Bluetooth coming to the Baltics, but not prematurely

  • 1999-03-04
  • Sandra L. Medearis
RIGA - Bluetooth. What is it? A new use for an old technology, in part invented by '40s film star Hedy Lamarr; a low cost, short range radio link between the components of mobile communication and it has Bluetooth as a code name. It could bring a cordless communication and computing society by the end of the year, promoters say.

Imagine having a mobile phone, palm computer, mobile PC mouse, printer, cellular network and headset all talking to one another as they work on one's project. That arrangement can work now, except that there would be a tangle of cords and a definite inconvenience in moving the components around.

Bluetooth makes the cables obsolete, because Bluetooth is the link among pieces of telecommunications and computer equipment. Bluetooth uses a cheap radio chip small enough to fit into an electronic device and works globally.

Mobile components currently communicate with each other by speaking infra red, but the range is limited to one or two meters and requires line of sight and can connect only two devices. Bluetooth does not need line of sight. Radio has greater range and can go around objects as well as pass through some materials and can link seven devices simultaneously.

Bluetooth Special Interest Group comprises leaders in telecommunications and computing industries. Ericcson Mobile Communications of Sweden studied the feasibility of low-power interface among mobile phones and accessories as part of a larger project investigating multicommunicators connected to cellular networks by cellular phones. The study found the applications of the short-range, low-cost radio link to be limitless.

Ericcson received support for Bluetooth from Nokia, IBM, Toshiba and Intel in February 1998 when the five promoters formed a special interest group to provide a needed critical mass of devices using the short-range radio for Bluetooth to work. Sonera Oy, the major stockholder in Lattelekom, Latvia's monopoly phone service has jumped on the bandwagon. Lattelekom's subsidiary mobile phone customers will be able to access the technology, but not yet.

"We just started to study this technology," said Jouko Saras of Sonera Oy's mobile telecommunications department. "It will take at least a year or two to find a Bluetooth terminal in the market. We are not presently ready to discuss the situation."

Sonera has decided to participate in the Bluetooth cooperation and expects to start using the technical services in its product portfolio around the year 2000.

Bluetooth technology uses a frequency hopping scheme with 1600 hops per second along with sufficient encryption and authentication to make it secure in any environment according to information on the official Bluetooth web page,

Bluetooth radios can avoid unpredictable sources of interference such as baby monitors, garage door openers, cordless phones and microwave ovens. An adaptive scheme finds an unused part of the spectrum or suppresses interference by spectrum spreading, according to information from Ericcson Mobile Communications.

Film star Lamarr, now living in Florida, and her musician friend, George Antheil wanted to help defeat the Nazis in World War II. They fashioned a scheme to use piano rolls from player pianos to prevent the jamming of radio waves controlling torpedoes. Lamarr got the idea to send messages between transmitter and receiver over multiple frequencies in random pattern to move the message across the waves so that a person monitoring a frequency could not hear the whole transmission, but just a blip, according to a report in the MicroTimes by Anna Couey.

Antheil, who composed for player piano, hit upon the idea to perforate two rolls with a pseudo random pattern to delineate the frequency path, putting one roll in the transmitter and one roll in the receiver in the torpedo and starting them a twirl at the same time. The inventors designed the system to use 88 frequencies, the number of keys on a piano. The Navy laughed.

In the early 60s, just as the patent on the piano-roll technology was expiring, radio communicators began to use the term spread spectrum referring to the technology to be later known as frequency hopping.