Bluetooth kicks off at Monte Carlo

Published June 14th, 2000 - 02:00 GMT

'The shin-bone's connected to knee-bone, the knee-bone's connected to the leg-bone... and so on' 


Bluetooth, the name of a new wireless technology, aims at connecting all wireless devices together and allowing them to communicate. Products that use the technology are now being showcased at the Bluetooth Congress in Monte Carlo, host to 2,000 delegates.  

Similar to the Universal Serial Bus, known as USB, Bluetooth promises to simply rid the world of worries attached to having the right connector by allowing wireless devices to communicate, as they should -- through the airwaves. No strings attached.  

Bluetooth works by letting electronic devices within up to 10 meters of each other communicate over the 2.4 gigahertz shortwave radio frequency. Users will be able to zap a digital photo from a camera to a computer to a printer -- all without cords. Or they can check e-mail from a cell phone, with their computer stashed in the back seat of their car. Bluetooth devices hop 1,600 times per second over 79 different channels.  

Any device, from a mobile phone to a computer to a refrigerator fitted with a Bluetooth transceiver will be able to swap data effortlessly with other similarly equipped devices.  

Bluetooth development began six years ago and now has up to 2,000 companies working on products and services that will exploit the low-power radio technology.  

But like all technologies that use the airwaves, Bluetooth's introduction may face regulatory concerns in some countries, especially when it comes to the military establishment, which relies on the 2.4 GHz frequency for its communications. 

Among such countries is France, where the military fears the new technology may crowd out its own communications. The military there controls most of the radio range Bluetooth needs to operate, and the powerful defense establishment is not letting go.  

Part of Bluetooth's elegance is its promise of a worldwide frequency, which will make communication easier for frequent travelers. But as the world links up, the Bluetooth case shows how just one country, even with legitimate reasons, can put snags in a global project.  

And until France and Bluetooth's backers work out a deal, everyone who hooks up to Bluetooth here may be trespassing the military's radio turf.  

The nearly 2,000 high-tech companies backing the wireless technology are expected to address the French problem at the conference here, said Christina Bjorkander, a Bluetooth spokeswoman for Swedish group Ericsson SpA.  

It's not the first time technology giants have wrangled with the French government.  

The French military also clung tight to the rights of the radio frequency required for Apple Inc.'s Airport, a wireless networking technology that lets multiple computer users surf the Net through a single account.  

The negotiated solution was cumbersome: Many people who want to use AirPort in France need to submit paperwork before plugging into the system.  

A similar solution likely wouldn't work with Bluetooth, which is expected to have many more users.  

Frost and Sullivan, a San Jose, Calif. based consultancy, expects high growth from Bluetooth, with revenues of $36.7 million in 2000, jumping to $699.2 million in 2006.  

But analysts say Bluetooth still has to sort through some problems, such as lowering the price and improving its software, before it can develop what is expected to be a following.  

Lars Godell of Forrester Research thinks Bluetooth won't start making a big impact until summer 2001.  

Meanwhile, at the start of June, Ericsson unveiled the first mobile phones to use Bluetooth technology. Plug-in cards for PCs are expected to follow later this year.  

As well as doing away with lots of cables the technology could do away with the need for more than one phone. Instead of having a mobile on the move, a landline at home and a modem for your computer a Bluetooth enabled phone could do all three jobs. 

Bluetooth technology is named after King Harald Bluetooth who, unlike most other Vikings, preferred talking to fighting. His diplomatic reign unified the nations of Denmark and Norway, which he then ruled from 940-981. He got his name Bluetooth because he liked blueberries so much that they stained his teeth.  

Even the trademark for the group reflects these origins. It is made up of the two runic characters "H" and "B." It also reflects the Scandinavian origins of two of the founding companies, Ericsson and Nokia --

© 2000 Al Bawaba (

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