Technology for the busy HR professional

PDA

A portable digital assistant is a palmtop computer, such as a Psion or a Palm. The first PDAs were little more than digital personal organisers but recent

developments and add-ons mean that they can offer Internet access, email, digital voice recording and can even be turned into a GSM mobile phone. PDAs can

be synchronised with your desktop PC and data

downloaded from- and to each.

 

Who are the main players?

The market was dominated by Palm and Psion until

Handspring introduced the Visor earlier this year

(which is made by the original maker of the Palm

Pilot). Visor is a nifty device in its own right but

its Springboard port makes it very easy to add

peripherals, including a camera and a modem. Also

check out Microsoft’s new operating system, Pocket PC,

used in Compaq’s iPaq and Hewlett Packard’s Journada

which features cut-down versions of Word, Excel,

Outlook and Explorer. Other products to look out for

include Sony’s forthcoming PDA, which uses the same

operating system as Palm. Also due imminently are PDA

phones, with Orange promising one in time for

Christmas.

 

What should I buy?

Choose Palm Vx and fork out another £100 for Ubinetics

Palm companion, which turns it into a GSM mobile phone

allowing you to surf the Internet and check your

email.

 

User’s tip: Go to www.zdnet.com/downloads and

www.download.com for useful PDA software downloads.

Also, make a note on your PDA to back-up at a certain

time every day or few days, depending how much you use

it.

 

Further information:

www.microsoft.com

www.palm.com

www.psion.com

www.handspring.com

www.orange.com

www.sony.com

www.casio.co.uk

hp.com/uk

www.compaq.co.uk

www.ubinetics.com

www.zdnet.com/downloads

www.download.com

 

 

WAP phone

A Wireless Application Protocol mobile phone allows

the user to access parts of the Internet remotely. Of

course, because of practicalities like the small

screen, you can’t experience all the bells and

whistles of a typical Web page, but it is good enough

to peruse CVs from an online recruiter or to check

travel timetables.

 

Who are the main players?

In short, all the big mobile phone names: Nokia,

Ericsson, Motorola, Siemens et al. The best advice is

to check out services on offer by the phone networks

at their respective Web sites.

 

What should I buy?

The Nokia 7110’s scrolling bar makes it simple to whiz

through WAP sites. It also has a built in fax.

Contracts begin from XXXXXXXX.

 

Users’ tip: Don’t get too attached to it. 3G phones

will be vastly superior and if you’re serious about

mobile telecoms, you’ll want one as soon as they’re

available since they use the Universal Mobile

Telecommunications System (UMTS) and will combine

Internet and video technology as well as offering

increased bandwidth. Expect the first ones by late

2001 [SUE TO CHECK THIS]

 

Further information:

www.btcellnet.co.uk

www.one2one.co.uk

www.orange.co.uk

www.virginmobile.com

www.vodafone.net

www.nokia.com

www.motorola.co.uk

www.ericsson.com

www.siemens.co.uk

www.sony.com

www.wap.com

WAP chat, glossary, FAQs and everything else you ever

wanted to know.

www.wap.co.uk

Where to search for UK WAP sites. Plus how to submit

your own WAP site for listing.

www.umts.org/umts2000

Find out about third generation phones and when they

will be available.

 

 

Data storage device

A medium for backing-up and storing your work. While

higher bandwidths means that greater amounts of

information will be digitally transmitted, there will

always be a need for back-up media. The format depends

on what you want to do with it: removable media like

Zip disks are excellent for downloading data fast and

carrying it around; tape drives are good for serious

daily back-up; CD-Roms make good archive media; or you

might be looking for a portable hard disk as a hard

disk extension. DVD-Ram, meanwhile, is the latest

high-capacity storage option.

 

Who are the main players?

Iomega, La Cie, Kenwood, IBM, and Creative Labs but

due to the number of different formats they don’t

necessarily compete head to head.

 

What should I buy?

The Iomega drive which holds 250Mb Zip disks dominates

the removable arena and it’s a great product. It links

to your system via the USB (Universal Serial Bus) or

PC card interface and data transfer times are pretty

fast.

 

User tip: If possible, buy two of the above. It may

seem extravagant but it will mean you can have one at

work and another at home which we reckon to be an

enduring data storage system which won’t need

upgrading for some time yet.

 

Further information:

www.iomega.co.uk

www.ibm.com

www.kenwood.com

www.lacie.com

 

 

Webcams

A camera that can be attached to a computer for the

purposes of video-conferencing, video emailing, a

personal surveillance system or an HR department’s

version of Big Brother. When broadband arrives,

Webcams will be elevated from their current gimmicky

status to a powerful tool for proper

video-conferencing anywhere in the world.

 

Who are the main players?

Logitech, Creative Labs, 3Com, Philips, and Kodak.

Logitech has the best range of cams with one to suit

every need from a cheap domestic one to those capable

of full-blown Webcasting.

 

What should I buy?

Logitech products are excellent but for us the top

slot it’s a tie between the 3Com Home Connect which

offers the best image quality and the Creative Video

Blaster Webcam Go Plus, because it can also be used as

a digital camera. Check out both.

 

User tip: Don’t get carried away by video email (small

video clips sent with emails) –it sounds like a good

idea but remember that it quickly fills up email

inboxes.

 

Further information:

www.logitech.co.uk

www.3com.com

www.creativelabs.com

www.kodak.co.uk

www.philips.com

 

 

Digital voice recorder

An improved quality dictation machine. Digital

recorders offer better quality voice recordings, make

it easier to get to the relevant parts of the

recording and means not having to worry about running

out of tape, with some models holding over five hours

of chat. Some also allow you to plug in voice

recognition software in order to transcribe your input

(especially useful if you’re on the move with no

secretary to hand). Some devices, such as the Voice It

Mobile, come with this software built-in.

 

Main players:

Household names such as Panasonic, Sony and Olympus,

but also look out for the aforementioned Voice It,

too.

 

What should I buy?

The Panasonic RR-QR240 offers over four and half hours

recording time and lets you plug in voice recognition

software (IBM Via Voice and Dragon Naturally Speaking

the two defacto products in the field).

 

User tip: Don’t expect too much from voice recognition

software at the moment – it’s far from perfect but

persevere and it’ll start to pay off.

 

Further information:

www.panasonic.com.uk

www.sony.com

www.olympus.co.uk

 

 

Laptop computer

They need no introduction and continue to be an

essential for those on the move. The performance gap

between laptops and desktop computers is closing all

the time so you may want to consider replacing your

desktop system altogether with a laptop. Displays are

bigger (14in is pretty standard), they don’t lack

processing power or speed and 20Gb hard drives are not

unusual.

 

Who are the main players?

Sony’s Vaio series looks great and has become

something of a laptop status symbol – and Vaio’s

feature-set and performance justifies it. The Compaq

Presario, HP Omnibook, Dell Inspiron and of course

IBM’s Thinkpad are equally well worth looking at. But

remember that buying a laptop comes down to personal

choice – most manufacturers can offer something that

is comparable to a desktop system so find the one

you’re comfortable with and check its spec will match

your needs.

 

What should I buy?

The name Hi Grade may not trip off the tongue when you

think of laptops but it’s certainly one to watch and

top machines in its Ultinote range are among the

fastest laptops around at 750MHz. Throw in 20Gb of

hard disk space and who needs a desktop system?

 

User’s tip

While laptops come bundled with everything needed for

mobile computing, if you’re using it in lots of

different countries, you might need to buy the

necessary hardware and phone socket adapters as

extras. www.teleadapt.com offers good products and

advice on this subject.

 

Further information:

www.compaq.com

www.dell.com

www.ibm.com

www.sony.com

www.hi-grade.co.uk

hp.com/uk

 

 

The technologies that will change the way you work

Broadband

If you think the Internet is powerful now, wait until

broadband is with us properly. It’s short for broad

bandwidth and is a high-speed telecommunications

network that will be able to carry video and

multimedia as well as voice. BT’s ADSL (Asymmetric

Digital Subscriber Line) is a broadband service and is

currently being rolled out in this country. ADSL

offers an always-on, high speed link to the Net which

ultimately will be able to work 40 times faster than

ordinary modems – it’s currently about 10 times

faster. Users will pay a flat-rate fee so it makes it

much easier to control Internet usage costs in a

department.

www.btopenworld.com

Find out about BT’s broadband offering and if it’s

available in your postcode area.

www.broadband.co.uk

 

Bluetooth

A short-range wireless technology that will let

devices such as laptops, PDAs and mobile phones talk

to each other within a 10 metre radius (soon to be

extended to 100 metres). It will also allow such

devices to hook-up to the Internet remotely. Nearly

2,000 developers are working on Bluetooth products,

which should begin shipping soon. Ericsson’s

Bluetooth-enabled phones, which also incorporate WAP,

are due later this year. Phone manufacturers such as

Ericsson and Nokia are hoping they can use Bluetooth

to turn their products into the ultimate remote

control for all your devices.

www.bluetooth.com

Official and definitive site dedicated to the

revolutionary technology. Find out when the buzzword

will be turned into a commercial reality – and you can

get your hands on a product.

 

GPS

Global Positioning Satellite receivers use information

sent out by satellites to pinpoint where you are. It’s

long been used in built-in navigational systems for

cars and there are a number of hand-held devices aimed

at the outdoor adventurer set available. However, the

technology is being used in the second phase of test

3G phones to help tell phone networks where a user is

so it can provide localised content.

www.gpsworld.com

ANOTHER TO COME

 

Voice Browsers

These allow Internet navigation using voice commands

via a phone. They’re currently being developed and are

already in use in the US in voice portal services such

as Tell Me. It is still early days but this

potentially could be the most important development

ever for mobile phone users.

www.tellme.com

US voice portal, which uses voice recognition

technology; you can’t access the service but it’ll

give you an idea of what it’s all about.

www.nuance.com One of the companies behind the voice

recognition software that could change the way you use

the Web.

www.speechworks.com Similar to the above so gen up on

what voice technology can do for you here

 

 

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