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Pneumatic Tube Communication In Hospitals

kdawson posted more than 4 years ago | from the foot-long-packets dept.

Medicine 350

blee37 sends along a writeup from the School of Medicine at Stanford University on their pneumatic tube delivery system, used for sending atoms not bits. Such systems are in use in hospitals nationwide; the 19th-century technology is enhancd by recent refinements in pneumatic braking. "Every day, 7,000 times a day, Stanford Hospital staff turn to pneumatic tubes, cutting-edge technology in the 19th century, for a transport network that the Internet and all the latest Silicon Valley wizardry can't match: A tubular system to transport a lab sample across the medical center in the blink of an eye."

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350 comments

Rollofle, you can't download a pizza either (4, Insightful)

Gothmolly (148874) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717206)

So the point of this article is that physical tasks, like plumbing or carrying infected blood, can't be done electronically ?!?!

Re:Rollofle, you can't download a pizza either (1)

sopssa (1498795) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717214)

The reason why they do this is NOT about cost cutting.

Used in other places, too (4, Insightful)

AliasMarlowe (1042386) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717292)

The ultra-modern pharmacy in the local town also uses pneumatic delivery for prescription drugs. You present your prescription at the counter, and the attendant checks it, then keys in the appropriate codes on the terminal. The pills/potion/whatever arrives via pneumatic tube while the instructions & labels are being printed. This is faster then the previous method where the same attendant would have to walk off and fetch the prescription materials.

Some banks also use pneumatic conveyance to send currency between the counters and the vault.

Re:Used in other places, too (4, Informative)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717484)

New York City used to have pneumatic mail tubes. (They shut them down when it got to the point that adding mail trucks started to be cheaper than adding tubing. Never underestimate the bandwidth of a truck, magnetic tapes or paper.)

Heck, the first New York City subway was pneumatic. (It was also very short, and short-lived.)

Re:Used in other places, too (5, Interesting)

FooAtWFU (699187) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717506)

Oh, and Roosevelt Island (in the river between Manhattan and Queens) has pneumatic garbage collection. It's the only place in the US besides Disneyworld to do that. Apparently it works somewhat-not-unlike a packet-switched network, periodically connecting garbage and recycling loads from different places to the appropriate suction via the same set of tubes.

Re:Used in other places, too (3, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717582)

Wow, I wanna go and put my junk in those!

Re:Used in other places, too (1)

MrNaz (730548) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717720)

"appropriate suction"

For once, that's a Freudian slip that's still funny due to relevance without the third grade euphemism.

Re:Used in other places, too (1, Funny)

JWSmythe (446288) | more than 4 years ago | (#30718076)

    I wasn't aware that Freud wore a slip. That really clarifies a lot of other questions I had about him. God, I'm glad other bits never made it into the mainstream. Just imagine the Freudian corset, stockings, etc. I guess he took his Oedipus Complex a step beyond, eh?

    That's one mighty nice Freudian Chastity Belt(tm) you have there.

    I'm going to have nightmares for weeks. ick.

Re:Used in other places, too (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717890)

Somewhere in here, there's a joke about Java's garbage collection.

Re:Used in other places, too (1)

bennomatic (691188) | more than 4 years ago | (#30718044)

No, Java's is less efficient, so there's no comparison.

Re:Used in other places, too (5, Funny)

alan_dershowitz (586542) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717876)

So what you're saying is that mail in NYC is a truck you put things on, not a series of tubes?

Re:Used in other places, too (1)

Haymaker (1664103) | more than 4 years ago | (#30718168)

a NYC mail was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday. I got it yesterday. also, I wish I had modpoints for you..

Re:Rollofle, you can't download a pizza either (1)

sznupi (719324) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717382)

It would be interesting to see it the other way around though - pneumatic computation.

Re:Rollofle, you can't download a pizza either (2, Interesting)

fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717798)

Talk to these guys [invensys.com] .

You may find the density a little lacking; but I suspect that they don't even notice EMP.

More broadly, a lot of the early analog computers were hydraulic(presumably this was easier than pneumatic, since water is more or less incompressible under standard conditions); but there would be nothing stopping the suitably enthusiastic individual from building pneumatic analog computers. Or, for that matter, digital ones. The cool kids in microfluidics have done some poking at the idea. pneumatic logic gates [rsc.org] .

Re:Rollofle, you can't download a pizza either (1)

newcastlejon (1483695) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717518)

Clearly these kids never heard of Sneakernet®.

Re:Rollofle, you can't download a pizza either (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717642)

But with the new PIZZA MAKER 3000, you will be downloading your own pizzas in the blink of an eye!

Our new patented system will transmit the energy across your regular phone line, no need for a special line.
And thanks to the lovely people at CERN, a portable blackhole generator is then used to convert this energy in to mass ready to be assembled in to whatever pizza you can think of, from pineapple and pepperoni to plain old classical cheese.

Now yours for only $24,999.

Re:Rollofle, you can't download a pizza either (4, Funny)

stfvon007 (632997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717776)

Pizza hut is now suing customers that use the pizzamaker 3000 to download unauthorized copies of their pizzas through PneumaticPizzatorrents. papa johns and domino's are considering following suite. It is being shown that only 3% of all pizzas downloaded are legal public domain or open source pizzas.

Re:Rollofle, you can't download a pizza either (5, Insightful)

Discordantus (654486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717924)

The point of this article is that pneumatic tube networks are frelling cool, and they're old tech. To many persons of geeky persuasion (including me), this type of thing is fascinating.

breaking news! (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717210)

what does Harry Reid think about barack Obama, the light skinned negro? He talks like a white person!

Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communication (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717236)

The bandwidth sucks.

Re:Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communicati (0, Redundant)

garg0yle (208225) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717338)

How do you figure? How much information is coded in a blood sample, for instance, if you count all the DNA/RNA sequencing? For that matter, how much information can you send if you load up a 16-Gb USB drive (or a few) and send them off in a tube?

No, the bandwidth here is just fine.

Re:Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communicati (4, Interesting)

91degrees (207121) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717440)

For that matter, how much information can you send if you load up a 16-Gb USB drive (or a few) and send them off in a tube?

You have a last mile (or last metre) problem there though. Getting the data through the tube will take seconds. Minutes at most. 16GB through USB2 will take a few minutes even if you actually do get the maximum theoretical throughput.

Re:Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communicati (5, Funny)

noidentity (188756) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717464)

Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communication: The bandwidth sucks.

How do you figure? How much information is coded in a blood sample, for instance, if you count all the DNA/RNA sequencing? For that matter, how much information can you send if you load up a 16-Gb USB drive (or a few) and send them off in a tube?

No, the bandwidth here is just fine.

There has never been a more appropriate time for this response: WHOOSH! (as the parcel goes by in the tube)

Re:Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communicati (1)

xs650 (741277) | more than 4 years ago | (#30718052)

That had whooshed right over my head too, it sucks when that happens.

Re:Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communicati (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717522)

Ah - but keep in mind that I/O on USB tops out at 480Mbit. Halve that, because (unlike networking), reading (receiving) and writing (sending) can't be done simultaneously - so 240Mbit. Gigabit is already beating it* - even before you add the overhead (however long it takes to; eject the device, remove it, put it in the capsule, type in the right send location / find the right tube, wait for actual transit time, get it out of the capsule, plug it in, mount it/open folder, start copy/move dialogue). It may be worth it for a sub-par network given some threshold of data, but in those cases, it's more practical to just install a decent network in the first place.

* Most "gigabit" connections don't live up to their names - but then again, I've yet to see a USB key read/write at 480Mbit/s.

Re:Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communicati (1)

red_pete (677686) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717534)

Wooooosh!!!

Re:Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communicati (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717410)

You can fit a couple of DDS-4 tapes in a standard pneumatic cartridge. That's 80GB of data, giving you somewhere in the region of 60GB/s

Re:Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communicati (1)

obarthelemy (160321) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717742)

i'm fairly sure it doesn't: it would most probaby be possible to feed 3.5" or at least 2.5" HDs down these tube. Every few seconds.

the latency certainly, though.

Re:Biggest problem with pneumatic tube communicati (1)

igny (716218) | more than 4 years ago | (#30718108)

The bandwidth sucks.

And the more it sucks the better it is.

I guess the only question is... (-1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717246)

What happens when something goes wrong?

Tubes get clogged... (lack of QoS)

Capsule is damaged before being inserted in tube

Capsule gets stuck...

Breaking fails, sample gets smashed..

Tubes get contaminated.

Critical sample gets stuck, or destroyed....

Re:I guess the only question is... (4, Informative)

More_Cowbell (957742) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717280)

I guess the only question is... why don't you take a look at TFA and get all your questions answered, instead of rushing here to try for a FP?

Re:I guess the only question is... (2, Insightful)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717394)

You must be new here.

Re:I guess the only question is... (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717616)

TFA doesn't answer the questions at all... it just says no cylinder has ever gotten stuck in a tube, ... It’s also a work in constant progress

Without any mention of any way of dealing with a stuck cylinder.

Perhaps it just has to happen once, an important tube getting disabled by a stuck object... for there to be a catastrophe... (and no couriers available to fall back on)

Re:I guess the only question is... (1)

stfvon007 (632997) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717818)

actually some pneumatic tube systems have procedures for a stuck cylinder, by sending a second heavier cylinder, or by increasing the pressure to higher than normal levels, either way clearing the tube.

Re:I guess the only question is... (4, Insightful)

Discordantus (654486) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717970)

(and no couriers available to fall back on)

Luckily, they have plenty of *general purpose* organic units to fall back on, which, while less efficient than the tube network, can quickly transport the physical objects. Just because no one has "courier" in their job description, doesn't mean there are no available couriers.

Re:I guess the only question is... (2, Insightful)

dthirteen (307585) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717358)

I think most if not all hospitals have this tech.

The station(s) go offline, and service personel come and fix it... parts of the network going offline is not an unusual event. Unlike the 19th century tech, these packet (plastic canister) routed pneumatic tube systems lack humans at the core of packet routing.

From a volunteer's point of view at a non-Stanford hospital, the IT integration was less than stellar. Maybe Stanford has done some work in that area, or maybe this is just astroturfing by a pneumatic tube company.

Re:I guess the only question is... (1)

LarryWake (855436) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717492)

This was an article in the medical center's newsletter, so I think its purpose was more likely a profile of one of their internal services and the people behind it.

If it was a plant by a pneumatic tube company it was an epic fail, because one notably missing datum was the name of the vendor.

Re:I guess the only question is... (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717708)

Maybe not a fail.. there can't be that many manufacturers of pneumatic tube systems, who are willing and able to take on the added liability and certification requirements to put their equipment in hospitals, and have it serve a critical function.

Pneumatic tube systems are very expensive. If a hospital is considering having one built, the management will be having a lot of research done, to reach the right decisions.

If other potential buyers of pneumatic tube systems for hospitals read the article and are interested.... they're very likely to make contacts, to get more information about their system, including contact with the vendor.

Otherwise known as: spread information by word of mouth, so it doesn't seem like they are "pushing" a product, or spouting advertising / marketing illusions, but use an article to get people talking about the subject.

Re:What they do... (1)

symbolic (11752) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717842)

It has been a while, but from what I can remember -

If something gets stuck or really fouled up, they shut off the system, force air through it backward, and empty the system (channel by channel). From what I could tell, this is usually enough to clear any obstructions, but it does take some time depending on how big the system is.

If something contaminates the system (like a spilled or ruptured sample), they send a special container through that contains a liquid agent (bleach + water, or some other disinfectant), which renders the spilled contents inert.

The plastic containers they use are pretty sturdy, and if I recall, the containers are reinforced at each end. They don't move *that* fast through the system, so it's not like one container could literally destroy another simply from impact.

Re:I guess the only question is... (1)

Seedy2 (126078) | more than 4 years ago | (#30718002)

What happens when something goes wrong?

Tubes get clogged... (lack of QoS)

Capsule is damaged before being inserted in tube

Capsule gets stuck...

Breaking fails, sample gets smashed..

Tubes get contaminated.

Critical sample gets stuck, or destroyed....

As someone who worked in a place that had a pneumatic system for transporting blood that they used for decades I can say a few things. :)
Never heard of a clog, it was a two station system. One opening at each end. I supposed the ones that branch would have more clogs/stuckies.
The most likely failure was a blood bag or tube bursting on arrival, usually do to over pressure making capsule go too fast.
That only contaminates the one end, huge mess but the whole tube system isn't contaminated.
Critical samples sometimes get lost broken or whatever when they are handled by people, the pneumatic system really doesn't affect the odds of it happening.
So would say it decreases the odds.
Since the blood bank was on one side of the street and the hospital was on the other, the tube meant the people didn't have to cross the street with samples or bags.

This just in (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717268)

They use wheels and manual labor that has been around for a melenia to transport patients. Not the cutting edge turbo jet engines found it military grade aircraft. Congress & senate to investigate why not.

Shaken not stirred (3, Funny)

Spazmania (174582) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717282)

James-Bond those urine samples.

Re:Shaken not stirred (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717316)

James-Bond those urine samples.

Don't you mean semen samples? I don't recall Bond being into golden showers.

Re:Shaken not stirred (1)

M8e (1008767) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717662)

Goldfinger?

Ding Ding (2, Interesting)

TubeSteak (669689) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717296)

To help alert employees to the arrival of containers, the system has more than three dozen different combinations of chiming tones.

I wonder which engineer thought that would be a good idea.

Re:Ding Ding (1)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717498)

Probably the engineer who played in a rock band in his/her spare time and realized that a one bad note in a tune would be more discernible to somebody working late shift, than something like "The appendectomy/tonsillectomy/lumpectomy biopsy results have just arrived." . Those tunes would probably be as memorable to staff as the chord played in Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

Re:Ding Ding (1, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717834)

The one who likes tubular bells?

Re:Ding Ding (5, Informative)

Vegeta99 (219501) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717986)

When I was in high school, I quite stereotypically worked at McDonald's. To this day, whenever I eat there, I can tell you EXACTLY what is happening in the kitchen. Someone really paid attention to make sure no function requiring human attention in that kitchen had the same sound.

Sometimes, if some jerkoff called off and you were stuck back in the kitchen alone, it was MADDENING. You absolutely are more aware of a loud, high pitched beep than a voice telling you to do something

Re:Ding Ding (1)

tomhath (637240) | more than 4 years ago | (#30718058)

I doubt there's a problem with that many combinations. It's probably a sequence of three or four chimes, each of which has a small set of ringtones. E.g. Tissue/Operating Room/Immediate or Blood/Outpatient/Routine. It would be easy to remember the code.

I can blink pretty quick (1)

Rivalz (1431453) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717324)

When are we gonna get that crap for our home network. I need my EBAY crap NOW!

This must have had the endorsement of.... (4, Funny)

8127972 (73495) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717366)

... Sen. Ted Stevens.

Re:This must have had the endorsement of.... (0, Troll)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717700)

My God! You saw the word "tube" and used it to make fun of Ted Stevens! How creative!

Re:This must have had the endorsement of.... (5, Interesting)

EdIII (1114411) | more than 4 years ago | (#30718100)

The funny thing to me is why people make fun of him at all. He is not an IT guy. In layman's terms a series of tubes is actually appropriate.

You can look at a CAT5 cable and a fiber optic cable as being a tube, and information being droplets of water. All of the fiber running across the world is essentially a series of tubes and used to transport these droplets of information from one place to another.

It is a little more complex than that of course. We have routers and switches which inspect those droplets of information and route them through other tubes, modify them, or just discard them which occurs at layers 2 and 3.

I don't think it is unreasonable or stupid to liken layer 1 infrastructure to a series of tubes. It's a pretty easy abstraction to construct if you don't have an in-depth understanding of the technology.

Beam it over Scotty (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717402)

22nd century technology will have it rebuild the sample atom by atom at the destination.....

Big supermarkets have them here. (2, Interesting)

Max Romantschuk (132276) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717406)

When the register has too much cash or needs change they just tube it over. There's also at least one pharmacy which has people processing prescriptions at terminals, and storage below from where the drugs are tubed over. If it works, don't fix it I say.

Oh, and here = Helsinki, Finland.

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (1)

hduff (570443) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717494)

If it works, don't fix it I say.

Oh, and here = Helsinki, Finland.

Fix it until it breaks.

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (2, Interesting)

zlogic (892404) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717524)

But what if someone hacks the system, do something like a man-in-the-middle attack and starts intercepting money transactions?

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (4, Funny)

maxume (22995) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717852)

You stop letting them spend all day in the basement.

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (4, Informative)

mikael (484) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717564)

Nearly all the department stores did that back in the 1950's/1960's . There were no electronic cash registers, and checkout staff weren't allowed to handle money. So the customer would place their payment along with a receipt signed by the checkout clerk into a capsule. This would be sent upstairs to be processed by an accountant who would send the change back down to the checkout clerk. Just like in the movie "Brazil".

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (1)

Telecommando (513768) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717894)

When I was a kid, there was a fabric/clothing store in town that had a system of cables and baskets that served the same function. I was always fascinated how the clerks would drop the money and receipt into a metal box attached to the basket, yank a cord and send the basket on a wire up to the high ceiling where the basket would be picked up by a continuously moving chain and sent to the back of the store. A minute later, the basket would return with the change and be dropped off at the counter, sliding down a wire to the clerk. By the time I was old enough to be able to figure out how it worked, it had been removed and the ceiling lowered to save energy.

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (3, Interesting)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717620)

Yeah they use them here in Melbourne, Australia. Makes be wonder if you could knock one up with bits from the hardware store. The pipes are easy 90mm stormwater and 100mm sewage are both available. If we go with the cheap 90mm pipe then 70mm pipe could be used for a capsule. Sealing the outside and making it reliable might be a problem. You could experiment with O rings (not for use in cold weather!) with manual lubrication using sump oil.

You would need a low pressure electric pump. Should be a few available off the shelf. Maybe I could rework my front letterbox. Saves one trip out of the house every day.

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (5, Informative)

I_am_Jack (1116205) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717948)

Actually, the blower from a vacuum cleaner at a car wash would be more than enough to power a 100mm dia. (4" in the US, which is a standard tube size here for pneumatic tube systems) point-to-point line, and you could move the carrier several hundred meters with a payload up up to a half kilo. You could use ABS sewage line. The problem is how you would create bends and offsets. The smallest radius for a standard size carrier in a 100mm dia. tube is 60cm. Sealing the system is really not much of an issue. And if you use a piece of 70mm pipe, you'd need to wrap the outside with the fuzzy velcro strips at equadistant points to make your seal in order to allow the pressure/vacuum to propel the carrier. I used to sell the big systems to hospitals for a living.

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (1)

Hadlock (143607) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717992)

I think the biggest problem would be finding a way to reliably make those large-radius bends. Most buildings that have pneumatic systems installed usually have the "kinks" (pun intended) that have to be worked out by the installer before you end up with a reliable system.

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717768)

I work for a large supermarket chain in the United States Midwest region, and many of our stores own an associated gas station out on the edge of the parking lot. The gas stations do not have their own safe or money storage; instead, gas station clerks send and receive money from the main store safe via pneumatic tube.

Unlike hospitals or pharmacies, though, our pneumatic tubes go outside the store and underneath the parking lot. I have heard of incidents where the underground tube will cave in or otherwise become blocked, and they'll have to dig up the parking lot to get the lost tube back. I was speaking with a member of our company's IT staff recently, who told me that over the years of building the tubes, the company has discovered that the tubes built under the parking lot in the winter generally fail more frequently than the tubes built in the summer.

In fact, the company has recently abandoned the pneumatic tube in favor of giving new gas stations their own safe and cash deposit system - and stores that experience a tube failure are getting a new safe put in instead of getting their tube repaired. I often wonder what happens if (when?) our pneumatic tube fails. Our tube typically carries around $500 at a time underneath the parking lot. If we lose a tube with money underneath the parking lot and are then destined to receive a new safe out at our gas station, will they bother to dig it up? Or will they just say that rescuing that $500 tube is not worth the cost of digging up the parking lot, and leave the cash to rot away?

all major australian supermarkets do too (2, Interesting)

iamagloworm (816661) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717786)

in australia coles and woolworths as well as target and big w, etc. all use pneumatic tubs for cash.

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717832)

Sure, if you have a lot of small objects (pills, cash, whatever), pneumatic tubes are great. But Stanford Hospital is using them to manage data.

Handwritten medical words add to costs, mistakes (as in people dying), and miscommunication. That's why the U.S. needs an electronic medical record system. I believe Finland already has one.

Stanford has just added a little speed to an obsolete system. Rather sad for a school that has played such a big role in the development of information technology.

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (2, Informative)

donatzsky (91033) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717950)

Did you actually RTFA? Sure, they send documents (might as well when they have the system), but what they're raving about in TFA is that they can send tissue samples and other bits and pieces of their patients.

Re:Big supermarkets have them here. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717994)

No, jackass, read the damn article. They're using them to send LAB SAMPLES around the giant hospital. Not paper.

Gotta wonder which is worse ... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717414)

Having to blow into a tube or suck on one?

Apparently they also carry stuff around (-1, Troll)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717444)

Us humans, and our ancestors, have been doing that for millions of years.

Futurama (1)

mister_playboy (1474163) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717448)

I look forward to the day when humans can be transported through these tubes as in Futurama.

Re:Futurama (1)

MichaelSmith (789609) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717504)

Sounds pretty simple. You just need slightly bigger tubes.

Re:Futurama (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717540)

It could have happened...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Beach_Pneumatic_Transit

Ancient transportation technology is better (1)

Joe The Dragon (967727) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717574)

Ancient transportation technology is better

Re:Futurama (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30718064)

Of course that idea was predated by countless previous sci-fi sources ... including the Jetsons and even Dune.

whats the bandwidth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717452)

if each capsule was packed with 16gb microSD cards ?

Re:whats the bandwidth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717532)

How many libraries of congress is it?

Re:whats the bandwidth (1)

DigiShaman (671371) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717602)

It's high bandwidth high latency. So in theory, you could place two 640GB notebook drives in the tube for a total of 1.28TB of data. Now lets assume that it takes 10 seconds for the tube to travel from start to finish. That would put the transfer rate at 128GB as second.

Basically, it's like sneaker-net but faster :)

Re:whats the bandwidth (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717670)

That depends on the delivery speed. Giving that a variable 'd' as time in seconds, then your bandwidth for a single card is 16 gb/d seconds. You might be able to pipeline these, so that would then depend on how fast the microSD cards could be loaded into the system. Depending on the system, the transport pods might remain in the pipes, or they might have to be inserted. Giving the loading time a variable 'l' as time in seconds, and 'n' is the number of pods you have available, then the time for one sending one card in a pod is l+d seconds. But if you have more than one microSD card and pods, then you save time by loading in subsequent pods while waiting for the previous one to be delivered.

These types of calculation are common for estimating the performance of pipelined and parallel processing.

I bet they use fire too (1)

kevin lyda (4803) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717510)

Why is this news? Seriously, old technology lives on if it's useful. Even sometimes if it's not.

Re:I bet they use fire too (2, Insightful)

value_added (719364) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717668)

Why is this news? Seriously, old technology lives on if it's useful. Even sometimes if it's not.

I think the newsworthiness of this is that it offers evidence of a technological "plus ca change ..." Put another way, instead of looking like Star Trek or a Spielberg movie, the future will more likely resemble what we see in Brazil [wikipedia.org] .

Pneumatic tubes used to be big in the 19th century (4, Informative)

Bender_ (179208) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717548)

Both Berlin and Paris had a networks with a total length of more than 400km.

obvious link [wikipedia.org]

Re:Pneumatic tubes used to be big in the 19th cent (1)

fm6 (162816) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717862)

Actually, the Paris system lasted until 1973.

"The tube is everywhere" (1)

ben_kelley (234423) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717568)

I for one welcome our new tubular overlords.

Re:"The tube is everywhere" (2, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717654)

I for one welcome our new tubular overlords.

...and I am right behind you with Tubular Bells on.

Re:"The tube is everywhere" (1)

ScrewMaster (602015) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717678)

I for one welcome our new tubular overlords.

...and I am right behind you with Tubular Bells on.

Dude, that is totally tubular.

Fluff piece, sorta (4, Insightful)

93 Escort Wagon (326346) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717632)

I found the article mildly interesting but the lack of details disappointing. They only mention things like switching points and waiting areas in passing. It would've been a great article if they'd talked about the specific tech - I know it's old tech, but most of us have had little to no exposure to it (I've been to banks that use it at their drive-through windows... that's about it). For example: there are switches; is there any sort of prioritization protocol, or are the switches simply for collision prevention?

See... tubes are used more than we thought (1)

mysidia (191772) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717644)

Record chart compilation [youtube.com]

NASA Mission Control does too (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717696)

NASA Mission Control does too.

They also use "Mr. Hand."

Common in the UK, good way to loose an ear (5, Interesting)

AndyGasman (695277) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717706)

They are pretty common in the UK, in all sort of industries.

Tesco supermarket uses them in some stores for moving cash to tills, and they are widely used in Hospitals.

There is one great, if slightly lengthy story that a friend tells, from when she was working in a hospital in Western Scotland a few years ago, I'll try to recount it best as I can.

A patient who has Hepatitis and Epilepsy is admitted to the hospital, he had a fit, and his Dog bit his ear off while he was fitting. So he came to hospital with his ear in his pocket. He was treated in A&E (UK ER) and sent up to the surgical department. His Ear though was wrapped up and put in a tube, however before the doctor could tap in the destination, the pod whizzed off. The hepatitis positive ear was not found for several days (is this just a bit error rate?), as it was quiet a big hospital with a lot of tubes. It could have been worse, as the ear was not intended to be sown back on, but just photographed and incinerated. The doctor who put the ear in the pod was known as Stupid Dave before the incident, but I'm sure this didn't help him shake of the moniker. The worst thing is, most people just ask what happened to the dog.

You don't get that with TCP/IP

Re:Common in the UK, good way to loose an ear (1)

Sockatume (732728) | more than 4 years ago | (#30718034)

Something in common with the Transporter from Star Trek, then. Transfers matter over long distances and sometimes you get someone else's random appendage arriving in your office for no reason.

Re:Common in the UK, good way to loose an ear (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30718066)

Why would I want to loose an ear? My ears are quite alright without being set free.

dont want to start here (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717724)

is it like a series of tubes?

Re:dont want to start here (2, Funny)

Yvan256 (722131) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717796)

No. The internet is a series of tubes, and this pneumatic tube communication system is like a convoy of trucks on the highway.

And yes, the convoy of trucks is now connected via Wi-Fi, so these trucks are like the internet.

potential for paltry puns (1)

maiki (857449) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717746)

My hobby: looking for opportunities to use low-frequency adjectives in bad puns:
  • That's a tubular pneumatic delivery system, man!
  • Dude, that's a wicked candle!
  • That flipping gymnast from China won gold.

also functions as as hort range time machine (4, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717808)

at the hospital at which I worked, you could select the origin station as the destination, and the tube system would dutifully take the carrier all the way around and back. so you could send yourself something, and receive it a few minutes later. I loved sending stuff to myself in the (near) future.

Unless it is faster to walk... (1)

yakatz (1176317) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717880)

At a hospital in the Washington, DC area which uses this system, a friend of mine needed a baby-anti-theft bracelet from the next nurses station. It took 12 minutes to get there through the tube system, in which time someone could have walked over and gotten it 6+ times

Re:Unless it is faster to walk... (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717984)

baby-anti-theft bracelet

you have to protect yourselves against thieving babies? in a hospital of all places?
Man you guys need to sort out your healthcare system...

I want McDonald's by tube (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 4 years ago | (#30717898)

You know its nice to see this technology used for something other than a stupid bank. I'd love to see this used for fast food. I could deff see McDonald's, Burger King, and/or Taco Bell easily fitting into an over-sized tube and making it to the house in a jiff. I don't know how well pizza would work unless its like a pizza sub. As far as drinks are concerned I'd think that they would come up with some method to keep drinks from spilling, ie: develop a new type of cup.

More breaking news! (1)

pajamapaati (1579521) | more than 4 years ago | (#30717922)

  • carriage runs on iron tracks, pulled by locomotive vehicle!
  • horseless carriage transports people at over 30 miles an hour!!
  • heavier-than-air vehicle flies through air!!!
  • houses and even whole streets illuminated by globes powered by "electricity"!!!!
  • human voice made audible at a distance over copper wires!!!!!
  • ... etc ...
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