Fastap keypad is a standout innovation among the barrage of new input devices for mobile phones and PDAs hitting the market. Billed as a replacement for the 50-year old telephone keypad, the Fastap utilises the space between buttons to superimpose numeric and alphabetic keyboards onto each other and create the equivalent of a desktop keyboard - with each character having its own key - in an area smaller than a credit card. For ease of use the letter and punctuation keys are raised above the level of the numbers and there is scope to implement non-alphanumeric keys that perform any pre-determined function. The Fastap's potential to increase input speed and reduce errors is obvious to anyone who has ever grappled with the cumbersome triple tapping required to add names to mobile phone address books. Ultimately, the aim is to apply the device in a broad range of applications including two-way pagers, PDAs, handheld computers, landline phones, e-books, GPS devices and MP3 players. Chinese and Japanese character versions are in development and either customised or QWERTY layouts are also available.
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The concept of the Fastap was patented in 1993 by Digit Wireless founder David Levy who foresaw the inadequacies of existing keypad design in the context of the handheld revolution. As to when we will see the Fastap in action, that's up to the manufacturers of mobiles and other devices, but the process is underway with Digital Wireless announcing partnerships with Canadian Wireless provider TELUS Mobility, content provider Chasma, CMG and others that could see the product reach the consumer marketplace within the next 12 months.
Awarded the Wireless Technology Lab Annual Fall Event Award for Innovations in Wireless in 2002, Fastap is being marketed as offering benefits to the whole of the wireless communications industry and, if predictions that Fastap will increase use of SMS (already expected to top 100 billion messages per month worldwide in 2003) by as much as 25% per user are in any way accurate, then the positive flow on effects are obvious.