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What Is Bluetooth?

  • By Prentice Hall
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The Bluetooth Special Interest Group

As previously described, Bluetooth wireless communication is embodied as a technology specification. This specification is a result of the cooperation of many companies within an organization called the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, or SIG. There is no "Bluetooth headquarters"; until 2001 there was no "Bluetooth corporation" or any sort of legally incorporated entity. Originally, the SIG was governed by legal agreements among the member parties but it was not a company unto itself. In February 2001, the SIG incorporated and is now officially known as the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, Inc. The SIG should not be construed as a formal standards body; rather it is an organization chartered to define and promote the technology. In fulfilling this charter, the SIG depends upon the contributions and participation of its member companies. Clearly a major task of the SIG has been to develop the specification, but other SIG activities include joint work with other consortia and standards and regulatory bodies, educational and promotional events such as developers' conferences and the definition of a testing and certification process.

Technology and SIG Origins

Bluetooth wireless technology was conceived by engieers at Swedish telecommunications manufacturer Telefonaktiebolaget LM Ericsson (hereafter, Ericsson) who realized the potential of global short-range wireless communications. In 1994 Ericsson had begun a project to study the feasibility of a low-power, low-cost radio interface to eliminate cables between mobile phones and their accessories.

In today's computing and communications industries, proprietary new technologies rarely succeed; customers clearly prefer to purchase and deploy technologies based on industry standards. By creating a level playing field, standards give customers greater freedom to choose from among competing platforms and solutions, to protect their investments as technologies evolve and to leverage (and in some cases, also influence) multicompany skills and organizations devoted to developing the standards.

In this industry environment, the Ericsson inventors understood that the technology was more likely to be widely accepted, and thus could be more powerful, if it was adopted and refined by an industry group that could produce an open, common specification. In early 1998, leading companies in the computing and telecommunication industries formed the Bluetooth SIG to focus on developing exactly such an open specification. The founding companies of the SIG are Ericsson, Intel Corporation, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), Nokia Corporation and Toshiba Corporation. These companies formed the original core group (known as promoter companies) of the SIG. The SIG was publicly announced in May 1998 with a charter to produce an open specification for hardware and software that would promote interoperable, cross-platform implementations for all kinds of devices.

Although open standards can be quite advantageous, one potential disadvantage of standards bodies, consortia, special interest groups and similar organizations is that they tend toward inherent inefficiencies as compared to single-company efforts. Within a single company there is often one overriding objective for developing new technology; in a multi-company effort each participant may have different, perhaps even competing goals. Even with modern ways to exchange information, such as electronic mail, group interactions are still likely to be more efficient within a single organization than throughout a group composed of many organizations (especially when those organizations are geographically diverse, as is the case for the members of the SIGtelephone calls, for example, have to take into account the fact that the people involved reside in time zones with little or no overlap of typical working [or even waking] hours). To overcome some of these potential drawbacks, the SIG intentionally was created with a small number of companies committed to the rapid development of the specification who were willing to expend the resources necessary to accomplish this.

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This article was originally published on July 25, 2002

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