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New SIG Working Groups

Important new additions to the Bluetooth specification are developed by working groups within the SIG. Any member may propose a new study group; if investigation by the study group generates sufficient interest and motivation for updates to the specification, the study group may become a formal working group. Each working group has a charter that may include the generation of specification updates to enable new functions. Most of the working groups currently established in the SIG are in the process of producing new profiles to enable new usage cases for Bluetooth wireless technology. In 2001, there were more than a dozen such working groups; three of them are detailed here.

Radio Enhancements

Because it is optimized for cable-replacement scenarios, Bluetooth wireless communication uses only medium-rate transmissions, with a raw data rate of 1 Mbps. This is sufficient for most cable-replacement applications, and allows for low power consumption, making Bluetooth technology particularly suitable for small handheld portable devices. However, some other applications are envisioned for Bluetooth wireless technology, including multimedia scenarios. Such applications require faster data rates, and one of the SIG's working groups is exploring enhanced radio function that includes faster data rates. Other enhanced radio functions that might be explored in the future include cellular-style "handoff" cabability and faster connection times. But a main focus remains on faster communications over Bluetooth links, and future Bluetooth radios with double (or more) the speed of the version 1.x radios appear feasible and may be specified in the foreseeable future.

Local Positioning

Location-based services—that is, services based upon knowledge of where a device and a user are located—are seen by many as a significant market opportunity. Bluetooth wireless technology offers one way to determine the location of a device and its user. Global positioning sytem (GPS) technology is widely used to determine location, but it does not work nearly as well inside buildings as it does outdoors. Bluetooth technology can supplement GPS position information indoors by using Bluetooth radio communications to determine a device's position. For example, because the default 0 dBm Bluetooth radio has a range of about 10 meters, the position of a mobile device can be determined when it establishes communication with a fixed location device. At minimum, the mobile device's location can be pinpointed to at least within about 10 meters of the location of the fixed device; and with the use of received signal strength indicators built into some Bluetooth radios, the position might be determined with finer granularity. Also, more precise positioning information could be obtained when more than two devices are involved. Using triangulation and/or more than one device that knows its own position, the position of a third device (and additional devices) can be determined quite accurately.

After the position of a device (and hence its user) is known, applications can take advantage of this information, offering services based on the location. These might include "Where am I?" services, "Where is the nearest x?" (where x might be a restaurant, kiosk, shop or other entity) services, advertising or special offers from shops in the vicinity, or even locating lost devices.

Printing

The capability to print any time, anywhere, and from any device is a compelling usage scenario, and Bluetooth wireless communications can help to make it a reality. Although rudimentary printing with Bluetooth technology can be made possible simply by adding Bluetooth "dongles" to existing printers, the printing working group within the SIG is developing specifications to enable more sophisticated, interoperable printing operations. These facilitate not only simple printing of e-mail or calendar entries from mobile devices, but also the discovery of printers and their capabilities using the Bluetooth service discovery protocol (SDP) and printing more complex print jobs, including some forms of graphics, over Bluetooth links.

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