I wrote this article in December, 2002 - See the end of the article for updates on the material.
The last time we went searching through a museum looking for the various strayed members of my family I thought to myself - wouldn't it be great if we had Com Badges!
First of all it might pay to consider just exactly what a Comm Badge is and what it does. A Dermal Sensor Controller (DSC) verifies that the tap that activates it matches the unique Bioelectrical field and temperature profile of its' owner. The Subspace Transceiver Assembly (STA) turns the users' words into a digital burst which is transmitted (after encryption) to the closest of many short-range Radio Frequency transcievers installed about the ship. These relay the signal, using the main computer as it's routing control, to the desired target. The whole thing is powered by a tiny Sarium Krellide crystal battery, which has a 2 week average charge life. Of course the Comm Badge goes far beyond communications, they are in fact an interface between the wearer and the computer network. Other common uses are ...
- through the Universal translator of the main computer, the user can communicate in any known tongue and (with enough data) a high percentage of new ones.
- as a remote sensor to determine the major health parameters (biosigns) of the user eg. heartbeat, temperature etc.
- To command the ships computer system by voice control.
- to ascertain the location of the com badge user.
- to serve as a transporter lock.
There is certainly nothing that encompasses all these functions now, and it is arguable if it could be done with such a small piece of hardware for a long time to come. However if we ignore the miniaturisation, modern technology is fast catching up with 24th century Treknology on individual functions.
It has often been noted that the Personal Communicator of The Original Series, was a foretaste of our modern mobile phone networks. The flip-up, handheld units were partially replaced around 2271 by a smaller model worn on the wrist (ST TMP). This too has been reflected in reality by the release recently by Samsung of a mobile phone / wristwatch
In America short range communications (without FCC licenses, radio knowledge, or monthly fees) is available using Family Radio Service or FRS (462.5625 to 467.7125) which utilise transceivers about the size of a pack of cards (so I'm told). You could check out some of the articles on PopularWireless.com especially the comparison chart. One choice they do not review in detail is the Motorola Talkabout series which seems a budget level system.
As I said, the idea of the Comm Badge goes far beyond "Walkie-Talkie" communications. They are in fact an interface between the wearer and a computer network. Here are some current developments from the Web -
AllPoints Wireless PC Card and RadioMail Service
Not a badge, probably closer to a PADD - an add-on that turns your HP Palmtop into a communications device. With this combination of hardware & software you can send and receive e-mail, send faxes, and people can send you messages through a dispatch service.
An industry standard for connecting, amongst other things, mobile phones and mobile computers, notably PDA's via a short range radio signal. Already supported by Apple and reported to be supported by the new Windows XP update due out shortly. Communications and computing but it's still not wearable is it?
CharmBadge by Charmed Technology, Inc.
"...designed for aiding the communication and networking that occurs at conferences. Using data recovered from an infrared electronic conference badge, the CharmBadge system automatically creates private, personalized web pages documenting an attendee's or exhibitor's experiences during the conference." Not exactly communications but see also Ian pearsons article "The future of Smart Badges" (below)
Comm Badge Communications Network - Mike Hodgson
My personal favourite. A group of developers that are dedicated to bringing the core functions of the Comm Badge into reality. With the electronics at the working prototype stage, this is an idea that you could "breadboard" yourself at home! Click on the links under developer on the right hand side of the Home Page.
"The future of Network Computers and the Star Trek Badge"
Ian Pearson [Last revised 05-01-00]
"... with a decent network, the only thing you need with you is an interface ... Both processing and storage are available remotely. This means that you can work from anywhere and have full access to all the files, programs and information that you have from your desk ... Such a simple interface device could be built into a Star trek com-badge look-alike..."
"The future of Smart Badges"
Ian Pearson [Last revised 05-01-00]
Smart badges are mostly used today as an identifier, however they can hold much more, from personal preferences to business contact details. It is possible that badges could talk to each other... and when two badge wearers met, their badges might exchange information and inform their owners. "Their badges exchanged glances across a crowded room ..."
"Technology Corner; Beam Me Up Scottie"
Robert Reed [(c) 1994-1997]
Already showing its' age badly, the reviewer sees communication between PDA's (PADDs) more likely than the use of CommBadges
To me what the Comm Badge represents is wearable technology. It is communications, monitoring and computing that travels unobtrusively with you. It could revolutionise our way of life, it would certainly liberate housebound and handicapped people. It is the next step in making technology truly a part of our lives, and then? Communications and computer input/output which are implanted into our bodies? Well, I for one am not quite ready for that yet!
Lt Alan Anderton, USS Magellan
Science Liaison Officer, R14
Doing an updated article so thought I'd check those URLs -
COMMUNICATIONSCOMPUTER INTERFACETHE FUTURE
The two Ian Pearson articles are still on the Net ...