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BELLSOUTH MOBILITY TO START CONSUMER TRIAL OF NETWORK WILDFIRE

BellSouth Mobility plans to begin consumer trials of Wildfire Communications Inc.’s Network Wildfire in the company’s Atlanta cellular market.

Network Wildfire is the company’s network-based electronic assistant. Earlier this year, Pacific Bell Mobile Services and Orange plc, a PCS operator in the United Kingdom, each announced trials of the product. Pacific Bell is testing in San Diego on its personal communications services network.

BellSouth will begin trials this summer with a few hundred users. The carrier will be looking at how well Wildfire works in the network, how customers perceive the product and what sort of economic return Wildfire would generate, said Wildfire.

None of the carriers have committed to deploy Network Wildfire commercially, but the extent of the trials indicates the carriers will likely deploy the product, said Wildfire founder Bill Warner.

Wildfire combines computer, telephony and speech recognition technologies to offer a product that is an automated secretary, organizer, rolodex and more. The system’s vocal interface is designed to be easy to use and feel human.

The original Wildfire Electronic Assistant was introduced in 1994, and was supplied as a complete system to individual clients. Network Wildfire is installed in a carrier’s network and offered via the carrier to its subscribers. As such, Wildfire now is more affordable for most users.

Network Wildfire is scalable. It is configured with Pentium-based hardware and an open software architecture the integrates easily into a carrier’s network and can be accessed by a number of communications devices, said the company.

The system also is modular, so at the carrier’s choice, users can create their own package of services that include only the features they use. Network Wildfire’s intelligence interprets a user’s calling patterns and will suggest additional features if that subscriber might benefit.

Network Wildfire was “designed to work in a wireless environment,” said Robert Mechaley, Wildfire president and chief executive officer. Competing enhanced services packages that function with voice recognition technology were designed for use with a microphone or wired phone and do not adapt as well for wireless communicating, Mechaley commented.

Wildfire’s basic user package includes voice dialing, messaging, call routing, call screening, call-on-call-which allows users to access incoming calls while checking other messages-and a session feature which makes it possible to complete multiple tasks in one call to Wildfire. Users can check their schedule, receive a call, make a call and listen to voice-mail messages within one session. All commands to Wildfire can be voice-activated.

The Wildfire voice is female and answers incoming calls with a friendly voice. If an incoming caller is a frequent caller, Wildfire recognizes the spoken name and says, “oh, hi.”

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