IBM tests mobile speech applications

IBM Corp. has collaborated with two U.S. universities to develop several speech-enabled Web applications for mobile phones.

IBM has collaborated with two universities to develop several speech-enabled Web applications for mobile phones, the company said Friday.

The U.S. company is partnering with Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, and the University of California, Santa Barbara (USCB) to test technologies that it may eventually offer to other types of users, such as sales forces, physicians and emergency response teams, according to the company.

The MobileU program allows students to ask "What time is the next bus coming?" into their cell phones. Global Positioning Satellite devices inside the buses use GPRS (General Packet Radio Service) to transmit their location to servers on campus and ultimately to students' mobile phones to tell them how long they have to wait.

The application, developed with Wake Forest University, uses IBM WebSphere Everyplace Multimodal Environment software.

With LaundryView, IBM built an application on top of an existing Web application developed by the Mac-Gray, which provides laundry management services to schools.

Students at Wake Forest living in special, tech-enabled facilities can ask any Internet-connected device how many washers and dryers are currently in use. As a result, they don't have to waste time walking to the laundry room to find out whether any machines are free.

Park and Pay-by-Cellphone, an application developed by IBM and USCB, is one of North America's first wireless parking systems that integrates a payment system, according to IBM.

Drivers call a phone number, enter the stall number and park. They can purchase additional parking time remotely by making another phone call. Parking fees are charged to their credit card. The new system tracks enforcement through a wireless network connecting 50 payment stations.

With the Personal Information Manager application, USCB students can ask their mobile phones what their e-mail inbox contains. It will also inform them audibly about their calendar entries and read them instant messages and newspaper articles as they walk to class or drive their cars.

The application takes RSS (Really Simple Syndication) feeds from university and national newspapers and enters them into a speech-enabled Web browser. News is fed over standard Web protocols and dynamically formatted for speech input and output.

The applications are hosted on IBM WebSphere application server and synchronized to the devices using IBM Workplace Client Technology Micro Edition, a miniature application server that allows Web applications to continue to function when wireless access is not available.

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