Bluetooth competition heats up -

Bluetooth competition heats up


Once again Bluetooth must fend off proprietary rivals.

One of the technologies I enjoy covering is Bluetooth. It seems like Bluetooth has been around for a long, long time. There's a reason for that–it has. The original specification has been around for about 10 years. Although many people may argue with me, I don't believe the technology has really caught on in the way it was supposed to. I know a billion Bluetooth units have shipped (according to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group,, but most of those are either in handsets or headsets that connect to those handsets.

I remember the original application–seamlessly connect your laptop to your PDA to your handset. While there are claims that this can be done, I've not been able to do it (and I really have tried). In some of the cooler applications, you usually have to attach vendor X's system to vendor X's peripheral. If you want to attach vendor X's system to vendor Y's peripheral, good luck.

Recently, Bluetooth has had some hot competition. For example, Kleer Corp. of Cupertino, Calif., signed a deal with Thomson to supply the RF technology for Thomson's wireless headsets. Sold under the RCA name, the Kleer technology shows up in the Jet Stream line of MP3 players, scheduled to ship this summer.

Kleer's technology can employ a data rate of 2.4 Mbits/s over 10 m using the 2.4-GHz band. Ten meters in the 2.4-GHz band? Boy, that sounds familiar. But where Kleer's technology differentiates itself from Bluetooth is in power consumption, a key factor for the battery-operated devices that Bluetooth normally resides in.

Kleer claims a 10X power advantage over Bluetooth (this is something I'd have to see to believe). They also say that they're working on a next generation that will further reduce power. The Kleer technology is based on a sub-sampling rate radio architecture. It employs a high-Q filtering technique to sample below the Nyquist rate.

In addition to Kleer, I've heard some rumblings from other Bluetooth competitors, although none are ready to reveal detailed plans. Hopefully this competition will serve as a kick start to push Bluetooth into the original applications it was destined for. On the flip side, it could end up stunting Bluetooth's growth.

By the way, have you ever wondered what makes the latest Toyota Prius tick? Are you curious what's under the hood? If the answer is yes, be sure to come by the Embedded Systems Conference next month in San Jose, Calif. (April 1-5), where we'll be taking apart a real Prius right before your eyes.

We've got quite an amazing lineup put together for this event. In addition to the Prius Tear Down, we'll be ripping apart some of the most popular electronic systems (then giving them away). But the real gem on the schedule is the keynote address, to be deliver by Former Vice President Al Gore. This promises to be an event that you won't want to miss. For more information, go to

Richard Nass is editor in chief of Embedded Systems Design magazine. He can be reached at .

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