Better Bluetooth on the Way

Carl Weinschenk

Here's a riddle: What's virtually everywhere, practically invisible -- and blue?

 

The answer is Bluetooth. According to estimates, the platform is in more than 1 billion -- that's billion, with a "b" -- devices. It may be used, however, by only 30 percent of those who have it. OK, so 30 percent of 1 billion is 300 million, so the invisible part of the riddle is a stretch. But it's still a hugely underutilized option.

 

We've never accepted the argument that the platform is a disappointment, however, since something that is automatically included in a device naturally will be used less than technology that is opted for by the user. That debate aside, Bluetooth clearly has a high profile and intense distribution. However, it has been criticized over the years for being difficult to use and, more recently, for being highly insecure. The debate is whether being included in just about everything short of a pair of sneakers (it actually has been spotted in eye glasses) constitutes success, or if actual usage is the key metric.

 

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) is attempting to address the platform's shortcomings with a new version of the standard that the organization -- which has more than 7,000 vendors -- says will be faster and far easier to use.

 

Bluetooth Version 2.1 + Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) -- well described in this Wi-Fi Planet story -- is partnering with ultrawideband to offer data rates of 480 Mbps. The current Bluetooth standard offers 3 Mbps. The new version will connect (or pair with) other devices in far fewer steps and use five times less power. The Bluetooth SIG says that the new spec addresses nagging security questions. Whether that is the case remains to be seen, of course.


 

There are three technologies that seem to do a lot of the same things: Bluetooth, UWBin tandem and near field communications (NFC). It's heartening to see that they seem to be both progressing technically and working out rational ways to work together rather than compete.



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