Can’t get enough of the Internet at your home and office?
Well, now connectivity is coming after you in those places you live in between — your car, the train station, the airport, the hotel and the coffee shop, to name a few.
Of course, i-mode enthusiasts already enjoy the mobile Internet to some degree. But Bluetooth, billed as “a new dimension in wireless technology,” is angling to deliver more and faster Internet on-the-go than DoCoMo’s prodigy can.
The First International Bluetooth Asia Pacific Summit was held in Tokyo this week to share development information and fuel the momentum of the technology’s adoption in the region. Several industry giants — Toshiba, Ericsson, Intel, IBM, Microsoft, and Nokia, to name a handful — are already members of the special interest group.
One scenario for employing the technology has users e-shopping, checking stock prices, and sending e-mails from their PDAs, laptops, or cellphones over their lattes at the local cafe. The Internet connection is served by a hot spot, or access point — a broadband-connected device about the size of a smoke detector — somewhere in or near the shop.
Bluetooth’s marketers stress that it’s all about getting rid of the tangle of cables that tether us.
Bluetooth SIG member Motorola envisions a day when people will have ready access to weather, navigation help, phone calls and personalized news from the driver’s seat.
“Of course, it’s (already) possible to do all these things,” admits program manager Yunxin Li. But with a cellphone in one hand, a laptop in the passenger’s seat and a global positioning system sliding across the dashboard, “I don’t think you’ll find the experience very pleasant,” he says.
Or safe, for that matter. In the Bluetooth-equipped car, however, the driver will have two hands free to steer, Li says. What’s more, should an accident occur, the air bag’s release could trigger a call for a tow truck, while data flies to the service center to tally up the damage.
While such visions proliferate, hurdles remain, and Bluetooth SIG Marketing Co-Chairman Anders Edlund admits that after the long-building hype, it’s time to “deliver now and make sure that all expectations are met.”
Among the obstacles are dealing with competing standards and obtaining spectrum authorization in 79 target countries. So far, says Bluetooth Approval Manager Waldemar Hontscha, spectrum limitation issues have been resolved in France, Spain and Japan. Meanwhile, the frightfully named network protocol I.E.E.E. 802 11b is making strides in the United States, and one company aims to have access points in 5,000 Starbucks shops there by the end of 2002, The New York Times reported.
Bluetooth has embraced wireless personal access networking (WPAN), which is better than wireless local area networking (WLAN) for short-range data transmission, but inferior at handling the kind of mass data-flow needed for video streaming.
Yoshiaki Nezu, vice president of Axis Communications, a developer of access point devices, sees WPAN as serving Japan’s present needs best.
With its legions of i-mode devotees, some of whom spend hours a day on the devices, he says Japan is “the most mature market in the world” for the technology. “WLAN is fast, but in Japan people don’t want to lug around PCs,” he said. “(They’re) already used to smaller devices.” Therefore, the need for wireless ultrarich data flow has not yet arrived.
Motorola’s Li also endorses WPAN, saying the always-connected car of the more distant future may indeed include streaming video for the kids in the back seat, but today’s needs are e-mail and voice-communication technology, which Bluetooth’s WPAN supports.
Hontscha says Bluetooth’s process of qualification is key to ensuring both the ubiquity and interoperability that will accelerate the technology’s spread — and thus secure its place in the marketplace.
The license to use Bluetooth technology and the brand logo are free to those whose products are deemed to meet compliance standards as spelled out on Bluetooth’s Web site, www.bluetooth.com