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Companies, agencies team up on extranets

High-tech firms and associations are working with federal agencies to develop an experimental Internet-based information system to enable manufacturers to work together online and respond to customer needs anywhere in the world.

An alliance of high-tech firms and associations is working with federal agencies to develop an experimental Internet-based information system to enable manufacturers to work together online and respond to customer needs anywhere in the world.

The industry consortium sponsoring the initiative, InfoTest International, calls its Enhanced Product Realization the world's largest Internet-based manufacturing technology trial.

"The big Internet story for 1997 and beyond will be the ability to tap the power of tomorrow's 'extranets,' virtual private networks that use the public Internet to enable inter-enterprise collaborative business applications, such as electronic commerce and supply chain management," Troy Eid, InfoTest executive director, said in a statement.

Enhanced Product Realization integrates the Internet with other technologies to enable collaborative manufacturing and electronic commerce on products providing computer-assisted design and manufacturing, data management, data interchange, and multipoint desktop videoconferencing.

"These applications are used by U.S. manufacturers today, but typically work only with proprietary systems," Eid said. "This closed systems environment makes it tough to link the entire product supply chain--manufacturers, suppliers, dealers, off-site contractors and customers--since different computers and networks don't talk to each other.

InfoTest is conducting a series of Internet technology trials for other industries, including health care and retail.

Participants in the project include 3M, Bay Networks, Caterpillar, Digital Equipment, Global Commerce Link, Hewlett-Packard, Hughes Electronics, IBM, Institute for Defense Analyses, Sprint, Texas Instruments, the General Services Administration, and Lawrence Livermore , Oak Ridge, and Sandia National Laboratories.