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Bluetooth Congress Report

The turnout for the Bluetooth Congress this year was probably lower than for the Conference last year, but the attendance at the exhibition was good, as was the number of real products on show.  It certainly demonstrated that you could have a huge amount of working Bluetooth kit in a small area without major interference problems. 

The Wireless Directory had pre-arranged meetings with a number of the exhibitors, to get their take on their new products – many thanks to those companies.  Apologies for the brevity of our report – with so much to cover, we’re sure you appreciate the reasons – hopefully however our readers with specific interests in the relevant product areas will spot the mention and follow up to seek more information. 

In addition we spoke to some of the other exhibitors, but we certainly didn’t get around to them all.  So below, is an incomplete summary of some of the stories from the Congress.  If you were there and wish to add to our report, please visit the The Wireless Directory Message Board and add your own contribution.  Thank you.


Enabling with Bluetooth

Who is Using Whose Chips ?
The answer is probably still up for grabs for the volume markets.  Many of the chip suppliers had examples of their customers’ products on their stands.  Philips for example had Ericsson phones as well as their own Fisio 820 Bluetooth enabled GPRS mobile phone and Bluetooth headset. Infineon had Nokia phones and CSR had stuff from a raft of household names in consumer electronics.  However, it’s clear that the silicon is evolving and coming down in price rapidly and manufacturers are remarkably fickle when it comes to suppliers. From the number of Bluetooth chip suppliers at the show it’s clear that the market is segmenting rapidly.  Consolidation in the Bluetooth arena is inevitable many would say – and the announcement at the show of the Infineon acquisition of Ericsson Microelectronics may be just the first step.  


Whilst at the Congress, Philips put a range of connectivity solutions for mobile phones and PCs under 
the spotlight including Philips' Fisio 820 Bluetooth enabled GPRS mobile phone and Bluetooth headset.

            
Infineon showcasing their Bluemoon RF with the Nokia Bluetooth Connectivity pack


Claiming Design-ins with ~60% of Qualified Products, 
CSR had a wide variety of their customers' products on their stand

XEMICs – a recent start up fables chip house, originally was the semiconductor part of the Swiss CSEM organisation, were demonstrating their low power headset solution, claiming it to be the lowest power solution presently available. GCT Semiconductors were demonstrating their chips solutions with reference designs for several application specific applications, as reported elsewhere in this report.

Modules
Siemens Austria
have recently announced their SieMo S50037 Bluetooth module product – how did they choose the name ?  Although not exhibiting at the Congress were happy to describe to The Wireless Directory its key claims of low cost, improved performance over the Ericsson module and back-compatibility, with an identical footprint, so that existing users of the Ericsson module can retro-fit the Siemens  module with no redesign.  An interesting way to enter the market - whether the Siemens module is in fact superior to the new Ericsson module (below) is something you’ll need to discuss further with the two companies concerned…

Ericsson have announced their next generation of Bluetooth module at the show, supported by a development kit and associated software, developed by connectBlue, which eliminates the need for programming at the HCI level.  The device contains an Embedded Communications Interface (ECI) which allows the protocol stack and profiles to be embedded directly into the module.  connectBlue are also offering development capabilities to customers wishing to develop end products based on the new module.

Zeevo were also telling a good story about their approach to create a whole new market in embedded wireless microcontroller modules.  Their TC2000 module, 13 x 11 mm, contains their Bluetooth solution including a user-programable ARM core.  The device is intended to make Bluetooth accessible to companies who don’t understand wireless and who don’t want to. Prototypes shipped last February and the device is claimed to be now in full production.

The National Semiconductor offering in the module area is a 14 x 10 mm LTCC, the LMX9814, also offering a 50 ohm antenna and USB/UART interfaces, but without the programmable microcontroller included in the Zeevo concept.  National were promoting the concept that the use of single chip solutions is still at present sub-optimal, in cost terms, due to the difficulties of achieving the same levels of yield for RF silicon that can be achieved with digital silicon.  

Wilcoxon Research were showing their C1B, a Class 1 Bluetooth module, as well as their BlueLynx BLM product based on this, aimed at industrial monitoring applications.

Texas Instruments stole the show at the chip manufacturers panel session with their announcement of a novel approach which they claim will lead to a commercial $4 solution (ie not just the chip) by the autumn.  It’ll be interesting to see it at DevCon in December…

Enabling Products with Bluetooth
The use of Bluetooth adaptor modules to wireless-enable other products was also discussed by companies active in the field.  Code Blue Communications distribute the connectBlue serial port adapter in North America and are successfully applying this  with companies wishing to add Bluetooth capabilities to existing products. 

In Australia, HCV Wireless have developed their own Bluetooth-enabled pre-qualified single board computer, BlueMod, which they are using to the same end. Both companies had excellent stories of companies they had worked with and literally added Bluetooth onto in less than an hour ! 

The French company Inventel have been active in enabling their customers’ products with Bluetooth.  Included on their stand were a barcode reader product from Barcoda as well as another product from Arca Technologies.

Production Protocol Tester
CATC
, well known for their protocol analysis development tools, took the opportunity at the show to launch a new $1000 production protocol testing unit.


Bluetooth Access Infrastructure

Public Access and Local Services
Ericsson
and Red-M are probably the best known in the emerging/potential Bluetooth public access infrastructure market.  Both companies were present at the show, but unfortunately we missed their demos.  Axis Communications are also addressing this area, and gave a presentation on their approach using a Linux-based solution. But what can you do with such infrastructures ?  

Nokia were demonstrating some examples – with a range of services that appear as an option of ‘local services’ in the phone book of the normal GSM phone.  Once selected the user could choose between a range of options, such as chatting to other users in the coffee shop, playing locally hosted games against other guests, local weather and environment information etc.  It remains to be seen whether Nokia will launch public access products – they have not yet announced a decision on this, but clearly have the technology if they feel this is a market to address.  Picture messaging between phones using Bluetooth was also on show at their booth.

LAN Access Points
As well as a Bluetooth module, Siemens Austria also have launched a LAN access point product called blue2net, based around their module, which they claimed to be the lowest cost solution presently available.  Capable of supporting 7 active clients, it is a Class 2 device, with Ethernet RJ45 connectivity, with plug-n-play self-installation. 

DSL Access Points
Inventel were showing their BlueDSL access point, allowing local DSL access via Bluetooth.  An interesting variant of this was the option of a DECT-based variant, to allow support of DECT cordless phones as well as Bluetooth-enabled GSM phones in the home.

Enterprise Infrastructure
Commil announced a tie up with Alcatel, to provide on-site telephony using Bluetooth-enabled GSM phones via their Bluetooth access points access points with their software allowing seamless handover.  The Bluetooth enterprixe infrastructure connects via a gateway to Alcatel’s existing range of VOIP/PABX enterprise infrastructure.  The seamless handover was demonstrated on their stand and worked OK, although the VOIP voice quality left a little to be desired. 

ISDN Access Points 
Stollmann showed off their ISDN acces point BlueTA+. It supports the Dial-up
networking profile and is compatible with all DUN devices.

They  also had the serial adapter BlueRS+ showing in a new upgraded Class 1 version. In addition to AT-commands it also supports the BlueFace+ API on the serial link such that multiple Bluetooth links, profiles and applications may be supported at the same time.


Applications

How Can Bluetooth Increase Mobile Operators’ ARPU ?
At a joint press conference at the Congress, the GSM Association and the Bluetooth SIG publicly launched a new joint initiative.  Mike McCamon of the Bluetooth SIG and  Marcus Taylor of the GSM Association announced how the two organisations have begun to work together on developing scenarios and usage models from a mobile operator perspective.  The goal of the activity is to identify a range of applications that will boost ARPU – average revenue per user – for the mobile operator.  Certainly applications such as the e-mail management application from Commtag (see below) fall into this category, as will others.  First outputs from this activity are expected as soon as this autumn – watch this space…

E-mail Applications
Commtag were showing a very convincing and really useful application – with e-mail on the PDA via Bluetooth/GPRS to the home server.  The twist on this was that the actions taken on the PDA (eg read, delete, etc) were then mimicked on the home server, meaning that when you return to the office all the mail you dealt with on the move is fully dealt with, and doesn’t need filing etc.  Could go far…

Automotive Applications
Jack Withrow from Daimler Chrysler caused a stir with his talk at the conference, taking the opportunity to challenge the industry to deliver – not in a negative way, but rather because of the huge potential of the automotive market.   He announced that they will have an after-market, dealer-installed, Bluetooth handsfree carphone product in 12 months to be followed by a factory-installed product in just 18 months.

Streaming Audio & Video
Several companies were demonstrating streaming audio and/or video on their stands – all of which without exception seemed to us to be pretty impressive in terms of quality.  Included amongst these were Silicon Wave, GCT Semiconductor, Commil – and others we either missed or have forgotten – sorry if your company was one of these !   GCT Semiconductor’s demos were particularly impressive, using Bluetooth for full 3D surround sound to wireless speakers for a home cinema system, as well as streaming audio to Hi-Fi headphones containing a Bluetooth module in one of the earpieces.  The claimed USP of GCT’s approach was the integration of the application software into the Bluetooth baseband chip itself.

Bluetooth Connection Kit
Socket Communications announced the availability of their Bluetooth Connection Kit (CompactFlash Bluetooth) for Pocket PCs, enabling Windows CE devices to be Bluetooth enabled.


Bluetooth and Other Wireless Technologies  
The Chairman of the IEEE802.15 group Bob Heile gave an interesting resume of the activities of his group, positioning a range of technologies as complementary to Bluetooth.  

ZigBee is a lower cost technology, aimed at a range of domestic and industrial applications that will require extremely long battery life (in the limit never change it !) and very low duty cycle.  ZigBee has taken a fairly low profile to date, but ZigBee-enabled products are now slated for end 2003, according to Venkat Bahl of Philips, the ZigBee Program Manager.

UltraWideBand, UWB – originally touted for wide area cellular applications when it first emerged, has now been repositioned as a very short range (10m) very high rate technology – a turbocharged Bluetooth if you will. 

Bluetooth and Wireless LAN
One of the big issues for the past 3 Congresses has been ‘To what degree will collocated Bluetooth and 802.11 interfere with each other ?’.   It looks like this may soon be a question of the past as several companies are clearly working on solutions – both the SIG’s AFH solution and other interim proprietary, yet forwards-compatible, alternatives.  Of those who have already gone public, Zeevo have a triple-approach roadmap.  The first approach, Selective Frequency Hopping (SFH), is interoperable with Bluetooth v1.1 and does not require any changes to other devices to support the solution.  A software upgrade to the silicon will support the SIG-mandated Adaptive Frequency Hopping (AFH) scheme in the future when it is finally approved.   Zeevo also currently offers the Alternate Wireless Medium Access (AWMA) solution which works with existing 802.11 chips and does not need special signals to function.

Silicon Wave and Intersil have teamed up to offer a solution to this issue, combining chips from both companies which interwork to allow simultaneous Bluetooth/802.11 operation.  On their stand they were demonstrating realtime AV-streaming over 802.11 whilst printing over Bluetooth.  They claim to be shipping  product and to have lots of design-ins already secured, about which they’ll be releasing information over the coming months.

GCT Semiconductor also indicated that they will be sampling dual mode Bluetooth/WLAN chips in September 2002, based on an application specific approach, incorporating the software functionality into the baseband chip.

Bluetooth and Spark Transmitters !
Code Blue Communications are a company active in the medical applications of Bluetooth.   At a recent medical expo they found themselves in a booth next door to a company demonstrating electric-arc incisions for bloodless surgery (on chicken breasts rather than people, for demonstration purposes !).  To their very pleasant surprise the Bluetooth application continued to function unimpaired – now that’s good news, for a wide range of industrial applications, not just medical ones.

 


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The Wireless Directory is a free online community for marketing, engineering and other Bluetooth professionals in the telecommunications, consumer electronics and other application industry businesses. It provides free industry news, much provided by our own members, and a forum for community members to interact and obtain specific information.


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Last modified: Wednesday December 03, 2003.

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