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When a Soda Is a Phone Call Away: What the Future Holds for Mobiles

To hear telecommunications executives talk, in the future mobile phones may be able to do everything but bring you your slippers.

This month, Nokia launched a new version of its Communicator mobile phone, which allows users to send a fax or log on to the Internet. It will be able to transmit data at 36,000 baud - four times as fast as previous incarnations.

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The other possible uses for new generation digital mobile-phone computers are legion. At Telecom Finland's Helsinki headquarters, employees open the garage doors by a mobile call. The system automatically checks that the caller has security clearance.

Students at the University of Helsinki can buy a soda from a vending machine by dialing a number with their mobile. The cost is added to their phone bill. Similar experiments allow Finns to use their mobile phone to get a car washed or choose a song from a jukebox.

At the University of Art and Design in Helsinki, students already are envisaging telephones that include or hook easily onto full-size computer screens. Nokia expects to begin producing these new handsets by 2001. "You should be able to pick up your mobile and connect on a video conference with anyone in the world," predicts Nokia executive Pekka Isosomppi. "And you'll be able to use your phone instead of a mobile computer."

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