Wireless Instruments Are Not Science Fiction. Not Anymore

April 9, 2010
Today, Wireless Tools and Applications Are Not Science Fiction. Our Devices Might Not Be as Advanced as Those Portrayed in Movies, but They Aren't Too Far Behind
By Katherine Bonfante, Managing Editor, Digital Media

I've never been a fan of science fiction. To me, what science fiction portrays is a lie, far from ever becoming a reality. But for the past months I've been subjected to watching episodes of everything Star Trek, and even though I'm still not a fan of science fiction, I now see that what's “real" in this TV show is very similar to the reality of our actual world.

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For example, in Star Trek, Deep Space Nine, Chief Operations Officer Miles O'Brien is a versatile engineer, who knows the Deep Space Nine station like the back of his hand. If anything malfunctions, he fixes it in no time using just one tool—a small apparatus that beeps, has a color screen and many buttons. It's called a tricorder scanner, but to me it just looks like a small, bulky calculator.

How can an engineer with one small tool, fix a massive outer-space station filled with sensors, cables and millions of wireless networks with just that one tool? Well, in today's world, we're not quite at the point of having tricorder scanners, but we're getting closer.

Today, wireless tools and applications are not science fiction. Our homes have WLANs. Can you even buy a TV without a wireless remote control? In our workplaces, wireless switches, sensors, transceivers and more can monitor vital plant and production information, plant safety, network breaches and alarms. has numerous online resources on wireless technologies to help you get closer to Chief O'Brien's tricorder scanner.

Editor-in-Chief Walt Boyes discusses technology forecasts for flow, level, temperature and pressure sensors in his report, "Wireless Arrays on New Sensor Frontier." Read this report at or watch Boyes' FutureCast video on primary process variables at

Log on to and watch the video, "How End Users Have Reduced Cost and Increased Efficiency with Wireless Technology," to learn how wireless technology can help increase plant asset uptime and reduce maintenance costs.

Engineers still need more than a magic, one-tool-fixes-all tricorder scanner. However getting up to speed on wireless technology is quickly becoming a must-do, and small handheld devices that watch over plant operations are almost as necessary as a calculator. To learn more about our online wireless resources and extensive coverage of wireless issues, visit the Wireless Guide at or search our site.