New Pagers and Message Systems Expand in Corporate Environment.
Shirt-pocket-sized units that display text messages represent a portable personal communications device that has been on our wish list since before Dick Tracy's wrist radio. Cellular radio and cordless telephones are part of the dream but are priced out of the range of many applications. That's not true of pagers.
Pagers with a limited set of alphanumeric characters have been available for several years, and units able to capture text messages--but too large for pocketing--appeared two years ago. These units, first offered by Millicom, have decreased in size but require FM broadcast facilities that exist in only a few cities.
However, in 1983 Motorola began shipping OPTRX paging systems, which feature pocket-calculator-size pagers, to radio common carriers (RCCs). These units beep (if you desire) as messages arrive. More important, they capture and retain for display upon demand the text of four messages. While message length is limited to 80 characters, a longer message can be sent as two messages.
The real breakthrough is not the size of the receiving unit, but rather in the FM radio transmission of the Golay Motorola broadcast protocol (forward-error) correcting), which provides these pagers with reliable reception. In fact, messages are reliably received even inside buildings and moving vehicles.
Loaded with features, like priority tone alert (turn the tone off if you like, but priority messages will still beep) and visual display of the source of the message, these units promise to make a big dent in corporate communication bills by curbing telephone tag and solving business messaging problems.
Here's the savings scenario taking into account the cost of telephone tag: It's estimated that it takes eight calls to achieve one conversation. Those calls are expensive, and frequently are a request for information or a response to a previous request. So up to 16 phone calls can result from a telephone request to call back with information! Conclusion: simultaneous voice communication is not always the best way to exchange information. Electronic mail works better but the cost of implementation is often high and delivery is usually only via video display terminal or printer. Alpha-display paging may be the best solution!
There are a number of ways to enter a message in the paging system. These offer designers and managers of communications networks some imaginative, cost-effective alternatives when they wish to expand their existing systems.
The obvious choise is dictation of a message by telephone to radio common carrier attendants who key the text into a video display terminal. However, carriers are not equipped to accept substantial message traffic this way. As a result, dictation to these attendants is an expensive method for anyone who generates significant message traffic.
Let's look at an example of costs. Typical charges in southern California for monthly rental of a single pager are: $25 for pager unit; $5 for air time for five messages; 75 cents for each additional message (air time); $1.40 + for voice input; and 20 cents for input from the customer device, per 12-character block.
It's clear from this cost structure that a customer can save significantly by handling message input. The sharply reduced charge per message means the statistically average 36-character message will cost 60 cents if keyed in by customer, versus $2.15 ($1.40 + .75) for dictation to a carrier's attendant.
The new pagers provide an opportunity for a variety of message inputs. Innovative uses of these methods are where the opportunities seem most promising for solving business problems and realizing savings. An evaluation of specific new products follows.
First is Motorola's Page Entry Terminal, which was designed as a companion to OPTRX. Selling for $1,105, it is a simple-to-operate device with full-sized keyboard. The Page Entry Terminal permits a message clerk to collect and dispatch messages for OPTRX as well as conventional pagers. The human interface of this intelligent communicating terminal presumes the user has no computer experience.
The terminal permits addressing messages to the intended recipient by name rather than pager number. Sending a single message to multiple users requires only entering the names of additional addressees. Dialing, log-on and file transfer are background tasks handled when the clerk answers to SEND NOW? prompt with ENTER or <Y>ES. Easy Message Preparation and Editing
Pages are entered by touching the page key and then responding to the LCD-displayed prompt with the name of the individual to whom the message is addressed. Message composition is just as easy. The unit will accept no more than the legal message length (usually 80 characters) after confirming that the addressee is listed in its user-maintainable directory of 100 + pager numbers and user names stored in RAM. Editing is performed before the phone line is accessed.
The Motorola terminal will accept messages for further delivery (reminder of meeting location) and then send them at the appropriate time. Periodic messages (recurring deadline proximity) can be entered and will be sent hourly, unattended, making possible wake up calls, even reminders of CD rollover dates and wedding anniversaries.
At the selected time, the Page Entry Terminal will autodial and log onto the RCC's paging equipment. The previously created message in the form of an ASCII character stream is sent via internal modem, over the public switched phone network, to the radio common carrier's equipment for broadcast to the pocket pager. The city was selected when answering the WHO? question (BOB NY or BOB LA).
A single message transaction usually requires less than 12 seconds (longer if on a noisy line), while a batch of four requires less than 30 seconds. The Page Entry Terminal waits for an acknowledgment before disconnecting. In many messaging environments, a record of delivered messages is critical, so a time-stamped log is stored in the unit's history file for subsequent review.
All transactions can be logged on a serial interface printer. This unit doubles as a telex/TWX-compatible DDD terminal complete with auto answer and auto answerback. It can be used with electronic mail systems or data-base services.
A communications network can dispatch its own message directly to the carrier's equipment using an IBM PC (or work-alike) with a Bell 103 modem and compatible communications software, like Pageware, from Message Technology of Seal Beach, California. A software product that runs under MS DOS, it is available from many carriers at no cost with multiple pager rentals. It permits paging by name or initials, autodials and sends batches or single messages, which are then stored in a history file for review or output to a printer. Help Is At Hand
Another low-cost message-entry system is available from IXO of Culver City, California. Called the TC200 Telecomputer, it sells for $395. It features a 16-character LCD display, which is effectively used despite its limited size, and an off-line editor for preparation of a single message. A well-thought-out miniature keyboard provides a HELP key offering to guide the user through the task of message preparation.
Internal batteries make this pocket-sized terminal with modem ideal for use from the field. Its powerful internal speaker permits you to monitor the beeps and tones punctuating the progress of your transaction as log-on and dump message proceed. However, it will not redial if it encounters a noisy line, and its keyboard is so small that anyone accustomed to touch typing will feel severely cramped.
A feature of OPTRX not to be overlooked is that it can be used to provide delivery of electronic mailbox contents. This feature--long desired by electronic mail and voice mail users--may be available in an electronic mail software system soon.
New software is making these alpha-display pagers accessible from telephone answering bureaus, too. Message Technology of Seal Beach is an affiliate of a nationwide franchiser of answering bureaus that is upgrading its computerized attendant positions already equipped for call sequencing and call queuing.
The new software permits the answering bureau to dispatch customer messages to OPTRX as a routine background task. This service will be offered in cooperation with RCCs throughout the country, providing inexpensive message entry service for OPTRX users (50 cents per dictated message). It should be available by the time you read this.
Until now the health-care industry has been the largest market for the paging industry. However, experts predict that this market, while expanding, will represent a smaller percentage of the installed base of pagers by the end of this decade. That's because other industries will find alpha-display pagers offer communications flexibility not available elsewhere.
Designers and managers of communications networks should be aware of two especially promising new areas for alpha-display pagers--replacing business radio dispatch systems and communicating with an outside sales force. In each application, pagers reduce communication costs and/or produce a decision support system that speeds the flow of time-critical information.
OPTRX is an inexpensive alternative to business radio dispatch systems. The message traffic from a dispatcher to drivers and field service personnel does not always require a two-way radio system.
Equipping a vehicle with a pager and 12-volt mini-printer is far less expensive than two-way business radio equipment initially and in the long term. For instance, it costs several thousand dollars to equip a radio dispatch base headquarters. The cost of installing receivers and transmitters in a mobile fleet is in excess of $1,000 a vehicle. The initial cost of the pager and mini-printer is less than half that amount, and base station costs can be virtually eliminated.
Telephone messages for an outside sales force often represent a company's most valuable communication traffic because they're sales precursors. As we saw earlier in the telephone-tag example, they can also cause enormous frustration.
In fact, the time-critical nature of messages to salespeople--and the desire to provide customers with superior service--has led many companies to provide pocket pagers for their sales force. Paging them with tone-only pagers adds a Catch 22 flavor to their communication pattern.
Both sides in the game of telephone tag need reliable message systems.
A calculation of the cost of telephone tag should take into account the bleak statistics of telephoning. Only one in eight business phone calls results in a connection with the intended party. Message centers spend less than half their time taking messages. Delivery of messages is often capricious.
But the first task can be expedited and the second task can be eliminated with an inexpensive electronic mail system and alpha-display paging. When the value of increased sales is added to savings from a probable 50-percent reduction in message center traffic (because messages are taken but need not be delivered), the newer-type pagers provide an easily justified cost saving.
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|Date:||Aug 1, 1984|
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