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My car, my office: Essential gadgets for the road warrior

Christopher Null | May 27, 2013
Commuting is tough. Working out of your car all day is tougher. From traveling salesmen to offsite service professionals to couriers, millions of people worldwide spend their nine-to-five hours behind the wheel. And they need to stay in touch--online, dialed in, and powered up--all day. That's not easy to do when you're constantly on the move.

Your first step is to figure out the location of free Wi-Fi. This is faster and more reliable than a cellular connection, and it will keep you from consuming gigabytes of your phone's data plan. Says Lockett, "Whenever I need to send or find information that calls for my laptop instead of my phone, I park in a fast food place for the Wi-Fi. My personal favorite is Wendy's, but Chick-fil-A and Starbucks also have pretty strong parking-lot Wi-Fi services."

You can't always be near a chicken-sandwich shop, of course, so you'll almost certainly want to invest in a mobile wireless router to make hopping online easy. Every cellular provider offers one, nominally priced ($50 or less) if you sign up for a data contract. The typical mobile router will last for six to ten hours on a charge, connects five to ten Wi-Fi devices, and recharges via USB. Since you can use it with any Wi-Fi capable device, it's one-stop shopping for getting connected.

Having a backup, though, isn't a bad idea. Your smartphone is an obvious one, so a data plan that allows tethering can work in a pinch. Those who live in spotty signal areas might consider a small USB modem from a different carrier than the mobile router discussed above. If you're at zero bars with AT&T, there's a chance Verizon will give you a signal instead. It'll add to your monthly expenses, but the assurance will be worth it to many.

Signal boosters are another idea worth considering if you find yourself with a weak connection. Products from Wilson and SmoothTalker basically amount to a large external antenna that attaches to your handset via a cradle, providing much stronger reception. These devices range in price from $100 to $200.

Navigation

Any road warrior worth his mileage log already has a competent GPS system up and running: built into the dash, prominently mounted to the windshield, or installed on a console-mounted smartphone. Most GPS options are perfectly serviceable today if your job involves getting to clients or other locations via marked roads.

But a GPS can do more than just get you from point A to point B without getting lost. Do you bill clients based on mileage? Or would you like to get a bird's-eye look at where you've been during the day? A map of your travels over time can help you plan where local marketing efforts should be focused, or give you a sense of the parts of town where untapped opportunities lie. MileTrack GPS lets you leverage the information you gather during your day on the road. Just fire up the MileTrack app and you can keep track of your driving, generate maps and more, all based on your exact locations. The company also offers a (paid) stand-alone device and cloud-based service if you want to take more of the hassle out of the operation.

 

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