By Lisa Johnston
New products on display at the American International Toy Fair, held in N
The home communications product announcements at the International CES were not confined to the flashy phones from big-name vendors, but embraced a number of peripheral devices and services aimed at complementing existing phones in the home.
Advanced American Telephones, which manufactures AT&T-branded home telecom products, introduced the AT&T Internet Call Alert, which allows dial-up Internet users with caller ID to be alerted to incoming calls while they are surfing the Web.
The unit plugs into a wall jack, a home phone and into the computer. A three-line display with adjustable contrast lets users see incoming calls while they are dialed into the Internet. A display dial lets users directly dial numbers stored in the 90 name and number caller ID history.
If the user has a voicemail service, a Visual Message Waiting Indicator illuminates to notify users that a message is waiting.
The Internet Call Alert will be available in the spring for a suggested $39.95.
Dasym Technologies introduced the next generation of its 3-way call screener technology (previously sold under the TeleBouncer brand). The PrivacySelect (PS-1000) is designed to ferret out and block telemarketing calls before the phone rings in the house and connects to a home phone and phone jack. The new unit, like its predecessor, offers three different screening modes. In Telemarketing Mode, all calls are silently and automatically answered and a user-recorded screening message is played instructing a desired caller to press a number to dial in and providing a legal "no solicitation" message to rebuff telemarketers.
A Do Not Disturb mode silently directs callers to the user's home answering machine (urgent calls can override the system by pressing a button). Caller ID mode lets the phone ring once to display the caller ID data, the TeleBouncer then screens the caller as it does in the Telemarketing Mode.
The PS-1000 adds pre-set screening times to determine when a user wants the device to operate, and compatibility with the company's Ringer4U auxiliary ringer product. Pricing and availability were not available at press time.
Residential landline phone service provider Z-Tel announced at the show that it is packaging its Personal Voice Assistant (PVA) in a retail CD for wireless and other retail chains to sell in-store. The CDs will function like a pre-paid phone card, giving purchasers either 200 or 500 minutes of the PVA service for $9.95 and $19.95, respectively.
The PVA is a virtual, voice-activated address book accessible through any phone (wireless or landline) regardless of carrier or service provider. From the PVA, users can voice-dial any number stored in the address book, or send voice messages via e-mail (the message will be attached as a WAV file in the body of the e-mail) to any of the contacts stored on the PVA. The PVA, which can store a total of 1,000 contacts, is accessed by dialing a toll-free number. If the customer is a Z-Tel landline customer, they dial 00 on their home phone and follow the voice prompts.
Users who sign up for the PVA can add contacts through a Web site or verbally over the phone. They can also sync it with other contact databases, such as Outlook. Users manage their account and refresh minutes online.
According to Z-Tel president and CEO Gregg Smith, Z-Tel will give a commission on the sale of a disk and a residual if a customer refreshes their PVA account. Additionally if a PVA consumer then signs up for Z-Tel landline telephone service (available in 49 states save Alaska and parts of Connecticut) the retailer will earn an additional residual.
Z-Tel offers the PVA free to its residential landline subscribers.
This TWICE webinar, hosted by senior editor Alan Wolf, will take a look at what may be the hottest CE products at retail that will be sold during the all-important fourth quarter. Top technologies, market strategies and industry trends will be discussed with industry analysts and executives.