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Next-generation Bluetooth finds a niche - 4/27/2006 - EDN
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Next-generation Bluetooth finds a niche

Is Bluetooth dead in the water? Not if you believe ABI Research (www.abiresearch.com), which predicts that vendors will ship more than 500 million Bluetooth radios this year. In a study entitled "Bluetooth: The Global Outlook," the consulting company predicts that sales of Bluetooth-equipped devices will grow 71% this year compared with 2005 and will reach the 1 billion-unit mark by 2009. Stuart Carlaw, principal analyst for wireless connectivity at ABI, explains that the mobile-handset and entertainment markets are powering the robust growth in Bluetooth.

India has more than 120 Bluetooth SIG (special-interest-group) members, many of which are developing products and IP (intellectual property).

K Srikrishna, chief executive officer of Impulsesoft (www.impulsesoft.com), a design company in Bangalore, agrees: "We see the automotive and cellular markets as key areas of growth for Bluetooth stereo," he says. "Voice, including mobile-phone and monophonic headsets, and stereo applications will coexist, coupled with superior user experience." Impulsesoft is driving one such effort and has proposed extensions to the existing standard. Code-named GMCP (generic media-control profile), it provides a standards-based way to remotely navigate and display the playlist over Bluetooth. Impulsesoft, which SiRF Technology Holdings recently acquired, specializes in developing Bluetooth-audio products for OEMs producing digital-media players, mobile phones, and automotive electronics.

ISM bands are nonlicensed and may be cluttered with interference from appliances, such as microwave ovens and cordless phones." K Krishna Moorthy, director of the India Design Center at National Semiconductor India Designs Pvt Ltd (www.natsemi.com), admits, "Bluetooth is in a sort of no-man's land. Although the audio-entertainment industry continues to support Bluetooth, newer systems may adopt 802.11 for both audio and video."

ABI's Carlaw also cautions that there are significant barriers in the way of outright success for Bluetooth, particularly among silicon providers and manufacturers. Among them are resolution of the battle of UWB (ultrawideband) standards and interoperability, reduction in silicon and equipment costs, and penetration into consumer devices. Proponents of the technology hope that the version of Bluetooth after Lisbon, code-named Seattle, will sway the undecided; Seattle will firmly align the technology with UWB. "The best hope for Bluetooth is not to try to be all things to all people but to strive for areas in which it performs well and for strong coexistence with its rivals. Integrating multiple radios into relatively compact, low-power devices, such as handsets, can fulfill this hope. Bluetooth does not have to win a head-to-head battle," observes Rajeev Dutt, North America manager for Silicon Interfaces (www.siliconinterfaces.com).