Networking show takes industry's pulse

It seems there's a specialised electronic device for almost every task -- and if you find yourself urgently needing to perform an ECG scan outdoors in rain or snow, then Casio Electronics has something for you.

Casio was showing an ECG machine installed in a ruggedized Cassiopeia EG800 PDA (personal digital assistant) here at the Networks Telecom trade show. The device runs Microsoft's Pocket PC operating system and ECG software from Dutch company Cardio Control NV.

The PDA, with the ECG software, will be available in the U.K. only from July 17, and costs 2,000 pounds (US$2,800), said Jon Ball, who is responsible for sales and business development at Casio in the U.K.

"The user can connect an ECG box into a connector on the PDA," Ball said. The ruggedized PDA can survive a fall from a height of 75 centimeters, and can be used in heavy rain or other tough weather conditions, according to Casio.

"The software can be installed in any of our devices, but it is most suitable on the EG-800," said Amanda Recknell, product manager at Casio. Possible customers for the system are hospitals and doctors who need to be mobile.

Further up the size scale is a touch-screen display 3 meters by 1 meter, from Interactive Displays Ltd.

"It is the largest in the world today," said Peter Collier, a spokesman for the company. "It may not be the world's largest next week, but today it is," he added.

Interactive Displays is currently seeking an entry for the Mega-Mate display in the Guinness Book of Records.

The display, costing over 30,000 pounds, has been ordered by automobile manufacturer Volkswagen AG in Dresden, Germany. Volkswagen will be using the huge screen to give its customers a tour of its new corporate identity center in Dresden, among other things.

With a touch-screen display, the user can give instructions to a computer, network, or surf the Web by pointing at icons or moving a cursor directly with their finger, rather than using a mouse. This physical contact, however, makes it difficult to keep such displays clean. "You have to wipe it off with a window cleaner at the end of the day," said Collier. "It does get greasy, but it doesn't affect the performance."

Beaming information over an infrared link between PDAs over distances of a few centimeters has become an everyday affair, but two companies, Canon Inc. and Cablefree Solutions Ltd., were showing systems which use lasers to beam information over much greater distances. Applications for this kind of technology include linking offices on opposite sides of a street without incurring the cost of a leased line, or connecting campus buildings to a central hub.

The Canonbeam DT-30 system can carry data between two points up to 500 meters apart at speeds from 10M bps (bits per second) to 156M bps. The DT-30 was shown for the first time at Networks Telecom, and it will be available worldwide in September, according to Bob C. Meesterman, a spokesman for the company. The DT-30 costs 18,000 pounds for two transceivers, which can be linked to the local network via 10baseT Ethernet or an optical fiber connection.

To maintain the flow of data, "there has to be an uninterrupted line between the two units, but if a bird flies by, that's OK," said Meesterman.

Customers using previous generations of Canonbeam products include British Broadcasting Corp. and British Telecommunications PLC.

Cablefree, meanwhile, showed a system capable of transmitting data at a staggering 2.7G bps. Appropriately called the Cablefree 2.7Gbps, the system will be available in September at a cost of around 40,000 pounds, said company Director Penelope Lee. Users of other models in the Cablefree range, which operate over distances up to 4 kilometers, include banks and schools, Lee said.

German enclosure manufacturer Rittal GmbH was hoping to generate interest in the sleek stainless steel casing of ITS Opti-Line, an information terminal designed for airports, hospitals and shopping centers, but at least one visitor found the device's futuristic form completely passé:

"It has very limited use, I think. People have their own communication now, with Pocket PCs," said Vodafone Airtouch PLC network planner Danny Scullion, referring to the increasing use of PDAs and mobile phones as a way to find flight times or other information at airports.

Unlike Casio with its PDA, Rittal has no plans to release an ECG module for its information terminal.

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More about British TelecommunicationsCablefree SolutionsCanonCardio ControlCasioGuinnessInteractive DisplaysMicrosoftOptiRittalVodafoneVolkswagen Australia

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