Smarter, Faster, Cheaper Products Improve Business Efficiency
Technology moves at lightning speed and, to
some extent, surpasses consumers' needs and expectations. However, it
also becomes more quickly affordable, allowing those with fewer
resources to invest in basic versions of today's top innovations sooner
than they may think is possible.
This year's Consumer
Electronics Show illustrated this trend. Instead of introducing extreme
innovations and new advances years away from practical application, the
show demonstrated how products and services have become smaller,
cheaper, and faster for mainstream users. It also provided examples of
how broadband and wireless are taking hold in the workplace.
technologies creating the next generation of business systems are
smarter and more cost-effective than ever before. For the commercial
real estate industry, which processes large volumes of information
every day, this vision of the future is significant. But rather than
focus on each specific product or technology, businesses should
concentrate on the systems created when the technologies and products
are combined. These new systems can re-engineer everything commercial
real estate professionals do, from writing leases to paying
commissions. The technology is here; now it is time to create the
vision, build the systems, and change the culture.
Top Technology Tools
a business perspective, the following three products highlighted at the
CES illustrate how innovations are trickling down to the work-day
Flat-Panel Monitors. Some industry
experts predict that today's clunky computer monitors and televisions
will vanish within the next five years. Already flat-panel monitors
adorn walls in office building entries, elevators, and conference
The two primary flat-screen technologies are gas plasma
for screens measuring 42 inches or more and liquid crystal display for
smaller versions. While LCD technology is more expensive than plasma,
industry experts predict that prices will fall during the next 24 to 36
months, making LCD technology competitive in price for the large
Overall, flat monitor costs have dropped significantly, and two retailers leading the lower-price charge are Gateway (www.gateway.com) and Costco (www.costco.com). Three years ago, large plasma flat monitors averaged about $12,000; today they start around $3,000.
monitors are suitable for high-definition television viewing as well as
computer use. Several models also come with built-in speakers and
wall-mounting brackets. Smaller LCD flat monitors retail from $200 to
$1,800 at most electronics stores. For example, Samsung Syncmaster
offers 15-inch and 17-inch screens at various price points.
Syncmaster's unique feature is a built-in television tuner, which
allows for both television viewing and computing.
For current information on flat-panel monitors, visit www.monitoroutlet.com.
Tablet Computers. When
first introduced in 1999, tablet computers were large, heavy, and
awkward to use. On early versions, the keyboard and mouse required
separate cables and setting up the unit for desktop use was
time-consuming. In addition, the first tablet computers were too
delicate to withstand a mobile warrior's abuse.
later, these devices are more compact and durable. Outfitted with
802.11 wireless technologies, these computers are redefining how people
A handful of vendors, including Acer, Compaq, Fujitsu,
Motion Computing, Toshiba, and ViewSonic, offer tablet computers that
use the Microsoft operating system. The features vary; some units
include built-in cameras, handwriting and voice recognition, CD-ROM
drives, and more. Acer and Toshiba units also transform from tablets
into regular notebooks. To research available products' options and
features, visit www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/tabletpc.
tablet computers currently are considered an emerging technology with
limited practical applications, every organization should experiment
with these new devices to see how they can add to the daily business
Wireless Technology. The wireless world
continues to grow at exponential speed, and the prices to outfit small
businesses have dropped. High-speed wireless networks soon will allow
brokers to access the Internet from just about anywhere. Armed with a
notebook, tablet computer, or personal digital assistant, brokers will
have access to listing systems, in-house transaction management
systems, e-mail, and any other information that once required a trip to
Wireless-access points are available for around
$100, while wireless network cards have dropped below $75. Security
issues are no longer a major concern, as new technology built into
these devices provides a secure solution.
The leaders in
wireless continue to be Cisco Systems, Linksys, and D-Link Systems.
Each of these vendors offers products for small and mid-size
businesses. Linksys' new combination router switch/wireless access
point also is a great option for home-office users. Just two years ago,
this product cost about $1,800 for marginal service; today it costs $87
and can be installed and fully functional in less than 30 minutes.
wireless cards required for computers also have dropped in price during
the last six months. They now cost about $50. In all, a small office
can be outfitted with a wireless network for about $120. For more
information on wireless technology options, visit www.80211-planet.com.
Building Better Systems
with any new investment, commercial real estate professionals should
spend the time necessary to research the available technology options.
The Internet offers a variety of sites featuring articles and reviews
about new high-tech innovations. While there are hundreds of useful
sites, the four top online resources for technology information and
product reviews are www.zdnet.com, www.techweb.com, www.techtv. com,
These products can make life easier, but
selecting the right ones for specific applications can be confusing. To
aid commercial real estate professionals, each year the Realcomm
conference features the Innovation Showcase, a venue that reviews and
displays state-of-the-art notebooks, tablet computers, PDAs, mobile
phones, digital cameras, flat screens, and more. Hundreds of hours of
research by knowledgeable professionals go into creating this
conference program, and experienced people are available to answer
basic as well as complex questions. There is no better place to review
the latest technology that can be used in the commercial real estate