1) In infrared transmission, beaming is the communication of data between wireless devices using a beam of infrared light. This beam, invisible to humans, is used in many familiar devices, such as television remote controls and garage door openers. Infrared transmission is often used to transfer information between computing devices, for example, beaming data between a handheld device, such as a personal digital assistant (PDA), and a laptop computer. Recently made portable computing devices are equipped with infrared ports, and entire networks can be set up using only infrared transmission for communication. However, because infrared transmission requires a clear line of sight, it isn't practical to use in an environment where there are physical objects -- such as walls -- in between the devices to be connected.

Infrared data communication is playing an important role in wireless data communication due to the popularity of laptop computers, PDAs, digital cameras, mobile telephones, pagers, and other devices. The Infrared Data Association (IrDA), an industry-sponsored organization, was established to develop and promote international standards for the hardware and software used in infrared communication links. Infrared communication involves a transceiver (a combination transmitter and receiver) in both devices that communicate. Special microchips provide this capability. In addition, one or both devices may require special software so that the communication can by synchronized. Current and future beaming possibilities include:

  • Beaming a document from your notebook computer to a printer
  • Beaming business cards between handheld PCs
  • Coordinating schedules and telephone books between your desktop and notebook computers
  • Beaming faxes from your notebook computer to a distant fax machine through a public telephone
  • Beaming images from your digital camera into your computer

2) Beaming is also sometimes used to mean teleportation, most notably as the method used to transport humans (and more exotic life forms) on Star Trek. According to researchers at the California Institute of Technology, teleportation is the duplication or re-creation of physical objects or their properties using light beams. The CalTech researchers have successfully transmitted information about the properties of an object at the speed of light so that the object could, at least theoretically, be duplicated or reconstructed at its destination.

This was last updated in September 2005

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