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Last Updated: Tuesday, 22 April, 2003, 09:03 GMT 10:03 UK
Mobility mania drives Bluetooth
By Mark Ward
BBC News Online technology correspondent

Ask someone to name a wireless technology and chances are that the first one they will call to mind is wi-fi.

Bluetooth headset, SonyEricsson
Bluetooth headsets are proving popular
This technology has won more headlines recently, but its success is being matched by Bluetooth, which also swaps data via radio, and is slowly finding its was into more and more devices.

Bluetooth gets its name from Harald Bluetooth, a 10th century Danish king famed for uniting his nation with Norway.

Although Bluetooth has laboured in the shadow of wi-fi for some time, its backers hope that the next 18 months will see it much more widely adopted.

Radio waves

"There has been a lot of confusion between wi-fi and Bluetooth that sometimes has hurt both technologies," said Anders Edlund, one of the directors of the industry group driving Bluetooth development.

Mr Edlund said wi-fi was meant for linking computers and network hubs across whole offices.

By contrast, he said, the low range and low power of Bluetooth was intended for devices within a few metres of each other swap information.

Mr Edlund added that the focus on wi-fi was not all bad as it helped promote the whole idea of mobility and people using radio instead of cables to swap data.

Because the technologies were developed for different ends they are being used in different sorts of devices.

Wi-fi has largely been used on laptop and home computers but Bluetooth has found its home in mobile phones and handheld computers.

Bluetooth MP3 player, SonyEricsson
Mobile phone accessories are making use of Bluetooth
Mr Edlund said by far the biggest use of Bluetooth was to let people use a handsfree headset with their phone.

Now, he said, the Bluetooth group was working hard to show hardware firms and users the technology's versatility.

Phone makers were now bringing out other add-ons for phones, such as MP3 players, that help people get more out of their handset.

Some mobile phone firms were working on ways to use Bluetooth to let people take each other on at multi-player games.

Improvements to the basic Bluetooth software should also make it easier to use, he said.

Before now finding and connecting to other Bluetooth using devices was sometimes difficult, said Mr Edlund.

Future versions of the software will hide this complexity and make devices negotiate a radio link without the need for setting up pairing codes.

"In the early implementations using Bluetooth was not really intuitive," said Mr Edlund.

The Bluetooth group is also starting to work more closely with PC makers to get the technology adopted more widely.

He said Hewlett-Packard and Epson were producing printers that people can connect to via Bluetooth and home computer maker Dell was selling Bluetooth add-on packs for some of its machines.

Mr Edlund said he expected 2004 to be a very good year for Bluetooth with hardware and handset makers building the technology into more and more of their products.

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