Blackberry, from Research In Motion, is email in your pocket. The size of a small notepad, it has a screen and a keypad for entering messages. The great thing about the Blackberry is that emails appear as soon as they are received, with no need to log on and collect them. It has been a huge hit in the US and is due to arrive here in December courtesy of BT Cellnet, using its new high-speed GPRS service. The unit cost about £400, and the service is about £15 a month; this will include 50 Mb of emails, which should be plenty. Details at www.btcellnet.co.uk.
Globalstar satellite phone
If you've been banished to a site somewhere really remote, like Siberia or Tierra del Fuego where cellular phone coverage is patchy, the Ericsson R290 satellite phone may be just the ticket. It uses the Globalstar network of low earth orbit satellites, although it can also be connected via a GSM network if available. Unfortunately, you can't connect your computer to the phone, although a slow data service for email will be available soon. Otherwise, the main drawback is the need to go outside to make and receive calls – and that is uncomfortable in Siberia this time of year. See www.globalstar.com for details.
Xircom Rex 6000
Many travelling engineers loaded down with heavy equipment swear by the Rex datacompanion, probably the most compact diary, address book and memo pad available. The size of a credit card, previously its big limitation has been that data has had to be entered by a laptop computer. Now, maker Xircom has announced the Rex 6000, which has a touch-sensitive screen so you can tap in contact details, appointments or even short memos on a soft on-screen keyboard. It will cost less than £120 when it reaches the shops next year. Surf to www.rex.com for a multimedia display of the device.
Samsung 24 inch TFT monitor
If you need to work with really big, high-quality images of complex installations such as chemical plants or rolling mills, you need as big a computer monitor as you can get. CRT (cathode ray tube) monitors are huge and weigh a ton (almost literally) but large liquid-crystal screens have been far too expensive until now. The new Samsung 24 inch TFT (thin film transistor) monitor, the SyncMaster 240T, occupies a third of the desk space of a comparable CRT but looks like CinemaScope on your desk. The price is low for a flat panel monitor, but is still not an impulse purchase at £5000. See www.samsungelectronics.co.uk for details.
Turn your Palm into a stopwatch with IntelliTimer from Karrier. This software enables you to time events to within a hundredth of a second, and make complex timings such as the time differences between several sequential events. The results can be beamed to other Palms, so times can be compared. IntelliTimer can be downloaded from www.intellitimer.com at a price of £14. And while you're about it, why not spend £25 of your own money and download V-Rally from www.palmtop.nl/palm? It's a most addictive race game with a wide variety of cars and courses from all over the world. But not in company time. Definitely not.
Palmtop fabric keyboard
Palmtop computers don't mix too well with building sites. They're difficult to use when wearing gloves, and they tend to break if dropped. The Elektex fabric keyboard could help you out. The keys are printed on a fabric containing conductive fibres, so that data can be entered by pressing nice big buttons. When you're done, simply roll up the palmtop in the keyboard to protect it from damage. Developed by British company Electro Textiles, it should be on the market next year at about £50 – see www.elektex.com for more.
Mobile phones used to be a nightmare for clumsy builders, being much too delicate and expensive to risk on site where they might be useful. Now engineers have a choice – get a cheapie phone that won't matter if it drops under the wheels of a forklift, or get the Nokia 6250 ruggedised phone which is shockproof, waterproof and, it is said, can be used to bang in nails. It can also play the theme from Bob the Builder. One interesting idea for the 6250 is for companies to set up a WAP site so that engineers can report faults or get spec updates directly on their phone. All information is at www.nokia.com.
SpyC@m PC camera
The Trust SpyC@m sounds like a free gift with Boy's Own, but it could actually be quite handy for instantly recording details on site for downloading to a PC and emailing back to the office. The ultra-slim camera clips into your breast pocket alongside your ballpoints, but can hold up to 60 images. Downloading to a PC is simple using the USB cable, but image quality is very basic with a resolution of only 640 × 480 pixels. At a cost of only £60, it's an affordable aide-memoire. Details at www.trust.com/wheretobuy.