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Bluetooth connects anything everywhere

Last week’s Bluetooth World in Shanghai was a sold out event. Globally, the use of Bluetooth connectivity is booming. It’s been 15 years since the wireless technology was introduced to the public and constantly now, new uses are being found for it. Shipments of Bluetooth enabled devices rose to over two billion in 2012. Even more amazing, Bluetooth shipments are projected to expand by another 18 billion devices by 2017.

In June 2010, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) adopted Bluetooth 4.0. It contains Classic Bluetooth, Bluetooth High Speed and Bluetooth Low Energy profiles. Bluetooth Classic allows for backwards compatibility with older Bluetooth protocols, and Bluetooth High Speed is based on Wi-Fi. Perhaps the most interesting subset of Bluetooth 4.0 is Bluetooth Low Energy also known as Bluetooth Smart.

At Bluetooth World, keynote speaker Robert Scoble, Rackspace’s Startup Liaison Officer, asserted that we are entering an age of context, where every product will be impacted by its environment. This change is being brought about by wearable computers. These devices provide an always-on wireless connection to the Internet. They will allow the people and fixtures around an individual to interact with that person as needed. Always on devices depend on low energy wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth Smart.

Stuart Carlaw, Chief Research Officer, ABI Research, a participant in a panel discussion at Bluetooth World, noted that while Wi-Fi is more of an infrastructure or transport technology to the wider Internet — connecting the last mile. Bluetooth has a “critical role to play” in connecting the last 100 meters.

To understand more about the future of Bluetooth, Nick Hunn at WiFore Consulting has released “To Ubiquity and Beyond,” which is enlightening on the role of Appcessories in expanding the use of Bluetooth.

“Appcessories are devices which connect to mobile phones and tablets,” Hunn explained. “They differ from things like headsets because they are intimately linked to an app on the phone. They are not just accessories which replicate a phone function, but a whole new experience. They’re things that are not only fun or useful in their own right, but doubly so when intimately combined with a compelling app. In itself, that’s not new, as we’ve had sports and fitness products from companies like Nike and Polar that do just that. The difference in this new generation of Appcessories is the enabling presence and availability of Bluetooth Smart technology, which makes them easy to design and cheap to produce.”

For instance Silverlit revs up the concept of remote control vehicles with the introduction of the Mercedes SLS, an interactive Bluetooth-controlled car that can blast streaming iTunes music in between racing around on the living room floor. The Jot Touch 4 is a stylus that uses Bluetooth to deliver over 2,000 levels of pressure sensitivity for great looking natural lines when drawing or painting on a tablet computer. Both of these are Appcessories.

According to Hunn, Bluetooth Smart will make Appcessories ubiquitous. It has been specifically designed to allow all sorts of devices to be connected to mobile phones. It’s not about voice or audio, but about control and data, allowing a phone to turn things on and off, or to send information. Products with Bluetooth Smart are just becoming available now, and will not ship in volume until the end of the year. The Bluetooth modules in the products are very inexpensive, making it an attractive option for product innovators. By the end of 2013, the price of Bluetooth Smart chips with integrated application processors purchased in volume should be about $1.50. Hunn estimates that by 2018 the price will reduce to just $0.50, allowing the incorporation of Bluetooth Smart technology into single use disposable Appcessories that could be given away free, such as a toy offered on entry to an amusement park.

“The question, ‘What’s the killer application?’ for Bluetooth Smart has been asked many times and it has never been answered,” observed Hunn. “That failure to find the killer app is because there isn’t one. But there is a killer ecosystem, which it the Appcessory.”

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Time: 4-20-2013

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