The Best Little Gadgets for Small Businesses

Here are three nifty technologies that will make things run more smoothly.
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LAS VEGAS -- This little gadget thing of ours is in a lull.

Sure, there's been lots of hype about supposedly new technologies like organic light-emitting diode TVs from majors like Sony (SNE) - Get Report and Samsung. But they won't be on the market for years.

Rather, the smaller companies providing niche products are the ones making news so far this year.

Yes, 2008 may be the year small business gets into gadgets.

Considering how flat out nasty the coming year may be for planet small biz, these new technologies may mean the difference between remaining a player and having to chuck it all and take a job with The Man.

Here are my picks of nifty new technologies for smaller businesses, unearthed at this month's gadget fest in the high desert -- at the Consumer Electronics Show.

Better Point of Sale

Infinite Peripherals PP55 -- $400.

One thing that makes our small business blood boil is the credit card transaction shakedown ... excuse me, "point of sale process."

Not only do credit card companies rip out a couple of points on every deal; they make us use what has got to be the stupidest device in our shop: The credit card scanner.

Besides being ugly, credit card scanners tend to run on closed networks, don't interface easily with existing systems and are almost never portable.

Enter Infinite Peripherals. This Irvine, Calif.-based business makes an interesting line of wireless credit card transaction modules, that -- get this -- run on standard portable devices.

Simply plug your Blackberry or Treo into the company's base, install some software and, voila, you are transacting with a credit card.

Neat bonus feature: The unit sends out automatic email notifications. So you not only monitor the transaction -- and the inevitable return -- but also automatically build your client contact sheet.

Fire Your Photographer

MEDALight portable lighting systems -- starting at $300.

Hey, online retailers: How cool would it be to make high-quality digital images of your inventory without relying on lame corporate handout art or hiring an expensive professional photographer?

Enter the new line of portable lighting systems from MEDALight. These units are built around a backlight stand and easy to operate front and side lights to create an imaging platform that makes getting good pictures of your products dead easy.

Simply turn on the stand, place your product in the middle of the flat white environment and start shooting. Basic units with roughly one-foot bases start at $300 and a full three feet of shoot-able space will run you about $2,500.

The MEDALight won't replace your photographer entirely -- bigger items still have to be professionally done and the environment is strictly flat white or a single color -- but if you want a fast way to get a professional look, let MEDALight enlighten you.

Smart Stamps

DYMO Desktop Mailing Solution -- $240.

Ever dream about dumping that postage machine that lurks in the corner of your office? You know, the one that charges you every month for the honor of keeping its machine in your office, but often marks up postage for the same privilege.

May I introduce you to the DYMO Desktop Mailing Solution. This all in one desktop system combines a printer that spits out address and postage labels, an account with online e-postage firm

Endicia and a five pound postage scale that connects to any PC via a universal serial bus connector.

The system determines and dispenses precise amounts of United States Postal Service postage on self-sticking labels, essentially turning your business into a professional mail room.

Yes, you're paying for the DYMO labels, but unless you're a mailing monster, you should be better off than going with the established office mailing solutions.

Jonathan Blum is an independent technology writer and analyst living in Westchester, N.Y. He has written for The Associated Press and Popular Science and appeared on FoxNews and The WB.