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Bluetooth, wireless groups sync up

Bluetooth SIG will team with competing technology groups to speed development of interoperable wireless tech.

In an effort to speed the development of interoperable wireless networking technologies, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group announced Monday that it has teamed up with several competing technology groups.

The Bluetooth SIG will begin working closely with the Wi-Fi Alliance and the Near Field Communication Forum to develop standards, expanding its relationships with other competing wireless networking technology groups such as ultrawideband developers. This effort comes as the wireless industry has seen a shift from customers wanting specific wireless networking technologies on particular devices to a desire for an overall wireless strategy.

"Many of our members belong to one or several of the organizations, so it seemed like a sensible way to move forward," said Michael Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth SIG. "We'll each work on various parts of the specifications and find ways to take advantage of each other's technology, so they work well together."

Currently, a device running Bluetooth and certain versions of Wi-Fi will encounter transmission difficulty if trying to send and receive data at the same time.

But it has yet to be seen whether these competing wireless networking groups can come together, one analyst said.

"This is an encouraging sign, but in reality combining the efforts of different industry groups can be a tough exercise as folks try to promote their own agendas," said Richard Shim, senior research analyst at IDC.

He noted, however, that the benefits achieved may be substantial.

"From a device standpoint, this can be a very significant takeoff point for improved wireless communications," Shim said. "Each of these standards have been making a lot of headway as separate efforts, despite interference issues with one another. Combining efforts may lead to higher throughputs and less interference in the future."

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi are the more mature technologies of the four, with Bluetooth largely deployed in portable devices such as cell phones. Wi-Fi, meanwhile, has seen its use more widely adapted in notebooks.

Bluetooth and Wi-Fi rely on the same frequency band, and, as a result, Bluetooth uses Adaptive Frequency Hopping to eliminate interference. This allows the two technologies to be used in the same device. In the future, these technologies could both be used in home gateways and media centers, or for small portable devices, representatives from the two industry groups note.

"We...acknowledge the potential in the future for the technologies to work not just concurrently but jointly to achieve more advanced wireless applications," Frank Hanzlik, managing director of the Wi-Fi Alliance, said in a statement.

Near Field Communications (NFC) is designed for secure, wireless connectivity at short ranges of a few centimeters or less. Bluetooth and NFC could be jointly developed to allow NFC to serve as the identification process that allows two Bluetooth products to first connect.

Ultrawide is yet another standard competing with Bluetooth, but last May the Bluetooth SIG and ultrawideband developer groups announced plans to work together.

One potential benefit of the two technologies collaborating on standards is the ability to run Bluetooth profiles over devices equipped with ultrawideband technology. For example, further use may include streaming high-quality video between portable devices, the organizations note.

Foley said he expects the Bluetooth and ultrawide specifications to become standards by the end of 2007.