Feeds

Bluetooth finally reaches ten (years, not users)

Happy 'toothday - or is it?

The Power of One Infographic

Last week the Bluetooth Special Interest Group celebrated ten years since its formation for the purpose of defining and promoting the radio-networking standard that was supposed to link everything together. But has Bluetooth actually done anything more than enable everyone to look like a twat with a glowing blue ear?

When originally proposed, as a cable replacement, Bluetooth was promised to provide everything from wireless internet access to mesh networks, but the reality has turned out to be a lot more mundane. The standard is now looking to competitors to create the functionality it originally promised.

Things started to change during the long wait for Bluetooth hardware: with developers (this author included) reduced to creating applications using PDAs with Wi-Fi cards as proof-of-concept to keep investors interested – something that became more practical as Wi-Fi reduced in cost and increased in ubiquity. By the time Bluetooth devices became available Wi-Fi was well on the way to becoming the default wireless standard, despite the greater flexibility Bluetooth offered.

Like pulling teeth

Bluetooth is defined by a number of profiles - ways in which the wireless devices were expected to be used. The standard was then developed to make those usage models possible, though that was no guarantee that anyone would ever use them.

Most notable of these lost profiles is the Intercom Profile: enabling two people to speak to each other from opposite sides of a room – up to ten metres apart. The fact that shouting has a roughly equivalent range was apparently missed by the SIG, and even upping the range to 100 metres (in perfect conditions) didn't get that particular profile widely deployed.

Almost as odd as the Intercom profile was the idea of Scatternets. With every Bluetooth device able to communicate with seven other devices, it was also possible for any Bluetooth device to host one network while being a participant in another, and route communications between the two. Unfortunately, most devices struggle to maintain two Bluetooth connections even now, let alone route information between networks. Last year we asked Mike Foley, head of the Bluetooth SIG, if he could point us in the direction of someone, anyone, who was using Bluetooth Scatternets in anger – he couldn't.

The LAN Access Profile wasn't as ambitious as Scatternets, it was simply undercut by Wi-Fi which could offer higher speeds with less apparent complexity. Bluetooth fans, this author amongst them, would moan on about battery life and the fact that 1Mb/sec was more than enough for accessing email and web pages, but the Wi-Fi crowd simply had an easier sell – "it's like Ethernet, only without wires". You can still buy Bluetooth access points, though not a lot of devices support the profile these days.

But not everything the SIG did was wrong; the headset profile that attracted little attention in the early days of Bluetooth has proved to be its saviour ever since. Mobile phone shops love selling accessories - the margin is greater and the sales process easier - but there's a limit to how many novelty clip-cases one can flog. So when Bluetooth started to appear in phones the shops quickly realised they could make a mint selling headsets.

In Europe the shops have very close relationships with the network operators, who are the handset manufacturer's biggest customers. When the shops suddenly demanded Bluetooth on handsets, the operators took their demand to the manufacturers, who happily complied. In the USA shops are more independent, which goes some way towards explaining why Bluetooth hasn't hit America in the same way, at least not yet.

The popularity of headsets has created a perception that Bluetooth is a mobile phone technology for carrying voice - a long way from the desktop-cable-replacement originally envisioned. The SIG continues trying to change that perception, launching applications such as TransSend to try and get people using Bluetooth for something other than looking demented while talking on the phone, but the perception is hard to break.

The Power of One Infographic

More from The Register

next story
Major problems beset UK ISP filth filters: But it's OK, nobody uses them
It's almost as though pr0n was actually rather popular
Microsoft unsheathes cheap Android-killer: Behold, the Lumia 530
Say it with us: I'm King of the Landfill-ill-ill-ill
Auntie remains MYSTIFIED by that weekend BBC iPlayer and website outage
Still doing 'forensics' on the caching layer – Beeb digi wonk
All those new '5G standards'? Here's the science they rely on
Radio professor tells us how wireless will get faster in the real world
Apple orders huge MOUNTAIN of 80 MILLION 'Air' iPhone 6s
Bigger, harder trouser bulges foretold for fanbois
Oh girl, you jus' didn't: Level 3 slaps Verizon in Netflix throttle blowup
Just hook us up to more 10Gbps ports, backbone biz yells in tit-for-tat spat
GoTenna: How does this 'magic' work?
An ideal product if you believe the Earth is flat
Telstra to KILL 2G network by end of 2016
GSM now stands for Grave-Seeking-Mobile network
prev story

Whitepapers

Top three mobile application threats
Prevent sensitive data leakage over insecure channels or stolen mobile devices.
Implementing global e-invoicing with guaranteed legal certainty
Explaining the role local tax compliance plays in successful supply chain management and e-business and how leading global brands are addressing this.
Top 8 considerations to enable and simplify mobility
In this whitepaper learn how to successfully add mobile capabilities simply and cost effectively.
Application security programs and practises
Follow a few strategies and your organization can gain the full benefits of open source and the cloud without compromising the security of your applications.
The Essential Guide to IT Transformation
ServiceNow discusses three IT transformations that can help CIO's automate IT services to transform IT and the enterprise.