Huntington Bancshares, seeking to explore the outer limits of technology, is teaming with the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and Ohio University to test an advanced communications satellite.
Huntington announced this week that it will participate in the test of NASA's Advanced Communications Technology Satellite, or ACTS.
The company hopes the test, which it said will involve minimal investment, will help it keep abreast of developments in using satellites for computer-to-computer communications.
A handful of banks now use satellites to help run their data networks, including Barnett Banks Inc., First Union Corp., and Fleet Financial Group.
Spot Beam Technology
The ACTS satellite will be the first to use a transmission technology called spot beams, which scientists and corporations hope will make the country's computer and telephone networks more reliable.
"What we're looking for in the long run is to stay in front and to work with a new technology we feel has a valid chance of being successful," said Michael Whetstone, Huntington's manager of computer communications.
Spot beam technology is supposed to enable satellites to transmit much larger quantities of data to smaller dish antennas than is now possible.
It thus holds promise for backing up high-capacity phone lines when they are severed or important telephone switching centers that are out of commission, said John Voss, Huntington's director of information systems and services.
Blast-off in July
The satellite is to be launched next month. The test in which Huntington will participate is to run from October to next February.
During the test, the Huntington plans to use ACTS to transmit critical financial information between a regional computer and check processing center in Parma, Ohio, and the bank's primary computer and check processing center, in Columbus.
If all goes well, Huntington will wind up the test by running production operations through the satellite.
Mr. Whetstone, an assistant vice president, is leading a team of six bank technicians who will participate in the test. NASA technicians as well as students and faculty from the telecommunications department at Ohio University in Athens will also participate.