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Sensible Gizmodia

Amid the onslaught of new business technologies that promise so much but often deliver so little, there are a few diamonds-in-the-rough worthy of serious consideration. If you are researching ways to enhance your training business’s overall productivity this year, here is a sampling of devices to think about.

Next Generation GPS:
Directions and Traffic

Before any of you owners of mobile training businesses rush out and update your cars with a GPS (global positioning system) device, check out the next generation unit from Dash Navigation (www.dash.net).

Besides door-to-door driving directions, Dash also offers up-to-the-minute traffic reports on the roads you’ll be traveling. Traffic data come from a history of traffic patterns that Dash maintains for all major roads, as well as current reports from users of the system who are driving the roads you’ll be using.

“Unlike other GPS devices, the Dash device can actually calculate the fastest route to your destination based on up-to-the-minute traffic flow data on all possible routes—as well as constantly search for better routes based on the latest information while en route,” says Tim Bajarin, a creative strategies technology analyst at Dash.

Each Dash device comes preprogrammed with traffic-flow history for all major roads, as well as more typical GPS data, such as info on restaurants and other services convenient to a particular route. For example, Dash users can type fajitas to get a list of restaurants in the area that serve fajitas; pick one; and then get routed to it. Dash users can also pick out a movie theater based on showtimes or choose a gas station based on current gas prices.

Rollout of the device in California is promised for early 2007, and availability to the rest of the nation is slated for summer 2007.

Skype™ DualPhone: Landline and Internet Calling in One Unit ($99)

Business users still a little leery of the voice quality of Internet phone can now have a unit that effortlessly switches between Internet and conventional landline telephone calls.

Marketed by Skype, the Internet telephone service provider that offers free Internet calling worldwide between Skype members, the Cordless DUALphone simultaneously connects to a conventional phone socket and to the USB port of your PC. Visit http://us.accessories.skype.com/
direct/skypeusa/itemdetl.jsp?prod=2831 for product details.

Users simply pick up the phone to make a conventional call, or press a green button on the handset if they prefer to make a call over the Internet to another Skype user. Skype also offers conference calling, call forwarding and call waiting. What’s more, users can take advantage of Skype’s Internet-to-landline phone service, which is aggressively priced. One potential disappointment: the unit works only on Windows XP/
2000/2003 Server, so Mac users are out of luck.

Bose® QuietComfort® 2
Headphones ($299)

While the Bose name is legendary among many audiophiles, one of the primary selling points on this unit is its noise cancellation. Unlike units offered by some other companies, these headphones provide substantial noise cancellation.

After eyeing these longingly for years, I finally broke down about 6 months ago and bought a pair, silently grousing about the price.

As I suspected, the sound quality on the headphones was superb: walking through an airport, I felt like I had a pair of high-end stereo speakers strapped to my head.

The surprise, though, was the noise cancellation. Play music at an enjoyable sound level with these puppies at a busy airport, and you’ll think you’re in the waiting room of a nearly vacant doctor’s office. Translation: these really can reduce the stress level of potentially stressful places and make any “ride” or experience much more comfortable.

Of course, the headphones work with all sorts of music players, including MP3s, CD and DVD players, notebook computers, in-flight audio systems and home stereos. And the sound reproduction is quite good even with compressed music formats like MP3s.

The only downside is that these unapologetically full-sized headphones might make some users feel a bit geeky wearing them (for shame, you less-than-audiophiles). Fortunately, Bose does make a smaller, more fashionable version, known as Bose QuietComfort 3, at $349. You’ll look cooler with the QuietComfort 3s, but you may sacrifice a smidgen of sound quality. Go to www.bose.com/
index for more information.

Palm® Treo™ 700w Smartphone ($399 Sprint; $299 Verizon)

While there are lots of clunky PDA/phone devices out there on the market, the
Treo (www.palm.com/us/products/smart
phones/treo700w/index.html?creativeID=LFB|treo700w_wx_learn_more_kefta) is one of the most efficient and elegantly designed, as far as I’m concerned. Buttons are where they should be; scrolling through menus is extremely intuitive; and you’re able to get your work and calls done fast.

The Treo lets you connect with people by voice, e-mail and text, and your contacts are always reachable from any application. For diversion, you’ll also be able to play your favorite music and videos.

The included Microsoft Windows Mobile 5.0 software lets you use Microsoft’s suite of mobile applications. Plus, you’re able to secure all your work and keep your data in nonvolatile flash memory, which means your data stays
secure and in one piece even when you’re changing batteries. Microsoft ActiveSync software, which syncs the unit with your other computer, also comes with the Treo.

Belkin SportCommand™ Remote Armband ($79)

Virtually anyone who works out or jogs while trying to listen to an audiobook or business podcast on their iPod has trouble fiddling with the controls. This armband solves that problem with a compact, wireless iPod control panel that straps snugly to your arm.

With big buttons, the armband remote makes adjusting volume or skipping
to a new presentation between reps a snap. All told, you’ll have access to play/
pause, next/previous track and volume up/down.

The armband fits in place with a Velcro® fastener, is water-resistant and hand washable, and has a 50-foot range. Check it out at www.belkin.com/press
room / releases/uploads / 10_09_06Sport

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