The tricordor is reality

Devices used on Star Trek have long been a model for the evolution of computing and communication technology, with the flip phone as just one obvious example. The next step in this pattern is the emergence of attachments for smartphones and tablets that replicate the data collection and analysis capabilities of the tricordor used by the scientific and medical members of the Enterprise crew.

A great example of this development path was described in NPR's Science Friday segment last week on an attachment for the iPhone that turns it into a medical diagnostic device. This tool is still in development, but some other examples have already been approved by the FDA, such as Alivecor's EKG attachment for the iPhone.

While the hardware aspects of these devices have the potential to change the way medicine is performed, even more exciting is the idea of building software that adds more advanced record keeping, analysis, and communication capability. That is where Alpha Anywhere comes into play. Just as the iPhone provided a platform for software apps that even a genius like Steve Jobs couldn't have anticipated, these new sensing devices combined with Alpha Anywhere's application development and offline mobile capabilities make it possible to build a complete medical lab and record keeping system that you can hold in one hand.

To say that the creators of Star Trek were prescient is an understatement, but the Wikipedia entry for the tricodor makes it clear that this device was meant to be more than just a piece of hardware you waved in the air and then read some values off a screen. The "tri" in the name stands for its 3 functions: sensing, computing, and recording. The sensing functionality comes from the hardware attachment, but you also need a database application development tool like Alpha Anywhere to fill in the complete tool set.

One of the most useful features of the tricordor was local data storage and later synchronization with a central computer. Think about the many episodes where communication with the Enterprise was unavailable, yet the tricordor still functioned. Alpha Anywhere offers exactly the same functionality with its built-in offline mobile capability.

It will be a while before anyone needs this feature because they are so deep within a planet's core that communication is impossible, but trying to use the medical attachments described above in the middle of a jungle is a problem for today not just in the 24th century.

Medical device attachments are just one small piece of the revolution coming from this new technology. Think about remote geological surveys by oil companies, or hazmat sensing on the battlefield by the military, or even forensic testing at crime scenes. It may not be too long before an application based on one of these devices combined with Alpha Anywhere shows up on an episode of CSI. These are just some of the use cases I can imagine easily, the ones I haven't even thought of are even more exciting.
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About Author

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Adam Green

Adam Green is CIO at Alpha Software.

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