REDWOOD CITY, Calif. - Verifone Inc. announced a new release of its Zontalk 2000 software that automates communications between merchants and their banks or other transaction servicers.

The release, number 3.0, can automatically download software applications and data to remote point-of-sale systems.

If the merchant's software is compatible, the updates can be transmitted to multiple sites without the presence of an operator. The feature supports transmissions at off-hours, when communications costs are lower.

Separately, Verifone said it entered into a strategic alliance with Tokheim Corp. to offer automated-transaction systems to service stations.

Tokheim is a major supplier of petroleum-dispensing equipment. With Verifone it can link in-pump card readers, fuel dispensers, electronic cash registers, and information-management systems with major oil companies' card-processing networks.

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