CES - Bluetooth SIG hits a landmark decade

With 2 billion devices and counting, this technology is surely not dead

It may seem hard to believe for some wireless aficionados, but the Bluetooth Special Interest Group is 10 years old, something that Bluetooth vendors plan to celebrate at a Consumer Electronics Show party in Las Vegas Tuesday night.

Bluetooth technology is already widespread, with an estimated 2 billion devices shipped and an upward growth curve that anticipates that 2 billion devices will ship in 2010 alone, Bluetooth SIG spokeswoman Kari Hernandez said in an interview today. The first products began appearing eight years ago.

Hernandez spoke while demonstrating one of the newer Bluetooth applications, connecting a cell phone via Bluetooth wireless to Microsoft Corp.'s Sync system in a Ford Taurus as it was driven through the streets of Las Vegas. Many carmakers have systems that use Bluetooth to activate music; the Sync system will allow a person driving a car to have an e-mail read by an automated voice.

Most people know Bluetooth for providing cable-free connections between cell phones and headsets, but one of the newest innovations being shown this week at CES will use a Sensory Inc. voice interface in a Bluetooth headset from Melbourne, Australia-based BlueAnt Wireless Pty. What's unusual about the new BlueAnt V1 headset is that setting up and running it doesn't involve any button-pushing, according to a statement from Sensory. All of the functions can be conducted with simple phrases like "Pair headset," "Call home" or "Accept call."

Hernandez said that simple and easy-to-use Bluetooth headsets with voice activation will become more popular as various states require use of cell phones to be hands-free for drivers.

The future looks bright for Bluetooth. Ultrawideband chips will soon be paired with Bluetooth, enabling users to stream bigger files, including video, over Bluetooth. A specification to do so is expected this year, and products should appear in 2009, Hernandez said.

In addition to higher speeds, lower power requirements from Bluetooth chips are what some of the 10,000 vendors who are members of the Bluetooth SIG expect to develop in the next two years.

Bluetooth has come a long way in the past decade, Hernandez said, noting that in her office, there are articles posted from the 1990s with headlines that screamed, "Bluetooth Is Dead."

Apparently not.

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