This week in the Index's tech column~ Home work in the 21st century

Today, more and more people are working at home, either by choice or by necessity.
Economic and societal changes have been responsible for an altered perception of what the words “work” and “workplace” mean.
It seems now there is a greater value on the entrepreneurial spirit and more companies are restructuring and outsourcing projects.
Analysts expect that by the year 2010, 69 percent of all Americans will be working at home.
Greenfield Online Research released a study in October that found nearly 80 percent of all respondents now consider a home office to be important.
Thirty-five percent have a separate room for this purpose, and 47 percent have assigned a dedicated space for a home office within their house.
Nearly 20 percent of respondents use their home office to run their own home-based business.
Nineteen percent said they use their home office for telecommuting, and another 28 percent use it when bringing work home from their place of employment.
More than any other factor, it is technology that has enabled this paradigm shift to allow work from home.
Browsing for tech gadgets can be a blast. Finding the right technology to get the job done can be more difficult.
If you’ve shopped for most any kind of PC peripherals like a mouse, keyboard, computer speakers or a webcam, then you know Logitech.
The computer accessory company is studying the growth of the Home Office to help produce the next gadget trend.
Logitech’s Jef Holove, Director of Channel Marketing, has an idea of what’s around the tech corner.
Holove has been in the tech industry a long time. Before Logitech he was with Labtec and in Hewlett-Packard’s home products division.
In fact, Holove was part of the team that launched HP into the home PC market.
Holove gave us the latest tech talk for the home office: networking technology, cordless devices, wireless LAN, even Bluetooth.
Q: Why focusing on the home office market?
A: This is a fast growing market with increasing demand for user-friendly technology products. More people are working from home offices for a variety of reasons, including personal choice, convenience, comfort, economic necessity.
Q: If 80 percent of people consider a home office important, what do most of them do there?
A: More and more home office workers are self-employed, run-ning a small business or consulting.
Others are telecommuters. Still others use a home office for personal inter-ests. What is key here is that today, people are doing serious work from their home offices, and they need serious technology to keep them up and running.
Q: What’s driving this shift from the traditional office to the home office?
A: First of all, PC-based technology has increased the competitiveness of small- and home-office workers.
Secondly, corporate restructuring has meant that more companies are outsourcing projects in order to gain flexibility and increase productivity. And last, society is placing a greater value on the entrepreneurial spirit as today’s work ethic.
Q: You’ve indicated that technology is key to successfully working at home. How do home office workers stack up with regard to technology know-how?
A: This is a very dedicated group of people who are discovering that technology is important to their success. As a matter of fact, IDC reports that small and home offices currently generate one-fourth of all Information Technology spending in the U.S.
Q: Okay – let’s talk about technology. There’s so much out there – are there any insight you can offer as to understanding what technologies will make the most effective home office?
A: The best way to break it out is A) The technology you interface with personally and B) system and networking technology.
Let me speak to networking technologies first. An Internet connection is key of course, with high bandwidth Internet connections, or broadband, becoming more and more critical especially for those who are telecommuting and need a fast connection to their company’s network. Their choices today are DSL or Cable.
Home office workers are increasingly looking to wireless technologies – with wireless LANs on the network side and cordless keyboards, mice, and headsets on the desktop.
Q: Why would we need cordless devices on the desktop? You’re not going to get up and move to another location with them.
A: Cordlessness on the desktop is a natural extension of a phenomenon occurring throughout the house. We’re used to cordless phones and household tools, because we can easily appreciate the freedom and flexibility that these bring to our life.
It’s the same on the desktop, where the freedom from tangled cables can make a huge difference in your ability to arrange the desktop to suit your needs, and even to move things around depending on what task you’re involved in.
Q: What technologies are used in cordless desktop peripherals?
A: Older cordless mice and a few keyboards used infrared technology. This required a line-of-sight, much like your TV’s remote controller.
Logitech’s cordless devices use digital radio technology, which is both reliable and doesn’t require line of sight. Your receiver can be anywhere on or under your desk – or even in a drawer
Q: How do cordless mice and keyboards work?
A: They use 27Mhz radio frequency technology, which involves both a receiver and an emitter.
With a regular corded device, you would plug it into the appropriate port and it would be detected by the operating system.
With cordless devices, you plug a radio frequency receiver into the appropriate port, and this is detected as the device instead. When the system is powered, the receiver listens for information broadcast on the specific frequency shared with the emitter (which is either the keyboard or the mouse).
Q: What is Bluetooth?
A: The short answer is, Bluetooth is wireless USB. USB of course is the universal “wired” peripheral connection. Bluetooth is a standard currently in draft as an IEEE standard. It allows for the replacement of the many proprietary cables that connect one device to another with one universal short-range radio link.
As an example, Bluetooth radio technology built into the cellular telephone and the laptop would replace the cumbersome cable used today to connect a laptop to a cellular phone.
Q: Who supports Bluetooth?
A: Logitech is on the standards committee and is actively working on the specification.
IBM, Sony, Microsoft, Intel are all members of the Bluetooth standards organization.
Q:What will some of the first Bluetooth devices look like?
A: The first devices will be notebooks, PDAs, digital cameras and mobile phones.
Bluetooth will allow for easy short-range connections between these devices without any wires.
In many ways, Bluetooth is a superior alternative to the infrared link that is currently on some of these devices.
Q: So how many cordless devices for the desktop and office are out there today?
A: Logitech alone has shipped over 14 million cordless devices to date, and the majority of that volume has come in the last two years.
But even with that many units out there, penetration is relatively low – only about 3 percent of all PCs sold worldwide – with a lot of room to grow.
Q: Getting back to the home office and the technologies they need to function productively and comfortably – are there any technologies beyond broadband and cordless that you would like to highlight?
A: Two things come to mind: 1) the ability to conduct PC-based communications like instant messaging, which now utilizes both audio and video so you can be seen and heard through your PC. This capability is a great way to be in “real time,” and 2) Wireless LAN, which I mentioned before.
Q: So what is the most important thing for those with a home office to think about as they upgrade their technology to improve their working environment?
A: Buy from a proven leader in a category. These advanced technologies are tricky and require a lot of expertise in reliability, system compatibility, supporting software, industrial design, and user interface to name just a few variables.
Also I would say, buy what is right and comfortable to you. You spend a lot of time in your workplace and need to have equipment that feels good to you and suits the way you work.
A full audio interview with Logitech can be heard at To learn more about Logitech, Inc., go to their website:
Dana Greenlee writes about technology every Friday in the Index. WebTalkGuys, a Tacoma-based commercial-free talk show which features technology news and interviews, can be heard Saturdays from 11 a.m. to noon on KLAY 1180 AM in the Tacoma/Seattle area. Past show and interviews are also Webcast via the Internet at: