Unwired -- Blue Tooth

Back to Contents of Issue: June 2000

blue toothHarald Bluetooth, the 10th-century Viking king, didn't really have blue teeth. That's just a transliteration of his name -- Blåtand -- into English. But like old King Harald, renowned for getting incessantly warring tribes to work together, Bluetooth the technology aims to bring some coherence to the multitude of mobile devices that are expected to populate our pockets in the 3G wireless future.

Bluetooth is a specification for a small-form- factor, low-cost radio frequency solution providing links between mobile computers, mobile phones, and other handheld devices, and connectivity to the Internet. Hooking up as many as seven devices, it will work much the same as your garage door opener, and have about the same range (10 meters). The Bluetooth Special Interest Group has expanded from the original five founders -- Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia, and Toshiba -- to include 3Com, Lucent, Microsoft, and Motorola, as well as 1,200 "promoter" companies. There will be more than 670 million Bluetooth-enabled devices in use worldwide by 2005, according to market research firm Cahners In-Stat Group. In Japan, says Kenshi Tazaki, an analyst at Gartner Group Japan, "Bluetooth will have a big impact. It will enhance the application and convenience of mobile devices."

Smaller, nimbler members of the mobile Internet order here aren't waiting for others to get their rear in gear, or, rather, their gear in gear. Software developer Cosmic, active for some 23 years and recently focused on developing software for mobile devices (including the EPOC operating system on the Psion PDA), has launched a joint project with hardware designer hd Labs called Himico.

Himico aims to combine Cosmic's firmware development expertise with hd Labs' chip design talents to produce an add-on processor that manufacturers can install on mobile-device circuit boards, thus adding Bluetooth connectivity. The firms are moving fast, and in December Himico was cited by the Japanese media as the first Bluetooth development project in Japan. The firms are targeting keitai manufacturers as their first customers, but they've also received queries from non-mobile players, like Fuji Xerox, showing just how wide a bite Bluetooth might take.

Yoshitaka Kodama, CTO for Cosmic, says Himico's strength is that "it's 100 percent designed and developed in Japan, so we think we can provide a complete solution to Japanese manufacturers." Keeping one eye on Bit Valley, the firm also states that it's eager to help other entrepreneurial-minded folks, especially software developers. With 66 million Japanese forecast to be using mobile devices to access the Web, there's certain to be plenty of scope for entrepreneurs.

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