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Gadgets so good they're wicked

November 19, 2007 13:36 IST

Satellite navigation. Remote-controlled, killer aircraft. Lasers. Modern technology has made the once fantastical everyday. The high-tech gizmos for stirring up--or preventing--mischief are becoming more commonplace.

That means the far-out tools seen in 20-year-old spy movies are filled with a wealth of ideas for putting once exotic technology to use. And not just the gizmos deployed by James Bond. He had it easy: His mission was always pretty clear: Save the earth from a space-station-based lunatic bent on replacing humanity with supermodels, and so on.

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The real creative types were the Bond villains, who had to come up with creative plans, communicate with and organize a vast array of minions, keep an eye out for meddlesome interlopers, and acquire and manage an array of techno tools.

In some ways it's a lot like being a real life chief executive.

Here, then, are some lessons from the likes of Bond villains.

Get creative
The abundance of cheap connectivity and cheaper computing power means it's easy to put a bunch of everyday technologies together and get something surprising. Take global positioning satellite technology. Companies like Garmin and TomTom are booming by pushing the once-exotic technology that taps into military satellites to help users find their way.

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But perhaps the cleverest idea comes from a Virginia Beach-based company, StarChase, which sells a system that allows law enforcement officers to shoot a projectile at a fleeing car that sticks to it and allows cops to track their quarry.

In touch, out of reach
If technology can help you track your enemies, it can also help you keep out of reach. Think Ernst Stavro Blofeld. The great Bond villain was a powerful presence in two Bond movies even though he never appeared on screen. But when he showed up in You Only Live Twice, he got dumped into a nuclear reactor. It got worse: In For Your Eyes Only, Bond dropped him down a smokestack from a helicopter before the opening credits.

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The lesson: Use technology to stay in touch, yet out of reach. Skip in-person meetings for video conference calls. Skip video conference calls for e-mail. Skip e-mail for instant messages. The best example: the plethora of offshore Web sites that take wagers from American bettors, yet never allow themselves to be subject to American laws.

Scope out the henchmen
It's the oldest giveaway in the book. If an evil genius is hiring volcanologists, you can guess his next evil plot will involve plenty of magma. Likewise, you can stalk your competitors by reading their want ads. Microsoft tipped off competitors to its plans this month when it began advertising for a "program manager" for a new photo and video sharing service.

Likewise, when Google announced it will be giving away a mobile phone operating system last week, no one who had paid attention to Google's hiring patterns a year or so ago was surprised.

Brian Caulfield, Forbes
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