Products Poised To Capitalize On Anthrax Fears

Several software companies are introducing new products designed to provide alternatives to snail mail or otherwise allay customer's fears of contaminated packages.

Perhaps its appropriate that on Halloween some odd new products would be coming on the market. Then again, these are strange times, what with some people afraid to even touch their mail for fear of anthrax contamination.

Given that the IT industry is never at a loss to respond to such situations, it is no surprise that several software companies are introducing new products to provide alternatives to snail mail or otherwise allay customers fears of contaminated packages.

Document Technologies, a systems integrator specializing in digital imaging, automated forms and document capture solutions, on Wednesday announced a new product called RemoteMail. Its an automated system that converts paper documents to digital formats. The idea is to have mail processing personnel scan incoming paper mail into digital files and e-mail them to their intended recipients. This puts our mail handlers in a role akin to the one that the palace food-taster played in medieval times.

RemoteMail uses high-speed Fujitsu scanners to convert paper mail into Adobe .PDF (portable document format) images. The system can also apply advanced optical character recognition software using the Cardiff Teleform Information Capture System to automatically sort and route the Adobe PDF files, or send them as attachments to the e-mail address of specific recipients, said officials of Document Technologies.

This sounds great for reducing the anthrax threat to those receiving the mail. But, aside from the increased risk to the mailroom staff, having mailroom personnel opening all employees letters then clogging their inboxes with .PDF attachments could be a bit problematic for many organizations.

Separately, voice messaging provider Soundbite Communications, of Burlington, Mass., on Tuesday announced a new service called TeleMail that allows companies to send telephone messages to customers alerting them that a package has been sent to them, telling them that its safe to open and giving them a description of what it looks like. Of course, if it really was a dangerous package to open, one would think that the perpetrators could easily replicate such a service, but well look past that for now.

Not to be outdone, Inc. announced last week version 2.5 of its InternetPrint document delivery service. Instead of mailing a document to someone using the U.S. Postal Service, InternetPrint allows users to send it directly to their printer in an encrypted file. Officials of the Fremont, Calif., company call it "instant messaging for printers."

One cant help but wonder if the security-conscious IT manager of today wouldnt say, "Just fax it."