Use this simple guide to mobile peripherals to boost your bottom line
For organisations whose employees are always on the go, mobile peripherals are a must-have.
These are extremely useful tools for workers who are on the move. Available in a range of styles, colours and sizes, 3G modems require SIM cards to work because they connect to a cellular network rather ADSL Internet. When selling modems to clients, be sure to ask them about the areas in which they will be used. Modems have an internal antenna with which to acquire signal, but you can advise your customers to purchase an additional external antennae for use in areas with poorer signal.
Mobile WiFi hotspot devices
When looking for Internet connectivity on-the-go, your customers are probably accustomed to using a 3G dongle that plugs into their laptops. However, the limitation of a 3G dongle is that it only supplies internet access to one device. Portable WiFi hotspot devices are a far more effective way of supplying Internet access to multiple devices. A SIM card can be inserted into the device and, once configured, it will broadcast a WiFi signal much in the same as your customers are used to at home or at the office. These devices are a cost-effective alternative to a 3G dongle, and they often contain batteries. This makes them truly portable, and ensures your customers will have Internet access anywhere.
Power banks are portable batteries in specialised casings with custom-designed circuitry to control power flow.
They are ideal for mobile workers as they can be used to charge many different types of mobile devices, from smartphones to MP3 players, tablets and digital cameras. Keeping devices powered up is the cornerstone of mobile working, and a power bank allows your customers to overcome the constant power struggle associated with short battery life. Power banks are rated in mAh (milliampere-hour), which describes the battery capacity as well as how quickly the power bank can transfer its capacity. Power banks typically range in capacity from 1 500 mAh up to 20 000 mAh. Advise your customers to buy power banks which contain multiple ports with different amperage ratings; 1A is typically for smartphones, while 2A is typically for tablets.
Many laptop manufacturers sell extended-capacity batteries for their laptops. A standard laptop battery is designed to sit flush with the body, while the extended-capacity batteries are physically larger which means they will protrude. The extended-capacity batteries are sold separately and will provide your customers with an average of double their normal battery life on average. Suggest an extended-capacity for customers who travel a lot in areas without power. These fit easily into a laptop bag. Your customer will just need to unclip the original battery from the back of their laptop, and clip in the extended-capacity battery.
These handy devices allow for the charging of a number of devices at once. Especially useful for mobile work environments, they offer high-speed charging for multiple items. Advise your customers to choose ones that are device agnostic (that is, will work with any type of device) and work in a range of environments, such as vehicles. They are ideal for keeping the modern worker connected at all times.
A peripheral is considered to be any device that connects to a computer in order to add functionality. Unlike the motherboard or power supply, a peripheral is not part of the core architecture of the computer, and often exists outside of the computer case. However, it is still dependant on a computer in order to be able to function. Peripherals are usually connected and disconnected from a computer with relative ease, and therefore simple to replace.
There are many different types of peripherals that can be used with a PC. Some peripheral devices exist outside the computer case (such as a printer), while others can be inside the case (such as an optical drive).
Keyboards are another method of input containing all the letters of the Roman alphabet, and are otherwise known as QWERTY keyboards. Keyboards connect to computers via cables or wirelessly in the same way a mouse does. For your mobile customers, you will want to recommend a small form-factor, wireless keyboard. Wireless keyboards are powered by a battery, which allows it to send its signal to a receiver that is connected to the PC through a USB port. In some keyboards a Bluetooth antenna receives the information transmitted to it from the keyboard.
With a wireless keyboard, your customers can work up to three metres away from their devices. This is useful for users working in large workspaces or those who need to work in awkward spaces, such as in airport lounges. One disadvantage is that the further away from the receiver the keyboard sits, the greater chance of delay or keystrokes being dropped.
A mouse is a device that is use to point and select. It detects two-dimensional motion relative to a surface, which is then translated into the motion of the pointer on the screen (display). In this way, a mouse becomes almost essential to operate a computer.
Mice can connect to your customers’ computers or laptops via a cable, such as USB cable, or wirelessly via Bluetooth. Similar to keyboards, wireless mice need to have sight of the receiver. They can be difficult to use on irregular surfaces, so suggest to your customers that they buy a decent mousepad (see below).
Hard drives come in a wide variety of capacities and types. Used for storing data, they can be portable or require their own power adaptor. Portable hard drives are usually 2,5-inch and do not require an external power source to operate. They can be plugged into a computer with a USB cable. Hard drives that are 3,5 inches usually require a separate power source.
Traditional hard disk drives (HDDs) contain stacks of disks called platters that store magnetic information. These drives are big, heavy and bulky due to the mechanism that reads the data. Solid state drives (SSDs) contain no moving parts. They are more resilient to knocks and are read much more quickly than traditional HDDs.
Ask your customers how they will be using their portable hard drives. If they need to access a lot of information quickly, recommend they purchase a portable SSD drive. These are more expensive but are better in the long run as they are better suited to working on the go.
Flash drives (also known as USBs) are connected to a computer via the USB port. They are available in a range of sizes, up to 1Tb. They contain no moving parts, and are resilient to drops. Advise your customers to ensure they have adequate security measures in place when handing out flash drives to employees, and these devices are easily lost or stolen.
SD or secure digital (SD) cards are a non-volatile memory card format. These cards are used in devices such as laptops and cameras, in order to expand the available memory. SD cards fit into slots in the device, or can be placed in an SD card converter (which has a USB port). As technology has developed, a mini version of these cards was created. These extend the memory availability of small form factor devices, such as smartphones. SD and miniSD cards are available in a range of capacities, up to 512Gb.
The storage of mobile devices is as important as the storage of data for your customers. Advise them to purchase bags that are durable, made from a good quality material (such as nylon or neoprene) with heavy stitching. Dark colours are best as they can take a fair amount of dirt without looking untidy. However, laptop bags are available in a range of colours and sizes to suit every taste.
The bag should have a heavy-duty strap and handles so that it can be carried with confidence. Some bags even have reinforced sides and wheels, and a telescopic handle by which to pull it.
Ask your customers what sorts of things they need to store in their bags. Laptop bags have special padding and straps to hold a laptop or tablet in place. These are usually surrounded by foam and secured with velcro.
Encourage your customers to choose bags with additional pockets and storage areas to keep items such as files, notebooks, pens, peripherals and chargers secure.
Employees who are often on the road visiting sites and clients will need personal navigation devices (PNDs) to ensure they get to the right place quickly and efficiently. Getting lost or stuck in unnecessary road blocks and traffic costs companies both time and money. A good GPS will not only have up-to-date maps, but will also have live traffic advisories that indicate snarl-ups and accidents in real time, and reroute users accordingly.
The basic features of PNDs include resistive touchscreens; text-to-speech conversion to speak street names; 3D map views; a point of interest (POI) database; automatic rerouting; and live traffic updates. Warn your customers that entry-level devices may lack the Bluetooth connectivity required for hands-free, in-car calls, so it is a good idea for mobile workers to purchase devices that are middle- or high-end.
For mobile workers, recommend a larger screen size with an interface that is easy to understand and read. Clear, easy-to-read icons and colourful map graphics are a must for people who are on the go. Everything should be large and easy to glance at quickly while behind the wheel.
The amount of information your customers will need to have displayed is also important. Some PNDs display a number of instructions and a range of information, while more uncluttered interfaces display only the next instruction.
Points of interest (POIs) as listed on the device are also important – especially for sales people. Some devices categorise POIs too broadly, such as bundling everything under “shopping”, while others have several levels of categorisation, making it easier to find specific kinds of shops and restaurants.
Advise your customers to buy a stand-alone navigation device rather than using their phones. PNDs can be left in the car, and will not drain battery while on the road.
Ensure your customers also purchase a PND with a mounting unit for safe storage and use. These generally come with a plastic suction cup on the back, which then attaches to the windscreen. The mounts also allow for charging while on the road.
Other useful tools
A mousepad is a useful and convenient tool for those who use a mouse every day. It provides the mouse with a better surface to move over, preventing jitters. Modern mousepads are typically made of lesser-density rubber composites with fabric bonded to the upper surface. However, many other types of material have been used, including fabric, plastics, recycled rubber tyres, silicone rubber, leather, glass, cork, wood, aluminium, stone and stainless steel. For your customers on the go, advise a flexible mousepad that can be rolled up or carried in a laptop bag. Ideally, they should include a padded wrist rest, to improve ergonomics.
A stylus is a hard, pointed tool used as a method of input on touchscreen-enabled devices, such as tablet PCs, to accurately navigate menus. Upsell styluses to those who work on the go in dirty environments, such as construction sites or warehouses, as it helps to prevent the device’s screen from getting dirty. Styluses are also used by courier companies so their customers can sign electronic delivery forms.
Many smartphones have a built-in stylus which tucks in behind the back cover. Some styluses may extend and contract into small, pen-like cylinders.
Styluses can be passive (or capacitive) which means that they act just like a finger when touching a screen. There is no electronic communication between a passive stylus and a device.
An active stylus includes electronic components that communicate with the touchscreen controller on a device. Active pens are typically used for note taking, on-screen drawing/painting and electronic document annotation.