Bluetooth adoption among AP businesses is low

While Bluetooth awareness in the Asia-Pacific region ranks high in an annual study, adoption of the wireless technology remains conservative.

While Bluetooth awareness in the region ranks high in an annual study, adoption of the wireless technology among enterprises remains low, according to an official from the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG).

Commissioned by the group in October each year, the study polls about 500 individuals from the United States, the United Kingdom, Germany, Japan and Taiwan on their attitudes toward wireless technologies, such as Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The study does not survey actual adoption rates.

"Because this (Asia-Pacific) is a technology-savvy region, the awareness of wireless technologies is high compared to the rest of the world," said Eric Schneider, marketing director of Bluetooth SIG for Asia-Pacific and Japan, in an interview with ZDNet Asia.

But a higher awareness level does not necessarily mean greater adoption of Bluetooth devices, at least among enterprises.

"From what I've read and gathered from other researches, enterprise adoption of Bluetooth in Asia-Pacific remains conservative, compared to their counterparts in Europe and the United States," Schneider said. "In the workplace, there is a reluctance to go wireless."

An interesting point, he noted, was that Bluetooth was initially heralded as an enterprise technology but it soon became a consumer-driven one. Microsoft, Intel, Nokia, Ericsson and Toshiba had co-developed Bluetooth in 1998 to create "some synergy between the PC and the mobile phone, which was coming into the enterprise", he explained.

Schneider said enterprises now need to recognize that a lot of Bluetooth devices are starting to be introduced, by employees, into their premises. "IT managers who are concerned about the security of these devices should note that there can be a reduced threat if they establish a Bluetooth (usage) policy," he said.

They should also make sure that workers are familiar with such policies, instead of banning Bluetooth devices altogether from their premises because "people are bringing (Bluetooth-enabled) mobile phones and PDAs into the office anyway," he added.

Forward-thinking IT managers, he said, have already embraced Bluetooth in their enterprises and are "very happy to use it". For example, Federal Express has reported millions of dollars in savings from building a system that uses a combination of Bluetooth and Wi-Fi (Wireless Fidelity) technologies, to track products within their delivery hubs, he said.

The logistics company scans barcodes to retrieve product information, and transmits the data--via Bluetooth--from a handheld scanner to a PDA. The information is then be stored in a PC, he explained.

Coca-Cola in Australia has also equipped its sales fleet with Bluetooth-enabled PCs and cellphones to connect to the Web while they are on the road, Schneider said.

To address security concerns that IT managers may have on Bluetooth, the SIG members have already built security features into the technology's specifications, he said. These include "encryption of data that's never been cracked before".

Key security issues have typically revolved around the pairing process that takes place between Bluetooth devices before they can start communicating with one another, Schneider said. There are concerns that malicious hackers could intercept the pairing process, and hijack the identity of the user.

To authenticate Bluetooth devices, the SIG recommends the use of "an eight-digit alphanumeric code, which alleviates almost all the security issues that exist today", he said. "Any company developing (Bluetooth) products for the enterprise should really be taking that recommendation seriously," he stressed.