Time-Saving, Smarter Tech – Gadgets and Services for Business Pros

By Nathan Menoian
March/April 2009

Whether working behind a desk, driving to meet new clients, or traveling the globe to conduct business, the everyday benefits of modern technology are increasing.

Consider how archaic business would be today if not for desktop and laptop computers, wireless devices, constant upgrades to software and the cutting edge companies bringing new products to the marketplace.

Increased productivity and working smarter in a fast-paced society is the bottom line of business technology. Even the most basic cell phone becomes a road warrior’s friend, and with upgraded service packages, becomes more like a personal assistant.

Paul Diaz, who owns Wixom, Mich.-based Technology and Marketing Incorporated, travels to China twice a year, visiting the many factories manufacturing the speed sensors, exhaust gas recirculation valves and mirror components his company sells to automakers.

The BlackBerry Curve

“Even in this current economy my business is thriving, but I need to be in touch and available to my business partners, customers and suppliers 24/7,” says Diaz. “My main phone is a Motorola Q9C, with Sprint as the service provider. It does the job, meets my needs, and I go everywhere with it.”

While commuting from one factory to another, Diaz catches up on e-mails, a time-saving exercise during his two-week visits.

Brothers Greg and David Gagnon, who own five Wireless Zone stores in metro Detroit, have made the sale of cell phones and accessories their bread and butter, with BlackBerry, Samsung and Motorola brands among their staples.

“Busy executives need products that will make their time more effective and their day run smoother,” says Greg Gagnon. “Texting, which is more efficient time wise, is now one of the most popular additions in the cellular phone industry.”

Steve Jackson, president and CEO of Madison Heights, Mich.-based Hungry Howie’s Pizza, is sold on his BlackBerry Curve device, which he says has greatly increased his productivity.

The Motorola Q9C

“It’s instant communication, no matter where you are,” says Jackson. “If someone fires an e-mail to me or someone else here, we have it immediately. Having attachments, calendars, contacts and GPS at our fingertips is an extreme benefit for someone with a busy schedule.”

Citing an example of the versatility of the technology, Jackson recalls a situation where a contractor building a store in California had a question; the issue was quickly resolved after Jackson received a photo taken on the spot with a cell phone.

As Michael Lauretti would attest, the benefit of today’s technology applies to law enforcement as well.

Lauretti, who for the last five years has been chief of police for the city of Eastpointe, Mich., uses a Samsung Omnia phone to maximize his time and productivity. A 29-year veteran of the force, Lauretti says he’s become adept at identifying ways to improve the department’s efficiency.

“I attend many meetings, and when a question on our labor contract, police contacts, etc. comes up -“ I’m ready. Those documents, more than 25 pages, are downloaded on my phone, and within a minute I can retrieve the necessary information,” he says.

The immediacy also applies in the event a crime takes place.

“If I need to be notified while in a meeting, a text message is sent to me, and without disrupting that meeting, I can reply back to the message with no phone call necessary.”

The same technology that has improved the function of cell phones is finding its way into other products and with similar benefits.

Audience participation with Fleetwood Group’s Reply System device gives quick results to any question, survey or voting tallies.

One manufacturer of handheld devices that’s helping companies is Holland, Mich.-based Fleetwood Group.

Pat Moody, vice president of sales and marketing for Fleetwood, says, “Our Reply systems are portable interactive audience response and electronic voting tools commonly used in meetings, training, decision making and research applications.”

Participants use wireless keypads to respond to questions. More than 2 million are in use worldwide. Responses are entered, with a computer tallying them for display onto a projection screen for participants and the meeting host to review.

Applications include delegate and shareholder voting sessions, classroom training, group decision support and strategic planning, focus groups, customer surveys, advertising testing, political polling and TV game shows.

One Fleetwood customer is Commerce Township, Mich.-based Innovision Inc., which has been providing professional wireless audience response services since the technology was invented.

When a global company hired the firm for an employee meeting, Innovision made sure each of the 685 attendees had a mini-keypad response device in hand to capture thoughts on how they were doing in key areas as well as what they felt the company needed to do to improve.

“Those are the type of things a company needs to know in order to change going forward,” says Innovision Vice President Todd Skiles.

Another growing technology is one that brings outdoor light indoors.

The Dawn Simulator 320

One company involved in that area is Jackson, Mich.-based Full Spectrum Solutions, which manufactures lamps that replicate the natural daylight that’s said to improve both vision and workplace productivity.

Joelle Kolhagen, Full Spectrum’s director of marketing, says the company’s products, including commercial style, ergonomic lighting for industry, warehouses, physicians and other professional offices as well as portable units for home and travel, are popular, especially with those on a busy schedule.

“Our Dawn Simulator 320 is one for people on the go,” notes Kolhagen. “It’s something to jump start their morning, mimicking a natural morning sunrise or evening sunset using LED bulbs. Half an hour before you need to be out of bed, the light begins growing and gradually increases until it as at full noonday strength for the time you set.”

Yet another area of technology that’s growing in popularity is one that replaces listening to voice messages with simply reading.

SpinVox technology converts voice messages to text.

Companies like SpinVox, Jott Network and SimulScribe are among those that are experiencing growth in this area. These tools can even add sentence structure and punctuation when converting voice messages to text. SpinVox provides service across five continents in six languages: Spanish, English, French, German, Portuguese and Italian.

A company spokesperson says SpinVox was designed with the modern professional in mind, allowing users to stay better organized no matter where they are.

Sometimes, innovation is designed to protect ourselves from the technology itself, such as the case with a line of computer accessories from Smartfish Technologies, each designed to avoid repetitive stress injuries.

Among them is a decidedly high tech keyboard equipped with its own computer. By tracking a user’s typing activity then using a robotic motor to periodically reposition the keyboard to alleviate discomfort, improved productivity is the result, says Alan Shafer, Smartfish chief marketing office and executive vice president.

The Smartfish Pro:Motion Keyboard.

“It’s revolutionary,” he says of the device, among several Smartfish products ex-pected to be available by May 2009 at ABC Warehouse and Microcenter stores.

So whether it’s a cell phone, interactive handheld device, smart lighting, voice conversion software, computer accessories or other technology, the bottom line is that it all helps businesses and their people work smarter, stay connected and better manage their time.