Thursday, June 12, 2008

On Bluetooth's horizon: high speed, ultra-low-power specs

With Bluetooth now celebrating its ten-year anniversary, a senior official with the Bluetooth SIG foresees new devices that will support emerging Ultra Low Power and High Speed specifications.

NEW YORK CITY (BetaNews) - In an interview with BetaNews Wednesday, Kevin Keating, the Bluetooth SIG's senior marketing manager, harkened back to the early days, when Bluetooth product demo sessions typically consisted of displays of cellular handsets by about eight vendors.

In contrast, this year's edition of the SIG's annual Bluetooth press event in New York City featured devices that include watches; in-car audio systems; iPod dongles; GPS navigators; alarm clock radio speakerphones,; and even a mini-printer for instant photo printouts.

"Bluetooth has come a long way over the past ten years," Keating contended, speaking with BetaNews during the event. "Now we'll be seeing even more innovation, especially after the [SIG] passes the Ultra Low Power and High Speed specs."

Keating said that the Ultra Low Power spec will support smaller, button-cell devices with a lot less need for recharging.

"You might only need to plug your charger in once every six months, or even once a year," according to Keating, who foresees new CE applications for market niches such as fitness and sports medicine.

Bluetooth SIG members have already built prototypes of Ultra Low Power devices ranging from watches and stereo headsets to ski hats and snow jackets. A pedometer is another possibility, Keating illustrated.

"It might take a bit more engineering, but we'll definitely be supporting the Ultra Low Power specification," said a representative of Goldlantern, a maker of Bluetooth-enabled watches and myriad other devices, and an exhibitor at the show.

The emerging high speed Bluetooth spec, on the other hand, is designed to improve Bluetooth transmission rates by combining Bluetooth with Wi-Fi.

"Bluetooth penetration in cellular handsets is at an all-time high," wrote Douglas McEuen, a senior analyst at ABI Research, in a recent report. In that report, he predicted that High Speed Bluetooth will be an effective solution for users who want to transfer multimedia and other large files.

"But [Bluetooth] has a short range and fairly low data transfer capabilities. Users' growing desire to share pictures, audio, and video makes demands on Bluetooth that it was never designed to handle."

Under the High Speed spec, Bluetooth will hand off larger data files to 802.11 Wi-Fi radios located in the same devices. Like the Ultra Low Power spec, the High Speed spec still awaits passage.

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