Commclothing or commskin addresses a problem with high levels of computational technology, and specifically direct neural interfacing: the problem of getting large amounts of data in and out of a sophont's body, whether a biont or a vec.

There is a limit to the amount of data that can be handled at radio or microwave wavelengths, particularly when using omnidirectional transmission and reception. The closely related commclothing and commskin use shorter wavelengths (from near ultraviolet to near infrared, by the standards of nearbaseline humans) and pixel arrays of transmitters and high-resolution cameras as receivers. The average baseline or nearbaseline human has a surface area of about 2m^2, which gives room for a great deal of data transmission.

This technology is an alternative to the common use of PQDA-generated tightbeams for similar data transmission requirements; a major difference is the fact that commskin is much more obvious, which some sophonts like. Another advantage of commskin, particularly from a Bioist perspective, is that it can be used, if not required for its primary purpose, as a purely biological method of displaying images or even video. One possible use of this is covert transmission of data, using steganographic encoding in the images displayed. The security of this method of transmission is not very high, however.

Furthermore, commskin can (with some possible loss in efficiency and/or data transmission rate) be implemented using a biotech method for generating signals, which some cultures prefer because of a simple preference for biological solutions to problems.

The visual effect of commskin is that the individual wearing it will be covered over at least some of er body with rapidly changing, apparently random patterns of luminous dots, or sometimes images and/or video streams. The amount of this material needed varies according to data bandwidth requirements, and also according to local restrictions such as prohibitions of visual-range light projection to avoid distress or inconvenience to others.

Full body coverage with commskin is unusual, but some sophonts may have occasional use for high data rate transmission and prefer this technology. Some also employ the technology for other reasons. such as pure stylistic choice or for its utility as camouflage, inspired by animals such as octopuses among others. Such camouflage is only of use when dealing with low-tech cultures or observing sub-sophont animals. In the latter case, combining it with Inoffensive Bodies technology can be advantageous.

Commclothing is used by bionts with either a modesty taboo, or natural fur, or both. It is connected to the biont's internal systems by a barely visible data fibre linked to the DNI. Another way of transmitting the signal from commclothing to the internal systems of the user is for the internal surface of the clothing to be coated with another layer of commskin material, to interface with commskin implanted within the user's skin. This extra step in the transmission pathway is also used when clothing is required for other reasons such as protection from the environment.

Some bionts have neither of these problems, and rely on subcutaneous implants; in climate-controlled environments, they wear as little clothing as possible to avoid obstruction of the signals, if this is necessary. One possible restriction of this sort of system is that often, certain wavebands and/or power levels may be restricted to avoid harm or annoyance to others.

Data security is at least as important a consideration with this method as with all others used by any society with any information technology at all.
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Development Notes
Text by iancampbell
Initially published on 13 July 2022.