LottoFone tries to tap into lottery market
Soon, some folks might be letting their fingers do the walking to the lottery counter.
LottoFone Inc. of Alexandria, Va., thinks its idea -- lottery sales by telephone -- is a natural. Kind of a numbers game for the BMW set. A roadhouse on the information highway.
Willem Polak, president and chief executive of LottoFone, says his company has been researching and perfecting the idea since 1986, while working on other jobs in the lottery industry.
"The concept was ahead of the technology," particularly the art of voice identification, he says.
But now LottoFone is demonstrating a system to lottery agencies around the country, and says deals are close.
Here's how it will work: A customer registers with LottoFone, putting money in an account. When he wants to buy a ticket, he calls an intrastate 800 number and identifies himself by punching in his phone number and a personal identification code, and speaking a password that's matched against the same word stored on computer.
He can order specific numbers or let the computer pick, and can even leave instructions with the computer -- say, buy five tickets whenever the Lotto goes above $5 million. LottoFone just acts as an agent, but charges the customer a $2 handling fee for each transaction, be it for $5 or $500.
Mr. Polak is trying to convince lottery officials that the setup will not just move sales out of the 7-Eleven and into the home, but will bring in a whole new class of customer. His research shows phone buyers will be the same people who frequently use automatic tellers, who buy from L.L. Bean and who place stock market orders by computer.
He's also quick to point out that the system would provide equal access to the disabled.
The company recently awarded a $6 million, four-year 800 service contract to AT&T.; Mr. Polak says deals are close with several states, but declined to name them. LottoFone has talked with Maryland officials, but Carroll Hynson, deputy director of the Maryland State Lottery Agency, says the idea is not currently under serious consideration here.
And what of the likely charge that the setup would just cater to those with gambling fever? Mr. Polak says LottoFone can exercise total control, including betting limits, if the state wishes. "You tell us the problem . . . and we can deal with it."
Martin Marietta wins communications deal
Bethesda-based Martin Marietta Corp. said last week that it had won a $115.2 million contract from the U.S. Army Communications Electronics Command to develop "intelligence fusion systems" that will put advanced tactical computers in front of commanders on the battlefield.
Martin will be the lead developer in the six-year project, which will be run from its Astronautics unit in Denver.
The contract represents the second phase of the Army's All Source Analysis System, which Martin has been involved with since its inception nearly 10 years ago. The goal is a unified intelligence system that can incorporate information from many sources, including computers run by other services.
Rockville software firm lands contract
Personal Library Software Inc. of Rockville scored another win last week when it was selected to provide the text-searching software for Macmillan New Media's line of medical reference materials on CD-ROM.
The 14 titles planned for the first quarter of 1993 include the AIDS Compact Library and an archive of the New England Journal of Medicine.
Matthew Koll, president and CEO of Personal Library Software, said, "This is precisely what PLS exists for. Some time, someplace, some physician is going to find some information she wouldn't have found otherwise -- and that information has the power to change people's lives. It's great to be Macmillan's partner in this mission."
BellSouth's Simon to challenge Newton
It's simple: Simon wants Newton to feel the pull of gravity.
Simon's the name for a new gizmo the BellSouth Cellular Corp. announced last week. It's sort of a cellular phone on steroids -- with built-in fax facility, pen-based note-taking, and personal management tools like a calendar and address book.
In many ways the product, which was designed by IBM, is competing with Apple Computer Inc.'s Newton. But Simon is way in the lead when it comes to wireless communication.
BellSouth hopes to begin rolling Simon out in the first quarter for under $1,000, assuming the phone gets clearance from the Federal Communications Commission.
Intel to produce 'neural network' chip
Intel Corp. said last week that it will begin producing a "neural network" computer chip that mimics thought processes to achieve dramatic results in recognizing all sorts of patterns.
BIntel developed the chip, called the Ni1000, in cooperation with a small Providence, R.I., company, Nestor Inc.
An Intel spokesman told the Bloomberg News Service that the chip is 500 to 1,000 times faster than regular microprocessors when it comes to certain jobs, such as processing paper forms.