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IEEE Gives Bluetooth Version Thumbs Up

The Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Standards Association (IEEE-SA) Thursday gave Bluetooth wireless personal area networking (WPAN) technology a boost by approving a standard adapted from the specification.

The IEEE said its 802.15.1 standard will open the door to greater use of Bluetooth technology in devices like cell phones, handheld devices and laptop computers.

"The new standard gives the Bluetooth spec greater validity and support in the market and is an additional resource for those who implement Bluetooth devices," said Ian Gifford, IEEE 802.15 Working Group vice chair. "This collaboration is a good example of how a standards development organization and a special industry group (SIG) can work together to improve an industry specification and also create a standard."

Bluetooth is a short-range packet radio networking technology first proposed by Ericsson engineers in 1998. An industry consortium known as the Bluetooth SIG -- whose members include firms like Ericsson, Nokia, Intel, IBM, Microsoft, Toshiba, 3Com and Motorola -- coordinates the specification for the technology. Bluetooth enables the ad hoc creation of wireless networks which can bi-directionally link up to eight devices (line-of-sight is not necessary) and transmit data and voice packets.

Developers envision using Bluetooth to: eliminate wired connections between electronic products and accessories; exchange files, business cards and calendar appointments between Bluetooth users; transfer and synchronize files between devices; connect to localized content services in public areas; and function as remote controls, keys, tickets and e-cash wallets.

But the technology has been slower to take off than other wireless networking technologies, like 802.11b which is used to create wireless local area networks. Both Bluetooth and 802.11b specifications operate in the unlicensed 2.4GHz raising the specter of interference issues. Some developers have taken steps to develop compatible implementations.

The IEEE licensed technology from the Bluetooth SIG to adapt and copy a portion of the specification as base material for IEEE Standard 802.15.1-2002. The IEEE said 802.15.1 is fully compatible with Bluetooth v1.1.

"Under the agreement between the two, the IEEE brought together a great many experts from around the world to scrutinize and enhance the Bluetooth specification," Gifford said. "We received thousands of comments, and the Bluetooth SIG applied more than 300 of them to the original Bluetooth spec."

The IEEE said its standard adds a major clause on Service Access Points, which includes an LLC/MAC interface for the ISO/IEC 8802-2 LLC, a normative annex that provides a protocol implementation conformance statement (PICS) pro forma, and a high-level behavioral ITU-T Z.100 specification and description language (SDL) model for an integrated Bluetooth MAC Sublayer. Additionally, IEEE said the SDL model offers a 500-page-long overview of a significant portion of the Bluetooth protocols, including Baseband, LMP, L2CAP and the Link Manager.

The standards body plans to further develop the 802.15.1 SDL model source to support the standard. The SDL code will be available on CD-ROM, and will include a computer model for use with any SDL tool that supports the SDL-88, SDL-92 or SDL-2000 update of ITU-T Recommendation Z.100. IEEE said the 802.15.1 Task Group used the SDL to translate the natural language of the Bluetooth Specification into a formal specification that defines how Bluetooth protocols react to events in the environment that are communicated to a system by signals.

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