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How v4.0 is a Bluetooth piconet test for enterprise wireless managers

Joe Fernandez, News Editor

Hailed as Bluetooth’s “second revolution”, Bluetooth v4.0 has introduced low energy technology to the Bluetooth Core Specification, enabling new Bluetooth smart devices that can operate for months or even years on tiny coin-cell batteries. But with new intelligence comes a host of Bluetooth piconet challenges for network managers.

 

The main aim of Bluetooth is to eliminate interconnection cables and to connect one device to another via a universal radio link. However, critics say Bluetooth applicability is limited in some environments as the technology experiences performance degradation in long-range scenarios and runs into interference problems if there are too many Bluetooth piconets -- or mini networks -- in one coverage area.

Still, markets for the new Bluetooth devices include health care, sports and fitness, automotive, security, and home entertainment. The launch of the iPhone 4S, the first smart phone to have integrated Bluetooth v4.0, put a crown on years of intensive work. In addition, Microsoft  announced plans to integrate Bluetooth v4.0 in all its Windows 8 products, and by the end of 2012, virtually all new smart phones will include the technology.

Bluetooth 4.0 will spawn new apps

Suke Jawanda, chief marketing officer of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), is responsible for driving the roadmap and market proliferation of Bluetooth technology with SIG's 14,000 members.

The former EMC and Microsoft chief said that the new version will radically change how companies make use of Bluetooth and network managers and engineers will want to be involved in this new era.

Examples include the first commercial wireless blood pressure monitor using Bluetooth low energy communication, which will use RF chips from Nordic Semiconductor and a high-volume blood bank solution QTA Tracer System to be distributed in Sweden by Abbott. Nokia is prepping its own version of indoor maps for wireless users, Casio is producing a Bluetooth-enabled watch and Motorola has unveiled the MotoActv device, which can receive calls and texts as well as use GPS to notify users of speed, calories burned and heart rate statistics that can be stored on cloud-based website MotoActv.com.

Bluetooth technology operates in the unlicensed industrial, scientific and medical (ISM) band at 2.4 to 2.485 GHz, using a spread spectrum, frequency hopping, full-duplex signal at a nominal rate of 1600 hops/sec. The 2.4 GHz ISM band is available and unlicensed in most countries. Its adaptive frequency hopping (AFH) capability was designed to reduce interference between wireless technologies sharing the 2.4 GHz spectrum.

The new Bluetooth technology can be managed through the WLAN or LAN, but it can also use a separate wireless sensor network. In that case, manufacturers will train enterprise network engineers to manage sensor networks.

SIG itself does not control how users look to deploy the piconet ecosystem, but has a number of boards deliberating over the most appropriate ways of delivering the ad-hoc networks without compromising existing data or systems. Its automation working group and architecture review board are examples of this. The member bodies deploying the technology into enterprises are responsible for configuring the application software modules according to the business IT needs.

Connection and setup can be a lengthy process, which Jawanda attributes to authentication and authorisation functions. SIG’s members are working to address deployment delays.

Another concern has been poor link performance, resulting from an increase of the number of retransmissions and the consequent reduction of the throughput of the link.


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