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Bluetooth finally reaches ten (years, not users)

Happy 'toothday - or is it?

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Stereo headphones are something punters can understand, as a derivation from a technology already providing mono sound - brushing aside the fact that the two mechanisms are technically unrelated. Sending music to a speaker system naturally follows on from that, but still pegs the technology as an audio-streaming solution rather than anything more serious.

The sad thing about Bluetooth is that its most powerful feature is the one that puts off the majority of users. The Service Discovery Protocol, which allows a device to cast around and introduce itself to other devices, then ask those devices what services they can provide, is superb, and should provide an elegant user experience. Unfortunately appalling interface design, and the popularity of the technology, have conspired to make pairing two Bluetooth devices far more complicated than it needs to be.

Hello, is there anybody out there?

So complex, indeed, that the Bluetooth SIG is now adopting NFC (Near Field Communications) as a way of exchanging credentials by tapping two devices together.

Bluetooth's other great drawback - speed - is also being addressed by using Bluetooth to set up and maintain Wi-Fi or Ultra-Wide-Band connections where two Bluetooth devices discover they have a high-speed option in common.

Even the supposed strength of Bluetooth, the low power consumption, is being challenged by the technology-formerly-known-as-WiBree – now to be called "Bluetooth Ultra" or something like that. Whatever it ends up being christened, the low-power standard shares nothing with its parent beyond a frequency and some branding.

Bluetooth has always been a collection of standards, nicking data formats and protocols from other systems and sending them over Bluetooth-radio connections - but soon the Bluetooth-radio itself might simply be a channel that allows devices to negotiate a better way of communicating.

In another ten years I'm confident all my electronics will be using Bluetooth, but whether that standard will share more than a brand with what I'm using today is more debatable. ®

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