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Bluetooth v3.0 + HS: Full Speed Ahead

By Karen D. Schwartz

The versatility of Bluetooth high speed wireless technology is the right ingredient for an exciting range of new products.

Consumers are always looking for the next big technology innovation that will make their lives easier, and it's every developer's dream to make that happen. Classic Bluetooth wireless technology is one such example. It helped propel some of today's ubiquitous wireless use cases (think hands-free calling and wireless file transfer).

Bluetooth Core Specification v3.0 + HS, adopted in 2009 and often referred to as Bluetoothhigh speed technology, holds similar promise. It will allow developers to create new uses cases that involve quick transfer of large amounts of data.

How fast is fast?

Bluetooth high speed technology up to ten times faster than classic Bluetooth technology; combined with the 802.11 AMP, it can deliver up to 24 Mbps of data throughput, making it not only possible, but also easier to transfer video, large image files, entire music collections and much more between wireless devices.

"The much faster speed of Bluetooth v3.0 + HS opens up many new possibilities," says Kevin Hayes, a Fellow and engineering lead at Atheros Communications Inc. of Santa Clara, Calif., a developer of semiconductor system solutions for wireless and other network communications products. "For example, nobody would ever consider trying to sync an 8G iPhone with a PC via a 2 Mbps link, but now with a 24 Mbps link, transferring large images becomes achievable."

What will Bluetooth high speed technology enable?

The possibilities are almost endless. With this technology:

  • An employee returning to the office can quickly transfer all new files, diagrams, business contacts and more from a notebook to a PC.
  • One meeting attendee could send another attendee a large file or stream a video presentation from a laptop to a projector quickly and without the need for a network or e-mail access.
  • A driver entering a vehicle can quickly transfer selected song libraries from a smartphone or MP3 player to the vehicle's audio system.
  • Vehicle passengers can stream video from a phone or laptop to onboard video monitors for travel entertainment.
  • People can stream video from a digital camcorder or PC to a television or laptop without the need for cables.
  • Photographers can transfer large image files or digital photo albums from a camera to a laptop with ease.


Why not Wi-Fi?

Why should developers choose Bluetooth high speed technology over technologies like Wi-Fi Direct, which is also based on the 802.11 standard, or Wireless USB?

Bluetooth technology already has a huge installed base, with at least three billion chips, and the architecture enables a wide range of functionality, from file transfer and object exchange profiles to printing and stereo audio capabilities. What's more, existing Bluetooth devices can easily be upgraded to work with Bluetooth high speed technology by adding a separate 802.11 chip, notes Eric Kaplan, founder of Frontline Test Equipment Inc., a Charlottesville, Va.–based provider of PC-based protocol analyzers for special-purpose data communication networks.

"If you're a developer that already has a Bluetooth enabled device and you want to addBluetooth v3.0 + HS, you could make a really good technical and business case (for that)," he says. "Bluetooth (technology developers have) already solved difficult problems, like service discovery, with (investments) over the last ten years. It makes sense to leverage that."

Another factor is Bluetooth high speed technology's ease of use and high speed, which combine to make laborious tasks like large file transfer so much faster. Ronak Chokshi, a technical marketing engineer at Marvell Technology Group Ltd., a fabless semiconductor company based in Santa Clara, Calif., notes that as more applications begin to leverageBluetooth high speed technology, usability will increase even further.

Are Bluetooth high speed wireless chips already available?

Chip manufacturers have begun upgrading their chips to the new Bluetooth v3.0 + HS standard, and developers are taking note. Broadcom, for example, plans to incorporateBluetooth v3.0 + HS across its Bluetooth wireless and InConcert combo chips and modules. The company expects the move to improve speeds in smartphones, PCs, netbooks and other devices produced by product manufacturers using its chips.

From a chip manufacturer's point of view, the upgrade from Bluetooth v2.1 + EDR to Bluetoothv3.0 + HS is also a smooth transition. "The chips we were delivering with Bluetooth v2.1 can run the same firmware and same hardware as the chips we're making that run Bluetooth 3.0," Hayes says. "All they need is an upgrade of the software above the Bluetooth controller."

Developers also should take note of the upgraded capabilities in a dual-mode chip that contains both Bluetooth v3.0 + HS technology and 802.11. In addition to the possibility of developing smaller devices – two chips take up more space than one – the two modes co-located in one chip can be greater than the sum of the parts.

"Bluetooth and 802.11 are to some extent sharing the same frequency. When they are tightly coupled, they can keep each other informed so if 802.11 is busy, it can keep Bluetooth away from that space, and vice versa," Kaplan explains.

There are tools on the market that streamline product development with Bluetooth v3.0 + HS, such as Frontline's FT24BT Bluetooth Protocol Analyzer and Packet Sniffer. Others include Stonestreet One's Bluetopia's technology, which supports both Bluetooth dual-mode and single-mode devices and is certified for Bluetooth v3.0 + HS; and Stollmann E+V GmbH's BlueCode+ 4.0, an API for embedded and PC-based systems that also is qualified forBluetooth high speed technology.

When will I see Bluetooth high speed wireless technology enabled products?

Major manufacturers, including Motorola and Samsung, have already jumped on the bandwagon and are actively developing Bluetooth v3.0 + HS enabled products. Look for the first wave of Bluetooth v3.0 + HS capable products to hit the market by the end of 2010.

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