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Bluetooth: Let's get personal

Written by  Howard Dulany
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Howard DulanyIssue:Asia-Pacific II 2001
Article no.:8
Topic:Bluetooth: Let's get personal
Author:Howard Dulany
Title:Worldwide Marketing Program Manager, Mobile Wireless Solutions
Organisation:IBM Personal Computing Division
PDF size:32KB

About author

Mr. Howard DuLany is Worldwide Marketing Programme Manager for Mobile Wireless Solutions, IBM Personal Computing Division. In this role, he is responsible for defining market requirements and opportunities for wireless technology in regards to IBM ThinkPad and WorkPad systems and options. Previously, Mr. Dulany has held various technical and marketing positions within IBM's mobile business unit. Earlier in his career, he was responsible for developing advanced communications technology on IBM minicomputer systems.

 

Article abstract

Bluetooth is considered, by some, the fastest growing technology standard ever. Bluetooth is a new global standard for wireless technology that allows devices to communicate using a secure radio frequency. Bluetooth is the standard for a new family of wireless networks—Personal Area Networks (PAN). Bluetooth-enabled portable computers, mobile phones, office equipment, household appliances and more, can now all communicate at short ranges without cables—securely, inexpensively and at a high rate of data transmission.

 

Full Article

Imagine this: you are going to a meeting with your cell phone in your briefcase or strapped to your belt and your notebook computer in tow. You open up your notebook computer and without plugging into anything, you begin receiving e-mail messages. In the meeting you also receive files from other members of the meeting without receiving e-mails, or you can send files without e-mail. ‘Beam me up Scotty?’...not quite. In the first instance, your notebook is communicating with your cell phone, which in turn is communicating with the wireless network. In the second instance, you are communicating directly with the other members, notebook to notebook. Both of these scenarios are possible through a revolutionary new radio chip developed through a collaboration of the computing and communications industries, named BluetoothTM . Overview Bluetooth began as a code name and is now the official name of a specification that has already become the fastest growing technology standard ever. Soon Bluetooth will be synonymous with wireless connectivity and its limitless applications in an increasingly inter-connected world. Put simply, Bluetooth is a new specification for wireless technology; a global standard that allows devices to communicate with each other using a secure radio frequency. Bluetooth belongs to the Personal Area Networks (PAN) family of wireless networks. Bluetooth-enabled portable computers, mobile phones, office equipment, household appliances and more, can now all communicate at short ranges without the burden of cables—securely, inexpensively, at a high rate of data transmission and without any line-of-sight requirements. “Bluetooth technology can even be used to connect office devices such as printers and scanners, devices once restricted by the availability of LAN connections.” The examples above are just two of the many applications of this technology. For instance, you're using a mobile phone and need a telephone number, you can synchronize with your phone book stored on your portable or desktop computer. Bluetooth technology can even be used to connect office devices such as printers and scanners, devices once restricted by the availability of LAN connections. Home appliances, such as refrigerators and consumer electronics, once impractical to connect because of the complexity of installing household data transmission lines, can now be connected using Bluetooth technology. To exploit its unlimited potential and further Bluetooth as a global standard, a worldwide organisation was formed in 1998, representing the world's leaders in mobile technology. These founding companies—IBM, Ericsson, Nokia, Intel and Toshiba—created the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG.) In 1999, Motorola, 3Com, Lucent and Microsoft joined the founding members of the SIG and now the nine members are known as the Bluetooth Promoter companies. This group represents an organisation that includes more than 2000 companies encompassing a wide range of industries, which will incorporate the new tech-nology in countless devices—everything from coffee machines to wearable computers—securing Bluetooth as the wireless standard of the future. IBM is a major contributor to the development of the Bluetooth technology; areas of contribution include service discovery, radio and communication protocol and collaborative effort with international regulatory bodies. The Bluetooth device is a small, low-powered radio on a chip that will communicate with other Bluetooth-enabled products. Because it is a radio, Bluetooth eliminates unsightly cables connecting portable computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), cellular phones, printers and fax machines. Bluetooth-enabled devices can connect on a one-to-one or one-to-many basis. Bluetooth supports both voice and data communications. Thus, it can be extended into hands-free voice comm-unications for wireless phones in vehicles. Bluetooth technology uses the 2.4 GHz radio band, which is unlicenced and available almost worldwide. Initially, it is estimated that the Bluetooth-capable module will cost between US$15 and US$25. Of course, as Bluetooth becomes more popular, the cost will drop even lower. Bluetooth is also a low-power radio module that can be built in a plethora of devices. It supports data speeds of up to 721 Kbps (including a 56 Kbps back channel) as well as three voice channels. The wireless standard has been designed to operate in an environment comprising multiple users. In other words, up to eight users or devices can communicate in a small network called a piconet. Ten of these piconets can co-exist in the same coverage range of the Bluetooth radio. To provide security, each link is encoded and protected against both eavesdropping and interference. Where does it work? In general, the individual who wishes to free himself/herself of cumbersome cables in the small office or home environment will use the Bluetooth technology. However, Bluetooth will also be used in the large enterprise because a cable free office or conference room is very attractive to the business professional. But for the network and LAN administrator, these Bluetooth piconets create both benefits and challenges. Within a piconet, services can be offered to the mobile user without the normal configuration requirements. For instance, conference rooms could have Bluetooth enabled printers instal-led and a mobile user could use these printers without configuring the printer. A service discovery application recog-nizes that the printer exists when the mobile user enters the piconet and prompts the user for connectivity. Within the piconet, administration is simplified. However, if the enterprise has deployed wireless LAN technology (IEEE 802.11b,) the Bluetooth technology and wireless LANs may interfere with each other. To minimize this interference, the placement of the Bluetooth piconets within the larger wireless LAN is the challenge confronting the LAN administrator. Wireless LAN access points are typically positioned through-out the enterprise to afford optimal coverage, thus the placement of the Bluetooth piconets must be coordinated with the wireless LAN deployment to minimize the interference. Conclusions Although Bluetooth wireless technology can enable multiple devices to communicate, the attractive aspect of this technology is that computer vendors can communicate with the wide-area network without choosing which wide-area network to support (i.e. GPRS, GSM, etc). Computer vendors no longer need to worry about stocking an assortment of modules for several networks. While the computing devices can be enabled with Bluetooth through a PC card or option bay, integrating the technology with robust antenna designs will be one of the focuses of the future. It would be highly desirable to incorporate the radio and antenna into the device. Another area of future work is power management, particu-larly in mobile devices powered by batteries. The power consumption of the Bluetooth device needs to be such that it is not a burden on the battery lifetime. But in spite of the necessary work, Bluetooth represents a budding technology that will liberate devices of their constricting cables and make the world a more mobile place.

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