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Following communications, Bluetooth gets its teeth into in-car entertainment, navigation

Following communications, Bluetooth gets its teeth into in-car entertainment, navigation

To date, Bluetooth has meant only one thing in the automotive world: hands-free phone calls. The short-wave radio technology enables drivers of high-tech cars to use their Bluetooth-enabled handsets to make and receive calls without taking their hands from the wheel. (Not all Bluetooth phones work with all Bluetooth-enabled cars: see our compatibility guide for details).

Now, however, it looks like the wireless technology is about to be applied to the other two key areas of in-car tech: those of entertainment and navigation. Over the past week, the digital music and auto blogospheres have been abuzz with rumors that Apple is planning to launch a Bluetooth adapter for its iPods to enable music to be streamed wirelessly to players equipped with an advanced Bluetooth profile known as A2DP, or Bluetooth 2.0. Last week, a spokesman for Pioneer, which is one of the first car audio vendors to offer A2DP-enabled head units, was quoted in an article saying that Apple "will bring out a Bluetooth adapter that will allow iPods to make a wireless connection." We have not managed to reach Apple for comment on this, and it may be that Pioneer's spokesman will have some answering to do to Mr. Jobs et al. for letting the cat out of the bag early, but the news seems credible. Earlier this week, Gizmodo featured a similar Bluetooth adapter for the iPod Nano called BluNa that has just been released by Anycom. BluNa snaps onto the bottom of the Nano (or any iPod with a dock connector) and enables tunes to be streamed wirelessly to any Bluetooth-enabled receiver.

Then yesterday, reported on Toyota's announcement that it was to release a driver-friendly cell phone called the Timo, which will use Bluetooth to enable drivers to connect with Toyota's navigation systems and to contact the emergency services with the touch of a button. The latter function will presumably work in a similar way to built-in telematics services such as BMW Assist and GM's OnStar. The Timo is due for release in Japan in October, and there is no word yet on when or whether it will come here.

One thing seems certain, however: Bluetooth in cars is soon going to comprise a lot more than phone calls.