Electronic Design

It's An Unwired World At Wake Forest

Students at Wake Forest University use PocketPC-powered smart phones for just about everything. According to Anne Bishop, director of R&D in Information Systems, students can populate their calendars by downloading their individual class schedules. They also can download contact information for all of their professors.

But that's not all. These Wi-Fi phones are location-aware, so they automatically shut off when they're inside a classroom. The phones also know what building they're in, and they can display the appropriate directory information. For example, students can even look up card catalog information on their phones while they're in the library.

Administrators and professors can contact students to notify them of weather-related changes in class times and locations. The university's post office can notify students when they've received packages, too. Bishop says that the campus shuttle and the dorm laundries were the first systems to go online.

The phones prompt students to announce the stop where they want to catch the bus. After checking the bus' location via GPS, the phones then tell students how many minutes it will be before the bus gets there. As for the laundry, individual washers and dryers are on the campus TCP/IP network. Students can call the system and find out whether machines are available and even how many minutes are left on a wash or dry cycle.

Bishop says that the next mobile applications will be related to academics. Students will be able to play back class notes on their phone?and perhaps cram for finals by listening to lectures on the phone from just about anywhere.

IBM, which took part in developing Wake Forest's wireless campus, is working to make speech part of a ?multimodal? input and output option for portable devices and for hands-busy applications like surgery and inspections. It wants to allow customers to integrate voice with existing information systems in multiple industries.

The company has donated reusable dialog components (RDCs) to the open-source community. The RDCs are Java Server Page tags that enable the development of voice applications and multimodal user interfaces. These pre-built speech software components handle basic functions such as date, time, currency, and locations. Using RDCs, application developers can create new speech applications faster.

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