Are walkie talkies the future of work communication or are we heading back into the past? The San Francisco startup OnBeep revealed its new wearable device, which looks like what Captain Picard wore on his uniform in Star Trek, but is nothing more than a smartphone powered walkie talkie.

The startup's first gadget called Onyx allows employees to communicate in the office, without taking a break from tasks to use messaging apps. The gadget eerily resembles 

"We want to provide something that's heads up and in the moment rather [than] having to figure out which app you're in and looking down at the screen," OnBeep CEO and co-founder Jesse Robbins said.

The device clips onto clothing and allows real-time communication with others who are also using Onyx. The device syncs wirelessly to the user's smartphone via Bluetooth and will work as long as their is Internet connection. Users can see which group members are connected and which member is talking.

"This is a direct-to-consumer item for people who work in jobs that require them to be out in world and be connected to other people," said Robbins.

Robbins was inspired to develop the device while he was working as a firefighter in Seattle while working on Amazon's cloud services. "When you're saving a life, you don't want to be touching a phone or looking down," he said.

The device was created in response to the exploding messaging app market that focuses on ad-based businesses. "We're building a business dependent on something different than that," he said.

While the device costs only $99, OnBeep will have to make sure that people actually buy the device to prove its usefulness. The device could be used to help a family plan a surprise party or help a group of friends communicate on a road trip. But in reality, the device only seems suitable for event planners, construction workers, restaurant employees or those working in extremely busy office settings.

Those in the healthcare industry will require FDA or CE approvals for the devices to be used when speaking about patients, and since they can't be used when smartphone batteries die, they maybe useless in emergency situations.

Onyx is a bit bigger than the size of a stick of gum at 60 millimeters wide and 26 millimeters tall and weighs 46 grams. It's battery, which lasts for 12 hours, can be charged with a USB cable. The device is available for pre-order only in U.S., but could expand to reach Asian markets, which has 400 million users on the popular app WeChat.

Since the wearable gadget is entering the "bring your own device" trend, the device is just an extension of smartphone capabilities, which makes many wonder why not just use your phone?

Photo Credit: OnBeep

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