Now there's no escaping your stocks

COMPUTER technology makes keeping abreast of the markets less of a chore. Some web sites show stock prices with a delay of up to 20 minutes. And there are real time prices, for a fee, from the net.

These innovations are convenient but they are not that portable. The answer is to combine computer and communications technologies.There are two ways of getting prices: through the GSM digital mobile phone network and via a pager.

Paging technology has become something of a second-class citizen since the advent of the mobile phone. Text pagers are simple and relatively cheap gadgets that can display almost any information that can be communicated in a hundred or so characters.

Pager operators including Vodafone, with their Zap! range, and PageOne sell pagers with news, sport and Lottery number services.

The same technology can be adapted to send out financial information.

Hutchison Paging, a sister company of the Orange mobile phone service, produces a dedicated financial pager, Pulse, designed for the professional trader. It costs pounds 55 plus VAT a month and only works in south-east England.

Orange provides a simpler option with its mobile phones. Any subscriber can call up FT-SE 100 index stocks and key Liffe data. The prices are sent to the mobile handset as a text message. It costs 25p per message, although this covers up to three stocks at a time.

Vodafone gives its subscribers access to the FT Cityline stock price service: this also works as a text message (SMS) and costs 50p per message.

For investors with internet access, Cellnet provides financial data through its Genie information system. Genie combines cellular phone and web technology. Pick a stock selection via the web site, and Genie will send a message to the phone when prices move.

The web interface means Genie is not as quick to use as its rivals, but the service is free, is simple enough to set up, and makes good use of existing technology.

Within a couple of years, services such as Genie will no longer need the computer link at all. A few combined palmtop computer-mobile phone devices are already on the market, including the Nokia 9000 Communicator, which gives e-mail and internet access. The next generation of mobile phones, could well have web browsing as a standard feature.

q Cellnet Genie: www.genie.co.uk; Orange: www.orange.co.uk; Pulse: www.pulse.co.uk; Vodafone: www.vodafone.co.uk

q Stephen Pritchard can be contacted at hi-tech-investor@dial.pipex.com

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