Ericsson's proof-of-concept demonstration of the Bluetooth wireless technology caused considerable excitement at the Mobile Data Communications exhibition in London last week.
This cheap, fast, wireless link system is due to be introduced in the second quarter of next year. Ericsson announced that 200 companies had joined the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, and that version 0.7 of the standard had been detailed at the first developers' conference in Atlanta.
At the London show, the company produced a working model of a wireless earpiece-cum-microphone designed to be used in conjunction with cell phones, personal digital assistants (PDAs) and portable computers. This functioned as a hands-free headset with an Ericsson phone, but could also be used for speech recognition or note-taking with a PDA or computer residing in pocket or briefcase.
Several other companies, such as Vodafone , were discussing future wireless data products, including the General Packet Radio Service (GPRS). This is due in the next 18 months, and will provide high-bandwidth permanent IP connectivity to mobile terminals via the existing GSM infrastructure. "This has the potential to replace ISDN in the home, and it will also be good enough for voice over IP," said Bill Pechey of the Mobile Data Association. Voice over IP is the ability to use Internet technologies to make voice phone calls.
As the service will probably be charged at a flat monthly rental, it may have a profound effect on the voice and data markets. The GSM network is also at the heart of Cursor, a new service from Cambridge Positioning Systems. This incorporates a set of direction-finding (DF) receivers with existing cellular base stations. When a Cursor-enabled handset is in a call and the user requests their location, the service sends the information to whoever is being called. This will work in conjunction with emergency services, roadside repair companies and phone information companies -- so a user can call up a central number and ask for directions to the nearest hotel, for example. The service only requires small changes to existing handset software, and is expected to be available from the second quarter of 1999.
See also: Bluetooth briefing paper