Congress Targets Car Calls

Also, Pocket PC gains on Palm

June 1, 2001

Because they’re heavy cell phones users, real estate practitioners may be heading for trouble if two new federal bills targeting cellular usage by drivers become law.

Rep. Gary Ackerman (D-NY), and Sen. Jon Corzine (D-NJ) both announced bills that could reduce federal highway funds for states that do not ban or restrict the use of cell phones in moving vehicles. Under Ackerman’s proposal, cell phones in cars would have to be equipped with an earpiece or speakerphone option. Drivers would also be required to use a voice-activated system to place calls when the car was in motion. Corzine leaves it up to the states to decide exactly what restrictions they want to place on drivers.

The Cellular Telecommunications and Internet Association, a trade group for the cellular industry, responded with a call for public education on cellular use while driving as well as for stricter enforcement of existing laws that target unsafe driving practices. Among safety suggestions from the CTIA were:

  • keep calls short
  • use a hands-free device with speed dialing to place calls
  • never take notes or look up numbers while driving
  • never use the phone while driving in heavy traffic or hazardous conditions

The CTIA also cited a recent study, conducted by the University of North Carolina for the American Automobile Association Foundation for Traffic Safety, which found that cellular usage was a factor in less than 2 percent of accidents.

Still, even if the facts don’t support it, concerns about the risks of cell phone use while driving are widespread. In announcing their bills, Ackerman and Corzine cited a recent poll among New York state registered voters that 87 percent, including 85 percent of cell phone owners, favor banning cell phone use by drivers. For cell-dependent real estate professionals, the minutes may be running out.

Computer Giant supports Wireless Networks

If you’re planning a network for your home or brokerage office, you should be thinking wireless. At least that’s what the latest announcement from computer giant IBM suggests. Big Blue plans to build wireless capabilities into all its future products: desktop and laptop systems, peripherals, and network servers. Other vendors are sure to follow IBM’s lead, making the cables that once defined office networks a thing of the past.

Wireless solutions would make it unnecessary to run cables to each computer or peripheral on the network. Rather, any computers you want to “plug -in” will need only the wireless networking capabilities IBM plans to build into future equipment to connect. A wireless environment will give you greater mobility and let you move around your laptop to different locations without losing your network connection. Of course, older equipment without these capabilities will still need to be wired into the network or retrofitted with wireless capabilities.

Pocket PC Picks up Momentum

Microsoft reports that it has sold more than 1 million handheld devices using Pocket PC since the platform’s introduction last year. Popular models using the Pocket PC operating system include the Compaq iPAQ, Jornada from Hewlett Packard, and Casio’s Cassiopeia.

Microsoft estimates that Pocket PC units now account for 26 percent of handheld-PDA devices sold at $350 or more. At that level, the processing power, memory, and software options of a PDA has more in common with a handheld computer than an electronic organizer. For example, Pocket PC devices can run special versions of many popular Microsoft applications, such as Word and Excel.

Palm currently represents what could almost be considered a handheld standard in the real estate industry. Early adopters embraced the Palm because of its ease of use, affordability, and availability. That momentum also garnered the software support that ensures and fuels the success of any hardware platform.

But now that the Pocket PC platform has surpassed the 1 million milestone in sales, third-party vendors may start to give the platform a closer look. If you want something more like a computer in your handheld solution, you may want to weigh the Pocket PC against all other options.

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