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Fax boom keeps up; new applications range from marketing to law enforcement.


If there is a singular failing of modern datacomm technology, says Richard Shockey, president of Nuntius Corp., St. Charles, Mo., it's that it's too complicated for many people to use. Electronic mail hasn't taken off for that reason, he says.

"Inevitably, computers and fax arranged a marriage. We have seen the beginnings of this with the development of fax cards for PCs and fax servers for LANs."

Intel says 80% of all faxes began on a PC, so it's only natural to continue the process through transmission.

"The trick is now to get the information you have into the hands of people who need to convert it into sales and bottom-line profits," Shockey says. "Our Command Fax uses voice response to let anyone with a touchtone phone and a fax retrieve documents without need for human intervention. This technology has recently emerged in the publishing industry as a supplement to traditional reader-service cards for requesting product literature and information. This will enable astute publishers to market value-added services.

"Fax is more than an easy way to memo someone across town," he states.

Shockey also envisions brisk sales serving scenarios such as these:

* A real-estate firm develops a database of available property listings, storing picture or location maps. When a client wants to see what is available, broker searches the database and faxes relevant listings at once.

* Travel agents make flight reservations, then fax confirmation, maps of destination, and tourist info.

* Time-sensitive price changes and product-update information are autofaxed to dealers overnight to alert them to changes.

* Securities firms have timely market data available for investors at all hours.

* Consumer-product companies create faxable coupons--faxpons--and deliver detailed nutrition or safety information.

* Fire/safety officials and public have instant access to poison or material-safety data sheet information.

Wall Street

Commodex's 40-year-old investment newsletter, which makes daily reports for futures markets, uses Turbo FAX from The Turbo Group, Guttenburg, N.J., to send multiple documents to six places at once. On average, costs between any two U.S. sites keep to 30 cents for two pages.

Subscribers such as E. David Stevens Commodity Corp. and Prudential-Bache have profited on soybean, bond, Munis, and Eurodollar contracts as a result of not having to wait an additional trading day.

With control over its transmissions, Commodex can send special reports, renewal reminders, even order forms to subscribers.

Customer satisfaction and renewal rates increased by more than 50%, according to initial studies.

Also innovating trough fax is Georgeson Inc., a leading proxy firm. "This is a high-pressure, high-stakes business," says Charles Kropak, director of operatins. "When a call comes in, we have to go into action fast."

The proliferation of fax machines in recent years has made it possible to communicate with a greater percentage of shareholders immediately.

Conventional faxing, however, is labor-intensive.

"We'd have a dozen secretaries working at a dozen fax machines, punching in phone numbers and feeding through documents. Our response time dropped but our man-hours escalated."

And though the machines could legally confirm transmission, there was no way to control image degradation caused by scanning.

The answer was to install a fax gateway for the LAN.

Kropak chose Intel's Connection CoProcessor fax board as the hardware solution, and Optus Software's FACSys software to run it.

The software provides a full-featured system for automating the entire process.

It allows all the users on the network to send and receive faxes from their workstations.

Its broadcast feature allows the same document to be sped to any specified group of telephone numbers.

Now it's easy to pull the fax phone numbers for a given client and transmit the required notification to the entire list.

It can be done by one operator in less than an hour.

"The notification process is now streamlined and integrated with the rest of our LAN operations," says Kropak. "We can take our word-processing documents and execute what is basically a mail merge, except we're using fax phone numbers instead of addresses."

With the bottleneck removed at the back end of the process, there's more time to confirm the legal and financial points that are mission-critical in the proxy business.

Fingerprint File

In 1985, Californiahs Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) went online amid expectations of a network that would streamline the task of print-matching and make the life of the typical criminal a bit tougher.

Fingerprints are faxed from oneplace to another, giving state low officials a weapon in the war on costly delay.

"Cal-ID" performed its mission with remarkable efficiency, but its spread throughout local police departments and county sheriff's offices was stalled by looming costs.

"One of our problems was size," says Lt. Jim Cox of the San Bernardino County Sheriffs Office scientific-investigation division. "San Bernardino is the largest county in the U.S. With 21,000 square miles and 1.5 million residents, our effectiveness hinges on our ability to keep a step ahead of the criminal."

Says Lt. Richard Coz, Cal-ID project manager with the Sheriffs Department in neighboring Riverside County: "Our 7000 square miles may seem small, but they stretch from the coast to Arizona."

The state uses NEC BIT-IV Group 4 terminals. Their 400x400 1pi (lines per inch) resolution provide 100% accuracy in print matchups and cost a fifth of what a direct computer linkup would cost.

The units are installed at six major high-volume booking sites in each county.

But economics precluded their going into every police department and outlying sheriffs station. These sites use the NEFAX-400. The 200x400 1pi extra-fine resolution mode showed minimal degradation.

Sharing one of NEC's AFIS mainframe computers, the two counties serve 2.5 million people in Cal-ID's southern California region.

NEFAX-400s are in police departments, sheriffs stations, DA's offices, juvenile hall, and even courthouses.

Catalog Sales

Andrew Ide owns Kent Scientific Corp., Litchfield, Conn., a two-person operation that makes and markets a catalog of biomedical supplies. His business, growing steadily in the U.S., is expanding to Europe and Asia.

He looked at stand-alone faxes and computer fax boards. Both posed problems.

Stand-alones let a PC user send and receive using hard copy via a separate unit, but can't store or manipulate data. Computers can store and manipulate data but are limited without standard protocols between systems, especially in handling graphic files.

Ide's new low-cost PC fax, the Relisys Tefax System Model RA2110, uses an RS232 interface to send and receive faxes from the hard disk. It can be used for local printing, copying, scanning, and faxing to other Group 2 or Group 3 systems.

"I have my CompuAdd 386SX receive and send over the serial port. All traffic and correspondence go directly to my hard disk," Ide says.

Though a thermal-paper device, it can act as a plain-paper machine. "I can take received faxes, convert them into a file, and print them out on my laser printer."

Ide is in catalog sales, so he's forever faxing order forms. He now stores his forms as files on his computer.

"When I send out an order, I call up the file, type in relevant information, and send it out without having to print out. This cuts down on paper in the office. Customers get clean legible copy.

"I scan my signature onto a file on the hard disk. When I fax a document needing my signature, I merge the two files and fax it out."

He also scans in rough sketches of his catalog, then prints out on a laser printer for hard copy to work with.

Ide has not found the need for a copier in his office--he uses a local copy store--but the new system offers one in a pinch. A printer is built in.

A user working in office, field, or home has the luxury of a printer with him in each location; the system is portable for business trips.
COPYRIGHT 1990 Nelson Publishing
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1990 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:facsimile devices; includes related article on two ways microcomputers are linked to facsimile machines
Publication:Communications News
Date:Oct 1, 1990
Previous Article:Coping with a network explosion.
Next Article:How MAN avoids LAN island problem.

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