Ma... no wires!
Using infrared to get connected
by Alan Zisman (c) 1996 First published
in Business in
Vancouver , Issue #335 March 26, 1996 High Tech
got your portable
computer, and you like the newfound freedom it gives you. Now you
can take it on the plane to that out-of-town sales meeting, but more
often, you take it to the meeting down the hall, or upstairs.
you get there,
what do you do if you need to do something as seemingly simple as
print out a document?
you walk over
to the computer on somebody's desk, unplug the printer cable, plug
it into your computer's printer port, and print. Workable but awkward.
But what if the desktop computer is printing through the network?
maybe you've got
a PC Card Ethernet connector, but even then, connecting into the
outside your own office is not necessarily a trivial matter. (Don't
try simply pulling off the networking cable from that desktop computer
and sticking it onto your notebook--not unless you're prepared to
defend yourself from a raging network manager!)
commonplace, so pretty soon, wireless computer connections will be
too. Last year, 32 per cent of the portable computers sold included
infrared ports and it's estimated that by next year, every portable
computer sold will include one, allowing portable users a way for their
computers to communicate without the cables.
two to communicate. You'll want to make sure that the next laser
your office buys also has an infrared port to allow portable users
to simply stand a couple of feet away, point the laptop towards the
printer, and print. In fact, an increasing number of printer models
are already sporting infrared connections.
the Infrared Data Association (IrDA), is pushing for increased
of this technology. Hewlett-Packard, for example, is including
infrared in its portable computer models, and in several of its newest
printer models. As well, the company is selling the NetBeamIR--an
infrared network access point. If you point an infrared-capable
computer at one of these, it can be connected into the network, and
even use the network for high-speed Internet access.
use isn't widespread
yet, but it's a technology with lots of growth potential. It's an
'enabling' technology that permits lots of other changes to take place.
Perhaps you've seen one of those futuristic videos where the hero
pays for things by pointing his wallet at the cash register,
electronic cash at the same time? We're nearly there. Combine the
digital cash cards being tested by financial institutions such as VanCity
Savings Credit Union with infrared, and you've
pretty much got this futuristic scenario.
however, you can look for the infrared communication system that was
previewed at January's PacRim Comdex show by AST Canada and Nokia
system, expected to be released later this year, will run on the
Communications Service (PCS) recently announced by Industry Canada.
The IrDA infrared port on AST Ascentia and other recent laptop models
could be used to communicate through Nokia's 2190 digital PCS phone,
thus allowing e-mail, fax, and complete Internet access with no modem
in the computer. Such technology makes it usable by tiny handheld
computers, which have been crippled by the high power demands of fast
PC Card modems.
system currently on the shelves includes built-in IrDA support, the Microsoft's
recently released Service Pack of updates
and fixes for Windows 95 adds infrared support for that system. This
is a sign that such support may be standard in the next generation
working with a
portable computer provides a sense of freedom, I'm still burdened
down by too many wires. Right now, I've got the power cable plugged
into the wall, and the phone cable connecting my PC Card modem. I could
add a printer cable, or a cable to my Iomega ZIP drive. (It lets me use
very handy 100-meg removable disks--but at the cost of one more cable.)
want from my
next portable computer is better battery life, and infrared connections
to everything else.
technology is here
today and its benefits are obvious. It should become increasingly
available--look for it in your future portable computer, printer,
and other business purchases.