CES churns out enterprise tools
The Consumer Electronics Show, held in Las Vegas every January, is best known for showcasing flashy consumer gadgets like 106-inch LCD TVs and ever thinner cell phones. However, one always can find interesting items that have a place in a business environment, including a new fleet-tracking system, a truly portable satellite TV receiver that potentially could find its way into the public-safety sector, and new ways to power mobile devices.
TomTom, a navigation solutions provider best known for its TomTom Go GPS-based vehicle-tracking service, announced the launch of TomTom Work, a new service providing businesses with a connected navigation solution for fleet management.
“We’re targeting the ‘white van’ service companies,” said product manager Ted Morrill. Specifically, TomTom Work currently is being targeted to fleet operators with anywhere from five to 20 vehicles, but Morrill indicated the solution can grow to fit larger organizations. “This is very scalable; there’s no limit in terms of the number of vehicles that you can use. You just have to manage how many vehicles you want to physically put on the screen.” The company suggests no more than 20 on screen at a time, but organizations with more vehicles could simply segment them by department or location, Morrill said.
TomTom Work combines a GPS-based in-vehicle terminal with a two-way GPRS communication link and a Web-based tracking service. Thus, any Web-browser-equipped PC can access the tracking service to monitor vehicle location in real time, send orders and dispatch service calls, as well as run reports for the automatic generation of driving-time logbooks and payroll and expense accounting. Dispatch calls are sorted by destination address for efficient routing while the two-way communications link enables drivers to send standardized messages on order and work status.
The per-vehicle equipment cost is $999.95, while the monthly subscription fee — which includes unlimited text messaging — costs $49.95 per vehicle.
Targeted toward well-heeled travelers, DirecTV’s Sat-Go (Satellite-To-Go) portable satellite and TV system puts together everything a person needs to tune in and watch the tube from anywhere in North America. Company representatives wouldn’t discuss a hardened version of Sat-Go for government and public-safety customers — “DirecTV does not talk about products that aren’t available,” said Sat-Go Product Manager Steven Schein — but creator Rick Rosner was less reluctant. “There will be a version in a ruggedized case called Sat-Go Pro,” he said.
Sat-Go puts together a 17-inch LCD monitor and satellite receiver, a flat portable antenna, a DirecTV D11 set-top box, a lithium-ion battery, AC and 12 VDC power inputs and A/V connections into a sturdy portable briefcase; the total package weighs about 20 pounds. The outside case contains the flat panel antenna with a built-in compass to help orientate it toward a DirecTV satellite.
Viewable in bright sunlight, the LCD monitor swings up and out from the receiver base for easy viewing, and an infrared remote is included for channel surfing. “With the internal battery, you can watch TV for about an hour or so,” Schein said.
Sat-Go is designed for easy and quick setup, based upon Rosner’s personal experiences carting around a set-top box and a satellite dish on vacation so he could get DirecTV once he settled in.
Current DirecTV customers can pre-order a Sat-Go for $999. Once the system starts to ship in May, the device will cost $1499.
Panasonic introduced new reformulated nickel metal hydride (Ni-MH) batteries in AA and AAA sizes. Traditional Ni-MH batteries had a number of issues, including the loss of their charge at a rate of about 30% per month. They also suffer “memory effect” problems that require them to be totally discharged and recharged in order to get maximum performance.
“Our technology is based on our experiences developing the batteries for the Toyota Prius hybrid,” said Brian Kimberlin, director for Panasonic’s Battery Corp. of America. The batteries come pre-charged in the package, retain up to 80% of their charge after six months and can be recharged up to 1000 times. Available in April, a four pack of batteries will have a suggested retail price of $10.99.
Meanwhile, Medis Technologies outlined plans for producing and selling their 24/7 Power Pack, a disposable fuel cell that will provide more than 20 WH of power — the equivalent of up to 30 hours of talk time for a typical cell phone and “hundreds” of hours of standby talk time. “We’re aiming at the enterprise market, the Microsoft mobile [PDA] users,” said Michelle Rush, vice president of marketing. “We also are working with Cingular, T-Mobile and Alltel. With our power pack, [users] don’t have to go back to the wall [socket] ever again.”
Listing at $20 retail, or $24.99 with a set of charger adapter tips, the 24/7 Power Pack uses a proprietary sodium borohydride mix to generate power. A refillable version of the device is expected to become available within 18 months.