Mobile Technology for Business Owners On the Go A look at several new portable devices and services for the modern road warrior.
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Hotel rooms. Coffee shops. Planes, trains and automobiles. Sometimes these remote places become a small-business owner's office when he or she is traveling. But just because you're on-the-go doesn't mean you can't stay connected to your business and keep up with the myriad of tasks on your plate.
Luckily for road-warrior types, a number of gadgets and high-tech services are designed for helping business owners boost productivity while on the move. Here's a look at some of the best:
Hands-Free Calling and Bluetooth Headsets
A number of high-quality, hands-free calling and wireless Bluetooth headsets can make it easier to participate in meetings or converse with colleagues while driving. The MoGo Talk XD and XD2 ($99.99) are practical options that offer four hours of talk time and noise and wind-reduction features, as their earpieces snap directly into a compatible iPhone case. Given this specialized housing, it's difficult to lose the devices.
Still, those looking for premium audio quality or a more stylish solution can try the Motorola Finiti ($129.99), whose three microphones do an excellent job of filtering out ambient background noise.
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While a little larger and less aesthetically pleasing than some of its rivals, the Platronics Voyager PRO+ ($99.99) is a contender as well. Its features include crisp call quality and an optional phone service that lets you use voice-activated commands to send email and texts, or listen to breaking news.
In-Car Apps and Online Connectivity
Car owners looking to stay connected also have several choices. Ford's SYNC with MyFordTouch hands-free, voice activated technology is available in a number of its models, including the 2011 Taurus and Explorer, and 2012 Focus and Mustang. It includes a color-coded dashboard display with dual 4.2-inch LCD monitors and the ability to access turn-by-turn directions or retrieve your phonebook for hands-free calling. You can also dictate Tweets or change radio stations via spoken command.
For Cadillac, Chevrolet, GMC or Buick owners, in-vehicle emergency and communications service OnStar offers a MyLink app that lets you turn your phone into a remote control. Using it, you can unlock your door, start the vehicle or activate your horn and lights from a distance.
Toyota will soon introduce an in-dash multimedia system called Entune, which pairs with smartphone apps so you can conduct online searches via Bing, book lunch meetings through OpenTable or access traffic reports and stock quotes.
GPS, Outdoor and Location-Based Devices
Business owners who frequently travel to remote areas might consider picking up the Spot Connect ($169.99 + $99.99/year). A puck-shaped navigator that connects your smartphone to communications satellites, it offers instant location tracking as well as the option to check in with the office anywhere, regardless of local cellular coverage.
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Pair that with the Spark Tablet PC Case (not yet priced, due Spring 2011) and you'll be ready to do remote fieldwork. The case is a lightweight, waterproof solar charger that stores a full charge with exposure to sunlight for your iPad or Samsung Galaxy Tab.
Should the need to capture on-site images for research, fact-finding or insurance purposes arise, Pentax's Optio WG-1 GPS digital camera ($399.95) can help as well. It's a rugged 14-megapixel model with video recording features that's water-, cold- and shock-proof. Additionally, it includes GPS geo-tagging features, so you can quickly associate images with your location.
Presentation and Public Speaking Tools
Portable presentation tools can be a must for mobile operations. Among the more intriguing options is HP's Pocket Whiteboard ($699.00), which attaches to your PC or laptop via a USB connector. By sketching with its stylus, you can transform almost any flat surface into a 10-foot tall drawing board ready to scribble flowcharts, diagrams or notes on.
Another is Papershow ($199), a wireless tool that allows you to write using the system's Bluetooth digital pen on a piece of interactive paper. Your notes will then appear on a Mac or PC via a wireless USB connector.
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While a more expensive solution for displaying sales pitches or market forecasts, the Sony Handycam HDR-PJ50V ($999.99) also promises to save you from carrying multiple gadgets. A two-in-one high-definition (HD) video camera and projector, it can record more than 90 hours of board meetings, presentations and product demos on a built-in 220 gigabyte hard drive. The device can also display up to 60-inch images on-command.
The next time the open road or a cross-country flight beckons, consider packing any or all of these devices along. Allowing you to stay productive while in-transit, all are ready to travel whenever you are.