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Content Guy's Note: The goal of "The Innovation Conversation" is to explore some facet of the fast-changing, technology-driven retail landscape and how it affects businesses and consumers. It is, we think, fertile territory ... and one that Tom Furphy - a former Amazon executive, the originator of Amazon Fresh, and currently CEO and Managing Director of Consumer Equity Partners (CEP), a venture capital and venture development firm in Seattle, WA, that works with many top retailers and manufacturers - is uniquely positioned to address.

This week's change-of-pace topic: Road-ready technology.

And now, the Conversation continues...

KC: So this is going to be our last "Innovation Conversation" for a while, since we're going to put IC on hiatus until September.  (Unless, of course, something happens that prompts us to bring it back during July or August.)  So I thought maybe it would make sense to do something a little different, something summer-appropriate … and talk about the innovative gadgets and technologies that people bring with them when they travel, whether on business or vacation.  (This is particularly on my mind since I packed lots of stuff - probably too much - to bring with me to Portland for the summer.)

I know that I always bring my MacBook pro with me, but I also bring an iPad … I just got a new iPad Pro that I totally love.  (It was time to replace my old one, which was one of the originals and couldn't even run a bunch of apps.)  How about you?  What kind of computer power do you bring with you on the road?

Tom Furphy:
When I travel for business, I try to run as lean as possible. I find that when logging hours in the air, schlepping through airports and checking into hotels, the less weighed down I am, the better I feel and the better I perform. Everything has to fit easily in my Tumi T-Pass bag, which is a pretty lean ballistic nylon bag. Although I love my OLD iPad (which also struggles to run new apps) I tend to leave it at home. I travel with an Acer Aspire S7 touchscreen laptop. It’s a decent machine. Super lightweight and small, plenty of horsepower and a decent keyboard for working. Unless I’m in the air, I always use a wireless mouse for better performance and less fatigue than the laptop mouse.

When traveling personally with the family, I will usually add my Kindle and/or iPad to the bag, depending on where we are going.

KC: I think we have the same Tumi bag ... though mine probably is a lot more loaded down that yours. For example, for my summer in Portland I also brought with me a 3 terabyte external hard drive that has everything important from my laptop backed up. Just in case ... there are MNB-related pieces, not to mention notes for a couple of books and speeches I'm working on. I'm paranoid about being stuck without them easily accessible. (And yes, I know I could store all the same stuff in the cloud. Like I said, I'm paranoid.

I've also found that I'm totally addicted to a piece of equipment that you introduced me to - the Jabra 510 Wireless Bluetooth Speaker, which turns my iPhone into a really effective speakerphone.  It seems like it might be a little overkill, but I find it is worth carrying if only so I can do phone calls while working on MNB or some other project.  I gather you're addicted to it, too.

I feel like that little guy has changed my life. It’s about the size of Krispy Kreme donut, so it fits easily in the bag but did have to find a designated spot in there. When working from hotels, I find it’s important to create as productive a workspace as possible. Setting up shop in a hotel room feels almost as good as being in the office thanks largely to that speaker. The built-in speakerphone functionality on phones is usually not very good and wearing a headset all the time is more fatiguing than I realized. The connectivity to my phone is fantastic. Call quality is amazing. Plus, music sounds pretty good over it as well. I connect multiple devices to it while I’m working. That’s a lot of utility in one device.

KC: We totally agree on this. For MNB readers who may want to see what we're talking about, click here.

Any other equipment that you find to be absolutely necessary when you're traveling for business or pleasure?  What kind of headphones do you use?  Have you thought about bringing some sort of voice-activated tech with you, like the Amazon Echo Dot (when it becomes available)?

Headphones are key to reducing the stress caused by airplane noise. I’m on my second pair of Bose Quiet Comfort headphones. I’ve replaced the ear pads at least once on this set. They are so reliable and the case fits very neatly in the bag. I’ve been intrigued to try something new. But it has to be the right combination of quality and portability. I also really like my Logitech USB clicker. I use it for keynote speeches as well as conference room presentations and meetings. I love to be able to get out from behind the laptop and engage more directly with folks. That allows me to do it and it runs like clockwork.

If the Echo Dot had a great speaker and could connect to my phone, I might consider it. But I’m not sure it will make the cut into the bag. With all of the work that Google and Apple are putting into this area, most Android and Apple devices will have good voice assistance capabilities before too long. So the redundant equipment may be overkill.

KC: I know what you mean. As much as I love my Jabra, I do occasionally wonder why Amazon couldn't have built that kind of speakerphone functionality into the Echo. I also have a confession to make: I'm so addicted to the Echo, after just a few weeks, that I brought it with me to Portland. The good news is I was driving, and I'm going to be here for almost two months, so it seemed like a good idea.

Finally, I'm curious how you manage to deal with all the cords … because no matter what I do, I cannot seem to eliminate the vast number of cords that I end up carrying with me.  Have you managed to solve that, and how?

The cords can certainly be a challenge. My Tumi bag came with a small nylon case, maybe 8”x3”x2”. I can get all of my cords, mouse and wireless clicker in there pretty easily. But it still comes down to keeping it lean, but also keeping it consistent so it never requires any thought. I carryall essentials in that same case – laptop cord, car charger, extra Samsung phone battery & charger, USB cable with an AC adapter, an iPad charger (so I don’t have to remember to pack it in the case I’m bringing my iPad) and earbuds for the gym. Every cord has to have a purpose and require no thought as to whether I have it packed or not. Everything is there when I need it.

KC: Again, you have me beat ... I have the same Tumi nylon case, but I need two of them to cram everything into. I guess I'll have to focus during the summer on trying to cut back, or at least being more efficient.

The Innovation Conversation will continue ... on Wednesday, September 7.

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