The mission of Brooktrout, a maker of software and circuit boards, is to make the word incommunicado obsolete.
Brooktrout's Eric Giler aims to haul in clients for voice, fax, and e-mail communications integrated via speech recognition. (Globe Staff Photo / Barry Chin)
''We make some of the stuff that makes the Internet work,'' said Eric Giler, president of Needham-based Brooktrout.
Some of that Brooktrout stuff is used in so-called unified messaging systems. For a traveling business executive, these systems can mean getting all voice mails, e-mails, faxes, and wireless communications in one place.
When voice-recognition technology improves, something expected to happen soon, voice mail will be able to be translated into e-mail, and vice versa. Such tools can make big companies far more efficient.
Brooktrout rarely sells to end-users. Rather, it provides components to such firms as Lucent Technologies Inc. and Nortel Networks Corp., which make sophisticated communications systems.
As Giler sees it, Brooktrout sits at the place where the telephone system and the Internet are converging, and that may have all sorts of implications for e-commerce retailers.
Suppose a shopper visits a retail Web site. Now shoppers are often on their own as they attempt to navigate these sites. But soon many sites will feature an Internet voice button that will let a shopper have a real-time conversation with a customer service representative. Essentially, the shopper's personal computer becomes a telephone as well as a display screen, as the service rep guides shoppers through the pages of a Web catalog.
While such technology hasn't gone mainstream yet, Brooktrout can already say it's been a profitable Internet company for years. Partly because of charges related to a 1998 acquisition and partly because of a subsidiary spinoff in 1999, profits surged to $19.15 million in 1999 from $333,000 in 1998. Sales rose 40 percent to $140.7 million.