Bluetooth is an alliance between mobile communications and mobile computing companies to develop a short-range communications standard. This is for wireless data communications of up to 10m.
Bluetooth technology was conceived by Ericsson, but founded and developed by Ericsson, Nokia, IBM, Intel and Toshiba.
Bluetooth has been developed to facilitate wireless local area networks (LANs), in which the networks of different handheld computing terminals and mobile terminals can communicate and exchange data - even on the move or when there is no line-of-sight between the terminals.
This will mean that if users have several Bluetooth-enabled portable terminals, they can use them with all the advantages of an integrated smart phone, without having to re-enter data or find the most recent versions on different terminals.
This kind of synchronisation and exchange of data are Bluetooth's major applications, as are electronic commerce applications such as electronically paying for parking meters, bus tickets, shopping, movies and so on. Smart offices are envisaged, in which an employee with a Bluetooth device is automatically checked in when entering the building, triggering a series of actions such as lights and switching on PCs. The Bluetooth partners see one of the main advantages being that it does not need to be set up. Bluetooth runs in the background and a line of sight is not even needed for the machines to automatically initiate and trigger processes.
This proactive intelligence could turn out to be a nuisance rather than a convenience for users unless it is under the control of the device owner(s). Indeed, the Bluetooth standard does incorporate control mechanisms, since each device is assigned a specific 12 byte address, which must be known to connect to the device. There is also to be an enquiry feature so as to enable a search for other Bluetooth-enabled devices within range.
TECHNICAL DETAILSIn July 1999 the Bluetooth special interest group (SIG) announced the public release of the Bluetooth SIG specification, Bluetooth 1.0. Over 1,300 adopter companies now support the Bluetooth specification.
The current Bluetooth technology provides for data transfer at a rate of 1Mbps, with a personal area range of up to 10m in client-to-client open air (5m in a building). In terms of client-to-access point, the current range is 100m in the open air and 30m in buildings.
Bluetooth has three generic applications:
- Personal area networks (PAN), where two or more Bluetooth products can communicate directly. This includes synchronising the contacts list between mobile phone, PC and hand-held devices. It can also transfer files to another user's Bluetooth-enabled devices and allows access to printers, facsimiles and copiers
- Local area networks (LAN), where products will communicate to a company's broader network via a Bluetooth LAN access point. The applications for this are the downloading of information, emails and files from Bluetooth-enabled laptops, mobile phone and hand-held devices from a corporate server
- Wide area network (WAN), where a product with Bluetooth-enabled technology can communicate with a wireless WAN device, such as the global system for mobile communications (GSM), to allow connectivity. This application can allow for mobile access to the internet and the retrieval of information or files from desktop computers
Wireless LAN technology was calculated to be worth $400 million in 1999 (according to the International Data Corporation) and it looks set to increase. The strength of the companies involved in the Bluetooth development, and the fact that it has quickly gained standardisation, make it appear an important part of future PAN and LAN systems