Despite the surprising lack of snow on the ground to greet the Vancouver Olympics, the East Coast of the United States was hit by a one-two punch of snow over the last two weeks, with a slight punch this week. This resulted in the nation’s capital shutting down not just once, but twice! Airports closed, people were without power and surprisingly business continued.
Much of this can be credited to the fact that mobile phones have really changed the way we do business. Now with the coming of tablets and other mobile devices, it is much easier to continue to do business in a time of crisis or inconvenience (and let’s face it a snowstorm is really an inconvenience compared to the horrors that have ravaged Haiti).
Nearly a decade ago during an actual disaster in New York City, namely the 9/11 attacks, mobile phone circuits were initially overwhelmed—and later fearing their use by terrorists—mobile towers were temporary taken off line. This reporter was able to stay in touch with the “outside” world through Voice over IP. Today, that same VoIP technology is now available on mobile handsets, meaning that even if a network goes down, smartphone users can stay connected if they can find a Wi-Fi hot spot.
During the subsequent blackout that hit the eastern portion of the U.S. and Canada in 2003, mobile phones continued to operate for a while as well. And one benefit of the green push is that mobile cellular towers can often times be taken off the grid, or offer back up power should a zone go dark. This in turn makes it all the easier for users to be able to stay connected, not only via voice with mobile smartphones, but now with e-mail and IM.
Additionally, for those who ventured to the airports—and opted to wait out these recent storms—it was still possible to work at an airport. Previously, airports were good for reading a magazine or making a phone call. Now many airports resemble mobile offices, and this isn’t just the paid frequent flyer lounge, such as United Airlines’ Red Carpet Club. Airports have added more workstations and power outlets, and have even added free Wi-Fi. The reason is that this is good for business because if business users can work at the airports the cities will draw in more business-focused events, and the revenues will increase. As a side note, this business traveler has also noticed a vast improvement in the quality (and even price) of food available as well.
But the other noticeable improvement in the past decade is that airports have better mobile connectivity, and few airports are off in “roaming” zones. This has made it easier for business users to get work done at airports, and smartphones now allow us to read documents, send e-mails and keep in touch with the office until the doors close. On some flights there are even options to get online while cruising at 50,000 feet!