Can You See Me Now?
Camera phones add a new dimension to staying in touch with clients.
Camera phones may not be on the cutting edge in terms of
picture quality, but that doesn't stop savvy commercial real estate
professionals from using them to improve their business. From marketing to
documenting information and even keeping track of parked cars, CCIMs push the
envelope on camera phone usage.
After an in-flight commercial real estate discussion,
Skip Duemeland, CCIM, chief executive officer of Duemelands Commercial LLLP, in
Bismarck, N.D., deplaned with a new client. Once the deal was made, Duemeland visited the property, and despite a lack of good
lighting, used his palmOne Treo 650 smartphone to send site pictures to the
buyer of the $5 million project.
In a separate instance, image quality issues weren't a
problem when Duemeland received advertising concepts via his phone on the
way to a CCIM leadership meeting. The information was so clear that he approved
it on the spot. Duemeland routinely sends TV-like video clips to clients with
his Treo 650 and is ready to share important business information with clients
on a moment's notice. While he admits that a digital camera produces
higher-quality pictures, the Treo 650's camera function provides an array of
client-oriented business uses.
Like Duemeland, most CCIMs agree that camera phones'
picture quality is marginal, especially in low light situations. Despite this
drawback, industry pros are beginning to see these devices as new customer service tools. "The speed of
delivery and ability to quickly respond to my clients is an important
value-added service," says Robert J. Dikman, CCIM, chief executive officer
of the Dikman Co. in Tampa, Fla. "I use the camera phone for property
pictures all the time, especially when I don't have my digital camera with me
or it's not charged. I'm able to quickly e-mail my prospects or clients with
sites and/or buildings," he adds.
Products, Features, and Future Plans
The palmOne Treo 650 is a pocket-size personal digital
assistant and phone with integrated video recorder and still camera. Its
features include a high-resolution screen, expanded multimedia capabilities,
Bluetooth wireless technology, and a removable battery.
With e-mail, Web browsing, messaging, phone, and camera
capabilities, the device combines several product functions into one. "I
don't even carry a notebook around any more," says Stan A. Stouder, CCIM,
partner at CB Richard Ellis in Fort Myers, Fla. He uses his Treo 600 to sync
his phone with ACT contact manager and Microsoft Outlook. In general, the PDA
helps him to better manage and organize his business.
Recognizing this growing market, phone companies are
adding more features to help business users be more efficient when working from
the road. "Mobile and camera technology is constantly changing and
becoming better all the time," says Illana Shenitzer, a Motorola
representative. Current features for business users on most Motorola phones
include calendars, alarm clocks, Internet access, instant messaging, and
Newer models such as Motorola's MPx220 phone combine
global access to the Internet and e-mail with a 1.2 megapixel camera with 3x
zoom, a 64-megabyte flash, and mini SD card with removable memory for extra
Motorola's new PDA phone, QWERTY, or Q, will be available
in first-quarter 2006. For business users, this PDA will be one of the first
devices to run on Mircosoft Windows Mobile 5.0 and will include a digital
camera as well as video clip capture and playback.
Nokia also is launching a new camera phone in 2006, the
Nokia N90. With its unique twist-and-shoot design, the phone has a 2.0
megapixel camera with a 20x digital zoom autofocus. The camera also features
six possible scene settings, including an option for low light situations. Also
beneficial for business users, the phone has an integrated hands-free speaker
and two-way video call.
Many commercial real estate pros find their camera phones
to be great backup tools. "Sometimes you don't have your [digital] camera
with you and that is when the camera phone or PDA come into their own,"
says Harold S. Alpert, CCIM, a broker associate with Coldwell Banker NRT in
Vacaville, Calif. "Having a camera available at all times can keep you
from having to return to a site for pictures. It is a time-saving convenience
but not a substitute for professional pictures or amateur pictures with a
high-quality camera," he adds.
Camera phones also are handy for spur-of-the-moment marketing ideas. Loaded with features such as an
integrated camera with digital zoom, Bluetooth, and a five-way navigator,
Alpert's palmOne Zire72 served a very useful purpose during one of his
transactions. "The owners had a 'for lease' sign on the property and had
given me the OK to place my new sign directly over theirs," he says. With
his Zire72, Alpert took a picture of the existing sign and e-mailed it to his
sign designer. The designer then created a new sign that Alpert mounted over
the original one. It saved him an extra 20-mile return trip to the project
As in marketing situations, camera phones also are useful
in business emergencies. "For emergency and spur-of-the-moment needs, it
works great," says Ty R. Stetzenmeyer, CCIM, vice president of Arthur
Goldner & Associates in Northbrook, Ill.
For example, he was a few blocks away from a property
when a tenant called to say that a car had hit the building, causing damage.
"I got to the site, took pictures, e-mailed them to myself at the office,
took the copy of the police report from the police, and returned to the
office," he says. Once he was there, he scanned the police report and
e-mailed it with the pictures to the insurance companies immediately.
Documenting information is another way a phone's camera
function can be useful. For example, Stouder depends on his Treo to photograph
tenant directories and architectural features for business ideas.
Stetzenmeyer also uses his phone for on-the-spot
documentation. "When traveling by properties that have new and interesting
designs, color, and tenants, it's easy to take a quick picture and e-mail it to
myself," he says. Once he gets back to the office, he has all the documentation he needs to send the
pictures on to business
Road Warrior Function
While teenagers still may be today's biggest camera phone
users, industry professionals are starting to use them to streamline their
business processes. In fact, some commercial real estate pros find their camera
phones to be more practical than ever. Christian J. Johannsen, CCIM, managing
director of Aztec Group in Miami uses his to keep track of the more mundane
details of business life: "I use the camera (function) to take a picture
of where I parked in the airport parking
lot so I don't lose my car."