For business trekker Louise Lewisson, there's an app for — well, pretty much everything.
Though work keeps her away from home more than 150 days a year, she uses nearly a dozen mobile apps to keep files and photos a click or two away.
"It's a thousand times better," Lewisson says, comparing current times to the not-so-long ago days when high tech meant a sluggish dial-up connection or fax machine. "You can be prepared, more proactive and absolutely much more productive."
Thanks to a bevy of gadgets and programs, corporate trekkers are able to be more efficient than ever while on the road. They can transmit files from the back of a cab, input a business card with their smartphone, and attend a meeting via Skype while sitting in their hotel
"One of the greatest things about the proliferation (of technology) is the transparency and ease of use it introduces into the business-travel process," says Christian Gunning, spokesman for Boingo. "Travel on the road is hard. Whatever it takes to simplify that process and eliminate friction, I think, is a benefit for the traveler."
In a Cambria Suites survey, conducted with the GBTA (Global Business Travel Association) Foundation and released in August, 78% of those who responded said technology had boosted their productivity on the road.
Hardware is crucial
It all starts with the hardware — smartphones, laptops and tablets that enable business travelers to essentially tote their office in a briefcase.
AT&T's HTC One X smartphone, with its Android 4.0 technology, has 16 gigabytes of space that allows road warriors to wirelessly stream a trove of videos and materials to co-workers or clients, the company says.
Meanwhile, Ben Griffith, an attorney who lives in Cleveland, Miss., doesn't leave home without his BlackBerry.
"My BlackBerry Bold 9700 can provide sufficient access to e-mail, attachments, conference calls, Linked-In and Facebook updates," says Griffith, who travels more than 75 days a year. Griffith says he's even able to do some editing of documents using the smartphone, though if he's on a trip that lasts more than five days, he turns instead to his laptop to connect to his officer server.
Jim Zipursky says that he can't survive without his laptop, smartphone, and a Garmin portable GPS that he says "paid for itself in the first month."
But he says the right software is also critical, from websites such as FlightStats that let him know when his plane is running late to the World Clock app that tells him what time it is in several cities.
"Trying to schedule a conference call is bad enough when you're in the same time zone as your clients or associates, but trying to determine a convenient time when you are dealing with parties in Asia, Europe, Australia and three time zones in the USA is impossible without my app," says Zipursky, who lives in Omaha and is managing director of an investment banking firm. "Seeing the actual time in each locale makes my life much easier."
Wireless is king
The ability to connect to the Internet, whether you're at a Starbucks or 30,000 feet in the air, has also been instrumental to boosting productivity on the road.
Fred Jacobs, who works for a Southfield, Mich.-based company that consults with radio stations, says in-flight Wi-Fi when he travels on Delta "has been a difference maker."
"Keeping up on e-mail is critical, especially for a longer flight," he says. "In the old days, you'd land, see 100 e-mails, and you'd have 10 minutes to get to the critical messages before getting picked up by your client. Today, you land with zero anxiety because you're caught up."
Mobile apps also have become key to keeping up on the road.
The Cambria Suites survey found that 52% of respondents said they'd downloaded apps on their smartphone to be more productive while traveling for work.
Louise Lewisson has used Wi-Fi Finder, by JiWire, to track down free wireless hot spots outside London's St. Paul's Cathedral. And with the SugarSync app, she says she can leave her laptop behind and access all her documents through her iPad.
"If I'm in an airport and someone says, 'We want to make a change to the fourth paragraph' I can access that document through SugarSync, look at it and get back to them," she says. "So (it's like) I'm carrying my whole laptop with me wherever I go in the world."
Boingo's Wi-Finder includes a VPN to safeguard the user's information and a data tracker specifically for iPads, iPhones and the iPod Touch that can help prevent a business trekker from racking up overage charges.
Gunning says that his staff also enjoys apps such as CamCard, which snaps a picture of a colleague's business card. "You go to a trade show and collect 100 cards while you're there," he says. "The ability to get them in the format you can do something with certainly helps."
Jay Hibbard, a vice president of government relations who lives in Portland, Maine, uses GoToMeeting's app on his iPad to remotely gather with colleagues. And Hibbard says TripIt Pro, which automatically organizes travel itineraries and tells you when your flight's been canceled, is also a favorite.
"I don't have to sit around at an airport and be non-productive,"' he says about being able to make other plans when he learns quickly that his flight is delayed. "It's very helpful to know."
Power on the go
Elaine Van S. Carmichael notes, however, that you can't tap into your gadgets if you're unable to power them.
She relies on a travel-sized power strip for the airport and hotel rooms that don't have enough electric outlets. "It can be surprisingly difficult to keep things charged, especially (if) it's a long day," says Carmichael, a land-use economist, who is based in Sturgeon Bay, Wis., and travels 150 days a year.
Despite the technological smorgasbord available for those who want to partake, Ed Grooms says the original staples work best.
"It seems too simple, but the best is just plain old e-mail via Outlook," says Grooms, who works in business development and lives in Taylors, S.C. "It follows me where I might land, allows me to stay in touch, and even tracks my reservations and schedule. Without Outlook I am lost."