Your start-up firm does not want to hire a receptionist, so you put take turns fielding inquiries. Or you put a telephone in front of a locked door so people can get “buzzed in.”
Win Straube has a better idea. He offers the Ebu-Arts 24-hour receptionist, a touch screen that allows visitors to be greeted by an unlimited number of individual offices , even by a live receptionist. The visitor approaches a touch-screen monitor to get a directory of departments or tenants and names to contact. It can also summon the company’s Web site.
The idea is not unique, Straube admits. “This is a special application which hit us on the head in our day to day work. It was a very logical thing for us to come up with.”
Logical for him it certainly was. The 20-year-old Straube Center on West Franklin Avenue in Pennington has 45 companies housed in 11 buildings, a total of 55,000 square feet, all wired with the latest technology. Imagine trying to guide a visitor to the right place in this sprawling complex. The electronic receptionist works perfectly in this context.This ATM-like software is also be perfect for any office park (the Carnegie Center comes to mind) or department store.
“Busy reception areas can be equipped with a battery of Ebu-Arts receptionists,” he says, “each doing its job independently of the rest. Thus many people are being served simultaneously, even if each is looking for totally disparate contacts or information.”
“Technologically there is nothing out of the ordinary. The only thing new is the application,” says Straube. “There is room for lots of competitors, but our competitive advantage is that we are the experts in running offices.”
EBU stands for Electronic Business Universe but, as he also points out, tongue in cheek, it also stands for Easy But Unique or Everyone Being Up to date.
If you assemble the required hardware, the software can cost a minimum of $300. If the Straube company buys the hardware for you, you pay a five percent procurement fee and the minimum cost for a stand-alone unit would hover at about $5,000. Leased, that unit would cost about $333 per month.
Possible add-ons include a live receptionist that can be summoned with a touch that turns on two video cameras. “If the live receptionist is a room away, it will not be very expensive,” he explains. “If the receptionist is 11 buildings away, the length of the connection costs you money, and there are technical limitations to the telephone wires. The cost is two video cameras, the wire, and the software.”
Straube says he had nurtured this invention in his mental bag of ideas for a long while. It’s worth noting his three criteria for the go-ahead on a project: Is there a prototype that works? Is the technology protectable? And is there a big market? This qualifies on all three counts.
He started to put it together in July. The programming, he says, was done with Straube Center staff and help from faculty and students from Mercer County Community College and Rider University.
The touch screen technology is being used in lots of whimsical ways, Straube points out. “The techies are having a ball game with all of the fancy things they can do. It excites people. but does not necessarily fill a specific need. Our software happens to do a job that otherwise a person would have to do.”
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