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Low Energy, high aspirations

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Bluetooth's Low Energy variant has been the subject of its annual developers' Innovation Cup, with three winners selected, though it is hard to say which will be the killer application for the technology.

Wireless monitoring of LPG canisters, ear movements and head trauma beat off the wireless barbecue and keyfob multimeter to win as the very best applications for Bluetooth Low Energy – a low-power version of the standard providing connectivity from a button-cell battery for months, or years.

Each winner gets $5,000 in cash, $10,000 in SIG vouchers and testing kit from Anritsu that's apparently worth $17,000, but they'll be hoping that their innovations will make a lot more than that once commercialised. But who could resist an ear-mounted tag that reports if one's head is moving, or a Bluetooth monitor for leaking tanks of liquefied petroleum gas, or a sensor that rates head trauma without having to prod the bits of brain oozing from the cracks in the helmet.

All that reporting can only be done within a 10-metre range, which limits it rather – existing wireless systems for LPG, for example, regularly work to several hundred meters, but they aren't using Bluetooth so don't count.

Bluetooth Low Energy desperately needs a killer application, something that will give manufacturers a reason to embed it, which will in turn drive more interesting applications for it. But on the current evidence the search for a problem continues, despite how ready the solution is. ®

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