Lotus Development Corp. said last week it is testing software that will allow banks and other companies to use a touch-tone telephone to access and change information stored in its popular Lotus Notes software.
Lotus will begin testing Phone Notes with several software developers and customers by the end of this month. The test participants have not yet been chosen, according to David Rome, general manager of Lotus' Companion Products Division.
The software will be commercially available by June, Mr. Rome said.
Commercial banks, including Bankers Trust New York Corp., Chase Manhattan Bank, and J.P. Morgan & Co., use Lotus Notes software to share information about large corporate clients or investments across one or more departments.
Category of |Groupware'
While software links between touch-tone telephones and computer data bases are nothing new, the link to Notes' data bases is significant because of its ability to share information across networks.
Lotus Notes is the most popular form of "groupware," a type of software that turns networks into electronic filing cabinets.
Microsoft Corp., among other companies, is developing similar group applications, but Lotus is the market leader.
Phone Notes "is a way of building group voice response systems," Mr. Rome said.
Telephone access "is just another way to set up accounts, check the status of trades, or give customer service to corporate bank accounts."
With Phone Notes, customers could call in to a bank to review the status of their investment accounts or loan approvals.
Bankers could use the software to log into a Notes data base by telephone, create a new document, leave a voice message in a document in text form and listen to text through software that converts text to speech.
Chase Manhattan, one of the world's largest users of Notes, has thousands of employees sharing documents using the software.
Range of Uses
Chase uses Notes in a variety of ways by creating "tickler" files to remind bankers of pending corporate finance deals; to create lists of customer contacts; to keep track of potential purchasers of the bank's real estate holdings, and to keep up to date credit ratings of bank clients.
Chase has linked Notes with an artificial intelligence system that reads news reports for activities that could affect clients.
Ease of Applications
Lotus, based in Cambridge Mass., introduced Phone Notes at its annual users conference last week in Orlando, Fla.
Simpact Associates Inc., San Diego, will provide the technology for converting text to speech, and Natural Microsystems, Natick, Mass., will provide the technology to record and play back telephone voice files.
Applications for Phone Notes will be easy to develop, Lotus said, because the development language consists of 17 simple English-language commands.