August 14, 2005

Bluetooth on the way back

When King Danish Harald Blåtand, united Norway and Denmark, little did he know that a technology named after him ( Blåtand translates to blue-tooth) will have a chance of becoming a corner stone of the telecommunication industry.

This industry is one of the fastest growing sectors in todays world, and whether you'd like it or not it is constantly changing the world around you.
If it were not for the cell phone industry, we would still be hooked to our wired phones, and had it not been for the internet E-mails would just have been a fantasy.
And in this fast changing world one protocol which is growing very rapidly is 'bluetooth' . And just like everything before 'bluetooth' wasn't created in a day. In fact it went through some rough times before its started catching on again.The telecom industry today is not very different from what it was 1000s of years ago. There still are many different ways to communicate and some are more popular than others. But human ingenuity over time and has lead to unification of communication protocols. Though it may look like its doing the same thing, a telephone is very different from a cellphone and a cellphone is different from a satellite phone. But they all manage to get along very well, and if I call your home phone line from a cellphone in US over a satellite connection, it will still reach you and we'd still be able to talk. Internet is another perfect example of this unification which brought together computers worldwide.

While people were still fascinated by internet and wired networks, in the early 90s Ericsson predicted that the day is not far away when computers inside your home will talk to other computers and even with other electronic devices like cell phones, digital cameras, keyboards and mouse wirelessly. In 1994 they started an effort to come up with a standard for devices to communicate with each other they way computers can over wired networks. This search for a new, inexpensive communication standard ( protocol ) which could allow one device to detect the presence of another and allow it to communicate with another it using low powered radio signals was soon joined by 5 companies. Unfortunately, in spite of some early success, the process of defining a standard slowed down significantly by 1999 when the consortium had over 1200 company participants. This is when blue-tooth's problems started.

While bluetooth was still in its infancy, a new protocol IEEE 802.11 started gaining momentum. This new communication protocol was specifically designed for high speed communication between computers and networking devices using radio frequency. This was probably the toughest moment in the history of bluetooth. Eclipsed by 802.11s success bluetooth standard was on the verge of extinction.

Interestingly, though 802.11 is faster, allowed greater distances and supported much more communication features, its complexity required the device to do more work and send stronger radio signals for it to be able to communicate with others. This inadvertently forced it to draw much more power. This was not a problem for devices which are hooked up to the power, or for laptops which are charged very frequently, but it definitely was a problem for devices like cellphones and digital camera's which have very small battery capacity and cant be connected to power outlet for extended periods of times. This together with the realization of low cost of manufacturing bluetooth devices marked the comeback of this unique protocol from the dead. IEEE 802.11 still has very strong market presence, but bluetooth has carved a niche for itself which has a very big fan base.

The most popular bluetooth device today which demonstrates the power and simplicity this popular protocol is the cellphone. Most new cellphones allow users to exchange phone numbers with a click of a button, some allow you to transfer files ands photographs between your computer, some even allow you to talk using handsfree bluetooth headset. Among the other devices which are very quickly catching on are bluetooth enabled keyboards and mouse which replace ps2 and usb wires giving the users the freedom of moving around without being tied to their computers.

Infact the day is not far when you would see bluetooth in remote controls of you televisions and VCRs and may be one day even be able to control your VCR from your cellphone. Bluetooth brings with it the freedom of communication with other devices which is unmatched by anything else in the communication industry today.