Bluetooth group releases three-year road map

Bluetooth group releases three-year road map

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) has released a three-year road map for Bluetooth short-range wireless technology that includes a tripling of bandwidth and the ability to multicast signals to seven other users.

Even as the road map is released, Bluetooth backers are defending the technology against future alternatives such as Ultrawideband (UWB), and point out that the use of Bluetooth is growing.

For example, about three million Bluetooth-enabled products were already shipping every week, and nearly 3000 vendors had become members of the SIG, executive and technical director of Bluetooth SIG, Michael Foley, said. About 1700 Bluetooth products were already on the market, from Bluetooth-enabled keyboards and mouses to earpieces for cell phones.

Foley said all major US wireless service providers already offered Bluetooth-enabled mobile phones or planned to offer them by the end of the year.

The three-year road map would help show that Bluetooth had staying power, hesaid.

Under the road map, the SIG planned to complete the Bluetooth Version 2.0+ Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) specification by the end of 2004, increasing the data rate to 3Mbps, up from 1Mbps. in the current Version 1.2, Foley said.

Products were expected to appear with the EDR as early as June 2005, he said. The newer-version products would also be backward-compatible with older versions.

For 2005, a core software specification update will be completed in the first quarter of 2005, with a prototype complete in the fourth quarter of 2005.

That update would focus on security, quality of service and power optimisation to improve things such as streaming applications and privacy enhancements, Foley said.

Another core software specification update is expected to be completed by the end of 2005, with prototypes built by the fourth quarter of 2006.

This update will include a major innovation allowing a person using a Bluetooth device to multicast to seven other devices at once. Currently, Bluetooth devices can communicate only one to one.

Multicasting would allow easier communications between groups involved in tasks such as multiplayer gaming.

Other features in the 2006 core update included greater range and privacy, Foley said. The current range for most implementations was up to nine metres, with the greatest bandwidth available at much shorter distances, within what experts call the personal-area network (PAN) of a few feet.

While many Bluetooth applications focused on the consumer market, Foley said the 2005 core update would help improve Bluetooth-enabled sensor devices used in manufacturing settings.

While some analysts have belittled Bluetooth when comparing it to much faster emerging UWB technology, Foley said the two could coexist.

"I see a collaborative relationship between the technologies and organisations," he said.

Bluetooth, so far, is the only proven wireless technology for PANs, Foley said. The three-year road map should ensure that it remained the leader in personal connectivity.

"Bluetooth is here now, while low-cost UWB is five years out," Gartner analyst, Ken Dulaney, said. Still, he was critical of the Bluetooth capabilities seen today.

"They are making improvements, but frankly it takes me far too long to use the [Bluetooth] technology," he said.

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