Mobile professionals have so much invested in their Smartphones, PDAs, laptops and Tablet PCs that the devices can be a target for theft and the potential for the loss of a gadget while traveling is something to give one pause. Take something that happened to me a few years ago as an example:
Several years ago I had taken a management position with a major company in my field, and one of the first tasks confronting me was damage control for some projects that started before I arrived that were not going well at all. One of the projects in particular required some management intervention which led me to make a last minute trip to Muscat, Oman. I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare for this trip, it was basically a blow and go sort of thing. I flew from Houston direct to Heathrow airport in London, shuttled to Gatwick, and then proceeded directly to Muscat. The trip took over 20 hours total and I arrived in Muscat at 3 am local time. I was able to catch maybe 3 hours sleep before heading to the all day meeting at 8 am.
The meeting went very well as the clients were appreciative that I had traveled so far on short notice to address their concerns. Of course, it didn’t hurt that one of the client reps at the meeting was someone I had worked with over the years. I must admit at times during the meeting I was beginning to feel very wiped out physically but even so, the meeting concluded with very positive feedback from the client, acquaintances I still have today. My flight out of Muscat was leaving at 8 pm the same evening since I had to be back in my office for some similarly important meetings. My new found friends took me to dinner after I checked out of the hotel and then drove me straight to the airport for my red-eye flight home.
The flight from Muscat to Gatwick was another 9 hours and as always seems to happen a screaming baby was in the front of the plane making sleep impossible. I was totally wiped out upon arrival at Gatwick and almost missed the shuttle to Heathrow for the return flight to Houston, but I made it. There was an hour layover in Heathrow so I grabbed a quick bite to eat and then toured the airport shops to kill the time until I could board the plane and finally get some sleep. After hitting probably 7 or 8 shops I realized I no longer had my briefcase with me. Talk about panic time as it contained my ThinkPad laptop which would be very difficult to replace since I hadn’t the opportunity at this point to back up the critical data created during this Oman trip.
I retraced my steps through all the shops, hoping that I was just so tired I had walked off and left the briefcase at some checkout counter, but no dice. I was really getting concerned when I heard an announcement over the PA system- "James Kendrick come to the security checkpoint, please." You have to remember this happened prior to 9/11 and the strict security measures enacted as a result of that horror. I went straight to the security checkpoint where my carry-on baggage was screened and much to my delight they gave me my briefcase with everything intact after verifying my identity. Talk about relief! I was so tired that I evidently put the briefcase on the conveyor belt for screening and then just walked off and left it! The security guy told me I was lucky someone else hadn’t noticed it sitting there for a while and walked off with it. No doubt if this happened today an unattended briefcase like this would set off a chain of reactions that would certainly make me miss my flight while I proved I wasn’t a terrorist of some sort. It was also a good thing that I always have an ID tag on my briefcase for trips like this which was how they knew the briefcase was mine. All the contents were accounted for and I boarded my flight and slept the whole way home.
CNET has an article that discusses how prevalent loss and theft of mobile devices have become, especially at airports when traveling. They discuss several options for insurance and even tracking services that wait for a stolen or lost device to log onto the internet, thus providing a location of the missing laptop or PDA. These services are priced quite reasonably and claim a rate of recovery that is surprisingly high so if you are a frequent traveler you would be wise to check out the article and some of the services they discuss.