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Bluetooth SIG tries harder to boost wireless

In an effort to give the market for its namesake wireless technology a shot in the arm, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (http://www.bluetooth.com/sig) unveiled a new initiative last week aimed at ensuring interoperability among Bluetooth-enabled devices. Announced at the Bluetooth Developers' Conference in San Jose, Calif., the goal of the so-called ''Five-Minute Ready'' plan is to improve interoperability among different Bluetooth devices, and to speed the set-up process for consumers.

'''Five-Minute Ready' equips manufacturers and consumers with tools to meet the goal of delivering Bluetooth wireless devices that work together within five minutes of being taken out of the box,'' said Mike McCamon, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG.

Bluetooth is a short-range wireless technology that allows devices to communicate over a distance of about 10 meters. Data speeds for Bluetooth run up to 768 Kbps. Many Bluetooth-enabled devices are currently on the market, including mobile phones, PDAs and laptops. But the technology has been slow to take off since it was standardized in 1998. One of the chief consumer complaints about the technology stems from the perception -- largely justified to date -- that it is difficult to make Bluetooth products from different vendors work together.

McCamon sees the ''five-minutes out of the box mentality'' encouraged by his group's new initiative as essential to the survival of the technology.

'For the market to achieve the success we believe is possible, we're going to have to deliver a ''five-minutes-out-of-the-box' experience,'' McCamon said. ''We're going to have to be that easy. There are products out there that do this, but we need to raise the level.''

The program will provide testing tools and implementation guides for Bluetooth vendors. According to McCamon, designers, developers and manufacturers will receive a kind of Bluetooth builder's handbook containing information on best practices and recommended implementation methodologies. The program will also provide vendors with reference platforms against which they can test their products, access to an independent interoperability testing facility at the University of Kansas, and give them a Bluetooth user lexicon with a region-based glossary of terms for performing certain Bluetooth functions.

McCamon, who took over at the Bluetooth SIG in April, said his group also plans to redesign the Bluetooth.com Web site to provide a better educational resource for consumers. The revised site will include potential product pairs, a searchable consumer product database, a troubleshooting section and a Bluetooth glossary, he said.

During one of the conference sessions, Mike Foley, chair of the Bluetooth SIG, demoed a headset, keyboard, mouse and printer all enabled with the Bluetooth 1.1 specification. Foley predicted that the upcoming 1.2 version of the spec, which will support adaptive frequency hopping (AFH), would lower barriers to Bluetooth adoption significantly. The 1.2 spec is expected to reach the draft stage in January.

''Creating the Bluetooth wireless technology and specification to work effectively across a broad range of product categories and disparate industries has been an ambitious undertaking,'' he said. ''Only by committing to work together as a group have we been able to solve the challenges presented by the scale of the task.''

The ''Five-Minute Ready'' program is scheduled to begin in February 2003, McCamon said.

About the Author

John K. Waters is a freelance writer based in Silicon Valley. He can be reached at john@watersworks.com.

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