Supposedly, 300 years in the future, we'll still be using sound to locate people.
Once, Kirk was forced to eject a research pod containing a crew member to prevent the destruction of the Enterprise. He is presumed dead, and Kirk is accused of killing him. As the trial goes on, they suspect that he faked his own death, so they empty the ship and McCoy uses a sensitive auditory device tied into the computer to detect his heartbeat. Busted! He did it to frame Kirk as he blamed Kirk for hindering his Starfleet career. Maybe in the sixties, it seemed high-tech and cool but sounds pretty clunky today.
Star Trek: The Next Generation did much better, the old-style communicator (which Kirk brandished and inspired things in the real world like flip phones) was banished in the new series, replaced with snappy little “Comm Badges”, gold communicators which Starfleet personnel wore proudly on their uniforms. A simple tap and you were able to initiate voice recognition to communicate with others or ask the computer a question, in a very similar way to Alexa, Siri or Google Assistant today.
Although never discussed, Comm Badges also tracked your location, which was very useful for when you needed to be beamed out of a sticky situation, or when, more often than not, Picard was kidnapped by aliens (you’d think that they’d figured out some way to stop this after the second time the question “Computer, Locate Captain Picard” reverted with “Captain Picard is not on the Enterprise”.)
While we can only speculate how they are supposed to operate, it’s pretty likely that they worked much like the Nodle Network does today. While a crew member is on the ship, it leverages a network of sensors, or other Comm Badges, (in the same way Nodle leverages smartphone infrastructure, via the proliferation of Bluetooth within personal mobile devices) to track location.
Nodle is developing many technics to preserve privacy while enabling this type of services (see: Anonymization and Randomisation of IoT identities in the context of industrial applications).
We’ve had IoT devices that can track location for a while, but until recently these have needed a strong power source in order to operate properly, as GPS uses up a lot of power. Other location technologies (like Bluetooth Low Energy “BLE”) use very little power.
While I’m sure that Comm Badges have some kind of magic-to-us power source, I wouldn’t be surprised if some of the time, they used a technology similar to BLE. Sensors all over the ship could connect with your Comm Badge and report your location to the computer, which relayed it to anyone asking (BTW, If anyone asks, I’ll be in Ten Forward).
The Comm Badges of today are these new, low power consuming IoT sensors, inexpensive to produce, with long-lasting power sources and powerful enough to be tracked by other BLE devices nearby.
Everything from embedded sensor headphones and wallets to industrial machines, to vehicles and shipping pallets, can be tracked by provisioning devices on things like the Nodle Network. Apple announced something similar for the release of iOS 13: “Find My” device.
The Nodle network leverages over 5 million active nodes, making them all a part of a tracking and data collection solution, eliminating the cost for additional hardware infrastructure.
Another good example, Lightning Technologies has created the next generation of shipping pallets with an embedded tracking chip and module. It's wood, like other pallets, but encapsulated with a polymer coating that makes it durable and easy to sanitize.
It’s nearly indestructible, lightweight, hygienic, fire-retardant and comes with a tracking chip and module using BLE. It can record everything about the pallet’s journey from its temperature, humidity, accidents and makes it easy to learn its location. Instead of using power heavy GPS to track location, using BLE allows them to leverage all those pre-existing smartphones out there.
Those pallets (or anything for that matter) can be located as they travel through more than 80 countries via the Nodle Network.
These “Comm Badges of today” can be attached to anything which needs to be tracked. There are plenty of examples of using them to locate things. For example, in healthcare, costs of care increase when staff can’t quickly or easily locate and must search for wheelchairs or oxygen tanks. In warehouses, taking 30 minutes to find a lost $15 extension cord might cost you hundreds of dollars in stalled workers.
They can even inventory for you: ensuring appropriate retail stock and flow is key to maintaining and improving revenue and profit. In manufacturing, they can ensure appropriate supplies are on hand to build an item which is critical to ensuring cost-effective production.
You can even use them to understand traffic utilization patterns, anticipating peak times and improving resource allocation. Plus once you have the data, you can use machine learning to optimize your asset management, applying algorithms to distributed, real-time decisions.
The most interesting use?
Finding non-obvious relationships and patterns which humans may miss because we simply do not have the processing power to gather and review all of this data. Prior to something like the Nodle network, this was impossible.
If you think about it, not only did we literally invent something 300 years too early, we made it even better than expected. Who knows what we could do next?