Anoto's digital pen and paper due in 2001

Anoto could be the biggest thing to happen to paper since ink. Its real paper and Bluetooth-powered digital pen combo is turning heads at CeBIT
Written by Charles McLellan, Senior Editor on

Swedish company Anoto, developer of the innovative Bluetooth pen and digital paper system, is gearing up to drive its technology to market via a wide range of third parties. These include mobile phone makers, PC peripheral vendors and paper manufacturers.

Speaking to ZDNet UK at CeBIT 2001, Anoto's chairman Orjan Johansson outlined the company's plans for the renaissance of pen and paper, which centre around a raft of partnership agreements including a proposed one with pen computing specialist A T Cross.

Anoto's digital paper uses a pattern of very small printed dots, a tiny portion of which identifies a particular piece of papers' position in the total application space. You write on the paper with the Anoto pen -- a chunky ballpoint equipped with a miniature digital camera, an image processor and a Bluetooth transceiver -- and send the resulting output to your PC, your handheld, or anywhere else via the Internet using a Bluetooth-enabled mobile phone. Unique patterns within check boxes on the paper can be assigned functions such as email, fax and SMS.

See a picture of Anoto's Bluetooth pen

When Anoto technology reaches the market towards the end of this year, early adopters are most likely to encounter it as a bundle including the pen, a Bluetooth mobile phone and a starter pack of special paper. At CeBIT, Ericsson is showing an Anoto-based 'Chatpen' and is evaluating the technology as a potential 'value-add' for its recently released Bluetooth phones. Motorola and Logitech are also showing Anoto-based pens in Hannover.

Anoto has signed up a wide range of paper product manufacturers, including 3M, At-A-Glance, Charles Letts, Esselte, Filofax, Franklin Covey, Mead, Time Manager International and Time System International.

New mobile operators supporting the Anoto concept include Europolitan Vodafone, Telia's portal company, the wonderfully-named Speedy Tomato, and Spanish Telefónica Móviles. Ericsson Microsoft Mobile Venture plans to make Moso, its mobile email solution, compatible with Anoto, while Finnish telephone operator Sonera is also evaluating Anoto services.

So will we all be scribbling on digital notepads, organizers, advertisements, Post-It notes, maps, restaurant menus and so on anytime soon? Reviewers and early adopters will get their hands on Anoto products before the end of 2001, and the feedback generated will play a large part in what happens after that. If usability, reliability and security are all up to scratch, Anoto could deliver on its promise of a revolution in the way we interact with computer technology.

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