What ever happened to the PAN?


I remember ages ago when I was at University the concept of a Personal Area Network was heavily talked about but over the last 10 years I have heard very little about it. Now with the internet of things (IoT) coming into full effect, it seems a very good time to revive it from its dormant sleep?

From Wikipedia

A personal area network (PAN) is a computer network used for communication among computerized devices, including telephones and personal digital assistants. PANs can be used for communication among the personal devices themselves (intrapersonal communication), or for connecting to a higher level network and the Internet (an uplink). A wireless personal area network (WPAN) is a PAN carried over wireless network technologies such as IrDA, Bluetooth, Wireless USB, Z-Wave, ZigBee, or even Body Area Network. The reach of a WPAN varies from a few centimeters to a few meters.

The PAN should always operate in your benefit and not against you. Devices can freely communicate within the PAN but not so easily outwards. I imagine it would work something like a 2 way firewall blocking items within it from communicating out and vice-versa. As devices enter the trusted PAN zone, then permissions will be granted to allow external access, etc.

This does beg the question of how you do these type behaviours on a device with no buttons, screen, etc. But to be honest that’s a lovely interaction design problem to solve.

Fancinating to also see where the PAN is in the greater network topology…

Would be great to be able to specify rules based on the position of the thing/device. For example if an thing is classified/identified itself as needing to be on the BAN (body area network) then you can say its only allowed to talk to the PAN and never the NFC layer for example. Maybe it should come with defaults but they are changeable like the permissions used when trying to connect via OAuth.

Once again I’m not sure how to surface this to the user without some kind of external access like how you configure routers and switches now. But someone is working on it now I’m sure of that…

I quite like the Hula Hoop analogy. You can have multiple, some are bigger than others and some will overlap. You can even hula hoop around certain parts of the body rather than just your hips. Hula hoops are also shareable and I guess you can fit more than one person within them. However it still doesn’t explain how you control the wiring/influence/networking of the devices/things…

Author: Ianforrester

Senior firestarter at BBC R&D, emergent technology expert and serial social geek event organiser.