NEW YORK ( MainStreet) -- Apple ( AAPL) may have initially disappointed enthusiasts and investors with the iPhone 4S, but that's not going to stop app developers from taking advantage of its new capabilities.Companies from practically every industry are jumping on the mobile app bandwagon -- while the iPhone is the most high-profile of smartphones, most apps are made to work for BlackBerry and Google ( GOOG) Android devices as well -- which is a good thing for small-business owners, who are always pressed for time. Here are six apps that can be a boost to small-business owners:
Technology is bringing even security systems into the mobile age via the programmers at Protection One ( PONE), which offers security systems for residential homes and businesses of all sizes. Protection 1 has come up with an application so business owners can use their iPhone, BlackBerry or any Web-accessible device to monitor inside an office, store or warehouse via the company's eSecure video platform. eSecure sends texts or emails to alert owners in the event of, say, a back door being left open or broken window or something more serious, such as a break-in, a pipe bursting, power failure (huge for energy-dependent establishments such as grocery stores) or detection of smoke or high levels of carbon monoxide, among other things. Users have the ability to pan and tilt cameras from their mobile phone and can contact authorities immediately in case of emergency. The app "transforms a traditional security system into a powerful monitoring tool," the company says.
Business owners who travel significantly and worry about everything from earthquakes and hurricanes to ash clouds and terrorist threats may find a mobile app by International SOS appealing. The app, launched just three weeks ago by the leading international health care, medical and security assistance company, allows business travelers to know if there are travel risks where they do business. International SOS aggregates information from troops on the ground who update region-specific information in real time. For example, if you need to travel to Boston and there is flooding north of the city, the app can tell you. The company says the app also offers travel tips, such as dealing with flooding by offering locations of safe houses or warning of public transportation delays. In a more serious example, a business traveler heading to the Middle East would see warnings for specific countries and risks, according to the company. The app also has a "one-click dial for help" to the nearest of 27 International SOS Alarm Centers. The company has a global network of 68,000 professionals, including established providers; clinics; alarm centers; air ambulances; medical specialists; and security, aviation and logistics personnel, it says. The company provides membership to many small and midsize businesses. Companies pay for the membership, and the app is free to employees. Individuals can also buy memberships, starting at $84 for a 10-day trip. The company says the app was developed to help businesses and organizations fulfill their "obligations to protect employees from risks" by safeguarding employees those traveling abroad to high-risk locations. The app is supported on most smartphones, including iPhone, BlackBerry and Android.
Intuit's ( INTU) QuickBooks Mobile is probably one of the most inclusive apps for small-business owners to have on their iPhone or Android to stay connected while on a job site, at a meeting or elsewhere. With QuickBooks Mobile, business owners can create invoices and access customer data, make changes to it, manage outstanding balances and create invoices, the company says. (Intuit also has mobile apps for its online payroll system and Intuit GoPayment to allow businesses to accept credit cards on the go.) The application automatically syncs with QuickBooks, arming users with the most up to date information, whether they are in or out of the office. The majority of small and medium-sized business "feel that staying connected through wireless devices is critical to the success of their business. As the demand for mobile access continues to accelerate, we're working to give customers the solutions they need most so they can save time and make money wherever their business takes them," said Dan Wernikoff, general manager of Intuit's Financial Management Solutions division, in a July announcement of the launch of Intuit's mobile Android app. The app is free for Quickbooks users.
Small-business owners are known for having to wear many hats, which can keep them at the office or store for long hours. Their savior could be Seamless, a digital service for takeout food ordering and delivery. Seamless was founded in 1999 by a former lawyer fed up with filing expense reports. The company is on track to do more than $400 million in food orders this year. Companies of all sizes can set up corporate accounts to order in lunch or prepare client breakfasts, for instance, immediately expensing the charge. The app is free for corporate clients. Seamless works with more than 7,500 restaurants in 37 cities and has more than 1 million users, according to the company's Web site. Last week, Seamless acquired MenuPages to offer access to grow to more than 40,000 menus. The acquisition will be integrated into the mobile offerings, the company says. Customers order through the Seamless site or mobile app; Seamless pings the restaurant with the order, and the restaurant delivers the food when ready.
This one almost seems like a no-brainer in its practicality for small businesses. It means that gone are the days when small-business owners and their employees who drive a lot for the job have to expense their mileage and gas usage manually. As its name implies, Trip Track Mileage reporter allows a person to start and stop collecting mileage. Trip Track Mileage automatically calculates a mileage report, stores the mileage in an exportable spreadsheet compatible with Microsoft ( MSFT) Excel, DIY tax software or QuickBooks, among others, according to the parent company, Iconosys.
In the same boat, tracking tax-deductible activities is made a whole lot easier when it can be done on the go. Whether they are for business purposes or charitable donations, Iconosys' Tax Deduction Tracker allows a business owner to document in real time items that are tax deductible. The mobile app records the expenses in a database and stores the documented, categorized images for retrieval during tax time for a self-filer or tax professional. -- Written by Laurie Kulikowski in New York. To follow Laurie Kulikowski on Twitter, go to: http://twitter.com/#!/LKulikowski To submit a news tip, send an email to: email@example.com.
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