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New spec opens Bluetooth roadmap

The Bluetooth SIG, which is responsible for driving development of the eponymous wireless technology, introduced Bluetooth Core specification 2.0 + EDR (enhanced data rate) and laid out a development roadmap through the end of 2006.

The new specification triples the technology’s transfer rate (up to 3Mb/s), lowers power consumption, increases bandwidth, and improves bit error rate (BER) performance. SIG executive director Dr. Michael Foley says those benefits extend battery life in Bluetooth-enabled devices and facilitate the simultaneous use of multiple functions or devices and the transfer of large data files.

Foley cites streaming CD-quality audio, digital image transfer and laser printing as examples of the “usage scenarios” the SIG set out to improve. Products based on the new spec, which is backward-compatible with earlier Bluetooth technology, are expected next year. Chips with 2.0 + EDR are available from Broadcom and CSR (Cambridge Silicon Radio).

Bluetooth-enabled devices based on 2.0 + EDR may last twice as long as those based on older Bluetooth technology; however, a version is expected in 2005 that will allow Bluetooth sensors to last for years on a single battery. The SIG also expects to see the piconet maximum raised from one master and seven slaves to one master and as many as 255 devices. Quality of service (QoS) enhancements planned for next year will prioritize traffic based on devices’ data transfer needs, and security will be improved through the use of longer, alphanumeric pins.

Foley says that in 2006 it will be possible to transmit a message to multiple devices simultaneously. Security will be tightened further for devices operating in non-discoverable mode, and the performance range of very low power Bluetooth sensors will be increased to approximately 100 meters.

ABI Research estimates that four years from now, more than 22 million automobiles, representing approximately 16% of the global market, will have factory-installed Bluetooth capability. Foley says hand-free phone operation is the primary application. “If the driver is listening to the radio when a call comes in, the music volume is automatically turned down, the driver hears the caller through the car’s stereo speakers, and when the call is finished, the music volume comes back up,” he explains.

The next popular Bluetooth application is expected to be streaming CD-quality audio, Foley adds. “The car will be, in effect, a wireless headset.” The necessary spec is finished. “There’ll be leading-edge products available by the end of next year, and streaming audio will be commonplace in cars by 2006.”

Bluetooth GPS is available today, he says, but primarily through connectivity between Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a GPS and a laptop.

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