Category: Travel

Travel Hacks for Road Warriors

Most of the readers of this blog know that I do over 100,000 air miles a year, all in the US/Canada.  After 1.5 million air miles, these are my favorite travel tips – I hope they make your business travel better (or if you’re a glass half empty type, I hope they make travel suck less).

  1. Always carry $200+ in cash when you are on the road – because bad things happen, and cash can fix it quickly in almost any situation. Also because the bellmen, servers, drivers, and others who wait on you have hard jobs and get treated like crap all of the time – so throw a $20 at someone who deserves it at least once a month ($240/yr)- it’s a great way to pay it forward and make someone’s day suck a little less.
  2. Be very nice to all of the people at your home airport -know their names, bring them brownies, cookies, and other nice things around the holidays. They don’t make much money, and they can make stuff happen for you when travel gets bad. Ask about the counter people’s families and know their kids names – it will pay off in spades.  Buy the people who clean the airport coffee from time to time, because it’s the right thing to do.
  3. If you’re elite with an airline, use those “attaboy” certificates for outstanding service strategically. Give them out to people at your home airport, and do it publically – this makes me very popular at my home airport.
  4. If you have to fly 50-seat regional jets on Delta, they can’t take the electronic drink tickets – so it’s open bar, if you have to fly on one of those for over an hour and don’t have Comfort+.  (JSYK, Woodford is the best bourbon available on Delta – sorry, Jack)
  5. Electronic Expense Reporting
    • If your company uses Concur, Zoho, or other web-based expense reporting software, get the app – it’s essential, and you can take pics of your receipts as you incur the expenses
    • Manila envelopes for receipts – scan them with your Concur app when you incur them, and get them into the expense report system. Keep the paper – you may need it to get reimbursed if you lose/drop your phone or if the pic is blurry.
    • If you don’t already have a web-based expense reporting app, 1Tap receipts from Receipt Bank is a great tool for organizing your receipts.  You can take pics of them, tag/organize them with, and you can then output them as a PDF file.  Bonus: The data is available as a PDF or as a CSV file.
    • Continue reading “Travel Hacks for Road Warriors”

#CES2014 Kickoff Event: #Drones #Cloud #POS #Wearables #FuelCells #HomeAutomation

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#CES2014 kicked off last night with the “CES Unveiled” event. I attended, and as it’s not my first trip to CES, it seemed like there was a good mix of evolution and revolution in the products on display.  Some of the major themes on display were as follows:

#Drones

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Even though I called #BS on the Amazon Prime Air publicity stunt a few weeks ago, drones are still going to be a big leap forward in 2014.  The drones on display at the event were very impressive, and I could see how they could be utilized in a number of scenarios for home and business use, including:

  • Imaging and agricultural yield management in a large field
  • Live traffic reporting from trouble spots around a city
  • Crowd management at an outdoor event
  • Real time overhead video at a football game
  • Surveillance by law enforcement
  • Overhead security camera for a large parking lot
  • Delivery of packages by Amazon

While I’m still not crazy about having millions of drones overhead, I think there are some practical uses of this technology.  Let’s just make sure that we get the NSA under control before we start using these things in earnest, OK?

If you are still not convinced about how far robotics and design have come in this area, I encourage you to watch Adam Savage’s video where he demos his robotic spider.  The capabilities which have been achieved in this space are amazing.

#Cloud #POS

First Data was exhibiting the Clover point of sale system, which is a tricked out Android tablet that’s used along with a cloud-based point of sale system to process transactions and manage retail stores.  (Clover was purchased by First Data in 4Q 2013)  While I spent a very short period of time at their table (which was very crowded), it looked very impressive, and I plan to visit them during the show.  The overview video from their press kit appears below.

An Intro to the Clover cloud-based point of sale system

#Wearables

It is clear that wearables will be a big topic of discussion at this years International CES, but I didn’t get a good barometer on how ready the products are for the real world. Everyone had their obligatory “Dick Tracy” bluetooth smartwatch which served as a second, smaller screen that pairs with your phone, but none of these have impressed me as “life changers” thus far. More on this later in the show.  There were a number of exhibitors at the event who were presenting their take on the next evolution in the FitBit exercise tracking devices.  Notably absent was Google Glass as well as other devices which use “heads up displays” to access information without using traditional screens.

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The most interesting wearable I saw was a pair of swim goggles with embedded heart monitoring.  This item was displayed in a showcase of award winners by CEA (pictured above), but was not available for testing at the event.

#FuelCells

The Upp fuel cell, which will be distributed in the US by Brookstone (MSRP $199, available in Q1 2014) looked very interesting, and there were signs that this technology will be on display elsewhere at this year’s show.  I’m glad to see this technology finally reaching the market, and hope to be able to evaluate this product for a future post.

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A second fuel cell vendor named Brunton was on display in a glass case as a CEA award winner, but I was not able to speak with a company representative about this product’s capabilities and US distribution outlets.  I hope to see them during the show later this week.

#HomeAutomation

The Lowes Home Improvement Iris platform (via the Killer Bee) was announced, and is an interesting platform for managing connected devices in the home which I would love to review in my own home at some point (hint, hint, Lowe’s PR people).  (existing components and offerings are available online here).

The Arrayent Connect platform is a cloud-based framework for integrating connected home devices
from multiple ecosystems together.  This toolset appears to make it possible to connect enterprise applications, mobile applications, and analytical tools to devices which four major communication protocols (Wi-Fi, Z-Wave, AC900/868, and ZigBee).  The company’s offerings are targeted at manufacturers, systems integrators, and others who want to connect devices together from multiple manufacturers across multiple platforms without needing to write code.

Since Arrayent is selling their technology to go under the hood of products from Maytag, Whirlpool, I don’t expect you to hear much news about them in the coming months.  The company’s efforts are still important to solving the problem of communications and “data plumbing” between the wide range of connected devices we use every day.

In summary, I recommend that you stay tuned.  I’ll continue to separate the wheat from the chaff at this year’s harvest of new technologies and devices over the next few days, and will present many of these items in a webinar, “From CES to You: New Productivity Tools for 2014” on February 6 from 1P-3P ET.

 

Finding Your Apple or Android Device

While I was at CES last week, I quickly wrote up my success in locating, tracking, and retrieving my cell phone from one of a company’s 400 taxis in Las Vegas.  (The article is here).  Although it cost me $100 in reward money to get my Windows Phone back, the money it took was nothing compared to the $550 it would have cost to replace the phone.  At the end of that post, I promised to revisit this topic and let users know how to locate, track, and recover their iOS and Android devices.  While the tracking in iOS and Android takes a little more work (you have to use iCloud on iOS/MacOS X, and it requires a third party app on Android), it is possible to locate your device on these popular operating systems.

Disclaimer: Do NOT use these tools to track your employees or significant other, as it’s extremely creepy, and tracking employees may be illegal and/or a violation of your terms of service with the carrier and/or manufacturer.

Apple Devices (iOS and MacOS)

While the previous post was focused on locating your Windows Phone, it is relatively simple to implement location tracking on Apple devices.  To track the location of your device requires you to do the following:

1. You must register your device in iCloud.

2. You can then track your device when it connects online in iCloud when you go online.  An example of me tracking my MacBook Air is in the image below.

FindMy iPhone

3. If required, the device can be locked, wiped, and reset from the iCloud console.

Note: It is a violation of the End User License Agreement to track business devices with iCloud.  Don’t do it – it’s creepy, and you WILL be found out by the target.

Android Devices (Prey Project)

There are a number of different tools for tracking Android devices; some of the more popular tools include The Prey Project , LookOut Mobile Security (requires a subscription), and Where’s My Droid (Lifehacker 2010 post here).

Tracking your device using the Prey Project is shown in the image below, which is a location report from my Nexus 10 tablet.  I have a personal subscription to this tool. which is $5/month for device tracking on up to three devices.  Lifehacker has a good article on how to use this tool.

PreyProject Nexus 10

 

Recovering a Lost Cell Phone in 2013

I’ve lost some cell phones in my time (a hazard of traveling 100,000 miles a year).  It is no fun to lose anything – especially a smartphone.  Lost smartphones have lots of data, and are $500 or so to replace.  No fun.  In the past, I’ve spent hours calling people to find my lost phone, but today, I was able to lose, locate, track, and receive my lost phone in about 15 minutes total.  It was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had with technology, and my hat’s off to Microsoft, Verizon, and the Lucky Cab Company of Las Vegas (no, I’m not kidding) for making this post possible.

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This week, I’m in Las Vegas covering the Consumer Electronics Show.  Today, I took a taxi from my hotel to the Venetian for a meeting.  Unfortunately, I was “under-caffeinated”, and accidentally left my new Windows Phone (HTC 8X for VZW) in a taxi.  [For those keeping score, a lost HTC 8X is a $550 problem].  Needless to say, I was a little… um… stressed.  I then remembered that I could locate my phone any time at www.WindowsPhone.com, and located the my phone, which I could verify was in a taxi.

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I locked the phone from WindowsPhone.com, and made it make noise so the driver or subsequent passenger would find the device.  I also put a message on the phone that said “Lost Phone, Please call 865-202-4160  (My friend Sean’s phone) to arrange for return and payment of $100 reward.”

My friend, Sean, called the taxi company on his phone (I had a receipt with the company name and number), and over five minutes, I tracked the phone.  We refreshed the location about every two minutes, and passed the location of the phone to the dispatcher at the cab company.  The dispatcher tracked the position reports from the 400 taxis which worked for the taxi company we used, and called our driver on the radio.  The driver located the phone (large sigh of relief), and we continued to coordinate meeting the driver at the Venetian.

Our cab pulled up about 10 minutes later, and I was thrilled to see my phone again.  I gladly gave the driver a $100 tip for bringing my phone back.  I entered my lock code to enable my phone, and I went to my meeting (with five minutes to spare).  Overall, this was a great experience.  [Sometimes technology really saves your bacon.]

[Next time, I’ll explain how you can do this kind of tracking and (if necessary) remote wiping of data on the Android, Windows Phone, and iOS (Apple) operating systems.]

 

Report From CES: Mobile Monitors and Mobile Scanning

I attended the 2011 international CES show in Las Vegas last week.  I’m posting some of my observations on monitors and scanners which would be useful for mobile accountants below.  I’m looking forward to working with the ScanSnap S1100 and putting it through its paces!

Mobile Monitors

There has (finally) been some innovation in the mobile monitor space to make it much easier for mobile users (e.g. road warriors) to have two monitors without carrying a ton of gear. Two new models offer road warriors workable solutions for that second display, the Toshiba Mobile Monitor (to be released in March 2011, price TBA) and the Field Monitor Pro from Mobile Monitor Technologies ($289 from www.mmt2.com)

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Figure 1: The Toshiba Mobile Monitor is a 14.1″ LCD display which runs on USB power. (available March 2011)

The Toshiba device uses one USB 2.0 slot to provide a second 14.1” display (1366 x 768) for an external monitor, and we understand that there will be a USB 3.0 version coming soon. This exciting new offering comes in a leather folio which seals with Velcro, and can be used as a stand for the monitor on any flat surface. The model we saw was a prototype, and we were told that this device will be available in March, 2011. (Pricing not available at press time)

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Figure 2 – The Field Monitor Pro, from www.MMT2.com is $279, and includes a numeric keypad.

Although they were not at CES 2011, the enterprising accountants at Mobile Monitor Technologies appeared at the 2010 CCH User Conference with the Field Monitor Pro. This device is similar to a very thin laptop, and its 15.4” 1280×800 display is connected to a PC using a USB port. The LCD can be positioned using three different stands, and includes a full numeric keypad. The Field Monitor Pro is priced at $279, and is available now from www.mmt2.com.

Mobile Scanning

Scanners for use on the road have been a challenge for accountants on the go for some time, and although Fujitsu has offered the ScanSnap S1300 portable scanner for some time, this device is still somewhat bulky to carry every day or for road warriors. Fujitsu recently released the ScanSnap S1100 to fill this gap in their product line.

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Figure 3 – Fujitsu’s ScanSnap S1100 offers portable scanning in a micro-sized footprint.

Weighing in at a light 12.3 ounces, the svelte (10.74” x 1.33” x 1.87”) ScanSnap 1100 scans one side of one page at a time, and will handle hard to scan originals like embossed cards without an issue. Scanning takes 7.5 seconds per page, which puts the speed for this device at about six pages per minute.

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Figure 4- The Fujitsu ScanSnap S1100 portable scanner

Although the scanner itself is impressive, the real advances made by Fujitsu are in the accompanying ScanSnap Manager software, which has been extended to allow users to scan documents directly to PDF files, e-mail messages, printers, or to numerous cloud applications for online collaboration. One-click online document sharing is available for Evernote, SharePoint, and Google Docs.

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Figure 5 – Fujitsu’s ScanSnap Manager software allows one-touch uploads to numerous document portal services.

Another alternative for mobile scanning is to use software to convert the high quality digital cameras in tablets and cellular phones into a scanning device. One application, PDF Scanner, which is available for Windows Mobile 6, Android, and the iPhone, will take pictures of documents and convert them into PDF files, which can then be either downloaded using a cable or attached to e-mail messages. PDF scanner is available from most cell phone application stores, and more information can be found at www.melonmobile.com.