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Wireless devices speak freely with Bluetooth

PAN technology to benefit entertainment, gaming biz

Designed as a low-cost alternative to wired connections, Bluetooth’s great strength comes not from the connection speed (which at 1 megabyte a second is presently too slow for streaming video), but from its ability to enable devices wirelessly to initiate communication directly with each other. Previously, this two-way interactivity has not been possible with mobile wireless applications.

Bluetooth Consortium has signed over 3,000 companies to license the technology, which is promoted by such leading companies as Nokia, Toshiba, Ericsson (the technology’s creator), IBM and Intel, among others. One of the first devices to appear on the market using the technology will debut in fourth quarter 2000 in the form of a wireless peripheral for the Palm V/V.

“Think of it as a personal connectivity bubble,” says Michael Lunsford, product marketing manager at Palm.

You and the Bluetooth-enabled device become a PAN (personal area network) in which other devices can talk to you.” For example, a (Bluetooth-enabled) Palm (personal digital assistant) could connect to the cell phone in your pocket and wirelessly dial a number, or access a database on your laptop situated nearby.”

Multiplayer games also will become more palatable. A group of teenagers, for example, could all be playing against one another using Bluetooth-enabled devices. Unlike the now-standard method of aiming an infrared beam from one device to the other from a few feet away, and which requires direct line of sight to operate, Bluetooth-enabled gaming will work within a range of 30 feet.

Because Bluetooth devices can contact one another, advertisers and marketers will be able to reach the consumer in new and different ways. As an example, a Bluetooth-running computer server in a movie theater could reach out and grab a person as he passes by – wirelessly transmitting the day’s movie listings and perhaps an offer of free popcorn to his cell phone, PDA or other mobile device (and taking into account the user’s preferences for a more targeted approach). Malls and storefronts will also be able to do this – a music store offering a discount coupon or advertising special for a CD, for instance.

E-commerce ease

Bluetooth also will prove a boon to the entertainment industry through wireless e-commerce applications., accoring to Mitchell Rubenstein, chairman-CEO of Hollywood.com.

“It’s foreseeable that someone carrying a Bluetooth-enabled PDA, cell phone, etc., will be able to breeze past a ticketing window at a movie theater by beaming his or her digital I.D. to a Bluetooth-enabled unit at the theater’s box office, which would grab credit card information and then return to the user’s device a confirmation of show admittance,” he says.

“Without this type of technology,” adds Rubenstein, “we and the consumer alike couldn’t exploit wireless to its full potential.”

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