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Green With Envy Over Bluetooth

Imagine this: Your alarm goes off, you growl at the clock, and another day begins. The coffee pot starts automatically, as does your computer. While you’re getting ready for work, your PC begins communicating with the world by retrieving your e-mail, then automatically transferring it to your handheld computer for review later in the day.

It then checks your calendar and sends you an e-mail, leaves you an automated voice-mail (or both), reminding you of any appointments, deadlines or other scheduled events that day.

Imagine arriving at an airport, proceeding directly to the gate and having your e-ticket automatically confirmed, then making your seat selection all via handheld computer.

When you arrive at your hotel, your reservation and payment information are exchanged in a split second. As you walk through a designated check-in area, your room information and “key” are wirelessly transferred into your handheld computer. When you get to your hotel room, a transmission from your handheld device unlocks the door.

Once inside the room, you enter a personal network where everything is controlled by your handheld device: Room lighting, temperature, radio, TV and more.

Feel like a snack? Not a problem. Enter the appropriate key code and a room service menu appears on your handheld screen. Enter another code and a piping hot calamari burger on a sesame seed bun will appear at your door.

No need to get up and open the door when your meal-on-wheels arrives. Point your handheld at the door, and the wireless Web cam positioned above the doorway will show you the person standing outside. Then, with a push of a button, it’s “Open Sesame” -- no bun intended -- courtesy of a signal transmitted from your handheld to a chip embedded in the door lock.

The wizardry behind this next generation of wireless communication is a new standard called Bluetooth, and it exists today. Bluetooth uses tiny, inexpensive short-range radio signals to connect digital devices located within 30 feet of each other. Any Bluetooth-enabled device can talk to any other device, no matter what brand name is on the label or what operating system is being used.

By linking digital devices without wires, Bluetooth creates customized connections or mini networks of computers, Internet access devices, telephones, digital cameras and appliances simply by carrying a Bluetooth-enabled device into a room. These networks exist only during the transmission of data and then disappear, not unlike the connection that’s created when using a cellular phone. Once you terminate a call, the connection or “network” vaporizes.

Bluetooth will bring wireless communication and device interaction into our lives over the next three to five years in ways we cannot even conceive of today. Nearly 1,500 companies have already agreed to utilize Bluetooth, which sets technical standards for manufacturers. Microsoft, Nokia, Dell, Motorola, Ericsson and Sony are just a few of the big-boys who have already embraced these standards.

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Bluetooth’s unusual name derives from Harald II, the dentally-challenged monarch called “Bluetooth”-- but probably not to his face. Harald II, also known as Harald, the 2th, consolidated the Danish realm into a single kingdom in the 10th century. The Scandinavian influence in the name (and thus the atypical spelling of “Harald”) is particularly appropriate considering that two of the founding Bluetooth companies are Finland-based Nokia and Sweden-based Ericsson. The other founding companies are Intel, IBM and Toshiba. Not too shabby.

Motorola and Ericsson are currently scrambling to drive down the cost and size of the Bluetooth chip. At some point, around five dollars per chip, Bluetooth will become a standard feature in almost every electronic device. That five-dollar threshold is expected to be crossed in approximately 2003, if not sooner.

Already in existence are Bluetooth products such as a wireless headset that permits hands-free operation of a cell phone. One Bluetooth chip incorporated into the headset and another clipped to the phone permit the two devices to communicate. Think of the applications for computers and peripheral devices such as printers, monitors, keyboards, cameras, and external storage devices.

Bluetooth can transmit data at a speed of one megabyte (MB) per second, which is more than enough to transmit voice from a headset to a phone or digital audio device from a CD player to a stereo amplifier. The second generation Bluetooth, which will arrive approximately 46 minutes after the first generation, will be able to transmit four megabytes per second, sufficient to wirelessly broadcast video to any television or monitor in a home or office.

A Bluetooth-enabled digital camera and cell phone, will permit sending digital “postcards.” Simply take a picture, then using the keypad of your cell phone type in a caption such as “Greetings from my new home in Gstaad. Surprise! I’ve been embezzling for years!” With the press of a button, the photo is transmitted from the camera, via cell phone access to the Internet, as an e-mail attachment.

So take heart, my able, cabled friend: The day is rapidly approaching when we will all be tangle-free and completely cordless, courtesy of Bluetooth.

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