PAN is an acronym for Personal Area Network. A PAN is a network of battery or solar powered devices worn on the human body to enhance communication, leisure, productivity, or awareness. Typical devices found in a PAN are a cellular telephone, wristwatch, PDA, portable digital audio player, GPS receiver, notebook computer, portable gaming device, and a headphone/ microphone combination. New hybrid, integrated devices are increasingly replacing two or more of these components. For example, many new cellphones include digital audio playback capabilities, and PDA-GPS combinations are becoming quite popular. Despite the device-convergence trend, PAN enthusiasts have shown examples of up to eight different devices being connected in one PAN, although there are few examples of PAN's consisting of more than six practical devices.
Although the wired PAN has been recognized for over a decade, rapid advances in wireless technologies have brought about the wireless personal area network, or WPAN for short. Wireless personal area networks typically make use of bluetooth technology, as bluetooth's short range saves battery power and helps increase security. Less common are wifi WPAN's, however many bluetooth-enabled WPAN's and conventional wired PAN's have at least one wifi-capable device for Internet connectivity via wifi hotspots. GPRS and 3G technologies can help bring the Internet to a PAN via the cellular telephone, however this is usually a more expensive option than wifi. Also, many cellphone providers limit the types of data that can be received via GPRS, further increasing the need for wifi connectivity. Infrared wireless communications are not usually used in WPAN's because of the line-of-sight requirements, which are not practical for a body on the move.
Wearing a PAN or WPAN has become a trend in some urban areas. Many new non-electronic accessories are being introduced specifically for use in PAN's including hats, jackets, pants, and even shoes and automobiles. New types of clothing prewired for headphones and data transfer are available, often including heavily padded pockets designed to protect electronic equipment. Additionally, new technologies for transmitting data are being developed to increase security, safety, and battery life. One such technology allows for data to be transmitted via human skin. Not only does this reduce the amount of wires snaking around the body, it also enables data such as business cards and telephone numbers to be passed from person to person via a simple handshake.
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