Ultra-low-power Bluetooth: the new wireless frontier

A new flavor of Bluetooth might be just the answer.

At the same time the SIG was focusing on unification of wireless technologies, engineers at Nokia were developing a complementary radio technology called Wibree that uses a small fraction of the power consumed by the Bluetooth radio. Wibree shares many similarities with the Bluetooth radio and is easily made compatible with Bluetooth radio chips.

In June 2007, the Bluetooth SIG announced it would bring Nokia's Wibree under the Bluetooth umbrella to create an ultra-low-power version of Bluetooth wireless technology. The result: a wireless technology with the same low power consumption and tremendous battery life as ZigBee, but able to communicate with the hundreds of millions of Bluetooth devices shipping each year.

Development of ultra-low-power Bluetooth technology is currently under way, and the Bluetooth SIG expects to announce the first version of the specification in early 2008 with chip shipments following closely behind. Consumers should be able to purchase the first ultra-low-power Bluetooth-enabled products by fall 2008.

In addition to creating a vast market for sensors, watches and other existing devices, ultra-low-power Bluetooth's ability to connect low-power devices to the mobile phone will open new applications. The mobile phone, after all, is quickly becoming the computing hub of the future, combining entertainment, connectivity and data storage in a single device.

With ultra-low-power Bluetooth, for example, it will be possible for mobile phones to support location-based services, allowing users to download schedules from bus stops, product information from a store aisle, or airline schedules from the airport gate.

In the home, the mobile phone could serve as a remote control for the TV, thermostat and even household appliances, or simply direct a smart home to power up or down according to the presence of occupants.

The demand for embedded wireless technology capable of long-lasting, power-independent functionality has existed for some time. Ultra-low-power Bluetooth technology promises a new answer, one with a proven global standard at its heart.

Foley is executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. For more information visit Bluetooth.com or Mike's blog.

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Michael Foley

Network World

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