04:06 PM

IBM Targets University Crowd With Mobile App

Students talk into the device to receive a response, rather than type in the information and wait for text. Applications range from tracking buses to finding out if campus laundry machines are free.

Wake Forest University students are experimenting with a new mobile cellular service scheduled to launch in August. Designed specifically for university campus environments, the service leverages IBM Corp. multimodal technology that allows many devices that can interface spoken word with portable electronics, such as cellular phones and car-navigation systems.

Wake Forest, with help from Big Blue, has been testing MobileU this semester to demonstrate speech-enabled Web applications on smart phones.

Students talk into the device to receive a response, rather than type in the information and wait for text.

"To reach a new generation of students, we need to deliver services on wireless connected mobile devices," said Jay Dominick, assistant vice president for IT and CIO at Wake Forest. "Voice has become the interface to keep connected with a generation of students who use cellular phones as a communications device."

The MobileU application will enable students to track busses. Students ask "What time will the next bus arrive?" into their cell phones. Global Positioning Satellite devices inside buses use general packet radio service (GPRS) to transmit location to servers on campus and to students through mobile phones, which responds with audio.

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

Students living in the school's tech-enabled residential facility can ask any Internet-connected device how many washers and dryers are currently in use, so they don't waste time walking to the laundry room to see if machines are free.

Wake Forest is a private liberal arts school in Winston-Salem, N.C. Since 1996 it has offered entering freshmen a portable computer. Now the administration wants to augment computers with cellular phones to make campus life easier.

Text-to-speech applications are also in development at Wake Forest. Students would submit projects in text format. Professors then turn the text into audio. The application would get help from IBM, which has servers that convert text into audio.

IBMSMQ-8217-SMQs multimodal technologies contain IBM Embedded ViaVoice, allowing students to begin using Web applications immediately, without speaker prep or training. "IBM creates the framework for the developers to write the applications," said Igor Jablokov, program director of IBM's WebSphere Multimodal and Voice Portals unit.

Developers can use the Eclipse IBM WebSphere Multimodal Toolkit to create XHTML+Voice (X+V) markup, based on ratified W3C Recommendations, hosted on WebSphere Application Server, synchronized and deployed with WebSphere Client Technology Micro Edition, and executed using the IBM WebSphere Everyplace Multimodal Environment. IBM WebSphere Mobile Portal, WebSphere Portal Server, and DB2 are also used in the platform.

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