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Technical Field

[01] The present invention relates to a digital nameplate suitable for use in meeting rooms and conference halls.

Prior Art

[02] During meetings, it is usual practice for each participant thereof to be provided with a nameplate. This nameplate is used to identify the participant by his or her name, and can also be used to declare his or her function, explaining his or her participation in the meeting. A function is then for example a position within the hierarchy of a company, an academic title or a capacity as representative of a nation. Examples of such meetings are general shareholder meetings, academic conferences and national or supranational gatherings of peoples' representatives.

[03] In particular these may be multinational shareholder meetings, international scientific colloquia or even gatherings of peoples' representatives in relation to prominent organisations, such as the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation, NATO, or the United Nations, UN.

[04] On the one hand, the above gatherings or meetings are characterized by the large number of participants. On the other hand, such gatherings typically exhibit interactivity between the participants. They will repeatedly want to express their opinion, intervene in discussions and/or potentially want to vote. In addition to a nameplate, a conference unit is therefore an essential component that should be made available to a participant.

[05] To prevent them for example from talking in a disorderly fashion, a chairperson will generally be appointed. This chairperson steers the meeting so as, inter alia, to decide when each participant may take the floor. A participant will then ask the chairperson for the opportunity to take the floor. This may for example take the form of a simple raised hand, a direct verbal request over the conference unit or potentially turning the nameplate by ninety degrees and placing it on its end.

[06] Once a participant has received such permission from the chairperson, it is also important for other participants to be able quickly and unambiguously to discern which participant may and will next take the floor. The other participants can then immediately observe the speaker. One advantage thereof is for example that the speaker's intentions may be interpreted from his or her body language.

[07] To show the chairperson, the participants and other potential attendees in the meeting room who has the floor at any given time, a light incorporated within each microphone is used. The light then lights up when the participant addresses the meeting via the respective microphone.

[08] The incorporation of a light source within the microphone does however have a few drawbacks. First, speakers often tend to hold the microphone before or during a speech. Before beginning the speech, this is to bring the microphone into the right position. Furthermore, practised speakers often use their arms during an address to come across more powerfully and/or convincingly to the audience. In this situation, the arms are positioned in front of the body, in which case the microphone may once again be grasped. As a result, the light source is covered and often so in an alternating manner. This not only makes it unclear who has the floor, but also creates a disruptive light source in the meeting room since it appears to an observer as if the light source is alternately being switched off and on.

[09] Moreover, the light source must be sufficiently diffuse for everyone in the meeting room to be able to discern this source. Conversely, the light beam must oriented to be effectively towards the chairperson so that he or she can quickly and unambiguously discern who has the floor and which microphone is active. However, the miniaturization of microphones means that space for incorporating such a light source is limited.

[10] Additionally, the aforementioned nameplate is located in the vicinity of the microphone, and as a result the table space available to a participant of the meeting is largely taken up. Depending on the position of the nameplate, this may then result in the light source being obscured again.

Summary of the Invention

[11] An object of the prevent invention is to overcome the aforementioned drawbacks.

[12] This object is met, according to a first aspect of the invention, by providing a substantially beam-shaped electronic nameplate suitable for identifying a person during a meeting, the nameplate furthermore being suitable for placing in front of the person on a table, the nameplate comprising:

- a front electronic screen comprising electronic paper configured to display an identity of the person; and

- a communication port configured to receive instructions indicating an intention and/or activity of the person; and

- an indicator light configured to display the intention and/or activity of the person during the meeting.

[13] The nameplate is thus placed on the table in front of the person so as to identify him or her. For example, the name of the person and his or her function are displayed on the electronic nameplate, in particular by the

electronic paper. The nameplate additionally has a communication port through which instructions are received. An instruction is then for example the intention to respond to a speech given by another person during the meeting. An activity, in turn, is for example the holding of an argument. These instructions are then converted into light signals emitted by the indicator light. According to one embodiment, this may be on the basis of an operation and/or intensity. A light signal may be, inter alia: the alternating illumination of the light at a certain frequency, if desired in combination with a change in intensity or in colour.

[14] By incorporating the indicator light within the nameplate, this light will always be located in front of the person since a nameplate is typically also always placed in front of the person. Another advantage is that in this way wireless conference units may also be used, i.e. those in which the conference unit is pinned to clothing. Moreover, microphones may even be completely omitted if the meeting room and/or of the arrangement of the participants relative to one another allows it. As a result, the participant will have more space available on the desk for him- or herself.

[15] Since the front electronic screen comprises electronic paper, or e-paper for short, advantageously the front screen itself emits no light and uses no electrical power in the steady state. Not only is identity of the person thus displayed in an energy-efficient manner, but this also helps to limit the overall buildup of heat inside the meeting room. This heat buildup may be considerable when a large number of participants each have a nameplate and can thus result in an uncomfortable climate inside the room.

[16] According to one embodiment of the invention, the indicator light comprises one or more light-emitting diodes.

[17] These light-emitting diodes, or LEDs for short, have a low energy consumption and long service life. Furthermore, an alternating operation and the intensity thereof can be controlled in a straightforward manner.

[18] In addition, it is also possible to incorporate multiple LEDs therein, in which each individual LED in a group of LEDs emits a certain colour. A certain colour then corresponds for example to a certain intention or activity. In this way, the intentions and/or activity of the person can easily be made known to other participants.

[19] The LEDs may furthermore be incorporated within a strip light. This strip light is then, for example, incorporated at the top of the nameplate.

[20] The nameplate may furthermore also comprise a second electronic screen. In that case, this screen is located on the rear side of the plate, i.e. oriented towards the person him- or herself. This rear screen may also be embodied using e-paper.

[21] According to one embodiment, agenda items, requests to vote and/or optionally identities of other participants are displayed on this rear screen. The latter is for example the identity of the person who currently has the floor. The advantage is that the person then always has a good overview of who is speaking when during the meeting. The displaying of agenda items helps the meeting to run smoothly and if a certain agenda item must be voted upon, this can also be displayed on the rear screen.

[22] According to one embodiment, the nameplate furthermore comprises one or more pushbuttons. These pushbuttons may be incorporated within the nameplate or take the form of a separate keyboard connected via the communication port. The pushbuttons are then used for example to make a request to intervene. This request is then an instruction that is converted, for example, into predetermined colour of the indicator light. Various colours may then correspond to various intentions and/or activities of the participant. There may furthermore also be pushbuttons that are configured for casting a vote. The number of pushbuttons provided for this purpose is for example three: one for a "for" vote, one for an "against" vote and one for an abstention. By

incorporating such vote buttons within the nameplate, the identity of the person casting the vote is immediately linked to the vote itself.

[23] According to one embodiment of the invention, the nameplate furthermore comprises a network connection. This network connection may, for example, be incorporated within the communication port. The network connection may be an Ethernet connection or, for example, a wireless connection.

[24] The nameplate can then operate on its own when only the communication port is used and/or in a network when multiple nameplates are each connected to a network via their network connections.

[25] According to an embodiment, the nameplate is powered through the network connection, for example, by a Power over Ethernet, PoE standard. Advantageously, only one cable needs to be provided per nameplate, thereby reducing the complexity of the set-up. Furthermore, each nameplate can be both controlled and powered in a straightforward manner.

[26] Via the network connection, the instructions can be received remotely or else the indicator light can be remotely switched off when a request has been granted. To achieve this, the various nameplates in the room may for example be connected to a central control unit. A chairperson of a meeting may then change the status of the indicator lights of the various nameplates via this central control unit.

[27] This central control unit may furthermore be used for processing votes that have been received via the pushbuttons. As a result votes can then be cast anonymously.

[28] Another advantage is that the central control unit can also display the various elements on the front and/or rear screen of each nameplate.

[29] According to a second aspect of the invention, a conference room comprising multiple seats suitable for holding a meeting is provided, the multiple seats each comprising a nameplate according to one of the preceding claims.

Brief Description of the Drawings

[30] The invention will now be described further with reference to the drawings, in which:

Fig. 1 schematically shows an embodiment of a nameplate; and

Fig. 2 schematically shows an embodiment of a nameplate comprising a strip light; and

Fig. 3A schematically shows an embodiment of a nameplate comprising pushbuttons; and

Fig. 3B schematically shows an embodiment of a nameplate coupled to a keyboard; and

Fig. 4 schematically shows an arrangement of tables on which nameplates have been placed; and

Fig. 5 schematically shows a network configuration in which multiple nameplates are connected to each other.

Description of Embodiments

[31] Fig. 1 schematically shows an embodiment of a nameplate. The nameplate 100 comprises a front electronic screen 101 , an indicator light 102 and a communication port 103. The nameplate 100 is placed on a table 104.

[32] According to one embodiment, an identity of a person sitting at the table 104 during a meeting or gathering is displayed on the front screen 101 . In addition to the name of the person, the identity is for example, a title and/or a function. This may be displayed on the front screen 101 via an electronic paper for which, for example, electronic ink is used.

[33] The communication port 103 of the nameplate 100 is configured to receive instructions from the person. Instructions from the person are an intention and/or an activity of this person during the meeting. The term "intention" may be understood to mean, inter alia: a request to intervene in a discussion, a request to take the floor, a casting of a vote and the like. The term "activity" may be understood to mean, inter alia: the holding of an argument, the temporary withdrawal from a discussion or, for example, note-taking.

[34] Each of these instructions corresponds to a certain light signal. A light signal is then modulated by adjusting the intensity, the colour and/or the alternating illumination of the light at the same or a changing frequency. By means of these various combinations, the indicator light can display a comprehensive set of instructions. Other participants of the meeting can thus easily discern what the intentions and/or activities of other participants during the meeting are.

[35] According to one embodiment of the invention, light-emitting diodes, or LEDs for short, are used in order to be able to modulate the light signal. Fig. 2 schematically shows one such embodiment. Various LEDs, such as for

example LED 200, can be combined in a strip light 201 . This strip light is incorporated at the top of the nameplate 100.

[36] The instructions are received via the communication port 103. These may furthermore also be received via pushbuttons. Fig. 3A and Fig. 3B schematically represent one such embodiment.

[37] In Fig. 3A, the pushbuttons are incorporated within the nameplate. There are for example three pushbuttons 300, 301 , 302 which each have a specific function. One possible function is for example a "yes" vote 300, a "no" vote 301 or an abstention 302. The function of these pushbuttons may be adapted further, whereby in another configuration, for example, pushbutton 300 corresponds to the request to take the floor, pushbutton 301 corresponds to an urgent request to intervene during a discussion and pushbutton 302 corresponds to a request not to be disturbed further during the meeting.

[38] The function of the pushbuttons may also be provided via an external keyboard, via a computer and/or via an item of conference equipment, such as a conference unit. This keyboard is then connected to the nameplate via the communication port. In the embodiment represented schematically in Fig. 3B, the communication port is located on the rear side of the nameplate 312. The keyboard 31 1 is then placed on the table 104 next to the nameplate 312. The connection between the keyboard 31 1 and the nameplate 312 via the communication port on the rear side is made via a cable 310, but according to one embodiment it may also be wireless.

[39] According to one embodiment of the invention, the communication port furthermore comprises a network connection in order to implement a wireless connection. This network connection then permits the communication between the nameplate 312 and external devices, such as for example the keyboard 31 1 . This network connection may furthermore also be used to set up a network between various nameplates and/or to power the nameplate. Fig. 5

schematically represents such a network. In this network, four nameplates 400, 401 , 402 and 403 are coupled to one another. These four nameplates are each, for example, positioned on one table in a meeting room, as represented schematically in Fig. 4.

[40] The arrangement represented in Fig. 4 comprises four tables 410, 41 1 , 412 and 413. One nameplate 400, 401 , 402 and 403 is placed on each of the tables. A network 520 with each nameplate is then constructed via the communication port. This network 520 then furthermore comprises a central control unit 500. The central control unit is furthermore connected to a computer system 510. The computer system 510 is then located, for example, on the table of a chairperson of the meeting or gathering. As a result, the nameplates 400, 401 , 402 and 403 in the network 520 can be controlled individually via the computer system 510 and the central control unit 500. Each nameplate then has a unique ID number within the network 520.

[41] In addition, the ID for each nameplate is entered via the computer system 510. Furthermore, personalized messages may also be shown on a second screen that is incorporated within the rear side of a nameplate. These messages are for example agenda items or names of participants who have the floor at that moment.

[42] The computer system 510 may also be operated by a chairperson. The chairperson may then grant requests from participants, modify indicator lights of one or more nameplates in the meeting room and/or enter the personalized messages.

[43] Although the present invention has been illustrated by means of specific embodiments, it will be clear to a person skilled in the art that the invention is not limited to the details of the above illustrative embodiments, and that the present invention may be carried out with various changes and modifications without thereby departing from the area of application of the invention.

Therefore, the present embodiments have to be seen in all areas as being illustrative and non-restrictive, and the area of application of the invention is described by the attached claims and not by the above description, and therefore any changes which fall within the meaning and scope of the claims are therefore incorporated herein. In other words, it is assumed that this covers all changes, variations or the like which fall within the area of application of the underlying basic principles and the essential attributes of which are claimed in this patent application. In addition, the reader of this patent application will understand that the terms "comprising" or "comprise" do not exclude other elements or steps, that the term "a(n)/one" does not exclude the plural and that a single element, such as a computer system, a processor or another integrated unit, can perform the functions of various auxiliary means which are mentioned in the claims. Any references in the claims cannot be interpreted as a limitation of the respective claims. The terms "first", "second", "third", "a", "b", "c" and the like, when used in the description or in the claims, are used to distinguish between similar elements or steps and do not necessarily indicate a sequential or chronological order. In the same way, the terms "top side", "bottom side", "above", "below" and the like are used for the sake of the description and do not necessarily refer to relative positions. It should be understood that these terms are interchangeable under the appropriate circumstances and that embodiments of the invention can function according to the present invention in different sequences or orientations than those described or illustrated above.