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May 5, 1994


By CBR Staff Writer

Phone-link Plc, the Birkenhead-based on-line information services company, and IBM UK Ltd yesterday launched their Tel-Me on-demand UK information retrieval system. It offers access to constantly updated telephone numbers and post codes, hotel lists, news, rail itineraries, company profiles and credit checks, maps, weather and mailing lists. Information is provided through deals with, for example, British Telecommunications Plc, the Automobile Association and the Associated Press. Features include fuzzy logic – to enable best-match searches – predictive data queries and supervisor screens to control the products available to individual users. Data is held on a parallel processing client-server system that PhoneLink claims to have designed itself and on which it has applied for patents: it declines to give details but says it can retrieve data at several thousand transactions per second. IBM hopes it to be the next killer application and has signed a five-year marketing agreement with Phone-Link. IBM is energetically promoting the product, even shipping a Tel-Me demonstration with every personal computer it ships. It also plans to launch a Tele-Me personal computer with pre-installed software and communications equipment later in the year. The company claims to reduce time spent and therefore labour costs in retrieving information and to offer information items cheaper than existing sources. The speed of four seconds per transaction is possible through the new Fast-Connect modem, retailing at ?160 plus the cost of the board, and an ISDN 2 connection for high-bulk users at around ?750. Access is possible at present through Dial Plus, though speeds are greatly reduced. The software is available only for Windows; the company reckons this accounts for the bulk of the market. PhoneLink hopes to add another six products to the Tel-Me system in the next six months, announced through Tel-Me-The-Latest, at no extra charge. A single-user will pay ?300 a year for the licence, increasing to ?20,000 for 500 users. Users will also pay for telephone lines and a charge for each transaction, according to the information item received, from 10 pence for a phone-number to around ?25 for a full company report. The software will be available in June.

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