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Looking for prior art (pre-2000) on US Patent 6757714, particularly the first independent claim which I have pasted in below. Any input would be appreciated.

Title: Reporting the state of an apparatus to a remote computer

Patent Number: US 6757714 B1

Claim 1 requires each and every step of the following:

A method performed by a device associated with an apparatus to report a state of the apparatus to a remote computer that cannot directly address the device, the method comprising:

a. Detecting the state of the apparatus, wherein detecting is performed by monitoring variables associated with the apparatus, the monitoring occurring independently of communications from the remote computer;

b. Generating a message that reports the state of the apparatus using a self-describing computer language, wherein generating is performed periodically or in response to a deviation in the state; and

c. Sending the message to the remote computer;

wherein the deviation is indicative of an error condition in the apparatus, and wherein the error condition comprises one or more variables that deviate from an acceptable value or a predetermined range of acceptable values.

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You probably already know this but the fact that 67 later patent documents cite this patent makes this look seminal. Separately, 23 things were cited during the examination. To be of much value any prior art found needs to not already be on that list of 23 documents and be closer than any of them. The file wrapper for this case is not online at Public PAIR due to the dates involved. –  George White Nov 17 '13 at 18:11

4 Answers 4

SNMP (Simple Network Management Protocol) is a standards-based protocol that addresses the same problem - see RFC-1067 http://www.rfc-editor.org/info/rfc1067 (from Aug 1988), and the many, many other internet standards RFCs related to SNMP that you will find if you search for SNMP on http://www.rfc-editor.org.

SNMP deployments often uses intermediate agents to collect/ monitor devices, and present those to other (remote) computers that would not be able to directly access the device to be monitored.

There are many commercial and open source examples of SNMP management servers and proxies that fit this role, and also produce messages/ alerts. Just one example would be Munin (http://munin-monitoring.org)

SNMP management servers monitor alerts, traps, and variables on device(s). Information can be queried, published using a standards-based encoding (ASN.1 in this case), and augmented with human-readable explanations through meta-data - please see the RFCs for information on the MIB (Management Information Base).

There is a later RFC (5935) that apparently describes an encoding of SNMP data using XML.

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1  
SNMP is indeed related, though not all of it. The claim seems to specifically mention that the device must generate the message. Generally, SNMP is a polling system, where the central server queries the device. SNMP-TRAPs however, can be instigated by the monitored device, so would probably apply. SNMP Trap-events are already described in the original RFC cited above: RFC1067. Specifically the "LinkDown" trap (see rfc, item 4.1.6.3.) qualifies as an "error condition" as stated by the specification of claim c. –  Jules Kerssemakers Nov 18 '13 at 14:22

Systems management and monitoring programs do this all the time. One prominent product is the Oracle Enterprise Manager Cloud Control product. It has an architecture where an "agent" is installed on the computer close to the "target" that it wishes to monitor. The Agent comes with a pre-defined set of targets. Additionally, with Oracle's kit, one can expand the capabilities of the agents by creating new defined types. The agent periodically collects metrics from a device, and stores it on disk. At a scheduled interval, the agent uploads these data items to the server, known as the management server. The management server stores this data in a special Oracle database, which Oracle calls the Management Repository.
The management server can be configured to respond to thresholds or emergency situations programmed by an administrator and create an incident trail to track the resolution of the incident.

http://docs.oracle.com/cd/E11857_01/em.111/e16790/sizing.htm

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Has it been out since before 2000? –  George White Nov 18 '13 at 23:21

The Oscar-7 amateur satellite, aka AO-7, was launched into Earth orbit on November 15, 1974 and included an automatic telemetry downlink by radio.

After several years' operation, the batteries shorted out and silenced the satellite. In mid-2002, however, it was suddenly heard again, after the batteries went open-circuit and allowed the satellite to run purely on solar power. Since then, it has continued to work quite well, with everything besides the batteries working essentially as well as it did circa 1980.

As far as I can tell, the telemetry only reports the values of certain measurements taken on board, and does not provide any error flags or interpretation of these values. The format of the data is in groups of figures transmitted using Morse code, which can be received and decoded by a reasonably modern computer with an attached radio receiver:

Hi Hi
100 176 164 178
280 262 200 254
375 358 331 354
453 454 461 459
541 501 552 529
600 600 601 651
Hi Hi

The last group of digits in the block, reading 651, is the one which tells you whether the telemetry itself is reliable. Ideally it should be 650, but 651 is close enough. The telemetry is sent continuously, delimited by the "HI HI" callsign markers, which possibly counts as "periodically" given the time it takes to send a single block.

Also predating 2000 is Oscar-27, aka AO-27, which was launched on September 26, 1993. Being almost 20 years newer than Oscar-7, telemetry is provided in a directly computer-readable format (1200-baud AFSK).

AO-27 is a secondary amateur communications payload carried aboard the EYESAT-1 experimental MICROSAT satellite built by Interferometrics Inc. of Chantilly, Virginia. The commercial side of the spacecraft's mission is the experimental monitoring of mobile industrial equipment.

Sample of raw telemetry data from Oscar-27:

[TIMESTAMP] OS 117 [000/11:18:30] [Sat Feb 28 20:30:17 2009]
[HWS] 1235853007 <BCR Setpoint 1F><TXC Exciter ON><TXC 5v HPA ON><Rx=082F80><Modem=88FFE4><BCR=180D1F><Tx=000377>
[SWS] <00=10,0A><01=5,05><02=0,00><03=15,0F><04=80,50><05=0,00><06=0,00><07=0,00><08=4,04><09=18,12><10=71,47><11=123,7B><12=81,51><13=83,53><14=85,55><15=87,57><16=89,59><17=91,5B><18=65,41><19=73,49><20=31,1F><21=32,20><22=1,01><23=1,01><24=0,00><25=0,00><26=20,14><27=125,7D><28=0,00><29=0,00><30=0,00><31=0,00><32=0,00><33=0,00><34=0,00><35=0,00><36=0,00><37=0,00><38=0,00><39=0,00><40=0,00><41=0,00><42=0,00><43=0,00><44=0,00><45=0,00>
[SWS] <TXMODE=2> <WDOG1=80><WDOG2=0><WDOG3=0>
[SWS] <WODVER=18><WOD1=47><WOD2=7B><WOD3=51><WOD4=53><WOD5=55><WOD6=57><WOD7=59><WOD8=5B><WOD9=41><WOD10=49>
[SWS] <SPSUN=1F><SPECL=20><ECCO=20><EVCO=125>
[SWS] <TEPR1=0, 0><TEPR2=0, 0><TEPR3=0, 0><TEPR4=0, 0><TEPR5=0, 0><TEPR6=0, 0>

Some of that data is more-or-less human-readable. The rest is also self-describing, in that each data element is unambiguously delimited and associated with a unique field name, and can thus be parsed by a computer without prior knowledge of which or even how many elements exist.

Telemetry data is usually sent on a schedule timed to coincide with passes over the Northern Hemisphere, thus periodically, and is followed by a period of payload operation.

Oscar-27 also monitors its own battery charge status, and will automatically shut down the more powerful payload transmitter when the batteries run low (which can happen during "eclipse season"), switching to a mode where it sends telemetry instead using a weaker transmitter. Thus it effectively also sends telemetry in response to an error condition.

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RFC2325 specifies a SNMP data structure (MIB) for reporting the status of a coffee pot, including the temperature of the pot. http://www.ietf.org/rfc/rfc2325.txt

Sure, it's an April fools joke (dated April 1, 1998), but I don't think you have to look hard to find tons of "computer reporting the temperature of another apparatus" types of inventions.

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