February 12, 2005
Using Tech Toys to Fill Serious Business Needs
Here's what happens when you get a legal/business/financial professional with serious tech experience thinking about next-gen mobile business solutions:
I was perusing a variety of my favorite tech news sites, and a few stories smacked of a theme to me: Let's find ways for our tech toys to meet some serious business needs. iPod webcasting (a/k/a podcasting) is well-known in techie circles, and is approaching mainstream status. Some might even say it's already there. I'd say it's still on the ramp up, but is picking up some serious speed. Savvy bloggers are embracing it with a fever. But when we get down to everyday business needs and problems, what are using these devices for? With the rapid cool-down in the pure PDA market, I was pondering where we'd see the next advances.
First, I was intrigued how radiologists are using iPods in conjunction with open source but specialty Mac OS X software to transport, view, and work with MRIs and other medical information. It wasn't just that the iPod was a portable 40GB hard drive, but that it had some smarts too -- the navigation interface could be used to organize and access patient information.
On the PC side, the OsiriX platform looks pretty darn cool and useful to me. Obviously, I'm not a medical professional, but it's impressive. Check out the screenshots and photos. I liked the one with the kid holding the iPod next to the big TV: "PET-CT reconstruction on the iPod Photo displayed on a TV through the S-Video interface". It's probably just a static photo file being displayed on the TV (nothing special there but the nice S-Video link and the iPod navigation control).
With that said, it's very easy to start brainstorming about possibilities for other markets, which is why I find this so intriguing. However, any new technology application (and that's what we're really talking about here -- finding savvy business applications for these cool devices) is going to run into problems and criticisms. Apparently there have been discussions regarding security and privacy issues, which may or may not have been resolved.
Next, I came across this CNET News report, where a Xerox Research Centre in France has developed mobile document-imaging software for camera phones. Thus cell phones with a minimum of one megapixel cameras just might gain the capability of becoming mobile document scanners. With the demise of the HP Capshare several years ago, mobile lawyers around the world were dejected. If anyone doubts the usefulness of a handheld document scanner, then why did the Capshare's two models' pricing zoom from the original $200-$300 to upwards of $1,000 on eBay as supplies dwindled? Obsolete technology that actually increased in value hundreds of percentage points? Clearly there is an untapped market here.
Here's your take-away: Some of the building blocks are already here, with others on the way. It's not hard to see engineers, product managers, and business professionals all playing with them like Legos: "What if we took this extensible tech toy, moved this here, added some software over here that leveraged the OS and interface, and made it easy to move data back and forth with this business system on the PC side?" Think of the handheld document scanner. I wouldn't be surprised to eventually see a Treo or phone-based BlackBerry developer pick up on this and provide an even more compelling mobile business device.
I'm sure these are but a few examples of what we can expect to see over the next few years. Visionary and tech-savvy service professionals in many markets (including legal) will have increased opportunities to service needs that their competitors may miss. Some of the fulfilled needs may just be a more effective way to do your daily job. Others may translate to client-facing situations. Either way, you snooze, you lose. (Hence the underlying reason for my blog's tagline.)