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Multiple listing service by phone: mobile access to listing information keeps real estate agents in touch and on the go.

ASK ANY GROUP OF PEOPLE what they envision for a mobile sales automation tool and the answers will always include laptops and PDAs. But, few people think of the cell phone as a sales automation tool. However, Newport Wireless Anytime MLS could change all that. It gives residential real estate agents information in the field via--you guessed it--a standard cell phone.

Getting away from the office

The goal of every real estate agent is to complete the sale of more properties. To realize this goal, an agent must be in the field showing properties to prospective clients. Time spent in the office gathering information takes away from the time they could be out in the field selling. Phoning queries back to the office can be a frustrating process, with unknown and inefficient results. Anytime MLS is a cure for the information blues suffered by agents in the field. This software provides the information an agent needs in the field, and proactively supplies information the agent doesn't even know they need.

Anytime MLS is a conduit, via a standard cell phone, to the information contained in the multiple listing service (MLS), a database of properties used by realtors across the country. The user logs in to the system by speaking their logon and password information, and can navigate the system completely via voice command. Ken Stockman, CEO of Newport Wireless, believes the research and design that has been put into the voice navigation features is what really differentiates the product. To search for information about a property for sale, the agent speaks the street address number and the first letter of the street name; the application then returns a list of potential matches. When the agent picks a property from the list, the application lists all the important information using text-to speech technology and pre-recorded text.

The product goes a step beyond just a standard voice recognition system by providing proactive information. An agent can set up a profile via the Web site and, when a listing is created that meets the set criteria, Anytime MLS pages the agent. The agent can forward it to the customer's e-mail or pager with a single voice command. There have been several situations where this feature helped an agent place a sale-pending sign before other agents even knew the property was on the market.

Anytime MLS is a multi-tier application based on a combination of open source technologies and IBM products. The software is written in Java and utilizes XML for data transfer. Linux and AIX are both operating systems used for various portions of the architecture. IBM products including DB2, WebSphere and WebSphere Voice Server make up key components of the system. The research and development that Newport Works has done with the speech-to-text and text-to-speech has paid off in a smooth and natural sounding system that functions well with voice input. Most MLS systems are regional and Anytime MLS must communicate with multiple systems to load the required data to the DB2 database.

Newport Works has spent a great deal of effort gathering requirements from the field and testing potential solutions. Early tests included efforts to provide data downloaded to Palm PDAs prior to leaving the real estate office. Field tests showed that many agents wouldn't take the time to sync up data and they found the interface difficult to use. According to Stockman, a simple user experience is key in usage of the product.

SOLD!

The idea of having an entire DB2 database full of information only a phone call away is impressive. Tools like this are a must for anyone in the residential real estate marketplace. If an agent closes one median-priced house every few years, it would still have a positive return on investment--and that is just too good a deal to pass up.

MOBILE BUSINESS BENEFITS

The multiple listing service (MLS) is an indispensable tool for realtors. However, without mobile access to the MLS database, realtors are left tethered to the office. Newport Wireless Anytime MLS not only lets realtors access mobile data by phone, but also lets them do via voice command.

Keith Perry is president of KP Tech Enterprises a consulting firm specializing in application development and computer security. He currently is managing a HIPAA project for a major health care insurance company. He recently has completed sales force automation projects on both the Palm and tablet PC platforms. He has a bachelor's degree in computer science and a master's degree in business administration, kperry@gate.net.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Newport Works' Anytime MLS; Mobile Real Estate
Author:Perry, Keith
Publication:Mobile Business Advisor
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 1, 2003
Words:751
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