Technology Solutions

Mobile Internet Access Opens Business Doors From Anywhere

Mobile Internet access is an important strategy for commercial real estate professionals to consider in an increasingly technological world.

Hundreds of different devices that access the Internet now exist, freeing people from their desks. This not only has profound implications for conducting commercial real estate transactions, but it also affects how people use commercial space.

Mobile Access Develops Today, the most obvious mobile devices that access the Internet are cell phones and personal digital assistants. About a year ago, Sprint was one of the first companies to make Web access from a phone as easy as making a phone call. BlackBerry and Palm are two leaders delivering Web pages and e-mail to the portable-device market.

Although these units have demonstrated great capabilities, it quickly has become apparent that some fundamental flaws exist.

First, and most obvious, too many devices don't talk to each other. For instance, a commercial real estate professional might receive a message on his pager to call a client. He looks up the number on his Palm Pilot and then uses his cell phone to make the call. A more-efficient method would be to receive a page, and, if necessary, look up the number on the company intranet using the cell phone and have the phone dial automatically.

Another problem is speed. Many mobile devices still operate at now-primitive speeds (14.4 kilobytes per second), and fast data transmission is not an option.

However, despite the speed restriction, some significant developments still have occurred. Because of the simplified applications first offered on Web-based phones, the speed to access information actually is quite acceptable. For example, it takes just a few seconds to access a phone number from a cell phone that is connecting to a fileserver in a remote location — a much better alternative to downloading 15,000 company contacts into a Palm Pilot every night. And soon, some software programs even will allow videoconferences to be conducted from cell phones.

Fortunately, mobile technology developers expect speeds to increase 30-fold in the next year.

The final problem with some of these devices is the size of the viewing screen. The first units out had only two lines to four lines of viewing area. These mini screens hardly were big enough to view contact information, let alone read a lease or offer. However, manufacturers have changed this. In the last six months, screens have become bigger, brighter, and now even come in color.

Mobile on the Job Although still in their infancy, Web-based phones have added some extraordinary capabilities in the last 12 months. They allow users to check mail, weather, and plane and train schedules; review and purchase stocks; access company contact databases, calendars, and revenue information; track projects; check mortgage and interest rates; access comparable sales information; and videoconference. Displays at recent technology industry events suggest that more improvements and options are yet to come.

Commercial real estate professionals will be affected by this increasingly mobile world in several ways.

Mobile access will change how they conduct everyday business. For example, who makes a better impression: the professional who has to go back to the office, request a report, print the report, then send it to the client, or the professional who simply pulls out a portable Web device, accesses the company intranet, and gives the answer to the client on the spot? The second individual looks better organized and appears to have a good handle on the information affecting the transaction.

Increased use of mobile devices also will change the way people work and, ultimately, how they use commercial space.

If businesspeople now can access documents and e-mails, have conferences, and view business information from anywhere via mobile devices, the way they use space will be affected. These developments will continue to influence the design and use of commercial space in the future.

Here to Stay Despite what some pundits may say, mobile business is here to stay; the efficiencies and power are too significant, and in a matter of time it will become more widely accepted.

The real question is not the availability of these devices, or even the bandwidth needed to use them, but rather a company's ability to take advantage of this technology. Taking an organization from the traditional concept of building, office, and desk to a more mobile structure is not easy. It should not be treated as a one-time project, but as an ongoing evolution.

Jim Young

Jim Young is founder of the Jamesan Group, a real estate technology service company in Carlsbad, Calif.; CEO of REApplications, an application service provider; and co-producer of te Realcomm conference. Contact him at (760) 729-4312 or


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