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Bridging the Smaller Gaps
by Mark Sedenquist

Last week, I mentioned Bluetooth as being one of the possible glues that will help to bind the diverse wireless connectivity devices. The Bluetooth Consortium provides a concise overview of how and where this technology works. Bluetooth is a wireless radio wave-based local area network that has been developed to allow connectivity between PCs, Handheld PCs, PDAs, automotive functions and communication devices. This connectivity occurs without using cables, and the radio signals can travel about thirty feet. Bluetooth is being developed under the auspices of a promoter group comprised of 3-Com Corporation, Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Lucent Technologies, Microsoft, Motorola, Nokia and Toshiba. To date, nearly 1,200 other firms have joined the Bluetooth group as "adopters" and are working on applications.

By using Bluetooth, the various elements of the telematics devices mentioned in RoadWirer #16 can be linked without the need for the incredibly complex set of wires and connectors now required. Since it is extremely unlikely that any one standard will emerge as the platform for cellular and other wireless connectivity devices, such a "glue" could eliminate the need to keep track of multiple cables and wires that we now use on a daily basis. Perhaps more importantly, if one's laptop, cellular phone and PDA were linked, a user could update an address listing at the same time in all devices by simply speaking the information out loud while driving down the road.

Last Spring, the Phoenix One suffered an electrical fire in the wiring harness located under the dashboard. When we removed the damaged harness, it looked to me like a human spinal cord, an amazingly complex snarl of wires and connectors. If we were able to make use of Bluetooth embedded chips in devices like windshield wipers, window de-frosters and the CD-changer much of the complexity of that wiring system could be eliminated and the space that is now crammed with wires could be better utilized. In fact, if the Phoenix One's electrical system had been equipped with Bluetooth capability, it is unlikely that the fire would have occurred at all: the fire was caused by a wire that was speared by a screw-- installed by me.

Several companies are now working to bring Bluetooth-enabled devices to consumers. At the CES show in Las Vegas, Delphi Automotive Systems used a Bluetooth link in their Communiport telematics display. Also new cell phones are being produced by Ericsson using Bluetooth that should be available by the end of the year. This radio-wave LAN is expected to drive much of the telematic business. Joyce Putscher, a knowledgeable analyst for the Cahners In-Stat Group, a wireless research group. expects that in 2003 manufacturers will produce over 200 million devices that contain the Bluetooth chip. The Cahners In-Stat Web site is one that you should bookmark as a source for wireless news and business market analysis.

However, like many of the devices I looked at, Bluetooth enabled devices won't really be able to do much until faster, more reliable means of providing wireless data becomes available. So many more amazing devices and developments-- some of which I will discuss to next week.

We are about two weeks away from launching the Road Wirer Wireless Forum. The Forum will provide a place to exchange ideas, suggestions and gripes about wireless communications and the development of Dashboarding. It it is my hope that it will also begin to prepare the way to reach the Dyamic Space I described in RoadWirer #16. I await your responses!

Mark Sedenquist
Las Vegas, Nevada
January 24, 2000