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Communications
Retriever makes a splash
Stephen Dabkowski
Monday, November 27, 2000

The worlds' biggest telecommunications giants are lining up to sign deals with a small Sydney firm which claims to have developed the leading technology on wireless data transfer to help revolutionise business mobile phone use.

Retriever Communications, with a staff of just 30, says it is in the process of securing contracts across Europe and the United States which it expects will be worth "tens of millions of dollars" within 18 months.

 Last week Retriever's technology was sold to Vodafone to be used throughout the United Kingdom. The company says it should have a similar deal with a French telecommunications carrier stitched up within weeks and will then roll out its product across the rest of Europe.

Retriever can install turnkey or customised software, so a business can convert paper-based forms used within a business into a digital format that can be accessed and updated by phone.

Some of the turnkey applications include Servicepad for maintenance information, Salespad for sales, Healthpad for medical informatics, and Barking, an application for sending information back to a company database.

In Australia the service has already been trialled with Optus and is now being rolled out across the local market.

The technology was developed in Australia and allows business mobile phone users to access, retrieve and send data from anywhere  allowing field employees to stay out of the office longer without having to access their main computer databases.

Applications of the technology are considered greatest in the transport, maintenance, health and sales sectors.

The founder and CEO of Retriever Communications, Mary Brittain-White, says the company is focusing its international expansion initially on Europe because its mobile technology "is far more advanced than the United States's".

The latest estimates suggest that by 2004 there will be more than 240 million European business digital mobile users, and Europe makes up 40 per cent of the worldwide business data market.

Retriever Communications is an example  after some initial overseas seed capital  where government financial assistance along with the investment of a number of local venture capital companies can keep the latest technology in Australia.

Brittain-White acquired the base telecommunications platform from a subsidiary of Apple in the United States, adapted the technology so it can support multiple hand-held users and then tailored the applications so they can meet the requirements of any individual company.

The digital forms have been set up to mirror a company's paper system, so a pen interface allows drop-down lists or even handwriting recognition so details can be filled into actual documents.

Brittain-White says the comparative advantage that Retriever's technology has is its broad application.

"You can write a piece of software for one customer in mobile data transfer and, while that's not easy, a number of people have been able to do this. The difference that we've achieved is that we've taken the technology to the next level up and so we're not just running it for one customer we're actually running this as a generic service and putting it out and that's different," she said.

sdabkowski@theage.fairfax.com.au


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