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Going Mobile

The benefits of mobile technologies have proven somewhat elusive, but 2005 may be a good year to investigate their potential, according to Craig Lowenthal

The benefits of mobile technologies have proven somewhat elusive, but 2005 may be a good year to investigate their potential, according to Craig Lowenthal, CIO, Hartford Financial Products (New York), a subsidiary of The Hartford ($18.7 billion in revenue).

I believe broadband cellular, also referred to as 3G (for third generation), is a promising technology that will start to make some inroads in the coming year. EVDO (CDMA-based) and WCDMA/UMTS (GSM) can provide speeds of up to 500 Kbps. This technology, implemented appropriately, can be a boon for companies that have a large mobile staff and employees operating from remote locations. With 3G, not only can mobile employees eliminate the need to connect at public WiFi hot spots, they can have broadband connections at customer sites, meeting places, hotel rooms, etc.

Accompanying 3G capability, you'll start seeing PDAs that have the ability to replace laptops in certain situations. For instance, the next-generation PalmOne (Milpitas, Calif.) Treo and similar devices by other companies can be packaged with still pictures, video and sound recordings to provide a great device for a mobile claims adjuster.

VoIP also is a promising technology that offers many potential benefits. However, I still have some reservations about its quality at this time. Still, few can argue with the idea that there's a big advantage for companies with technology that enables employees to use plug-and-play telephones and have their direct office numbers ring wherever their device is plugged in. VoIP is also a great way to handle remote employees.

However, just as the right technology that consistently works well can provide great benefits, technology that is inconsistent may hurt your customer service and/or sales staff. I receive several phone calls a month from vendors that use VoIP. The call clarity in some cases is not equal to other phones. Certainly, I can't afford to have this happen to one of my customers. While the quality of VoIP calls has gotten more reliable over the past couple of years, I believe there is still a long way to go before the quality is consistently reliable. -Craig Lowenthal, Hartford Financial Products

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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