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Get set to text in your mother tongue
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#1
Mobile phone users in rural India and the not-so-well-versed in English will soon be able to express themselves better by sending SMSes
in their mother tongue.Researchers, including professors from the Indian Institute of Technology (IIT- Madras) and others at the Centre for Excellence in Wireless Technology (CEWiT) have successfully developed a 7-bit encoding scheme for 22 Indian languages that will not just help people send SMSes in Tamil, Marathi or Assamese but also transliterate scripts keyed in one language into another.

A fortnight ago, the global mobile standards body 3GPP (3rd Generation Partnership Project) approved the technology. Now, cellular operators, mobile phone manufacturers, value added service providers and the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India have all agreed to adopt the technology.

If everything goes as planned at the CEWiT, set up by the Union department of information technology in collaboration with the telecom industry and housed in the IIT-Madras campus, in a year's time the technology could fuel m-governance in a big way. Government departments and banks would be able to communicate effectively with millions of mobile phone users in 22 Indian languages on new schemes and updates.

Researchers led by CEWiT's Nadeem Akthar began working on the encoding scheme for Indian languages after the Turkish telecom regulator forced the 3GPP standards body to open up SMS for non-English languages last year.

"When the global mobile standards body agreed to open up SMS in local languages, it presumed that every country has only one language. In India we've 22 official languages and our SMS market and volume is low because we don't have facility to use the regional language. We started off our work by taking the encoding used in computers and began modifying it to suit wireless technology application on mobile phones," professor Bhaskar Ramamurthi, honorary director, CEWiT and dean (planning), IIT Madras told TOI.

"A mobile phone's SMS capacity is only 140 bytes (8 bits constitute a byte). For sending an SMS in English we need just 7 bits per character. Therefore, the maximum characters that you can send in one SMS is 160 characters (140 bytes x 8 bits / 7 bits per character). However, Unicode which supports all languages in the world requires 16 bits per character, which would have restricted one regional language SMS to just 70 characters. So we decided to develop a 7-bit encoding system which will allow users to send 160 characters in the regional language," he explained.

The research team then designed 10 Indian language tables which can support official languages because of similarities in scripts used by different languages and also enable encoding messages in both uni-lingual (Indic only) and bi-lingual (Indic + English) fonts. For instance the character 'Ka' is encoded using the same bits in all languages.

"Our task isn't over. The challenge lies in implementing the technology. We now need to come up with the fonts, a user-friendly mobile phone keypad layout, display screen and also find a solution to legacy (existing) handsets, which currently don't have the feature. People can't throw away the legacy handsets, so we've to find a way to enable the technology in existing mobile phones," said Ramamurthi.

A task force will be set up shortly to "work feverishly" to complete these tasks and the CEWiT team hopes that in a year's time mobile phone manufacturers and service providers would be able to usher in the language revolution in wireless technology.

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#2
For sending and reading sms in Indian language INDISMS is the best and Free application available on http://www.eternoinfotech.com
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