Bluetooth bites into wireless

Bluetooth bites into wireless
Tom Foremski and Richard Ball Wireless communications and PC firms have joined forces to present a radio-based datacommunications technology for home networks and wireless E-mail applications. Known as Bluetooth, the technology was developed by mobile comms firm Ericsson, along with IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba. The tiny Bluetooth transceiver is contained in a 0.5in. square package that can fit into such devices as cellphones, digital cameras, notebook computers and printers. It works over a ten metre range and transfers data between Bluetooth equipped devices automatically. “We first began developing the idea for Bluetooth five years ago,” said Nils Rydbeck, chief technology officer at Ericsson. “We began serious development some two years ago. We’re promoting it as an open industry standard so that it can find the widest applications.” Rydbeck said that Bluetooth can handle 700kbit/s, to be boosted to 2Mbit/s once the first Bluetooth products come out in the second half of 1999. Rydbeck demonstrated Bluetooth in action, using a notebook computer to send a message through a cellular phone to a colleague and receiving a reply. “The goal is to combine the baseband chip with the radio transmitter onto one chip,” said Richard Beyer, CEO of VLSI Technology, which helped develop the baseband chip used in Bluetooth. The technology has won wide support from the electronics industry. Full specifications will be released later this year. Companies joining the Bluetooth development group include Motorola, Qualcomm, 3COM Palm, Compaq, Dell, Lucent Technologies and TDK. Other companies are also invited to join. Bluetooth could end up competing with two other RF links for digital equipment, the HomeRF system and wireless LAN. All three work at the same frequency and have similar goals, although Bluetooth is designed to work anywhere, including away from the home or office. The systems should not interfere with each other because they use frequency hopping, spread spectrum techniques.


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