Meetings & Conventions: Planner's Portfolio February
THE TECH FILES
BY ELLIOTT MASIE
Technology in the Palm of Your Hand
Tiny computers promise to change the way we manage
Welcome to the cutting edge of emerging technologies. Each
month, this column will take a look at a new application or gadget
with the potential to strengthen a meeting and make the planning
process more sane.
Let’s start with a question. “What is the most rapidly selling
computer in the United States?” If Dell, Compaq or Apple comes to
mind, sorry. The answer will fit in your hand: the Palm Pilot
Computer made by 3Com. People are snapping up the handy computer in
droves, so they can scribble notes that can automatically be
converted to text, access their phone directories without the
hassle of starting up a PC and stuff the device back into their
pockets like a wallet. This $369 (and getting cheaper) tool is from
the genre known as “palm devices.” Microsoft, Casio and others make
BRING IT TO THE BOARDROOM
The current uses for these palm-sized computers make them nearly
indispensible, and technology experts are working on further
improvements that may make them de rigueur in the meetings world,
for planners and attendees alike.
Marrying cell phones with the computer.
Qualcomm is about to “mate” a cellular phone with the Palm Pilot.
This will allow users to surf the Internet, read e-mail and access
corporate databases, as well as make telephone calls from a single
Palm computer as a homing device. Several
developers are working on versions of palm computers that will be
trackable inside specially wired corporate headquarters and, more
importantly, convention centers and hotels. This will allow each
device to be continuously connected to a meeting server. An indoor
“global positioning system” (GPS) locator device has recently been
tested that will be bundled into the Palm Pilot; it will be able to
show the user where he is on a facility map. This addition also
will allow the meeting manager to locate any attendee in the wired
building, provided the attendee is carrying the device.
Get materials in attendees’ hands without making
copies. Presenters can now beam their handouts and
overheads to students using the infrared (IR) capacity that the
devices already on the market have.
Take the audience’s pulse. In the near future,
audience-response capabilities will be built into the devices to
allow participants to voice their opinions in a meeting room.
Again, the back-and-forth will be recorded using the infrared
Turn the palmtop into a dictaphone. Speech
recognition for hand-held computers is just around the corner.
Users will be able to dictate notes and then e-mail the text to
their desktops without any typing.
NOT JUST FOR THE JETSONS
Whenever a new technology is credited with possible world changes,
it is critical to separate hype from reality. The hype here is that
this lightweight device will be the only computer anyone will need.
The reality is that this probably will not happen in the next
decade, if ever. We still want the larger screen and full-size
keyboard for day-long (or years-long) computing projects not to
mention a CD-ROM or DVD drive so we can listen to music while we
work. Further, for the GPS capability of these devices to function,
buildings will need to be wired, and our comfort with digitally
sharing such information will have to be addressed.
These devices and their rapidly evolving offspring do have the
potential to become all- important as consolidated digital centers.
Why carry a pager, cellular phone and personal information manager
when you can combine these in a small, wearable computer that can
do even more? The price will probably become similar to cell
phones, where it will cost $1 for the device in exchange for
purchasing a provider’s services (telephone, data and information
These devices have already been used in a meeting setting. At a
conference in Orlando, participants could download a complete copy
of the conference guide into their Palm Pilots. In addition, they
could get updated copies by stopping at the information desk and
asking for the updates to be “beamed” to them. Granted, it was a
bit like a Star Trek scene, but with 200 breakouts, it was
awesome to be able to integrate the conference guide into the daily
To be ready for this future meetings world, grab one of these
new devices and start experimenting
Elliott Masie is president of The MASIE Center (www.masie.com) an international
think tank focused on technology and learning.
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