A Year Ago: Mobile phone becomes a universal remote

Soon your mobile phone will be able to control many devices in your house, connect to your land line and pay for you in shops
Written by Matthew Broersma, Contributor

Soon, your mobile phone won't just make calls -- it will program your VCR, store your personal calendar and even let you buy things in the high street.

All these applications are made possible by Bluetooth, a new wireless standard that is designed to allow all sorts of devices, from PCs to refrigerators, talk to each other -- often without human intervention. Where Bluetooth might find a real niche, however, is in the most popular piece of high-tech around: the mobile phone.

Mobiles, in Europe especially, have far outpaced the growth of both PCs and the Internet, and now companies such as Nokia and Ericsson are looking to turn these tiny devices into all-purpose terminals. They and many others were in Monte Carlo at the Bluetooth World Congress 2000 last week to show off their wares and map out Bluetooth's future.

Companies such as Toshiba and Sony are planning to put Bluetooth into all the products they make, including things like toasters, video recorders and microwave ovens. Once all those devices can talk to each other, the mobile phone handset could be outfitted to control them all.

"We're putting the mobile phone at the centre of the consumer's universe," says Jorgen Nordin, director of product management with Ericsson. "It will store your calendar, open your garage door, and connect to your [land-based] telephone line."

Bluetooth could be used with WAP (Wireless Application Protocol), the standard that is beginning to let Europeans surf the Net from their phones. For example, your VCR could include a simple WAP server, which you could access through your phone's microbrowser and program it to record next week's dramatic episode of EastEnders. Unlike a traditional remote control, you could do all this from another room.

Perhaps most dramatically, your phone could act as a wireless credit card -- an application many experts see as the real future for Bluetooth. The phone would store your credit information, which it would send to a Bluetooth receiver in the cash register; when you're ready to check out, you simply press "confirm" on the phone and you're done.

In the nearer term -- this year or next -- Bluetooth could have early popularity with wireless headsets and remote voice dialling for mobile phones. "The voice product is the killer application for now," says Ericsson's Nordin.

Take me to the Bluetooth special

Take me to the WAP Access Guide

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