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Low-power spec to mark Bluetooth's 10th birthday

Posted: 18 Jan 2008 ?? ?Print Version ?Bookmark and Share

Keywords:Bluetooth? wireless connectivity? headset?

It has been 10 years since Bluetooth SIG set to wirelessly connect PCs to their peripherals. And although founding members pushed for PC connectivity to be the technology's killer application, there aren't many complaints as the headsets took the front seat with 820 million Bluetooth-enable devices shipped in 2007.

At least one companyCambridge Silicon Radiohas created a successful business out of Bluetooth and many others are profiting as well.

For the future, the Bluetooth SIG is spearheading two near-term initiatives for expanding the specification that will keep the core technology potent enough to remain on the A list of options for convergence chips that integrate multiple wireless technologies on a single chip.

Ultralow-power Bluetooth will see the light on day first, according to Bluetooth SIG executive director Michael Foley. The low-power spec will allow Bluetooth devices to run off button batteries and enable applications such as watches that can be used to control music players.

Convincing systems companies to integrate a new feature can be a major stumbling block to adoption. But Foley offers a strong argument for ultra-low-power Bluetooth: It costs practically nothing to integrate.

Some applications appear to have a great deal of appeal such as transmitting medical sensor data such as glucose levels or heart rate data from the sensor to the cell phone to the hospital or other monitoring facility.

The ultralow-power spec should be completed this year. A little further out is a Bluetooth version that can handle high-quality streaming video or transfer 1000s of songs from a PC to an MP3 player in a reasonable time.

Earlier this year, the Certified Wireless USB of UWB seemed to have the inside track to win the high-data-rate Bluetooth crown but Foley now says that 802.11n (Wi-Fi) is a more mature technology and will probably be adopted first. UWB is an option that is still being considered by the SIG and may be adopted later.

In the near term, the benefits of Bluetooth 2.1 + EDR will start to reach consumers, Foley said. Bluetooth pairing will become a lot easier thanks to relatively minor changes implemented in the 2.1 spec.

Multiple pairing modes will be available including: NFC at allows the cellphone (or other device) to drive the interaction; and a numeric compare mode for systems with displays.

- Jack Shandle
Wireless Net DesignLine

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