Thursday, February 21, 2013

5 Gadgets for Mobile Entrepreneurs

This is a guest post by Joe Pawlikowski.

Life on the road can be grueling. You sleep in an unfamiliar bed, you're away from friends and family, and you don't have the comfort of your at-home setup. That's not to mention the dozens of meetings that a traveling entrepreneur has to take every trip. It's all for a worthwhile goal, but it can take a toll even on the travel-savviest entrepreneurs.

As with all life's endeavors, there are ways to lessen the impact of frequent travel. The following gadgets won't make your bed feel more familiar, nor will they bring your friends and family to you in the flesh (Skype will still have to suffice). But they can make life quite a bit easier when you're placed in those uncomfortable travel situations.

1. Primo Micro Battery Pack

As our mobile society grows, we're seeing more and more outlets in the places we need them. You'll see charging kiosks in many places, from malls to airports. Yet they are less than ideal solutions, since they either cost money or are perpetually crowded. Plus, you need ample free time for your smartphone or tablet to charge. Who has that kind of time, especially when traveling?

The Primo Micro Battery Pack gives your iPhone an extra jolt of battery when you don't have the time, or a place, to plug into a wall. It provides a significant kick, too, enough to last three hours of talk time. That should get you to your next wall outlet, ready for a full, fresh charge.

Check out the Primo Micro Battery Pack for iPhone. If you have an Android, you can just buy a spare battery.

2. Intuit GoPayment

When you land a sale, you want to go from handshake to payment as quickly as possible. The greater the friction between those two points, the greater the chance the sale falls through. When you're on the road making sales, though, you might have to take a few more steps than you would for internet and phone orders.

If you want to reduce friction while away from your normal sales environment, you need a way to accept payments instantly. Accessories such as Intuit's GoPayment, which plugs right into your smartphone's headphone jack, allows you to process credit cards on the spot. The app can email receipts instantly, making for one quick, smooth sales process.

Intuit actually has a full suite of point of sale hardware, including static and mobile terminals. With seamless sync between the two, it's a must-have for traveling -- and stationary -- entrepreneurs.

3. CarCheckup

If you've ever traveled for business by car, you know the pains that go along with mileage recording. Forget to log the starting mileage on the odometer and you'll have a hard time getting an accurate reading on your mileage -- and if you overshoot it could amount to fraud. Thankfully there is a device that can make life easier for everyone involved.

CarCheckup is a device that plugs right into your car's computer (and it's easier to locate than you might think). It automatically logs your trip, from start to finish. Once you're done you can plug it into your computer via USB and export all the data. As a bonus, it can even let you know what's wrong when your check engine light turns on.

If you travel by car for business, or send employees on car trips, CarCheckup's automatic mileage tool is an absolute essential.

4. LoJack for Laptops

OK, so this isn't technically a gadget. It's software, but that doesn't make it any less essential for traveling entrepreneurs. Most small businesses can't afford intricate IT systems. Some of them can outsource the issue, but even then businesses with fewer than 20 employees typically can't justify that expense. For the most part it's not a big issue. But when traveling, the lack of a central IT unit can be problematic.

Laptops get stolen. They don't get stolen quite as often as in the past, thanks to tracking hardware and software that can locate the laptop and bust the criminal. But it still happens. When it does happen, your private data can be compromised. LoJack for Laptops allows you to lock your laptop, keeping prying eyes away. For the super-paranoid, a delete option is included, along with recovery (for when you get a new laptop or recover the old one).

With plans that start at $40 per year, it's hard to ignore the insurance you get from LoJack for Laptops software.

5. Microcone

Recording meetings can be a pain. Even today most meetings are recorded by hand, with someone taking minutes. Audio recording can work to an extent, but with multiple people speaking it can become difficult to decipher. Yet the solution might be a device that looks very little like a traditional microphone. Microcone is an omnidirectional mic that not only captures a conversation from all sides, but can also identify speakers.

Not only does the Microcone clearly capture multiparty conversations, but it can also make it easier to identify exactly who is speaking. Meetings today typically involve not only in-person participants, but those participating remotely via Skype. The Microcone software can identify everyone's voice, making meetings clearer and easier to understand.

It's the most expensive item on this list, but it also has the potential to change the way you conduct meetings. Make sure to read up about Microcone and its software to see if it works for your meetings.

About the Author
Joe Pawlikowski is a blogger and small business owner who specializes in mobile technology. He recently launched MobileMoo, a mobile technology site combining his previous sites such as BBGeeks and AndGeeks.