"Bluetooth Moves Out", by SamChurchill
There's an alternative to 802.11b networking. It uses less juice, works on your handheld and (might) be cheaper. It's BlueTooth. Although slower, prone to incompatibilities and still hard to find, BlueTooth may soon be a ubiquitous. It's a cable replacement for cameras, cellphones and PDAs. Just slip a Blue Tooth Module in your Visor or laptop and stand under a Bluetooth Hot Spot. Your handheld will connect to your cellphone with Bluetooth so it won't need a modem. A Bluetooth video camera was recently demonstrated. Soon you might clip a video camera on your lapel, a cellphone like theEricsson 520 on your belt and webcast anywhere.
Bluetooth uses frequency hopping in the 2.4 Ghz band. Unlike 802.11b, small chunks of spectrum continuously hop around the band many times a second, avoiding interference. Soon hand-helds, car radios, the Voice Web, "glass cockpits", cell phones and location devices may be inter-connected on the road.
The advantage? Your car radio could play tunes stored on your portable MP-3 player, the "glass cockpit" can check engine status and send gas records to your handheld, maps can be exchanged and services downloaded. Voice commands run it. Cell phones provide the backbone. The web on wheels is rolling out.
Portland-based Cerulic http://www.cerulic.com/ demonstrates their Bluetooth enabled Visor (above). Cerulic's VP Product Strategies, Nigel Ballard, is looking at his horoscope on an Australian WAP site. A nearby Bluetooth Access Point http://www.red-m.com/products/faq/Default.asp provided the connection. They're installing both 802.11b and Bluetooth access points in public building, airports, hotels and conference centers.
According to Nigel Ballard, http://www.bluetooth.com/ may be the network of choice for cars. Originally designed as a wire replacement solution, Bluetooth devices will be cheap ($5/chip), low power and rugged (using frequency hopping to avoid interference). Other wireless lan systems like 802.11b can be wiped out by Microwave ovens. Ballard ran Bluetooth devices next to several 802.11b access points with no apparent affect.
"It's a myth the two won't work together," declares Ballard. His office is filled with 802.11b, HomeRF and Bluetooth all operating together. Range is either 30 or 100 feet depending on what power Bluetooth radio is employed. Hundreds of manufactures are supporting Bluetooth and 802.11b. http://www.mobilian.com/ Mobilian in Hillsboro may have the first combined Bluetooth/802.11b system.
Ballard knows autos. He worked at Peugeot/Citroen, Volkswagen and BMW in Europe and is in talks with US auto makers. Ballard envisions large LCDs for dashboarders and kids using "skins" to customize the look and utility of information displays. Memory settings for seats, e-mail and communications with gas stations are planned.
Cerulic uses http://www.red-m.com/ Red-M's Bluetooth access point/server. The one-piece unit has an internal hard drive and caches information locally. It can serve up to seven Bluetooth access devices. Ballard demonstrated the tiny Bluetooth modem in a http://http://www.visor.com/ $250 Visor hand-held by checking his horoscope on an Australian WAP site. The visor connected to the Red-M server box which was connected to the phone line.
Bluetooth, HomeRF and 802.11b all share the same frequency band. How do they avoid interfering with each other? Sometimes they don't. The best shot at clear transmission in a noisy environments (like cars or RVs) might be Bluetooth, its proponents argue. That's because it "frequency hops". Skipping over noisy channels, and designed for "close proximity personal networks". HomeRF and 802.11b are faster but not as frequency agile. They also consume more power. If speed is what you need you might wait for the next bus, the 802.11(a) wireless LAN on the 5 Gigahertz band. http://www.radiata.com/ Radiata and http://www.atheros.com/ Atheros plan on moving HDTV and MP-3 files with it at 54 Mb/s.
Recently, http://www.myweb2go.com/ and http://www.atroad.com/ began offering location-specific content and services that can be accessed through any web-connected device. QWEST is building general portals, which will offer traffic updates, taxi services, pizza orders and movie reservations. http://www.etaktraffic.com/ Etak is supplying real-time traffic info. By using the Wireless Application Protocol (WAP), requested information is automatically formated for your appliance whether it's a cell phone, PDA or desktop computer.
Cellular modem cards like Novatel's 64Kbps GSM cards and CDMA cards are long range alternatives but they're expensive (at $70/month plus a bit charge). When third generation cellular arrives in 2-3 years, dashboarders will have a gateway to broadband.
GM already has http://www.onstar.com/ OnStar, Ford has http://www.wingcast.com/ Wingcast and Mercedes Benz Tele Aid. These systems use GPS to determine your location using your cell phone to communicate. They can cost $10-$30/month. Detroit is anxious to tap into this new revenue stream and may package a variety of services.
Microsoft .NET is headed for the road. Windows® CE for Automotive will use speech-recognition to tune a radio or send email http://www.microsoft.com/PressPass/press/2001/Jan01/InCarPR.asp Microsoft's Car.NET.
Embedded Linux is becoming a driver. Chrysler has an automotive home entertainment center based on "open standards". Their Infotronic system incorporates front and rear LCD screens, http://www.RedHat.com Red Hat Linux and 802.11b wireless networking. The front seat has a 6.4 inch LCD with voice recognition while the rear seats use 8.4" touchscreens. Security cameras and e-mail are planned. Delco also has a Mobile Productivity Center based on Linux http://www.Transvirtual.com Transvirtual's Pocket Linux may also be used for embedded appliances. Tiny sensors with Bluetooth chips could relay signals, lowering weight and increasing mileage. At http://www.LinuxWorld.com Linux World in New York this February, IBM showed off a watch running Linux with Web connections.
"It's like the Field of Dreams," says Daya Nadamuni, analyst at Dataquest. IDC predicts the wireless Linux market could be worth $300 billion by 2002. The growth of Bluetooth and Linux may go hand in hand. "Embedded Linux is making a huge impact, and wireless is an extension of that," says Blue Cat Linux marketing manager, John Johannesmeyer. "Bluetooth is going to be everywhere."