Infocel of Rockville has introduced computer-based "information appliances" designed to improve time management and paper processing.
Its TimeTrac system uses small pocket-size computers that allow users to record data during their work day even when away from their desks and later transfer the data into a reading device that in turn feeds it into the system's main computer.
Its PaperFlo system uses electronic wands to read bar code labels affixed to documents to monitor where the documents have been, where they are and how long they have been at each location.
Infocel President Jan Lodal came up with the idea of developing products to help manage time and paperwork after his years of government service, including a stint as deputy to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger.
Infocel says the TimeTrac system's potential markets are commerce and government. The company sees the first market as lawyers, consultants, accountants and others who bill clients according to time spent on a project, according to Christopher Grover, Infocel's marketing communications director.
The second market is seen as people such as health and safety inspectors who need to enter data into a computerized system from remote locations. Grover gave as examples subway track inspectors who could record their observations on track conditions as they make their rounds, or government personnel who could keep track electronically of replacement parts for equipment.
The TimeTrac pocket unit's letter keys are in alphabetical order rather than the standard typewriter arrangement. This makes typing words comparatively slow, but Grover estimated that users would be entering words rather than number-based codes no more than 10 percent of the time.
An area accounting firm and an area law firm are testing TimeTrac for Infocel. The system will be available for delivery at the end of April. A typical system consisting of base station (an IBM PC), reader and 18 pocket units would cost approximately $25,000.
Grover said that Infocel is predicting TimeTrac sales of between $1 million and $2 million in the fiscal year ending Sept. 30.
The PaperFlo system comes into play when someone decides to keep and process a document. The first step would be to attach a preprinted bar code sticker to the document and register it by passing one of the electronic wands over the sticker. Typing at a NEC lap computer with special circuit boards added by Infocel, a user could enter into the PaperFlo system a name for the document, the number of copies, a priority category, other pertinent information and comments.
Each person who handles the document subsequently would record its progress and location by passing one of the electronic wands over the bar code sticker.
Grover said PaperFlo's potential customers are insurance companies and the personnel and purchasing departments of state and local governments and the federal government and of large companies. Bellevue Hospital in New York has been testing PaperFlo for six months in its personnel department.
A typical system would include 20 lap computers and wands and one base station (an AT&T 3B2 computer) and would cost $75,000, the company said. Infocel has forecast sales for PaperFlo of between $2 million and $4 million in the current fiscal year.
Grover said Infocel decided to use lap computers because they are unimposing and less threatening to first-time computer users. He also said that NEC was chosen because of the tilt of the keyboard surface and the way the cursor keys are clustered.
Lodal started Infocel in October 1983, and the new company purchased Fulcrum Computer Corp. that same month to serve as a source of profits and expertise while Infocel was developing new products. Fulcrum now is the Raleigh Minicomputer Systems division of Infocel. The division produces so-called turnkey computer systems, those that include hardware, software, instructions and service and that are ready to turn over to the user.
Grover said Infocel's overall sales for this fiscal year should be about $18 million compared with $12 million in the previous fiscal year. The company has 100 employes in Raleigh and its Information Appliance Division in Rockville, and expects to double the number of area employes from 25 to 50 by Oct. 1.
Three investment firms have put a total of more than $3 million in Infocel. Welsh, Carson, Anderson & Stowe is the lead investor. The others are Hambrecht & Quist and Vanguard Associates.