Part of the wonder and fun of todays technology is the never-ending assortment of “gee-whiz” gadgets and gizmos that offer greater convenience and increased productivity to busy insurance professionals.

We had many choices in assembling a brief list of such devices for use by agents and insurance companies, but weve tried to keep the games and entertainment gadgets to a minimum and focus instead on some potentially useful products. Thats not to say there isnt some fun in store for users, but practical value is the key.

That said, here are some devices that have caught our attention.

One Device Does It All. Have you ever considered all the electronic devices you carry and wished that someone would just combine them into one super product? Wouldnt it be great if your cellphone, personal computer and digital camera were contained in one device you could carry anywhere?

Well, the product designers at Tokyo-based Hitachi have given it a shot in the G1000, a single device that does many things. Packed into this PDA (personal digital assistant) are a Microsoft Pocket PC computer, a Sprint PCS phone, and a rotating cameraand the whole thing weighs a mere 8.4 ounces.

According to Hitachi, the built-in phone acts as a modem for using Pocket Internet Explorer to gain Internet access. The computer includes a 400MHz processor with 32MB of RAM (random-access memory). Theres also a full-color display and a built-in QWERTY keyboard that the company recommends you use with your thumbs.

The G1000s camera can take pictures (at a resolution of 640×480 pixels) then share the images instantly with other connected parties on the Sprint Nationwide PCS Network, says Hitachi. The camera rotates 180 degrees for easier picture taking.

Hitachi adds that the G1000 supports use of external memory cards, and that information on the PDA can be synchronized with a users PC. The device uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that offers up to 2.5 hours of continuous talk, or 168 hours (seven days) continuous standby time. The battery takes about three hours to charge and is replaceable.

The unit also features a speakerphone that allows hands-free operation of the PCS phone, says Hitachi. There is an embedded Global Positioning System (GPS) chip needed to utilize the E911 emergency location services.

The G1000 sells for about $649. More information is available at www.hitachi.us.com.

Memory on the Road. It seems that more and more, were working with forms and other documents on our portable devices, which is very convenient. But where to store those documents until we return to our offices can be a vexing question.

The answer, of course, is portable data storage, and it comes in many forms, including the Pocket Sync Memory Drive 64MB from Targus Inc., based in Anaheim, Calif. This is a lightweight and compact storage device that includes a self-contained USB (universal serial busa standard hardware interface) and is designed for mobile computing users.

According to Targus, once the device plugs into the USB port of a PC, “it will act like any other mass storage device.” It is also able to withstand vibration and movement associated with use in a mobile environment, the company says.

“It can operate under extremes of humidity, magnetic fields and temperatures,” claims Targus. “It conveniently hangs from your neck or key chain, storing everything from business documents and presentations to personal files, music and e-mail.”

Other features include:

Instant plug and play operation;

Software that provides 300% compression of most common data files, with 128-bit encryption;

Automatic launching of the software; and

Ability to revise files up to 20 times and restore deleted files.

The devicewhich measures approximately 3.5x1x.6 inches and weighs just half an ounceoperates with Microsoft Windows 98, Me, XP and Mac OS 8.6 and above, says Targus. The storage capacity is 64MB, but models are also available with 128MB, 256MB and 512MB capacities.

Listed price for the Pocket Sync Memory Drive 64MB is $54.99. More information is available at www.targus.com/us.

Printing on the Spot. Speaking of dealing with documents while on the road, what happens when you need a hard copy of a document, either for signature or to give a copy to a customer?

Again, technology provides the answer in the form of personal printers that can go anywhere you go. One such printer is the HP Deskjet 450wbt Mobile Inkjet Printer from Hewlett-Packard Development Company, LP., Palo Alto, Calif. The device measures about 13x3x6.5 inches and weighs a mere 4.6 lbs., but it can print black text at up to nine pages per minute, and color output at up to eight pages per minute.

According to H-P, the unit easily fits into a briefcase and features a lithium-ion battery (prints up to 350 pages per charge). It allows printing from a notebook computer, PDA, digital camera or mobile phone.

The HP Deskjet 450wbt can also print from Bluetooth wireless mobile devices, the company says. Bluetooth is a technology that crosses the telecommunications and computing industries. It is the specification for low-cost, short-range radio links between mobile PCs, mobile phones and other portable devices.

The unit prints on a wide variety of media, including transparencies and labels, and is compatible with Windows XP, XP TabletPC Edition, Me, 2000 Professional, and 98 on an Intel Pentium II machine or equivalent, says H-P. It also supports printing on Windows CE 3.0 and later, Microsoft Windows for Pocket PC, and Palm OS 3.0 and later. It does not support Windows 3.1 or 95, or Macintosh 8.6.

The HP Deskjet 450wbt has an estimated U.S. street price of $349. More information is available at www.hp.com.

A Mouse Without a Tail. If youve ever struggled with a mouse cable thats stuck under a lamp or on the corner of your desk, Belkin Corporation, Compton, Calif., has a solution for you.

According to Belkin, the new ErgoFit Wireless Optical Mouse allows you to manage your computer wirelessly from up to six feet away. The unit offers five customizable buttons, a scroll wheel and software to aid productivity.

“The ErgoFit sends and receives wireless signals, without needing to be in a direct line, so you can expect continuous optical accuracy,” says Belkin. The mouse uses two AA batteries that can last up to three months.

The unit is designed for right-handed users and works with Windows 98, 2000, Me and XP, the company notes. Estimated street price is $39.99. Further details are available at www.belkin.com.

Cables That Vanish. A mouse isnt the only device that includes troublesome cables, but ZIP-LINQ, based in Concord, Calif., has a unique answer with its “Pull-n-Click” retractable cables for a variety of electronic products, including PDAs, cellular phones and modems.

“Our retractable cables are truly small enough to carry in your pocket, making them the most convenient retractable cables on the market today,” states ZIP-LINQ. Each style of ZIP-LINQ cable expands to over two feet in length when fully extended.

The cables are marketed exclusively through Cables Unlimited (www.cablesunlimited.com), and prices range from $14.99 to $19.99. More information is available at www.ziplinq.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, October 31, 2003. Copyright 2003 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.