From an Intuit app that turns iPhone4 into a credit card scanner, to a data connectivity tool called SugarSync, new technology offers seamless solutions for small business. Alongside flashier gadgets, the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show also showcased innovations like FlexT9 that go beyond the office to make business truly mobile. See the following article from The Street for more on this.
If the 2011 International Consumer Electronics Show is any indication, 2011 might just be the year for small-businesses technologies.
While there’s always fun and games at CES, most of the headlines coming out of this massive show in the high desert focus on big-time innovations from big-time companies: new 4G tablets and smartphones from Verizon(VZ_) and Motorola(MOT_), improvements in flexible displays from Samsung and what I consider to be the first solid glasses-free 3-D TV prototypes from Toshiba. But the real news for small business is in less well known and — dare we say it — less flashy tools. These products may not get the media love, but they can help a real business achieve real gains in productivity.
Here are my picks for small-business technology on display at this year’s CES:
Intuit Complete Credit Card Solution for the iPhone 4(INTU_) Intuit GoPayment App (rates start at 1.7% per transaction); Mophie marketplace card scanner ($180)
Adding credit card scanners to smartphones is all the rage. With so much buzz around such tools as Square and MerchantAnywhere, it’s no wonder transactional giant Intuit jumped into the market. The company announced an interesting Apple(AAPL_) iPhone 4 app for its mobile GoPayment system. The downloadable app supports direct interface with the Mophie add-on credit card scanner, as well as smooth access to Intuit’s QuickBooks accounting software, used by roughly 4 million firms in the U.S.
At least at first blush, the system makes it easier for small firms to offer credit card transactions. The interface is well laid out and allows for vendors to easily swipe a credit card and negotiate a transaction on several credit card payment networks. Now for sure, GoPayment will not replace a legitimate credit card point-of-sale terminal: Dealing with the iPhone’s issues — turning the device on, getting the proper software running and generally getting it out of consumer mode and into business mode — will drive even a moderately high-volume retailer nuts. But for occasional limited use, like a sidewalk sale or charity event, this intriguing product offers a handy way to accept a credit card.
Nuance Communications FlexT9 Mobile Input App(NUAN_) ($5)
For all of us who spend our lives answering emails and text messages on our smartphones, here’s a better way to interface with your virtual keyboard: a keyboard tracing technology called FlexT9, rolled out by Nuance, the maker of Dragon Naturally Speaking voice-recognition tools.
This downloadable app competes with other sketch-based, data-entry tools such as Swype, and lets users trace the path between letters on a virtual keyboard to quickly sketch out words and sentences. In my initial testing, FlexT9 worked well. It was accurate, fast and easy to use. If you are struggling with a pile of email, texts and chats on your smartphone, give the FlexT9 a try.
SugarSync online backup (5 GB account, free)
SugerSync, which backs up data and makes it available on any Web-connected device, dreamed up a sweet deal to compete with the likes of Google(GOOG), Microsoft(MSFT) and Dropbox for the small-business data backup market. It offers a full 5 GB of online backup and storage for absolutely nothing. What makes SugarSync unique and small-business friendly is that the system is well-designed, easy to use and works across just about any mobile, desktop or other device. Download the software, decide what you want to save — and there it is, on just about any device in your shop.
Keep in mind, the free account has limits: It requires a download of a desktop client, and large groups cannot share data easily. But for basic backup and access to your critical company stuff, SugerSync is worth considering.
EcoSquid Cell Electronics Recycling Service (free)
Move your office or upgrade your electronics and you’ll learn darn quick and that getting rid of your old gadgets is no easy feat. Recycling services vary by town, with regulations on what stores, landfills and disposal services will — and will not — accept. EcoSquid founder Nik Raman saw an opportunity in all this confusion to create a centrally located, active market in electronics recycling.
The result is an easy-to-use Web portal that connects those with electronics to recycle with those who buy or recycle used electronics. Simply enter your device’s make and model number along with details that affect the price of your gadget — wear and tear, which accessories are still intact and other specs. And poof, active offers for each item are proffered from local and international markets.
These sorts of referral engines have limits: Dealing with often-unknown third parties makes transactions more risky, and shipping fragile electronics can be tricky. Plus, the Web-based market in recycling is filled with uncertain businesses with dubious business practices.
Regardless, EcoSquid offers businesses an easy and fast way to get rid of the techno junk lurking in their closets.
This article has been republished from The Street. You can also view this article at The Street, a site covering financial news, commentary, analysis, ratings, business and investment content.