Staff members at El Camino Hospital in Mountain View, California, don't use pagers or telephones to communicate. Instead, they tap a small badge and speak a command, such as Locate Dr. Smart or Broadcast to Rapid Response Team. They can even command the badge to play the Star Trek theme song. "This is my best friend," says hospital supervisor Agnes Roey, touching the small rectangular device dangling just below her chin on a chain.

If Rob Shostak, founder of Vocera, has his druthers, his company's B2000 communication badge will render PA systems and pagers obsolete. The 2-ounce devices, which are coated with bacteria-resistant polymer, work using standard Wi-Fi and last 40 hours fully charged. They foster more personal communication than loudspeakers and are easier to use than pagers or phones, says Shostak, who got the idea while working at the Stanford Research Institute in the late 1980s. Frustrated by his inability to get in touch with colleagues by landline, he envisioned a small device that worked with a tap.

Shostak founded Vocera in Cupertino, California, in 2000. Today, he says, the 165-employee company has $40 million in annual revenue and some 700 hospital clients. Vocera also serves museums and hotels. Shostak has never been a Star Trek fan, but he happily embraces the connection at his company, where all the conference rooms are named after places in the show, including the Holodeck (for employee training) and the Enterprise (for executive meetings).