(19)
(11)EP 1 661 305 B1

(12)EUROPEAN PATENT SPECIFICATION

(45)Mention of the grant of the patent:
08.01.2014 Bulletin 2014/02

(21)Application number: 04761753.5

(22)Date of filing:  02.09.2004
(51)Int. Cl.: 
H04L 12/24  (2006.01)
H04L 12/58  (2006.01)
(86)International application number:
PCT/CA2004/001589
(87)International publication number:
WO 2005/025132 (17.03.2005 Gazette  2005/11)

(54)

Efficient notification of new electronic mail arrival

Effiziente Benachrichtigung über die Ankunft von neuer Email

Notification efficace de l'arrivée d'un nouveau courrier électronique


(84)Designated Contracting States:
DE ES FR GB IT NL

(30)Priority: 04.09.2003 US 655679

(43)Date of publication of application:
31.05.2006 Bulletin 2006/22

(73)Proprietor: SIERRA WIRELESS, INC.
Richmond, British Columbia V6V 3A4 (CA)

(72)Inventors:
  • TOSEY, Joseph, Peter, Robert
    North Vancouver, British Columbia V7R 1C (CA)
  • MCCONNELL, Peter, Henderson, R.
    Vancouver, British Columbia V6T 1C7 (CA)
  • WAUNG, William
    Burnaby, British Columbia V5A 3Z6 (CA)

(74)Representative: Ahner, Philippe et al
BREVALEX 95 rue d'Amsterdam
75378 Paris Cedex 8
75378 Paris Cedex 8 (FR)


(56)References cited: : 
EP-A2- 0 938 213
US-A- 6 067 561
US-B1- 6 446 118
US-B1- 6 601 012
WO-A2-01/97019
US-B1- 6 304 896
US-B1- 6 513 026
  
      
    Note: Within nine months from the publication of the mention of the grant of the European patent, any person may give notice to the European Patent Office of opposition to the European patent granted. Notice of opposition shall be filed in a written reasoned statement. It shall not be deemed to have been filed until the opposition fee has been paid. (Art. 99(1) European Patent Convention).


    Description

    FIELD OF THE INVENTION



    [0001] The present invention relates to the field of electronic mail (e-mail). More particularly, the present invention relates to the efficient notification of new electronic mail arrival to electronic mail client by an electronic mail server.

    BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION



    [0002] Typical electronic mail (e-mail) systems utilize a mail server, typically controlled by the ISP or other manager of email service, as well as a mail client located on each user's machine. The mail server typically has permanent access to the Internet, as well as other external networks and public data communications networks. The mail server stores and manages user electronic mails. Mail for each authorized user on the system is maintained within an individual storage architecture, commonly known as an inbox. FIG. 1 is a block diagram illustrating this type of design. The mail server 100 stores incoming emails, and then is periodically polled by one or more mail clients 102 on client machines.

    [0003] Mail received at the mail server is typically processed based on a recipient address identified within the electronic mail. Once the recipient is known, the mail server assigns a unique identifier to the piece of electronic mail, which is common in, for example, the IMAP4 standard. This identifier is unique among each mail user's inbox, such that each message in the inbox has a different identifier. These unique identifiers are typically assigned according to known algorithms. In this way, the mail server is able to provide electronic mail storage and management for a large population of authorized electronic mail clients.

    [0004] Each user then may utilize a mail client to retrieve electronic mail from the mail server. The mail client may have only periodic access to the Internet, or other external networks and public data communications networks. The mail client may maintain local copies of selected electronic mails corresponding to the user. The mail client access the server to retrieve mail from the inbox. This is accomplished by providing authorization credentials to the authorized mail box. This may be repeated periodically to allow the mail client to download and/or copy newly received electronic mails into local storage. This is typically known as "polling".

    [0005] Typically, polling involves the mail client requesting a full listing of all the email header information. This full listing of all headers is then compared to the local storage record of the client. If there are any discrepancies, the client may then initiate data transfer(s) to synchronize the mail client's record with the mail server's record. This may include downloading new mail items that exist on the mail server but not on the mail client, as well as deleting old mail items that exist on the mail client but no longer exist on the mail server (for example, if an email has been recalled).

    [0006] Each such polling event results in a large amount of data transferring between the mail server and the mail client. Furthermore, each polling event requires small but significant computational resources from the mail server. Frequent polling is required to ensure a short delay between the time when the mail server receives new mail and the time when the mail client is aware of the arrival of new mail. However, frequent polling increases the traffic capacity requirement of the network, as well as the computational resource usage on the mail server.

    [0007] On the mail server side, when new mail is received, it must first check the recipient address to identify whether the client has set up any sort of server-initiated-notification preference for new mail arrival. If so, then the mail server must configure the necessary notification message containing the relevant information about the new mail item and transmit it to the associated mail client. Upon receipt of this notification, the mail client initiates the necessary actions based on the information provided in the notification. Some of the possible actions may include, but are not limited to, downloading the new message, ignoring the new message, deleting the new message, and forwarding the new message. While this can provide near-instantaneous notification of new email, the establishment of an ongoing session between the mail server and the mail client consumes significant computing resources at the mail server. A server-initiated-notification message must be sent on the arrival of each and every new mail item. For users who receive frequent mailings, this can be a significant load on mail server resources.

    [0008] Additionally, these techniques are an inefficient use of data communications resources for most e-mail users. Each data message transmitted incurs a fixed overhead within the data communications network. When each message only contains information about a single new mail item, the percentage overhead is significantly higher than if a single data message contains information about multiple new mail items. Furthermore, the user may not require the immediacy of server-initiated-notification at all times.

    [0009] What is needed is a solution that allows the prompt notification of new mail arrival while minimizing unnecessary loading of mail server and network resources.

    [0010] Document US 6,601,012 B1 discloses a method for sending e-mail notification when the user is not busy.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION



    [0011] A solution is provided that allows prompt notification of new e-mail arrival while minimizing the unnecessary loading of mail server and network resources. It provides a short time delay after arrival of new e-mail when the user needs it most, and minimizes the unnecessary loading of resources when the user does not require immediate notification. This is accomplished by establishing a session with the mail server once a predefined event, such as the sending of new e-mail, has occurred. This session may invoke server-initiated-notification of new-email for a limited period of time.

    [0012] The invention is carried out according to the appended claims.

    BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWING



    [0013] The accompanying drawings, which are incorporated into and constitute a part of this specification, illustrate one or more embodiments of the present invention and, together with the detailed description, serve to explain the principles and implementations of the invention.

    [0014] In the drawings:

    FIG. 1 is a diagram illustrating a typical mail server and mail client system.

    FIG. 2 is a flow diagram illustrating a method for efficiently receiving notification of new e-mail from a mail server in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

    FIG. 3 is a flow diagram illustrating a method for efficiently receiving notification of new e-mail from a mail server in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.

    FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating an apparatus for efficiently receiving notification of new e-mail from a mail server in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention.

    FIG. 5 is a block diagram illustrating an apparatus for efficiently receiving notification of new e-mail from a mail server in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention.


    DETAILED DESCRIPTION



    [0015] Embodiments of the present invention are described herein in the context of a system of computers, servers, and software. Those of ordinary skill in the art will realize that the following detailed description of the present invention is illustrative only and is not intended to be in any way limiting. Other embodiments of the present invention will readily suggest themselves to such skilled persons having the benefit of this disclosure. Reference will now be made in detail to implementations of the present invention as illustrated in the accompanying drawings. The same reference indicators will be used throughout the drawings and the following detailed description to refer to the same or like parts.

    [0016] In the interest of clarity, not all of the routine features of the implementations described herein are shown and described. It will, of course, be appreciated that in the development of any such actual implementation, numerous implementation-specific decisions must be made in order to achieve the developer's specific goals, such as compliance with application- and business-related constraints, and that these specific goals will vary from one implementation to another and from one developer to another. Moreover, it will be appreciated that such a development effort might be complex and time-consuming, but would nevertheless be a routine undertaking of engineering for those of ordinary skill in the art having the benefit of this disclosure.

    [0017] In accordance with the present invention, the components, process steps, and/or data structures may be implemented using various types of operating systems, computing platforms, computer programs, and/or general purpose machines. In addition, those of ordinary skill in the art will recognize that devices of a less general purpose nature, such as hardwired devices, field programmable gate arrays (FPGAs), application specific integrated circuits (ASICs), or the like, may also be used without departing from the scope and spirit of the inventive concepts disclosed herein.

    [0018] The present invention provides a solution that allows prompt notification of new email arrival while minimizing the unnecessary loading of mail server and network resources. It provides a short time delay after arrival of new e-mail when the user needs it most, and minimizes the unnecessary loading of resources when the user does not require immediate notification.

    [0019] In an embodiment of the present invention, the occurrence of specific events may infer that the e-mail user is particularly interested in immediate notification of new mail arrival. For example, in the wireless world, it is quickly becoming commonplace to immediately reply to emails, almost treating emails similarly to instant messages. It may be beneficial, therefore, to have the server immediately notify the user of new mail following this event. In one embodiment, the specific event may be the selection of a low latency notification option by a user. For example, before sending an email the user may select this option because he views it as an "important" e-mail. Likewise, the user may be able to simply select a low latency notification option at a moments notice. This would allow a user who is expecting an email at 8PM to activate the low latency notification option shortly before 8PM. Alternatively, the event may be a calendar event where the user is likely to want immediate notification of messages, such as a birthday, or on New Year's Eve. Additionally, a geographic location may serve as an event as well. For example, many cellular phones will soon have built in Global Positioning Satellite (GPS) receivers to determine their location. The geographic location may server as a trigger for altering the immediacy of new mail notification. For example, when the device is located at or near a user's home, the immediacy of new mail notification may not be as great as when the device is located at or near a user's work.

    [0020] In another embodiment of the present invention, rather than the event triggering the immediate notification of new mail arrival or an increased polling frequency, the opposite may occur, wherein the event triggers a decrease in polling frequency or a "black out" period for new email arrival. For example, the user may wish to not receive email during the Super Bowl, or other important event.

    [0021] In an embodiment of the present invention, if the mail server supports server-initiated-notification of new mail, the mail client may establish a session to the mail server to invoke this service for a limited period of time, for example, between 1 minute and 15 minutes, once one of these specific events have occurred. If the mail server does not support server-initiated-notification of new mail, the mail client may automatically increase the polling frequency for a limited period of time, for example, between 1 minute and 15 minutes. The polling frequency may increase to between once every 30 second to once every 2 minutes, for example.

    [0022] In an embodiment of the present invention, a variable polling timer may be utilized. This may be helpful in the second case described above, where the mail server does not support server-initiated-notification of new mail. It may also be helpful in the general case, to improve efficiency of polling even in times where no specific event has occurred.

    [0023] For example, the variable polling timer could be set to once every 15 minutes during normal operations, but at low usage times, such as at night or on weekends, the timer may be automatically set to a lower frequency, such as once every 4 hours.

    [0024] In an embodiment of the present invention, the establishing of a session to the mail server to invoke server-initiated-notification of new mail is performed using the IMAP4 Idle command. This informs the server that the client is ready to accept unsolicited mailbox update messages. The server requests a response to the IDLE command using the continuation ("+") response. The IDLE command remains active until the client responds to the continuation, typically with a "DONE" command. That response satisfies the server's continuation request, and terminates the IDLE status. Therefore, in this embodiment of the present invention, when the limited period of time lapses (for example, 15 minutes), then the mail client may initiate a "DONE" command to terminate the IDLE status. It should be noted that the IMAP4 protocol allows a server to consider a client inactive if no command has been received from the client for a certain period of time. Therefore, it may be necessary in certain implementations to have the mail client terminate then immediately restart the IDLE status to avoid being involuntarily terminated. It should also be noted that the client may need to terminate the IDLE status early if other IMAP commands are to be executed, such as if the user wishes to retrieve the newly received mail.

    [0025] In another embodiment of the present invention, when polling at different rates (in the situation where the server does not support server-initiated notification), it may be possible to forego logging out of an IMAP4 session between polls. This becomes possible if the polling rate is accelerated to a predefined threshold (e.g., less than a minute). This further increases bandwidth savings and improves server scalability by eliminating the need for IMAp4 session open/close overhead.

    [0026] Furthermore, in another embodiment of the present invention, the request for server-initiated notification (e.g., the IMAP4 IDLE command) may be issued on a separate session as other IMAP4 commands. This allows for race conditions to be properly handled. Additionally, one more poll may be issued when the IDLE command is acknowledged to prevent the system from missing any events between the time of the poll and the time the IDLE command is started.

    [0027] FIG. 2 is a flow diagram illustrating a method for efficiently receiving notification of new e-mail from a mail server in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. At 200, it may be determined if a predefined event has occurred. The predefined event may be, for example, the sending of an email, the selection of a low latency notification option by a user, a calendar event, the passing of a time of day, a geographic event or some other event determined to require the immediate notification of response messages. If so, then at 202 it may be determined if the mail server supports server-initiated-notification of new e-mail. If so, then at 204 a session with the mail server may be established invoking server-initiated-notification of new e-mail for a limited period of time. The limited period of time may be, for example, between 1 and 15 minutes. Establishing the session may be accomplished in the IMAP4 protocol by sending an IMAP4 IDLE command to the mail server, and it may be terminated though the use of an IMAP DONE command. If server-initiated-notification of new e-mail is not supported, then at 206 a polling frequency may be increased for a limited period of time. This limited period of time may also be, for example, between 1 and 15 minutes.

    [0028] FIG. 3 is a flow diagram illustrating a method for efficiently receiving notification of new e-mail from a mail server in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. At 300, it may be determined if a predefined event has occurred. The predefined event may be, for example, a calendar event, the passing of a time of day, a geographic event, or some other event determined to signify that low latency notification is not required. If such an event occurs, then at 302, a polling frequency may be changed for a limited period of time.

    [0029] FIG. 4 is a block diagram illustrating an apparatus for efficiently receiving notification of new e-mail from a mail server in accordance with an embodiment of the present invention. A predefined event detector 400 may determine if a predefined event has occurred. The predefined event may be, for example, the sending of an email, the selection of a low latency notification option by a user, or some other event determined to require the immediate notification of response messages. If a predefined event has occurred, then a mail server server-initiated-notification supporter determiner 402 may determine if the mail server supports server-initiated-notification of new e-mail. If so, a mail server server-initiated-notification session limited time establisher 404 coupled to the predefined event detector 400 and to the mail server server-initiated-notification supporter determiner 402 may establish a session with the mail server invoking server-initiated-notification of new e-mail for a limited period of time. The limited period of time may be, for example, between 1 and 15 minutes. Establishing the session may be accomplished in the IMAP4 protocol by sending an IMAP4 IDLE command to the mail server, and it may be terminated though the use of an IMAP DONE command. If server-initiated-notification of new e-mail is not supported, then a polling frequency limited time increaser 406 coupled to the mail server server-initiated-notification supporter determiner 402 may increase a polling frequency for a limited period of time. This limited period of time may also be, for example, between 1 and 15 minutes.

    [0030] FIG. 5 is a block diagram illustrating an apparatus for efficiently receiving notification of new e-mail from a mail server in accordance with another embodiment of the present invention. A predefined event detector 500 may determine if a predefined event has occurred. The predefined event may be, for example, a calendar event, the passing of a time of day, a geographic event, or some other event determined to signify that low latency notification is not required. If such an event occurs, then a polling frequency limited time changer 502 coupled to the predefined event detector 500 may change a polling frequency for a limited period of time.


    Claims

    1. A method for receiving notification of new e-mail from a mail server (100), the method comprising :

    determining if a predefined event has occurred (200); the predefined event indicating a user's interest level in regard to immediate notification of receipt, by the mail server, of a new e-mail addressed to the user, the notification occurring at a mail client device associated with the user;

    establishing a session between the device and the mail server; and

    invoking server-initiated-notification of new e-mail for a limited period of time in response to the predefined event (204), wherein invoking server-initiated-notification of new e-mail further includes providing e-mail communication services between the device and the mail server.


     
    2. The method of claim 1, wherein the sending of an e-mail, by the user, is a predefined event.
     
    3. The method of claim 1, wherein the selection of a low latency notification option by a user is a predefined event.
     
    4. The method of claim 1, wherein said predefined event is a calendar event.
     
    5. The method of claim 1, wherein the predefined event is the passing of a time of day.
     
    6. The method of claim 1, wherein said predefined event is a geographic event.
     
    7. The method of claim 1, wherein said limited period of time is between 1 and 15 minutes.
     
    8. The method of claim 1, wherein said establishing includes sending an IMAP4 IDLE command to the mail server.
     
    9. The method of claim 8, further comprising sending an IMAP4 DONE command to the mail server after said limited period of time.
     
    10. The method of claim 8, further comprising sending an IMAP 4 DONE command to the mail server if the user needs to execute a different IMAP4 command.
     
    11. The method of claim 1, further comprising :

    terminating the session after a limited period of time.


     


    Ansprüche

    1. Verfahren zum Empfang einer Benachrichtigung über neue Email von einem Mailserver (100), wobei das Verfahren Folgendes aufweist:

    Bestimmen, ob ein vorgegebenes Ereignis eingetreten ist (200);

    wobei das vorgegebene Ereignis auf den Interessegrad eines Anwenders bezüglich einer sofortigen Empfangsbenachrichtigung über eine neue an den Anwender adressierte Email durch den Mailserver hinweist, wobei die Benachrichtigung auf einem Mail-Client-Gerät, das dem Anwender zugehörig ist, auftritt;

    Aufbau einer Sitzung zwischen dem Gerät und dem Mailserver; und

    Aufrufen einer durch den Server eingeleiteten Benachrichtigung über neue Email für einen begrenzten Zeitraum ansprechend auf das vorgegebene Ereignis (204), wobei das Aufrufen der durch den Server eingeleiteten Benachrichtigung über neue Email des Weiteren die Bereitstellung von Email-Kommunikationsdiensten zwischen dem Gerät und dem Mailserver aufweist.


     
    2. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei das Senden einer Email durch den Anwender ein vorgegebenes Ereignis ist.
     
    3. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei die Auswahl einer Benachrichtigungsoption mit niedriger Latenzzeit durch einen Anwender ein vorgegebenes Ereignis ist.
     
    4. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei das besagte vorgegebene Ereignis ein Kalenderereignis ist.
     
    5. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei das vorgegebene Ereignis das Verstreichen einer Tageszeit ist.
     
    6. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei das besagte vorgegebene Ereignis ein geografisches Ereignis ist.
     
    7. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der besagte begrenzte Zeitraum zwischen 1 und 15 Minuten liegt.
     
    8. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, wobei der besagte Aufbau das Senden eines IMAP4 IDLE-Befehls an den Mailserver aufweist.
     
    9. Verfahren nach Anspruch 8, das des Weiteren das Senden eines IMAP4 DONE-Befehls an den Mailserver nach dem besagten begrenzten Zeitraum aufweist.
     
    10. Verfahren nach Anspruch 8, das des Weiteren das Senden eines IMAP4 DONE-Befehls an den Mailserver aufweist, wenn der Anwender einen anderen IMAP4-Befehl ausführen muss.
     
    11. Verfahren nach Anspruch 1, das des Weiteren Folgendes aufweist:

    Beenden der Sitzung nach einem begrenzten Zeitraum.


     


    Revendications

    1. Procédé pour recevoir une notification de nouveau courriel en provenance d'un serveur de courrier (100), le procédé comprenant :

    déterminer si un événement prédéfini s'est produit (200), l'événement prédéfini indiquant le niveau d'intérêt d'un utilisateur en ce qui concerne la notification immédiate de la réception, par le serveur de courrier, d'un nouveau courriel adressé à l'utilisateur, la notification se produisant au niveau d'un dispositif de client de courrier associé à l'utilisateur ;

    établir une session entre le dispositif et le serveur de courrier ; et

    invoquer une notification initiée par le serveur de nouveau courriel pendant une période de temps limitée en réponse à l'événement prédéfini (204), où l'invocation d'une notification initiée par le serveur de nouveau courriel comprend en outre la fourniture de services de communication de courriel entre le dispositif et le serveur de courrier.


     
    2. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'envoi d'un courriel, par l'utilisateur, est un événement prédéfini.
     
    3. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel la sélection d'une option de notification à faible latence par un utilisateur est un événement prédéfini.
     
    4. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit événement prédéfini est un événement de calendrier.
     
    5. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel l'événement prédéfini est le passage d'une heure de la journée.
     
    6. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit événement prédéfini est un événement géographique.
     
    7. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ladite période de temps limitée se situe entre 1 et 15 minutes.
     
    8. Procédé selon la revendication 1, dans lequel ledit établissement comprend l'envoi d'une commande IMAP4 IDLE au serveur de courrier.
     
    9. Procédé selon la revendication 8, comprenant en outre l'envoi d'une commande IMAP4 DONE au serveur de courrier après ladite période de temps limitée.
     
    10. Procédé selon la revendication 8, comprenant en outre l'envoi d'une commande IMAP4 DONE au serveur de courrier si l'utilisateur a besoin d'exécuter une commande IMAP4 différente.
     
    11. Procédé selon la revendication 1, comprenant en outre :

    la terminaison de la session après une période de temps limitée.


     




    Drawing


















    REFERENCES CITED IN THE DESCRIPTION



    This list of references cited by the applicant is for the reader's convenience only. It does not form part of the European patent document. Even though great care has been taken in compiling the references, errors or omissions cannot be excluded and the EPO disclaims all liability in this regard.

    Patent documents cited in the description