Star Trek-style communicator set to stun

Forbes business magazine headlined it: "Your Trekkie communicator is ready".

Forbes business magazine headlined it: “Your Trekkie communicator is ready”.

The 10cm-long wireless “phone” from Silicon Valley company Vocera Communications does bear some resemblance to the ultra-portable communicators of Star Trek.

The Vocera Communications System, being marketed in New Zealand by IBM-owned Logical-CSI and displayed on its stand at the Wireless Forum in Wellington, is a little too large for its maker’s description “badge” to apply literally. The device is more comfortably slung round the neck. After a touch on the single "on" button it is entirely voice-operated, allowing a call to another badge over the Wi-Fi network to be initiated by speaking a name from the device’s address book.

The Vocera is tuned to one staffer's voice and contact book when in use, but when s/he turns it off and hands it on to a colleague the new operator speaks an "identifier" and the device fetches the new profile from a server across the Wi-Fi network.

Hands-free operation saves valuable time and effort in occupations where you can’t stop what you’re doing to make a call, says Logical’s Brent Menzies. Especially a call for help. Its major markets, he says, are in the health sector, security and retail. Logical-CSI has spoken with “just about every hospital board in the country”, Menzies says.

Blacktown Hospital in Sydney has equipped its staff with the devices and says the time saved is worth the salary of eight extra nurses, Menzies says.

The Vocera system is most cost-effective where the organisation already has a Wi-Fi network, otherwise one will have to be set up from scratch.

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