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With Bluetooth finding its way into an increasing number of devices, a new pastime called 'bluejacking' has popped up.

In simple terms, bluejacking is the art of anonymously sending messages to users of other Bluetooth devices who have switched on the technology and made their handset "visible" to potential bluejackers. Since Bluetooth-enabled phones, PDAs and laptops can search for other devices within their short range, bluejackers in crowded transport hubs, pubs or any other public place can easily send messages without being detected.

Recipients must, however, accept the incoming data and, as such, bluejackers are unable to send long messages, since they may be refused. The get around this, the sender could set their username as "You have just been Bluejacked!" so that would-be victims receive a message along the lines of "Income message from: 'You have just been Bluejacked.' Would you like to accept?"

Though certainly an annoyance, bluejacking does not pose a security threat and individuals wishing to avoid the aggravation can set their device to "invisible" or can simply shut off Bluetooth when not using it.

Though the ranks of bluejackers remain small, chatter on Internet forums about the hobby has already begun and a what is possibly the first bluejacking Web site has popped up at Bluejackq.com.

The Bluetooth protocol enables devices such as mobile phones and laptops to send data to other devices, without wires, over distances of about 30 feet. Introduced as a replacement for cables in 1998, Bluetooth has been slow to gain mass-market penetration, with interoperability and interference problems blamed as the main reasons.

But now that the technology can be found in an estimated 100 million devices - from cars and laptops to phones and MP3 players - it is widely expected to become used by more mainstream consumers in the months ahead, according to the Bluetooth SIG, the group that promotes and ensures interoperability for the technology.

Bluetooth's growth may not convert bluejacking into anything more than a short-lived fad. "I have to say, I'm not overly enthused by it," commented Matthew Towers, IMS Research's senior Bluetooth analyst, referring to bluejacking as a market driver.

There is limited room for Bluetooth messaging applications, but other uses of the technology are likely to drive the technology in more meaningful ways, Towers forecasts. Among the top drivers will be Bluetooth hands-free earpieces for mobile users looking to talk on their phone while in the car, he says.

According to Frost & Sullivan, shipments of Bluetooth devices will double in 2003 to 70 million units.

© ENN

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