Interoperability and cost issues loom as manufacturers deploy Bluetooth

The Bluetooth Developers conference last week heard warnings that interoperability and cost issues are looming as device makers...

The Bluetooth Developers conference last week heard warnings that interoperability and cost issues are looming as device makers begin to deploy products featuring the technology.

Bluetooth is designed for wireless data transmission at the relatively low speed of 768kbps over a short distance (10m or less). It is intended primarily for personal area networks that wirelessly link devices that a user carries or keeps on their desk.

Suppliers have touted Bluetooth for applications ranging from synchronising a personal digital assistant with a PC to controlling home appliances by remote control. But to date it has been used mostly in mobile phones and wireless headsets.

Bluetooth's low cost, acknowledged as a big factor in getting people to buy, will be driven down further by new products unveiled at the show. The only concern is that, as suppliers try to expand the applications of Bluetooth, it may prove hard to ensure that all enabled devices can really work with each other. This may turn off users just as consumer Bluetooth products become widely available over the next year or so.

After what may amount to a beta test by early adopters, the technology will finally become viable for most consumers about two years from now, said Ken Dulaney, n analyst at Gartner.

By contrast, IEEE 802.11b wireless Lans have had a smoother road because of rigorous certification by the Wireless Ethernet Compatibility Alliance.

Suppliers are looking to less expensive components to eventually drive consumer interest in Bluetooth.

At the show, Ericsson Technology Licensing demonstrated evaluation boards with samples of its fourth-generation Bluetooth radio - a highly integrated component with a design that reduces by half the number of components needed to build a Bluetooth system.

The critical point in cost reduction is a $5 (£3.50) chip set. Philips Semiconductors expects to see chip sets at $5 in 2003, down from a price of about $10 today, said

Gerhard Heider, general manager of Philips Semiconductors' connectivity product line.

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