I just started a new job which involves a good amount of travel. While I will pack slightly differently for business trips vs. personal travel, there are certain pieces of technology which I will always take with me.
I just packed for a ten day trip out to the West Coast—so I made sure to have all of my necessary gadgets ready to go. Here is a rundown of what I recommend.
Light & compact laptops
Whether you are traveling for work or play, a laptop is nearly as important as your passport or wallet these days. I prefer a thin and light laptop like my Asus Pro B9440 ($999+) or the Microsoft Surface Pro ($799+). Both of these devices are brand new and offer substantial power but are very light and compact.
Both of these devices have Windows 10 and Solid State Drives (SSD) so they run applications like Microsoft Office, Netflix, Salesforce, Google Chrome, and Adobe Acrobat incredibly fast.
When I need a break from work (especially on a cross country flight), I like to play some portable games. The hottest new gaming system is the Nintendo Switch ($299) which launched this past March. I was lucky to get one on launch day and I have heard that supplies can now be very scarce.
The Switch is great because it is the world’s first 2 in 1 system—you can dock it to your TV and play games in your living room OR you can grab it and play on the go. I prefer the latter since I am on the road so frequently. The controllers (known as Joy-Cons) slide into the side of the tablet for a full featured gaming system giving you the same experience that you would have at home, but anywhere. With The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, Mario Kart 8 Deluxe and the upcoming Super Mario Odyssey, the Switch has all the classic Nintendo characters in brand new, epic games.
Headphones with connectivity
Since I don’t want to disturb the passenger next to me on the plane, or people waiting on line in the airport, a good pair of headphones are a must. I
prefer the over the ear style with both wired and Bluetooth connectivity. I just picked up the VModa Crossfade 2s ($329) which combine great sound, durability and an eye catching style.
In addition, Beats by Dre ($99-$399) are very popular since they come in a variety of styles (over the ear, on ear, and in ear/ear bud). While Bose, Sony, JVC, and Panasonic still have excellent products, some lesser known brands like Urbanears ($29+), Skullcandy ($19+) and SOL Republic ($39+) have some great sounding headphones as well.
From lost to found
I will admit that I often misplace things and waste valuable time looking for them. Last week, my wallet fell out of my pocket in my rental car. Luckily, I had gotten a tiny little device known as Tile ($25+) last Christmas. I checked the Tile App on my phone and tracked my wallet to the rental car which I had just returned.
There are two styles of Tile, one that clips to your keychain and one that slides into or sticks to whatever you usually misplace. I got the second one, which is known as Tile Slim, and put it in my wallet, much like a credit card. Setup is easy using the free app and I can track where my wallet is at all times. Also, Tile has a small button on it that can cause your phone to ring if you happen to misplace your mobile.
Powering it all up on the go
Packing as lightly as possible is key for me, so with all these gadgets, I do not want to travel around with tons of cables and wires. There are three main types of mobile chargers, Mini USB, Lighting Connector, and USB Type-C and I did not want to carry around three cables. I picked up a Multiple USB Adapter Charging Cable ($8) which has all 3 types of adaptors to charge Iphones, Android devices, Ipads, Nintendo Switch, and even some laptops. In addition, I picked up a 13400 mAh High-Capacity Power Bank ($22) for when I am not near a power outlet. It has enough juice to charge my cell phone more than 3 times and is very compact.
These are just a sample of all the gadgets that can help make traveling more fun but they are always with me when I hit the road.
By Nick Carnevale, Account Manager, Asus
Integrating your smartphone with your business voice system
Starting up a new business has a multitude of challenges for owners including developing a strategic plan, raising capital, finding space to operate the company, hiring excellent people and getting your brand into the marketplace to attract clients. Jen Kraft and Melanie Struble, founders of The Body Image Boutique, an integrated wellness center (www.thebodyimageboutique.com), have experienced this first-hand since starting their business in mid-2016. From their beautiful studio in Saddle River, Jen and Melanie focused their passion on enjoying a positive body image and a total support system for clients to celebrate themselves using techniques such as yoga, meditation, nutritional counseling, integrative medicine and psychotherapy under one umbrella.
One of their challenges was to provide voice services for a mobile workforce that would be at the studio depending on client appointments, class schedules and workshops. Practitioners should be able to place and receive calls for the Body Image Boutique not only from the studio, but also when they are at home or other locations.
Melanie and Jen’s vision for voice communications was: Every practitioner has a smart phone. So, let’s use that platform for integration with the voice system in the office. There will be still be phones in the office for frequent users like the administrator and owners. However for everyone else, they would be assigned an extension and mailbox on the voice server that would map to a phone application on their smartphone. The smartphone application should work seamlessly, regardless of whether the user was on the Body Image Boutique studio WIFI network, a practitioner’s home WIFI network or on the cellular LTE data network.
Louisa Voice began working with The Body Image Boutique to find cost-effective solutions to these problems. The first step was selection of voice server and business firewall technologies—leveraging Louisa Voice’s expertise in the deployment of open source firewall and telephony technologies, the Pfsense firewall and Sipxcom telephony voice servers were integrated to run simultaneously on an Intel NUC i3 computing server. The server has a very small physical footprint and was mounted on the wall in their telecom closet. There are no licensing costs to open source software, so the total cost of the firewall and telephony server was $325—i.e. the cost of the Intel NUC i3 with 8GB of memory.
The Sipxcom open source telephony voice over the Internet (VoIP) server uses a protocol called Session Initiation Protocol, or SIP, to communicate with IP Phones and smartphone clients registered to the voice server. For the studio phones, Polycom VVX phones were deployed which is well-supported in Sipxcom. On the Apple and Android smartphones, the Bria softphone application from Counterpath was purchased (approximately $7), downloaded and configured to work with the voice server. Bria uses the smartphone’s wireless connection (either WIFI or cellular LTE) to communicate with the Sipxcom voice server.
The Bria application is straight-forward to configure with the Sipxcom voice server. First, an extension (or user) is defined on the voice server, where a unique SIP password is auto-generated and assigned to the extension. Those credentials are then configured into the Bria application along with the IP address of the Sipxcom voice server. When the smartphone is using the Body Image Boutique WIFI network which shares the same network as the voice server and IP phones, then the Bria client will register to voice server. In the graphic, x200 is being registered to the voice server.
If extension 200 is mapped to a Polycom phone in the studio as well as the Bria softphone and an incoming call arrives at that extension, then the call rings both the Polycom phone and smartphone simultaneously. The smartphone user knows that the incoming call is from the Body Image Boutique as the Bria application issues the notification and can answer appropriately—the practitioner is easily able to distinguish incoming Body Image Boutique calls from other calls. For outgoing calls from the smartphone, the user brings up a dialpad within Bria to place the outgoing call—the call goes through Sipxcom voice server to the public voice network and displays the main Body Image Boutique telephone number as the caller ID and not the user’s cell phone number. Practitioners can now place outgoing calls for the Body Image Boutique using the Bria application without publishing their personal cell phone number.
The last challenge was finding a solution to place and receive phone calls from smartphones when the practitioner was not at the Body Image Boutique studio but instead working from home using WIFI or traveling in their car and the phone was connected to the public cellular network. The Pfsense router comes with a rich set of virtual private network (VPN) technologies—one of these VPN implementations is called OpenVPN. The OpenVPN project (ww.openvpn.net) is a client-server technology that establishes secure, encrypted tunnels between the client and server. The OpenVPN server technology is integrated with the Pfsense firewall and free clients are available across a multiplicity of platforms, including Apple, Android, Windows and Unix.
At the Body Image Boutique studio, the Open Server component of Pfsense was configured with certificates and user accounts that would allow OpenVPN clients to connect securely to the Studio network over the public Internet. Pfsense then generates an .opvn configuration file for each mobile and PC platform: Apple, Android, Windows and Unix.
After the Openvpn clients are installed on mobile smartphones, The Bodyimage.opvn file is read and processed. The client now knows where the Body Image Boutique firewall is located by the a.b.c.d IP public IP address defined in the configuration file. The OpenVPN userid and password created on the Pfsense server for the practitioner is defined and saved. After enabling the connection slide, the Open VPN client connects with the Pfsense server and after being authenticated, a secure tunnel is established between the smartphone and the Body Image Boutique network. The Bria application on the smart phone can now register to the Sipxcom voice server regardless of the smartphone location. The practitioner can be on the home WIFI network or in the car using the cellular data network. When a smartphone traverses from the cellular network to a WIFI network (and vice-versa), sometimes the OpenVPN client needs to be restarted, depending on the state of timers when the transition takes place.
Using these emerging open source firewall and telephony technologies, a small business can cost-effectively and securely extend the functionality of their business voice server to employee smartphones that have access to good quality public WIFI and cellular data networks. This capability is essential to the Body Image Boutique practitioners and teachers who are not always onsite at their Saddle River studio to place and receive voice calls.
A final point on connectivity to the public voice network: The Sipxcom voice server uses VoIP for connectivity to a public carrier and buys voice service on a metered basis (i.e. per minute) from an alternate carrier. Using this business voice package, The Body Image Boutique spends under $10 per month for voice network connectivity for up to 25 concurrent incoming or outgoing calls. This is a very cost-effective monthly spend price for public voice service compared to traditional carrier, cable or cloud-based solutions that charge a monthly fee based on a per-user basis (e.g. 10 users at ~$25 per month per user).
By Peter Krautle, Managing Partner, Louisa Voice
About the Meadowlands Regional Chamber’s Technology Committee
Co-Chairs: Nina Johnson 201.600.1208, John Ruiz 201.934.7400
Staff Liaison: Nicole Vignola 201.939.0707 ext. 2948
“Making Technology Simple, One Member At A Time”