In 1843 a Scottish inventor, Alexander Bain, received a British patent for the first fax. Despite also inventing the electric clock and installing the first railway telegraph line, between Edinburgh and Glasgow, he died in poverty in 1877.
Nearly 170 years on, rumours of the demise of the fax since the introduction of email are greatly exaggerated, to paraphrase Mark Twain.
A month ago, a New Zealand start-up company, atSolutions, released its first fax product and already has six customers.
atFAX allows users to send, receive and manage faxes via email, multi-functional devices or web-based applications. It provides advanced fax management and searchable archive facilities as standard.
“It provides an alternative to costly, cumbersome fax server software and provides real advantages over traditional faxing,” says atSolutions managing director Steve Price. “It’s very secure.
“Customers want an integrated fax solution on the desktop.”
Major users of faxes include the district health boards, accountants and lawyers (they see fax as a way of authenticating signatures), logistics companies, manufacturers, pharmacists and stock and station agents.
atFAX’s low-end solution costs $1500; at the high end, $17,000. Price, who had spent 17 years in the copier industry, says that the high-end price compares to something like $100,000 for competing product RightFax.
An early customer is APN, publisher of The New Zealand Herald.
“They had 100 fax lines, costing around $35 each per month,” Price says. “We were able to reduce that to 16 lines but still retain 100 phone numbers via extensions.
The initial reseller of atFAX is Konica Minolta. Price says Xerox is testing it and he expects other copier providers to sign up.
“We will provide support and maintenance remotely for tier 1 resellers,” he says. “We’ll also do that for a tier 2 reseller, such as Konika Minolta, but they will do the installation. A tier 3 reseller will install and also provide support and maintenance.
A small install takes no more than one hour; an enterprise install up to four hours.
Every fax is archived via OCR and PDF. The archives reside on the hard drive of the appliance.
“Faxes are received electronically without having to be printed and there is no need for MFD fax modules or fax machines,” Price says. “Users can send and receive faxes without having to leave their desks.”
atFAX will also work on any remote device, where users log in via the web client.
“We think atFAX is unique in the Australian and New Zealand markets,” he says. “There is similar technology in Italy and the US, but it is limited to two or four fax lines.
“We are regarding New Zealand as a test market and will then look at Australia.”