Top Gadgets for Business

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Top Gadgets for Business

Most people like gadgets, perhaps its the child in us that still likes fiddling around with interesting objects, and those of us who canít afford gadgets still fantasise about one day being able to. A good business gadget though not only has to be fun or at least interesting, not only easy to use, but also worthwhile as a sound investment and business asset. Here are some suggestions.

By Robin Whitlock

One of the most popular and worthwhile business gadgets is of course the smartphone, the Blackberry is the most well known but has been joined by the iPaq and the Treo among others in recent years. Smartphones are now a standard piece of kit among switched-on business people, but hand-held devices are changing rapidly since the real news of late is the appearance of 3G for improved connectivity. What is 3G? Well it stands for ĎThird generationí, that is to say the Ďthird generation of wireless networksí, termed Ď3Gí for short. 3G enabled devices have enhanced capabilities such as high speed transmission, advanced multimedia access and global roaming. They can also support video-conferencing, through the inclusion of two cameras, one of which faces the operator, and internet television (IPTV). 3G networks operate at a speed of between 128 and 144 kbps (kilobits per second) for pedestrians and even faster, that is to say beyond 2 Mbps, for fixed wireless devices. This however is only really true of urban areas. Outside the main towns and cities these devices tend to rely on GPRS access and therefore the speed drops as a result.

Nevertheless, these devices have many advantages. They work through a 3G Data card which allows laptops and PCís to use the internet via mobile phone networks. This card plugs into an internal broadband modem that is built into your laptop or PC. This gets rid of the need to fork out for a USB modem stick but does require you to sign up for a pay-as-you-go or monthly broadband package or a longer 24, 18 or 12 month broadband contract. This is the main way in which 3G differs from the Wi-fi network. The 3G devices are not locked into contracts with specific providers, so you donít have to stick with one particular network. All 3G cards are HSDPA and HSUPA capable in order to keep up with the UKís 3G network as itís updated. If this sounds like gobbledegook by the way, HSDPA stands for High Speed Downlink Packet Access and HSUPA is High Speed Uplink Packet Access. Be warned, 3G devices are not cheap but can be very useful for business people who find themselves constantly on the move and therefore may very well be a sound investment. Among the computer manufacturerís already offering built-in 3G cards, Dell offers itís Inspiron 1525, XPS M1330 and XPS M1530. Sony has developed itís Vaio SZ and TZ series and Fujitsu Siemens has brought out the Lifebook E range. There are quite a few others out there as well so its worth shopping around.

Another option, if you canít afford access to the 3G network and therefore have to continue putting with the existing Wi-fi network, is to buy a Wi-fi scanner. This is a small device rather like a photographers hand-held light meter, well that is before the advent of digital cameras with built in light meters at least. A Wi-fi scanner has the advantage of eliminating the need for you to unpack your laptop, open it up and switch it on only for you to find that youíre not currently in a Wi-fi hotspot. Some of these scanners are small enough for you to slip on to your keyring and therefore are easy to store when not in use. These handy little devices are available from such companies as Wefi, Barbelo (a Wi-fi toolset for the Symbian S-60), Wi-fi Radar, Psiloc and Handy Wi.

Bluetooth in-car communication systems which enable you to use your mobile hands-free are now a standard feature of the gadgetry world, meaning there is no longer any excuse for anyone to risk ruining their life by fumbling around with a mobile while driving with the police like hawks along the way. Bluetooth systems are now starting to become standard fittings as car manufacturers rush to do deals with communication companies. For example VW did a deal with Vodafone last year which means that the Bluetooth system is now automatically fitted into VW Passats. Similarly, Microsoft and Fiat are collaborating on a system which will enable drivers to control their gadgets automatically through buttons on the steering wheel. You can of course already buy Bluetooth kits for as little as £20 - £30 if you donít want to wait for an automatically fitted system, but I would guess that such in-car technology will be rapidly taken for granted within the next few years.

There are many other interesting gadgets out there which should be and are of enormous interest to business. From encrypted USB storage devices to Skype phones to i-Cache, the range of handy, interesting and worthwhile gadgets is large and growing. Iíve only mentioned a few here, but with any luck I should be returning to this subject shortly. Watch this space.

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