexchange carrier (IXC) network.

Although the PC or terminal based solutions offer some enhanced subscriber access to control AIN services, the solutions proposed to date have inherent limitations. Any of these prior art implementations using a PC or terminal to access the network require specialized terminals and/or software and provide only limited access. Also, in most cases, the local operating company must maintain the local area network or a bank of modems to provide the PC access service.

A need therefore still exists for a technique which will enable any subscriber to personally access and control their AIN services from a general purpose computer without specially developed hardware or software interfaces.

DISCLOSURE OF THE INVENTION

The present invention addresses the above-stated needs by providing a web page type interface, for accessing control of intelligent network type telephone services, via a public packet data network, such as the network now commonly known as the Internet. Typically, a person’s PC or other terminal runs common software, such as a `browser` to obtain various web pages of information from the network. While viewing web pages using the browser, the invention enables persons surfing the web to access the telephone network, to control their telephone services and receive various reports relating to their telephone services. The inventive web access also provide an architecture, which maintains the necessary security of the telephone network and associated network management systems.

Thus, one aspect of the invention relates to a communication network. The overall network includes a traffic network for providing selective communications to subscriber stations and an operations network. One example of such a communication network is a public switched telephone network. At least one network management system is coupled to the operations network, for managing selective communication services provided through nodes of the traffic network. The overall communication network also includes a secure access platform coupled to the operations network and for coupling to a public data network.

The secure access platform validates predetermined users of the public data network as subscribers to services of the communication network. The platform implements a standard graphical user interface of the public data network, preferably an Internet type web page interface, enabling communications with terminals on the public data network. The platform also communicates with the management system. The platform enables validated subscribers to review service data from the network management system and to input control data to the network management system. In response to the control data, the network management system modifies operations of the traffic network as selected by the validated subscribers.

Examples of network management systems include provisioning systems and usage and/or billing data processing systems. The provisioning systems establish or modify data files or records, in various elements of the traffic network, that control subscribers’ services. The data processing systems receive operational data from the elements of the traffic network and process that data, for example to generate subscriber usage reports or bills.

The control data input by the subscribers may control services facilitated through high level network control points. In an intelligent network implementation of a telephone network, for example, the control data is used to establish or modify call processing records stored in a service control point. The control data also may be used to modify individual subscriber profiles in central office switching systems of the telephone network.

The service related data presented to the users through the graphical user interface may relate to existing services provided by the communication network, e.g. stored in a provisioning system. For example, this data may relate to current status of intelligent network services to which each customer subscribes. The service related data also may relate to usage of the communication network services and/or to the account or billing for services used, as supplied from a data processing system.

Another aspect of the invention relates to a specific implementation of the secure access platform. The platform includes a firewall and a service management system. The firewall is coupled to the public data network. The firewall comprises a proxy server, an application server and an access control. The application server provides the standard graphical user interface through the proxy server for users accessing the firewall via the public data network. The access control authenticates users of the packet data network as valid subscribers of communication network services. The service management system communicates with the application server and the network management system. The service management system receives subscriber inputs via the application server and processes at least some of the subscriber inputs to provide data to the network management system. The service management system also sends at least some information, relating to services provided to subscribers by the communication network, from the network management system through the application server and the public data network to subscribers.

The preferred embodiment also includes a further security system logically operating between the firewall and the service management system. All messages going to and from the firewall via the operation network, including communications between the firewall and the service management system, pass through this network security system. The network security system passes message to and from the firewall only if the messages are valid in accord with certain security restrictions.

As noted, in the preferred embodiment, the traffic network is an intelligent telephone network. The nodes of the traffic network, for example, include various central office switching systems of the telephone network. The central offices are interconnected by trunks for carrying interoffice traffic and by a signaling network, which carries call set-up related messages and other signaling communications. The intelligent implementation of the telephone network also includes a service control point. The service control point stores data for controlling certain call processing operations of the central office switching systems.

The operations network provides communications between one or more provisioning systems and the elements of the telephone network, such as the central office switching systems and/or the service control point. The operations network also carries communications between the telephone network elements and one or more data processing systems, which generate usage reports and bills.

Through the web page access provided by the platform, telephone subscribers can review the status of their services and modify or upgrade their telephone services, including switch-based services and intelligent network services controlled through the data stored in the service control point. Subscribers also may review reports of usage of their services or review account or billing statements.

Additional objects, advantages and novel features of the invention will be set forth in part in the description which follows, and in part will become apparent to those skilled in the art upon examination of the following or may be learned by practice of the invention. The objects and advantages of the invention may be realized and attained by means of the instrumentalities and combinations particularly pointed out in the appended claims.

 

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