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Thursday, 22 March, 2001, 23:15 GMT 00:15 UK
Runic Blip to build wireless future
Ericsson's Blip BBC
Blip: Modelled on a 10th Century Nordic warrior
By BBC News Online's Ivan Noble in Hanover

It is about the size of a packet of cigarettes and modelled on a 10th Century memorial to a conquering Nordic warrior.

Blip BBC
A boy tries out Blip technology
But the Blip is no piece of high-tech table sculpture. It is the device Ericsson hopes will kickstart the world of wireless information and trade.

After months, if not years of publicity, devices compatible with the Bluetooth short-range wireless system are starting to appear on the market.

But wireless communication is nothing but a gimmick if no-one has anything useful to say. That is where the Blip comes in.

Window shopping

The tiny gadget allows anyone to broadcast information to Bluetooth devices like mobile phones and personal digital assistants within a 10-metre radius.

A Blip in a clothes shop could let window shoppers find out whether the clothes they liked were in stock, even when the shop was closed.

They could reserve the item they liked and come back and collect it later.

A Blip at a bus stop could tell passengers how much longer they needed to wait before six number 73s turned up all at once.

Wireless democracy?

And a Blip in a town hall could tell residents about the plans for a new bypass and deal with their responses.

Ericsson says it is up to Blip users what they do with the device, which can be programmed and updated from a conventional computer using a serial or ethernet connection.

For that reason, the company based the Blip around the Linux operating system, the free operating system put together by a community of programmers across the internet.

Using Linux means that software developers will find it easy to write their own programs for the Blip, it says.

Reading the runes

The Blip's shape is a conscious reference to Bluetooth.

Harald Bluetooth in his time managed to unite the warring kingdoms of the Nordic world.

His achievement was communicated to future generations with the rune stone on which the Blip is modelled.

The Blip should be on sale by the end of the year, Ericsson says.

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