A broad industry alliance, codenamed Bluetooth, is to build wireless communications technology for personal and business mobile devices.
The initiative, backed by Intel, IBM, Toshiba, Nokia and Ericsson, will build a chip to replace all serial and parallel wires and enable seamless voice and data transmission via short-range radio.
Users will be able to connect to laptops, mobile phones, PDAs, headsets, digital cameras, printers and other peripherals with the chip without worrying about compatible networks, serial ports and cables.
"This chip could be incorporated into a whole range of technology," said Anders Aarsoe, mobile product sales manager for IBM.
An example of Bluetooth in action could be a business traveller at the airport who needs to print from a laptop urgently. As long as both the laptop and the airport's printer are Bluetooth-enabled, the user can print without needing compatible networks or proprietary cables.
"The nearest comparative technology is IRDA (infra red direct access), but this doesn't come close to Bluetooth's capabilities," said Aarsoe.
IRDA has a radius of two to three metres and requires the user to point the transmitter directly at the receiving device. A Bluetooth phone or laptop becomes active within 10 metres of any other Bluetooth device and is not dependent on line-of-sight.
"It can transmit and receive through walls and doors, and can maintain an uninterrupted connection when in motion or from inside a bag or briefcase," claimed Aarsoe.
Bluetooth devices will operate on the globally available 2.45GHz free radio band, allowing international travellers to use the equipment worldwide.
Bluetooth chips can transmit data at 1Mbps and the alliance plans to increase this to 2Mbps for the next generation, though no date has been set for this update.
There are no products yet available containing Bluetooth chips, but Aarsoe said plenty of manufacturers are interested and there should be products on the streets by the middle of next year.
The alliance has made the specification available royalty-free, and claims Bluetooth will cost manufacturers less than #2 to incorporate into their products.
Per Bengtsson, marketing director at Ericsson, insisted that the new technology has passed all health standards and will not scramble users' brains.
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