Beltcom

Belt-carried Computer and Communicator

What will a Beltcom be?

An outgrowth and fusion of the Personal Digital Assistant and NII-SuperNet/HiperLAN technologies - The beltcom is characterized by a very fast processor, custom operating-system kernels, generally designed to handle JAVA (and spin-off architecture-neutral, platform-neutral, operating-system neutral portable languages) applications retrieved from the InterNet via SuperNet 5gigahertz or MIRcom (modulated micropower impulse radar) modems. The beltcom is not only a Network Computer (tm; please follow this link), but it also functions as a generic two-way videocom link, although E-mail or agented operation is the preferred mode of operation when not hardwired to fiberoptic. Also characterized by modularity. The base unit is essentially a touch/pen-based I/O unit with PCMCIA slots for additional memory, a fiberoptic connect port, and recharge port. The touch/pen I/O screen switches rapidly to overlay an image of any standard keyboard, so that rapid touchtyping is fairly easy without extra space being required for a keyboard, although physical plug-in keyboard modules can of course be obtained.

Various industry leaders have several proposals on the table regarding the future development and deployment of a bigger, better networld.

Assorted government agencies are involved in this, notably the Federal Communications Commission and the National Institute of Standards and Technology's Advanced Network Technology Division. The military is also very interested in developments in beltcom technology - the beltcom would make an absolutely superior battlefield tool for all levels of personnel, from the soldier in the field to the general in his bunker.

Please see the NIST Electronic Books Site. There will be a conference to discuss the emerging technologies of "electronic books" which is essentially the same as beltcom.

Here's an interesting little page from the Natural Resources Conservation Service's Information Technology Center: Field Office Computing Systems.

Several companies are moving towards true beltcoms. Here they are.

Hardware - please see also technology sources.
Apple Newton Messagepad.
AT&T - AirData.
AT&T Wireless Services.
Assistive Technology, Inc has a wonderful product now hitting the market for around $5,000.00. Please take a look at this, and imagine this concept plus twenty years of technical advance, and you have the ultimate idea of the Beltcom (tm).
Cell Computing has a line of extremely small full-powered Pentium PCs, small enough for Beltcom.
Compaq is moving towards deployment of a "PC companion".
Digital Ocean's Tarpon, very similar to and compatible with the Apple Newton architecture. They also have the mobile www-access tool, the Seahorse.
Harris Semiconductor is a leader in Wireless LAN technologies. Please see this Primer on Wireless LAN. Harris is partnered with Aironet among others. Aironet has a very good resource page on Wireless LAN.
Hewlett-Packard Omnigo 100 Organizer Plus.
Nokia 9000.
Northstar CT1000. This is nice. I want one.
Parvus Corporation makes scalable PC104 embedded solutions boards that are ideal for either wearable-computer or compact automation uses.
Psion Series 3a.
Sony Magic Link.
US Robotics Pilot.
Xybernaut Mobile Assistant II hands-free speech-activated "wearable computer".

Not exactly a beltcom, but certainly on the right track - A Ruggedized IMMARSAT Portable Office, from GlobeSat, Inc.

Software/Systems -
UnWired Planet (tm, Unwired Planet). This is hot stuff folks. They've got the Handheld Device Markup Language (HDML) and other tools which will rapidly deploy beltcoms into almost every pocket in America where there is now a cellular phone.
Take a look at the UnWired Planet Partners! This could be huge.

Communications
For background, please see FCC SuperNet.

Connectivity -
GTE Wireless Data Services and their Wireless Packet Data Service Markets.
Kiva Network is "un-wiring" downtown Bloomington, Indiana.
NorTel. They've got a large variety of modes and protocols deployed and operational, so jumping into Supernet and beltcom mode should be no problem.
Ricochet. Allied with Metricom.
WyndNet.


Internetworking Connectivity - Hardwiring to the Net

The entire concept of the beltcom revolves around the modularity and incremental structures of the Supernet-Local-Loop (infranet, tm), the FiberOptic Local-Loop (LAN and intranet), and various repeater, long-lines and satellite-link technologies (WAN and InterNet). Each beltcom will have a certain amount of peer-to-peer linkage capability, but most users will access networks rather than other beltcoms. The beltcom will probably be initially deployed as a walk-around command, control and display link to local LAN, with deskterm (tm) providing execution-space and agent-space, firewalling and intra/internet connectivity through FiberOptic Local-Loop LAN-to-WAN bridges, routers and switches. Here are some of the cutting edge developers of that technology.

Acorn-Networks. R & D for Naval highspeed VLSI asynchronous and low-power communications. They may develop the technology that allows interdevice local-area backboning in wireless mode.
BroadBand Technologies, Inc. Take a look at their FLX system, which allows 51Mbps downstream and 1.6Mbps upstream.
Hybrid Networks, Inc. has a very nice series of remote-link wireless modems to serve your Wireless-LAN/WAN needs! They also make points-of-presence (POPs), etc. They can probably provide a total solution for your corporate wireless-to-wired-to-wireless needs.
Lucent Communicatioon.

Open Standards Development and Implimentation

Open Standards are essential for the proper development and deployment of the beltcom. Wherever possible, standards should be developed which are platform neutral, architecture-neutral, and in the case of raw or semi-processed data, it is absolutely essential that there be open standards which are also operating-system-neutral.

DATA Standards
NetCDF - Common Data Format, and cites to related subject matter, assorted applications, and other fun things.

Communications and Interactivity Standards
Society for Information Display (SID).
X is being transferred to the Open Group.


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Find out how the beltcom (and other technologies) might affect people and their lives and the world in which they live those lives. Please read In the Fall: Part One.
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