A text-to-voice option for Aether Systems' MobileMax wireless communications system will allow drivers to listen to all or part of any messages sent while they are on the road. Other new technology announced by the company includes an interface for handheld devices, Web-based hosting and wireless driver e-mail.

Due to be release in mid-2004, the text-to-voice option is a plug-in module running Windows CE. It features new technology providing natural-sounding speech with an unlimited vocabulary, according to Aether. It can be easily configured to read any portion of a message, while the rest of the message will be stored on the in-cab unit for later review by the driver. The new option carries no additional wireless or message charges.

The handheld interface will allow fleets to replace the standard MobileMax keyboard with portable Windows CE devices that include bar code scanning, signature capture and other handheld applications. Once attached to a cradle, the handhelds will then use the Aether multi-mode wireless network to transfer the captured data. The handheld will also receive and display messages for the driver.

The new email service uses a prepaid card issued by Transcommunications to allow drivers to send and receive personal emails completely outside of their fleet communication network. Charges are 25c/100-character email sent or received.

Aether's new Web-host platform was developed for all of its transportation products, including MobileMax, the trailer tracking systems GeoLogic and TrailerMax, and the metropolitan-area 20/20V system. Fleets can now choose to let Aether host the applications on its Web servers or they can continue running them on their own AS/400 or Windows-based systems.