$750k I.B.M. Grant Boosts Tech. Services

Boston College has received a $750,000 research grant from IBM Corp. to help develop the next generation of advanced voice-messaging applications.

The grant, awarded through an IBM program that supports university research in areas of mutual interest, will allow Boston College to deliver new services to the campus and exploit the capabilities of its current IBM DirectTalk voice-messaging system.

"IBM is a valued partner to Boston College and has been instrumental in several major campus projects," said Executive Vice President Frank B. Campanella.

University President William P. Leahy, SJ, talks with Information Technology Director Martin Smith (left) and Robert Barthelmes, client executive for IBM higher education projects in North America, at a recent event announcing the grant. (Photo by Lee Pellegrini)
Boston College and IBM have worked on several joint projects over the past 30 years, most recently on Project Agora, which provided a voice and data connection to every undergraduate living on campus. BC was the first university to provide such a service. IBM provided consulting, project management and technology for Project Agora.

The new grant has enabled the University to receive state-of-the-art IBM "Deep Blue" technology, the same that was used to beat world champion Garry Kasparov in chess and to land the Pathfinder on Mars. BC plans to use this new equipment to develop and test new voice-messaging technologies, including text-to-speech and voice recognition, among others.

Working with IBM researchers in Hersley, England, the University will develop applications that exploit the technologies and provide new services to the Boston College community, said Associate Vice President for Information Technology Bernard W. Gleason Jr.

The integration of voice and data technologies is a goal of Project Delta, and cost-effective and efficient application systems are being designed so that the execution of an event in an administrative application system can trigger an automated voice message.

For example, if the computer system indicates that a student has not provided a piece of required information, it can instantly issue a voice message to the student, eliminating human involvement and all paper processing.

In addition, faculty will be able to communicate with their students through distribution lists, which will be updated automatically. BC is the first university to use such a system, Gleason said.

"This latest research grant from IBM, as well as the ones that preceded it, have allowed BC to exploit new technologies to provide better services to faculty, staff and students," Gleason said. "We thank IBM for its continued support."

Robert Barthelmes, client executive for IBM higher education projects in North America, said, "Boston College is recognized as a leader in the application of technology in higher education.

"Together with Boston College, we're creating and testing crucial technologies for the next generation of network-based, voice-messaging applications," Barthelmes said.

IT plans to have some of the new technologies in place at the start of the academic year.

- Mark Sullivan

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