KIOSK-BASED COMMUNICATIONS SYSTEM FOR HOSTELLERS (European Telecom; 12/01/98) Dec. 01, 1998 (EUROPEAN TELECOMMUNICATIONS, Vol. 16, No. 23 via COMTEX) -- The International Youth Hotel Federation, the organisation at the centre of some 4,500 hostels in more than 60 countries worldwide, is piloting an innovative kiosk-based international communications network (ICN), which is believed to be the world's first all- encompassing communications service for the budget traveller. ICN will provide travellers with a variety of communications and information- retrieval facilities, including the ability to make low-cost international phone calls, collect and send emails, retrieve and send voicemails, send faxes, send telegrams, view and book accommodation. The system will be housed in purpose-built kiosks, located at major youth hostels worldwide. Designed and implemented by Netherlands-based Backbone Systems NV, a consortium of which London-based Abacus Software is the lead technical partner, the pilot system, which will run until a major review at the end of this year, is being installed in 20 youth hostels throughout Europe and the Pacific Rim. Rawden Lau of the IYHF said: "The new kiosk system forms the basis of our communications strategy for the next ten years, and confirms the Federation's commitment to the use of the latest technology to provide flexible, easy to use, internationally-seamless communications services to our members." Travellers will initially use a IYHF phone-card for the new system, but it is planned to replace this with a smart card when the system rolls out next year. The kiosks contain a PC with a touch- screen and three primary software components: the user interface (written in Delphi), and the applications and communications software (both written in Java, by Abacus for the IYHF). Using the pre-paid card (which comes in denominations of 40 or 100 units), travellers can make use of the range of communications services at up to 30% less cost than standard costs. The card-holder can access the Internet or set up a special email address which can be reached via any telecommunications network, meaning that friends and family at home can always reach the traveller by sending a message. This can be recovered at any hostel kiosk on the traveller's route, without having to worry about different or unfamiliar services in foreign countries. Each kiosk also provides a local home page at the hostel site which offers information for travellers, a 'what's on' guide for that particular region, a bulletin board where travellers can leave messages for each other and a link to the original hostel booking network which shows bed availability for all participating hostels.
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