December 01, 2001
Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio December 2001 Current Issue
December 2001 Tech filesPLANNER'S PORTFOLIO:


BY Bob Walters

The latest products let PDAs hold meeting databases and share information with attendees

From the beginning of the PC era, creative planners have used FileMaker to develop databases and manage meeting details and registration. Now you can take your FileMaker Pro meeting database with you on any personal digital assistant that uses the Palm Operating System.

The $49 FileMaker Mobile lets users hot-sync a handheld to the FileMaker Pro 5.X database on a PC. You will need a PDA using Palm OS version 3.1 or higher and a minimum of 2 MB of memory. FileMaker Mobile for the iMode is expected by the end of this year and for Pocket PCs by early 2002.

To use FileMaker Mobile, define a simple database on your PC with the fields and records you want to take with you, and transfer these records to your handheld. FileMaker Mobile translates the desktop layouts into list-view and record-view layouts optimized for the device. You now have the power of your desktop PC to perform tasks such as running reports, generating lists or crunching data. The synchronization is bi-directional, so you can add, delete or modify records on either the desktop or on your handheld, and the changes will be reflected on both devices when you sync using Palm’s standard HotSync Manager.

FileMaker Mobile is designed for individual users working with single-user databases. Several developers are working on wireless solutions, including wireless access to databases for work groups. The actual capabilities for PDAs are impressive: Up to 50 databases can be managed on a handheld, each with up to 20 fields per file, 2,000 characters per field, and 5,000 records per file (depending on the capacity of your device).

By combining FileMaker Mobile, a handheld and one of the new lightweight printers available for PDAs, you have a truly portable office.

A white paper on using Filemaker with a PDA, written by Mobile Insights and called “Extending Database Reach With Mobile Companions,” is available at

Several companies have solutions for planners who want to offer electronic information to attendees from the show floor, near registration or anywhere at the meeting.

Streetbeam ( has released RAMP (Rapid Access Mobile Point), which allows attendees to download exhibitor or trade show information from a beaming station. RAMP works with any Palm, Pocket PC or infrared-enabled mobile phone to provide access to product or show information, coupons, area maps, news and more. Show organizers can customize the content, and exhibitors can place a beaming station in their booth to disseminate flyers and company information, as well as to capture electronic business cards from attendees.

BeamCast from IS/Complete ( and BeamStation from Pistachio Inc. ( can be set up on-site to provide up-to-date event information to anyone with a Palm-OS device. The International Association of Conference Centers used BeamStation for its March 2001 annual conference; attendees were able to download schedules and descriptions for the four-day event.

Other companies offering related services are Xportical (, Applied Theory (, Conference Planners (, EventCentric ( and OpenGrid (

Most of the providers will help you determine what content to include; many also offer on-site support. These are fee-based services, so be sure to get several quotes before choosing a supplier.

Bob Walters, based in Fair Oaks Ranch, Texas, is the founder of Phoenix Solutions and developer of MeetingTrak software.

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