Since response time can mean the difference between winning and losing a sale or purchase, real estate agents continue to look to wireless technology as the answer.
Mobile options abound, including tablet PCs, mobile phones, Palm-like devices and handheld printers. The trick is to find technology that meets a particular need, but is still relatively simple to operate. Here are some of the newest options:
The newest tablet PC models, which resemble high-tech clipboards more than they do standard computers, use special stylus pens that allow users to take notes and have their handwriting transferred into typewritten text. Accessories include external drives, magnesium housing to protect against day-to-day bumps and scratches, and access codes that obstruct unauthorized access.
In January Fujitsu introduced a tablet PC designed for professionals who spend a majority of time on the go. The Fujitsu Stylistic ST5010 weighs 3.4 pounds and has a 12.1-inch display. In addition to a battery that lasts up to eight hours, the system has an integrated wireless network and internal modem. The device can be slipped into a docking station where it can be used as a normal PC with keyboard and peripherals.
Tablet PCs designed specifically for the real estate market include Criterion’s R.E.D. tablet PC, short for Real Estate Dashboard. The tablet PC includes a transaction management system that automatically posts an alert when transactions need immediate attention. Purchase or listing contracts related to particular transactions can be sent using the real-time communication ink tool.
A high-end mobile gadget with nearly limitless functionality is the Treo 600, a so-called smart phone that works as a cell phone, sends e-mail via a tiny attached keyboard, can surf the Internet, store information like a PDA, and even play audio and video files with the touch of a button. The phone also includes a digital camera and a five-way navigation button for easier operation, the company said.
To improve access to property management tools while in the field, agents with Edina Realty in St. Paul, Minn., have begun using Microsoft Windows Mobile software for Pocket PCs to get access to information while on the road.
Building off its first foray into mobile technology–Edina Realty was the first realty company in its marketplace to offer remote access to MLS information via a Web-enabled phone–the new mobile system offers access to e-mail, contact information and appointment scheduling. Using software from Microsoft, agents can connect to the home network to update appointments that were made while out of the office, synchronize an e-mail inbox, and receive updated schedule showings and closings. A feature known as Pocket TRIO can send an automatic e-mail messages to customers when a matching property comes on the market.
“With the Pocket PC solution, agents have numerous ways on one device to follow up immediately and stay in touch continually,” said Tom Muench, senior support analyst for the Edina Realty Technical Support Center. “This solution raises the level of immediacy in customer and agent interaction.”
Aura Communications has introduced the LibertyLink Docker wireless headset that communicates with mobile or cordless phones. The LibertyLink is powered via an AA battery with 25 hours of use with a base that attaches to the phone through a 2.5-mm headset jack.
Portable printers have been few and far between, so printing a file or contract was something agent did when they returned to the office. A new portable printer called the MPrint Micro Printer from Brother International uses thermal printing and can print from PDAs, tablet or notebook PCs. Paper is automatically fed from its own cassette. The technology has its limitations, including small receipt-size printouts, but will be viable for on-the-go agents who want to provide a quick and official record while on the road.
The Swedish company PrintDreams has released PrintBrush, a mobile printer the size of a standard mobile phone. The PrintBrush receives content from PDAs, mobile phones or laptops via a Bluetooth wireless link. According to the company, the device is hand-operated by sweeping it across any type of print media. The printout will then start to appear behind the sweeping movement.
Handwriting recognition software
A new handwriting recognition program, called riteForm Remote, can automatically digitize information filled out in a standard form. Created by the company Pen & Internet, the system is designed for mobile devices without the storage capable to handle processor-intensive handwriting recognition algorithms. Instead, the riteForm software sends the information to a server, which performs the recognition and fills in the form.
The nVoy e100 Communicator from Pogo Mobile Solutions is a new handheld mobile communicator designed for quick and relatively easy access to e-mail and the Web. While not a replacement for a cell phone or PDA, the nVoy e100 offers access to the Web, e-mail and instant messaging and a built-in digital camera all via a 3.5-inch color screen. The final product will offer USB, Bluetooth or infrared connectivity options as well as an SDIO slot for extra storage.
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