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  1. Technology
November 3, 1988


By CBR Staff Writer

Computer Consoles Inc, which markets its Unix-based office automation systems direct and through OEM customers such as ICL Ltd in Europe, used to be better known as a supplier of computing systems for automating directory enquiries for telephone companies, and the latter activity remains a very large part of the Waltham, Massachusetts company’s business. Up to now, the telephone systems side of its business has been represented in Europe by STC Plc, but Consoles is now scouring Europe for strategic alliances with other phone companies, says chairman John Cunningham. Cunningham looks for Europe to overtake the US over the next five years in the breadth of telephony services offered to business and domestic users. Hottest property is its Audio Response system for its directory computers, and it is holding discussions on the system with Telefonica de Espana next month. Talks have also been held with telephone exchange suppliers Siemens AG, NEC Corp and L M Ericsson AB on achieving technical compatibility between their switches and its systems to pave the way for increased service sales. Cunningham sees a boom in demand for services such as intelligent answering services, selective routing of calls and advance information on who is calling. Cunningham cited four key factors driving demand in Europe: the speed at which PTTs are digitalising their networks; the greater adherence to standards in Europe; greater flexibility of regulatory controls, and the stimulus of the 1992 Single Market prompting PTTs to increase the services on offer.

In the UK, Computer Consoles is helping British Telecommunications Plc to upgrade its directory enquiries system in preparation for the day when Telecom starts charging the public for the service: Telecom has not set a date but wants the improve the service before it starts charging. Enhancements from Consoles will include an Audio Response System, where the customer hears a recorded message of street name and telephone number being read back once the operator has made a hit in the database, the intention being to speed up the service since the operator can be taking another call once the recording starts. Work will start in the second quarter of 1989 with completion set for the end of the year. The other enhancement developed by Computer Consoles is a Listed Services Database to support multiple applications, including the standard directory enquiries function, Yellow Pages, and the Direct Access System that enables firms to interrogate the phone number database from a terminal.

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