Bluetooth, Which Usually Hides in Plain Sight, Makes Some News

Carl Weinschenk

Ironically, Bluetooth tends to slip off the radar simply because it is ubiquitous. The challenge is to find something exciting or new about a technology that is in so many devices.

 

In this case, however, the desire to find something new isn't a struggle. This week, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) introduced Bluetooth 3.0. MobileBurn says that products featuring the latest version of the protocol likely will be available by the end of the year. The biggest advance is that Bluetooth will be able to "borrow" higher-speed Wi-Fi platforms if they are present in a device and are needed for a higher-capacity transmission. Other advances, such as improved connectivity and power management, are also part of the 3.0 spec, the story says.


Linux Devices offers a bit more technical detail about how the new system works. It's conceptually simple: The new addition is called alternate MAC/PHY, or AMP. AMP, the story says, lets Bluetooth protocols, profiles, security and other elements migrate from Bluetooth to a detected 802.11 radio. Thus, AMP enables a connection that is otherwise all Bluetooth to physically be carried over a Wi-Fi connection. In addition to the extra speed, this enables a user to avoid setting up an ad hoc connection, something that can be tricky. The story offers a schematic for engineers and mentions that Gizmodo claims that several current chips support AMP.

 

Bluetooth, it seems, is in something of a technology refresh. In addition to Bluetooth 3.0, the industry is expecting the first Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) specification later this year. BLE is a means to transmit small amounts of data using, as the name implies, less power than full Bluetooth transmissions. ABI Research says that next year almost 30 million BLE chipsets will ship. Despite that big number, ABI says that BLE will face challengers -- and challenges. Ultrawideband , for instance, is a likely alternative to BLE. Overall, however, the firm thinks that BLE will find use in a wide variety of devices.

 

At a developer's preview in London preceding the annual Bluetooth All Hands Meeting, three companies made BLE news, via EE Times: CSR said it will release a chip that is complementary to a previously announced BLE chip; Nordic Semiconductor took the wraps off the nRF8000 chip and chipset family; and Texas Instrument set a preliminary price of $99 for its BLE offering. In addition to CSR, Broadcom and EM Microelectronics are planning BLE products.


 

Bluetooth is everywhere. Indeed, there seem to be relatively few devices that don't have it. PC World offers its top 10 uses of Bluetooth. At the end of the piece, the author provides six good tips about using Bluetooth securely: Be aware of who is in the vicinity-15 to 45 feet away-when using it, employ the strongest security setting, delete unused profiles that can provide a backdoor to a hacker, use a passcode, set the visibility setting to "undiscoverable," and never pair with an unrecognized device.



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