Home > Articles > Networking > Wireless/High Speed/Optical

  • Print
  • + Share This

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group

As described previously, Bluetooth wireless communication is embodied as a technology specification. This specification is a result of the cooperation of many companies within an organization called the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). There is no "Bluetooth headquarters," nor is there any "Bluetooth corporation," nor any sort of legally incorporated entity. The SIG is governed by legal agreements among the member parties, but it is not a company unto itself. The SIG should not be construed as a formal standards body; rather, it is an organization chartered to define and promote the technology. In fulfilling this charter, the SIG is dependent upon the contributions and participation of its member companies. Clearly, a major task of the SIG has been to develop the specification, but other SIG activities include joint work with other consortia and standards and regulatory bodies, educational and promotional events such as developers conferences, and the definition of a testing and certification process.

Technology and SIG Origins

Bluetooth wireless technology was conceived by engineers at Swedish telecommunications manufacturer Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (hereafter, known as "Ericsson"®) who realized the potential of global short-range wireless communications. In 1994, Ericsson began a project to study the feasibility of a low-power and low-cost radio interface to eliminate cables between mobile phones and their accessories.

In today's computing and communications industries, proprietary new technologies rarely succeed; customers clearly prefer to purchase and deploy technologies based upon industry standards. By creating a level playing field, standards allow customers to have greater freedom to choose from among competing platforms and solutions, to protect their investments as technologies evolve, and to leverage (and, in some cases, also influence) multicompany skills and organizations devoted to developing the standards.

In this industry environment, the Ericsson inventors understood that the technology was more likely to be widely accepted, and thus could be more powerful, if it was adopted and refined by an industry group that could produce an open, common specification. In early 1998, leading companies in the computing and telecommunication industries formed the Bluetooth SIG to focus on developing exactly such an open specification. The founding companies of the SIG are Ericsson, Intel® Corporation, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM®), Nokia® Corporation, and Toshiba® Corporation. These companies formed the original core group (known as promoter companies) of the SIG. The SIG was publicly announced in May 1998 with a charter to produce an open specification for hardware and software that would promote interoperable, cross-platform implementations for all kinds of devices.

Although open standards can be quite advantageous, one potential disadvantage of standards bodies, consortia, special interest groups, and similar organizations is that they tend toward inherent inefficiencies as compared to single-company efforts. Within a single company, there is often one overriding objective for developing new technology; in a multicompany effort, each participant may have different, perhaps even competing goals. Even with modern ways to exchange information, such as electronic mail, group interactions are still likely to be more efficient within a single organization than throughout a group composed of many organizations (especially when those organizations are geographically diverse, as is the case for the members of the SIG—telephone calls, for example, have to take into account the fact that the people involved reside in time zones with little or no overlap of typical working [or even waking] hours).

To overcome some of these potential drawbacks, the SIG intentionally was created with a small number of companies committed to the rapid development of the specification who were willing to expend the resources necessary to accomplish this.

SIG Progression

As the specification evolved and awareness of the technology and the SIG increased, many other companies joined the SIG as adopters. Adopters are entitled to a royalty-free license to produce products with Bluetooth wireless communication based upon the specification, and can receive and comment upon early versions of SIG publications.

Today there are more than 1,800 adopter members of the SIG, representing academia and industries such as consumer electronics, automotive, silicon manufacturing, consulting, telecommunications, and many others. The original SIG's objective was to develop, as rapidly as possible, an open specification that was sufficiently complete to enable implementations. By carefully organizing the SIG and employing the use of frequent in-person meetings supplemented by even more frequent conference calls and e-mail exchanges, the SIG produced a thorough specification (together, the Volume 1 core specification and Volume 2 profiles number more than 1,500 pages) in about a year and a half (version 1.0 of the specification, including profiles, was published in July 1999).

The SIG organized itself into several working groups, each with a focus on a specific part of the technology or on some supporting service. These working groups included the following:

  • The air interface working group, which focused on the radio and baseband layers

  • The software working group, which developed the specification for the protocol stack

  • The interoperability working group, which focused on profiles

  • The compliance working group, which defined the testing, compliance, and certification process

  • The legal working group, which managed the legal affairs of the SIG, such as membership and intellectual property agreements

  • The marketing working group, which promoted the technology and helped to generate the marketing requirements that the specification was to address

Some of the larger working groups, such as the software working group, were further divided into task forces focusing on a particular layer of the Bluetooth protocol stack. Coordinating all of these working groups and governing the overall SIG was a program management committee composed of voting representatives from each of the promoter companies.

During the year and a half that the SIG was developing the specification, working groups and task forces met and conducted their business both together and separately. Full working group (and sometimes complete SIG) meetings were held every few weeks, often hosted by promoter companies in locations where many of their involved personnel worked—these included Ericsson's Lund, Sweden, facility; Intel's Chandler, Arizona, software laboratory; IBM's sites in Research Triangle Park, North Carolina, and Hawthorne, New York; and Nokia's Tampere, Finland, location. Most working groups and task forces also held weekly conference calls. In addition, e-mail distribution lists were used liberally and, in fact, were a primary method for conducting working group business.

Because of the geographic diversity of the people involved, it was difficult to find mutually convenient times for frequent voice conversations; thus, electronic mail quickly became a convenient and heavily used means of communication. (In many respects, it allowed specification development around the clock.) Indeed, the official ratification of the final versions of the specification, profiles, and errata was conducted using the e-mail reflectors.

In December 1999, four new promoter companies (3Com® Corporation; Lucent® Technologies, Inc.; Microsoft® Corporation; and Motorola®, Inc., some of whom had made contributions to the original specification as adopter companies) joined the SIG. The group remains very active today in maintaining the existing documentation and in creating enhancements to the specification, along with new profiles. This work is discussed in further detail in Part 4 of our book.

It easily can be seen that it took an enormous effort to develop more than 1,500 pages of complex and detailed information in just over a year's time. For many in the SIG, this became their full-time job, or at least a primary responsibility. Both technical and nontechnical issues inevitably arose and were handled through discussion and voting when necessary, but in general, the development and refinement of specifications and profiles progressed in an exemplary manner. A spirit of cooperation, fostered by the common objective of producing an open specification for this important new technology usually carried the day (at least in our experience in the software and interoperability working groups).

  • + Share This
  • 🔖 Save To Your Account

Related Resources

There are currently no related titles. Please check back later.