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Next steps for Bluetooth

Adam Baddeley talks to Anders Edlund Marketing Director Bluetooth SIG, Inc.

Anders joined the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) in August 2002. He is responsible for improving Bluetooth SIG marketing activities, as well as making sure the Bluetooth wireless technology is accurately, consistently and increasingly communicated to members and end users.

With his work at Ericsson in the five years preceding 2002, and with his key role in forming the Bluetooth SIG and building the Bluetooth marketing message, Anders has been leading the way in bringing the Bluetooth wireless technology to market.

He has a technical background with an electrical engineering degree and working experience in the fields of satellite communication and computing science. He has since acquired many years of experience within marketing and product management.

Q: How is Bluetooth impacting on the day-to-day lives of consumers over the next decade?
A: The expectations are that in the next ten-year period we will see Bluetooth becoming part of pretty much everyone’s life. Or at least those people who use some sort of electronic device. Some people of course will not use such devices but I think they are reducing in number. I am confident that Bluetooth will become the main means of linking devices together.

Q: That is the goal. What are the changes in generating the need for Bluetooth?
A: If you think about it, most of the technologies we use today are not created for ‘basic needs’ or have arisen by consumers asking for it. You could probably do without the mobile phone, possibly even better sometimes, yet it has become a huge success in recent years! I even remember people asking me ten years ago - why would you need a phone to be mobile? However, electronics manufacturers are helping to create a need for all these new and interesting devices. Where you have all these products it becomes quite obvious that there is a need to conveniently connect them together. Bluetooth, from my perspective, will rank on top of the list of needs in electronic devices in the next five to ten years as people begin to carry more and more devices.

Q: What about the impact of converged devices on the need for Bluetooth connectivity?
A: I do not think the impact will be very significant because there will always be a need for both converged devices and devices that are optimised for one task. Even with electronics getting smaller, there will be limitations, at least in the next few years, to what you can do with one device. In addition, let us say if a PDA is combined with a mobile phone, it would still be pretty convenient to have a Bluetooth wireless headset.

Q: Is the market for Bluetooth being expanded by office workers wanting similar products at home?
A: The route from office to home was specifically true for the mobile phone, which was originally developed for the business environment and then eventually moved down to the consumer. That is also to some extent true for Bluetooth, particularly with devices, which can be used in the office environment like computers and PDAs.

The other side of Bluetooth development is in consumer devices driven by the home consumer market. There are gaming devices, MP3 devices and stereo headsets, which I also think will be rather important. When we talk about volume what will drive the volume sales are things like the personal gaming devices. I also think there is a realistic chance that Bluetooth could forever change how consumers enjoy "imaging". Because of the mobile phones driving portable integrated cameras this is creating a great opportunity to use consumer devices like TVs to share images with family and friends, rather than printing or using the small phone display.

Q: Part of making Bluetooth more marketable is making consumer systems easier to set up for the first time. Is this a challenge?
A: Good question. It is very difficult to do achieve a balance that suites everyone because there are two conflicting sides to this: security versus ease of use. You need to have a device that is secure and since Bluetooth is a type of networking technology a compromise needs to be made between ease of use and a high level of security. Potentially if you were to access a personal phone book or notes without security applied, someone unauthorized could retrieve very important information and we obviously do not want that to happen.

I think the compromise we have decided upon so far is a very reasonable one. You need a password to establish a Bluetooth relationship with your personal devices but you only need to do that once, and after that it is very, very easy to use the technology. For me, that is a pretty good balance and there are no concrete plans to change that I might add, although security issues are constantly on the agenda and there might be changes in the more distant future.

Q: Bluetooth applications tend to be dominated by those in an office environment. What about developments to support industrial or at least non-office applications?
A: We have not seen an awful lot of public information about industrial applications so far. There has certainly been a lot going on though. Companies have developed industrial sensors and other applications. I have also seen announcements on is wireless Bluetooth sensors for semi conductor manufacturing. There are also a lot of interesting medical applications coming up especially the emergency services. Many applications are being developed and I think they will be increasingly interesting for the future. The volumes are significant but the large volumes in consumer applications will ultimately drive Bluetooth. The [industrial] installation process is quite interesting from an implementation point of view. There is also the potential for Bluetooth to be installed in an awful lot of commercial devices such vending machines and cash registers. However I think this depends on a wider deployment of consumer devices and it will be a few years before we see the first large scale commercial developments in these areas.

Q: What is the split today between civil and business users?
A: I do not really have figures on the split between business and consumers. Thinking about this year, I think that there would be over 60 million Bluetooth devices sold, and a large amount of those are for enterprises. I would say ' and this is a very uneducated guess ' that more than half of them will still be for consumer use, i.e. not bought by corporations. That trend will certainly accelerate. For instance if you look at projections for next year a doubling will take place and that will probably mean a higher ratio of consumer purchased devices.

Q: What is industry doing to take the standard forward?
A: There has been a huge interest from consumers, manufacturers and the whole electronics industry around Bluetooth and that interest is still very high. Now, however, we are moving in to a more consumer centric phase. There is a much higher focus on payback and making money. I think that is very important right now for all players in the industry. Of course technology, generally speaking, is also rapidly evolving. That goes especially for wireless technologies including Bluetooth. There is continuous work on future enhancements in the longer term. However, my prediction is that in a few years there will be no drastic changes in direction or performance with Bluetooth. This is because the specification that was designed a few years ago is still pretty well balanced between requirements such as cost, power consumption, size of the implementation and of course bandwidth. From a technical perspective these criteria are probably the most important ones when you design a technology like this. What is rather unique with Bluetooth wireless technology compared to most other wireless technologies is that we have also added the application layer to our specification. In practice this means we have specified how applications shall be implemented and how a multitude of different devices shall work together without the need to install driver software. Without this application layer this would of course be impossible in a wireless headset just to mention one example. We also have a global qualification program to make sure devices from different manufacturers work well together.

Q: What is going to be new over the next 12 months?
A: I think my guess for the next year would be increased interest in the areas of imaging, portable MP3 players, stereo headsets and then gaming. We have seen some devices from all of these areas but nothing major this year, except perhaps for the Nokia N-Gage launch. There might be some announcements before Christmas but my expectation is that we will really begin to see these devices hitting the market next year.

Q: Who do you expect to be the first to market?
A: That is obviously speculation again since we have not seen them. However, if you look at consumer devices Sony is a strong name in that area, with a great deal of commitment to Bluetooth wireless technology as well. And although Toshiba is perhaps not as well know as Sony in the area of entertainment they are still a strong name in the market place and they already have a stereo headset available on some markets. You will also likely see interesting devices from less well known brands.

Q: Will consumer power take over?
A: I think next year we will see consumer devices taking over the market but it does take time and that cannot be guaranteed. We will however, certainly see the beginning of a transition to consumer orientated devices and focus.

Q: You have mentioned industrial applications. What about its use by the military?
A: That is a tricky question. The military are naturally sensitive about what they are doing. I have seen articles about the devices that are being developed, but I do not know whether they are available or if the articles refer to trials and development. I do however know, for example, that there are some interesting applications in space. The problem again is the sensitivity of the subject, so you just hear about them now and again.

Q: How are mobile operators going to see revenues increase through Bluetooth take-up?
A: The basic question for the mobile operators, and others as well, is how can we make money from Bluetooth? There are some easy answers to that question - Bluetooth can increase voice traffic over mobile telephones by making it easier to talk on the phone with wireless headsets. This includes enabling in-car usage either through a hands free kit or integrated kit fitted in to new cars, or even a simple inexpensive Bluetooth headset. The aftermarket car kits are relatively easy to mount and will allow users to make calls legally in many countries where there is legislation on in car mobile phone usage.

When it comes to increasing data most mobile operators have invested quite heavily in extending networks to enable GPRS and also now 3G. A problem we have seen in the past is that there are not really that many compelling services for using data on mobile phones. Most consumers realise they can browse the Internet and read e-mail but these applications do not seem to be awfully compelling for the average consumer. That is where Bluetooth will make a big improvement, because all of sudden you can connect the MP3 Player, the gaming device and the digital camera and you can start exchanging images, download games and even get music online. There was a recent announcement in Korea of an MP3 player that worked together with a Samsung phone to get online content. I think that is a very interesting opportunity that most operators do not seem to have caught on to, or do not understand yet, but they will, and would encourage them to look into the opportunities Bluetooth wireless technology can offer for new revenue streams.

For more information:
Please contact: Anders Edlund, anders.edlund@bluetooth.com
Or visit: http://www.bluetooth.com

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