Bits & Bytes
SOON, DRUGMAKERS CAN PITCH DOCTORS VIA LIVE VIDEO
GETTING FACE TIME WITH busy doctors is a big challenge for pharmaceutical sales reps. But a Scottsdale (Ariz.) outfit, Integrated Physician Networks Inc. (IPNI), is betting that through videoconferencing technology, a salesperson can call on a physician without having to make a visit.
This spring, IPNI will begin distributing computers with touch-sensitive screens to doctors. In addition to videoconferences, physicians can use the machines, developed by PictureTel, to dial up drugmakers and get instant answers about drugs, order samples, and be briefed on new therapeutics at their leisure. Drugmakers also will be able to dial up the docs--but there will be no annoying rings, just a short chime and a lingering red light. Eventually, the company hopes to add such features as a customized news service offering sports or entertainment, for instance, as a way to keep the doctors tuned in.
Underwritten by such drugmakers as Schering-Plough Corp.'s Key Pharmaceuticals Inc. unit, the $4,600 system and installation of required ISDN phone lines will be free. IPNI will run the network and the drugmakers will pay annual subscription fees to IPNI to get their data on the system.
By May, IPNI expects to distribute systems to 500 doctors for evaluation. It will add 9,000 more next year and phase in the rest of the country's 42,000 primary-care doctors over time.By Joseph Weber EDITED BY IRA SAGERReturn to top
GAS UP, WITHOUT OPENING YOUR WALLET
THE ADVENT OF THE SELF-service gasoline station may have made filling up the family car quick and easy. Now, Mobil Oil Corp. has found another way to make it even faster and simpler.
The giant oil company, along with Texas Instruments Inc. and Dresser Industries Inc., has developed an electronic payment system for gas stations. Called the Mobil Speedpass, it uses radio frequency signals, similar to the technique used for electronic payments at tollbooths. Customers fill out an application at a Mobil station, including their credit-card number. They then get a tiny electronic device that attaches to a key chain. At stations equipped with the system, drivers pull up in front of the gas pump, wave the Speedpass tag, and start filling up. The bill is automatically put on the credit card and included with the monthly statement.
Mobil has been testing the system for six months in St. Louis and plans to roll it out this year, starting in Boston, Chicago, Orlando, and San Diego, among other cities. To offer Speedpass, station owners will have to install new pumps costing up to $17,000--minus a $1,000 rebate from Mobil for each pump.EDITED BY IRA SAGERReturn to top
TEACHING OLD NETWORKS NEW TRICKS
DESPITE THE REVOLUTION IN the Internet and PCs, many companies still rely on so-called legacy systems--old mainframe setups and minicomputer networks that run proprietary software. Rewriting those programs into Internet-savvy code, such as Java, can be costly and time-consuming. But a small Atlanta company, Client Server Technologies Inc. (CST), has a solution that allows legacy systems to join the Internet wave.
Jacada is a software program that acts as a translator on a corporate Web server. Users can access mainframe data through the corporate Web site, and the program automatically converts commands written for the legacy system into a Net-friendly format. Jacada costs vary--from $17,000 on up--depending on configuration, such as the number of terminals on a network. Another advantage of employing Jacada software is that corporations can easily add low-cost network computers, which are designed to support Java applications.By Paul Eng EDITED BY IRA SAGERReturn to top