Feeds

Bluetooth finally reaches ten (years, not users)

Happy 'toothday - or is it?

Website security in corporate America

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.

Internet Security Threat Report 2014

More from The Register

next story
Brit telcos warn Scots that voting Yes could lead to HEFTY bills
BT and Co: Independence vote likely to mean 'increased costs'
Phones 4u slips into administration after EE cuts ties with Brit mobe retailer
More than 5,500 jobs could be axed if rescue mission fails
ISPs' post-net-neutrality world is built on 'bribes' says Tim Berners-Lee
Father of the worldwide web is extremely peeved over pay-per-packet-type plans
New 'Cosmos' browser surfs the net by TXT alone
No data plan? No WiFi? No worries ... except sluggish download speed
Radio hams can encrypt, in emergencies, says Ofcom
Consultation promises new spectrum and hints at relaxed licence conditions
Turnbull: NBN won't turn your town into Silicon Valley
'People have been brainwashed to believe that their world will be changed forever if they get FTTP'
Google+ GOING, GOING ... ? Newbie Gmailers no longer forced into mandatory ID slurp
Mountain View distances itself from lame 'network thingy'
Blockbuster book lays out the first 20 years of the Smartphone Wars
Symbian's David Wood bares all. Not for the faint hearted
prev story

Whitepapers

Secure remote control for conventional and virtual desktops
Balancing user privacy and privileged access, in accordance with compliance frameworks and legislation. Evaluating any potential remote control choice.
WIN a very cool portable ZX Spectrum
Win a one-off portable Spectrum built by legendary hardware hacker Ben Heck
Storage capacity and performance optimization at Mizuno USA
Mizuno USA turn to Tegile storage technology to solve both their SAN and backup issues.
High Performance for All
While HPC is not new, it has traditionally been seen as a specialist area – is it now geared up to meet more mainstream requirements?
The next step in data security
With recent increased privacy concerns and computers becoming more powerful, the chance of hackers being able to crack smaller-sized RSA keys increases.