A company called Imation Corp. today unveiled a $449.99 product called the Pro WX Wireless USB hard drive. The 1.5 TB drive is unique in that it connects to a PC or laptop via Wi-Fi, but only via an included USB dongle.
[ See also: What kind of digital nomad are you? ]
Gadget blog Gizmodo published a nice post on it, headlined "Is There Any Point to the World's First Wireless USB Drive?" In the post, writer Jesus Diaz pointed out that other drives are Wi-Fi enabled, and they don't require a proprietary dongle. He asked, "So why not just leave a regular drive on the desk, and plug the cable for a better transfer rate at a much cheaper price? And if you want wireless, why don't get a drive that is Wi-Fi enabled?" Diaz's criticism makes sense for people working in their homes or offices. But for location-independent professionals, the Pro WX Wireless USB hard drive makes a lot of sense. A huge percentage of low-cost living situations in countries all over the world involve a small hotel with a "cyber-cafe" for guests at the ground floor. Many of these don't use Wi-Fi in the cafe, just PCs connected by Ethernet. Lippies are used to being confronted with a common problem: You can use your personal laptop, or you can use the Internet, but not both. I have personally experienced this in India, Guatemala and Greece. The Imation Pro WX Wireless USB hard drive would be awesome in this situation. Leave the drive in your room, and bring the USB dongle to the hotel cybercafe, plug it in, and connect to your own personal drive. This not only gives you secure access to your own documents without leaving a trace on the system, but it enables you to download huge files and upload them to your hard disk. Many lippies are graphics designers of one kind or another, or professional photographers. Such people sometimes share the qualities of being relatively non-technical users, and also dealing with humongous files. The Pro WX Wireless USB hard drive is perfect for them, because of its enormous capacity, and because it requires zero configuration or troubleshooting to achieve the Wi-Fi connection. (Plus it works on Mac, in addition to PC.) And finally, many spots around the world that digital nomads find themselves are inherently insecure, both from a physical security point of view and a cyber security perspective. Anyone who needs to back up huge amounts of data while traveling in these places faces a conundrum. If you have a plug-in drive and somebody steals your laptop, they're going to steal the drive as well. This famously happened to director Francis Ford Coppola while he was living temporarily in Argentina. He lost 15 years worth of family photos and screen-writing work. So one helpful tactic is to use a wireless drive, and hide the drive -- or lock it away in a cabinet or something. However, if your drive is available via Wi-Fi, it can be hacked via Wi-Fi. The Imation drive's requirement of using the USB dongle provides an extra layer of security -- you can take it with you, and it functions essentially as a car key -- no dongle, no connection. Gizmodo's skepticism is valid for most users. But for digital nomads, the Pro WX Wireless USB hard drive could be the best solution for some very real challenges we face all the time.