Editor’s note: WRAL Local Tech Wire has added another feature with the launch of the "Innovation Exchange." Noah Garrett, former executive director of communications for the North Carolina Technology Association, is a creative spirit, from writing music to news stories, who recently launched NGC Communications. The focus of the Innovation Exchange is just that – creating a Web community through which people can exchange ideas and foster creativity.

Participate in the Exchange. Send ideas and feedback to: noah@thinkngc.com

RESEARCH TRIANGLE PARK, N.C. — As the summer season approaches, many of you are probably planning some sort of beach vacation. However, if you think that dragging only a chair and umbrella to the beach is sufficient these days, boy do you have another think coming.

As Memorial Day weekend draws near (the unofficial start of summer), I am reminded of lazy days hanging out at the beach and soaking up the sun. The Innovation Exchange took a much-needed break last week to do just that, only to discover that at the beach of the future high tide is meeting high tech.

It is not uncommon now to walk the beach and see people lounging with laptops, talking on cell phones, checking e-mail with PDAs or even playing Nintendo Wii. Yep, one group I passed during a stroll down the coastline last week had brought a cooler to the beach with a television mounted on it powered by a car battery strategically located inside the cooler to play the new Mario Cart game.

I must say, that’s pretty creative.

Oh, and the group I happened to be with last week conveniently used GPS to find the location of other friends down the beach playing horseshoes. We found them, but horseshoes? That’s so old school! Just for the record, I’m kidding. I love horseshoes. And, even if Wii comes out with a horseshoe game in the near future, I will continue to play horseshoes the way it should be played.

Some of you may have seen this news recently. Ocean City, N.J., may soon be the new high-tech model for seashore lovers and geeks everywhere. The city plans to invest $3 million this year in a variety of new public services featuring radio-frequency identification chips (RFID) and WiFi wireless technology.

Beginning next year, visitors will be required to wear wristbands that automatically debit their bank accounts or credit cards to pay for beach access, food and parking. Garbage cans will e-mail cleanup crews when they’re ready to be emptied. And people won’t even think about trying to sneak in, because beach checkers will be able scan the sands with handheld devices and instantly know who didn’t pay.

Nearly 20 coastal municipalities nationwide have wireless Internet systems, mostly in California and Florida, according to MuniWireless.com. But few, if any, boast the kind of features Ocean City is planning for 2009.

Hey, I’m not complaining. My home beach is way behind the times, but they do have solar-powered units at public beach accesses to pay for parking by using cash or debit cards – although they only work about half of the time. Salty conditions can wreak havoc on electronics, so remember that as you head out this summer with that new laptop.

Technology eventually will catch up with every coastal community, and we will all be rethinking what needs to go into the family beach bag on a Saturday morning. However, all the technology in the world will never replace the feeling of throwing a "real" ringer in horseshoes or diving into the ocean on a hot summer’s day.

Even if beach conditions and trends change, that will always remain the same.