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Bluetooth opts for Wi-Fi while waiting

Still holding for UWB

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

The Bluetooth special interest group (SIG) is prepared to embrace Wi-Fi as a high-speed connection option while it waits for Ultra Wide Band (UWB) to become available on phone handsets, according to presentations by SIG chair John Barr.

Bluetooth has long been looking for a high-speed channel for transferring large files or streaming multimedia content, and last year decided to adopt WiMedia Alliance's version of UWB. But the wait for UWB-supporting handsets has become too much for some, who are now looking to Wi-Fi as a fast alternative if some of the Bluetooth profiles can be layered on top of it.

Bluetooth is a collection of standards, and its Service Discovery Protocol (SDP) has always had the ability to negotiate alternative connections where they would be useful. Most devices supporting Wi-Fi, or UWB, also support the existing Bluetooth standard, and two devices could connect together over Bluetooth and negotiate a P2P Wi-Fi connection (or via an access point) for fast file transfers or streams of data.

The same model will exist when UWB devices become available. Scheduled for late next year, such devices will still support the existing 2.4GHz Bluetooth standard, but use it to negotiate faster connections when needed.

Bluetooth could also lend some additional functionality to Wi-Fi - the Bluetooth profiles allow negotiation of codec support and/or device capabilities, and these could easily take place over an IP connection carried on Wi-Fi, though the SIG will have some work to do refining that before it becomes possible.

The options are laid out in the presentation from John Barr (slides) as spotted by TechWorld, but even if this occurs the initial connection will still be using the existing Bluetooth radio and SDP standard.

The number of radios in a mobile phone is increasing steadily and Bluetooth would like to see itself as the negotiating manager of all those connections, but supplanted by none of them. ®

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