In addition to numerous licensing deals between software companies that have
peppered the wireless sector over the last several months, the mobile sector
has also seen its fair share of overtures to improve wireless security.
This week was no different as security firm Certicom Wednesday announced at
the Bluetooth Congress in Monte Carlo, France that it has joined forces with
Classwave, Socket and WIDCOMM to improve security for Bluetooth solutions.
To demonstrate, Certicom said it would show how one of its new wireless
virtual private network (VPN) applications which would allow workers to access
corporate data from handhelds and other devices using a Bluetooth
connection. Specifically, Certicom will demonstrate its movianVPN product by
connecting a PDA into a corporate intranet using both a dial-up Bluetooth
connection to a cellular phone and a Bluetooth connection to a local area
network (LAN) access point. Certicom’s
other products provide enhanced security for additional applications running
over Bluetooth, including SSL Plus for Internet browsing and e-commerce, and
WTLS Plus for m-commerce.
But will this matter if the people who promise to make innovative products
can’t get Bluetooth together?
As many people know, Bluetooth allows PDAs, MP3 players, mobile phones,
digital cameras and other devices to operate
wirelessly over distances of 30+ feet. And some even believe that Bluetooth
is well positioned to be the de facto wireless networking standard for
short-reach applications. IDC recently estimated that there will be almost
450 million devices worldwide using Bluetooth wireless technology by 2004.
Others aren’t so sure, however. A May 30 study from Datacomm Research
Strategies found that widespread Bluetooth use remains, as the research firm
said, “on the bubble,” due to vendors’ consistent failure to nail down cost,
delivery, and interoperability promises.
“There are myriad applications for wireless personal area networks, and
there could easily be 1.5 billion Bluetooth devices by 2005,” said Michael
Hentschel, Managing Director of TechVest Ventures and principal author of
the report, “Bluetooth In-depth: Applications & Strategies.” “But there is
little profit in isolated applications; vendors must create application
chains — series of interdependent tasks that together add value.”
If Bluetooth is not the answer in wireless networking, what is, then? No one
is exactly sure, but Bluetooth currently faces competition from the likes of
the increasingly popular 802.11b, or Wi-Fi standard, and HomeRF. Maybe
getting all of the standards to perform tasks that add value is the
key. Perhaps holistic standard interoperability is the answer?
Hentschel didn’t say that outright so much as he noted that the competing
technologies will have to rely on each other to work efficiently. He
distinguished potential uses for Bluetooth and Wi-Fi in his report, noting
that Bluetooth offers the most economical solution for low- to medium-speed
device connectivity while 802.11 will dominate high-speed applications.
Overall, Hentschel found that Bluetooth will ship in greater volume, and
stressed that Bluetooth must work with 802.11 wireless LANs as well as 2G,
2.5G, and 3G mobile phone networks.
What does seem clear, is the importance of evolving standards in the
wireless data sector; Gartner Dataquest said Wednesday
that a proliferation of mobile applications, services and devices will drive
the North American wireless data market from 7.3 million subscribers in 2000
to 137.5 million subscribers in 2005.
“Increasing mobilization capabilities of work forces, together with
additional competitive pressures will drive the adoption of wireless data to
enable corporate applications such as e-mail and messaging as well as
specific vertical applications such as field service, and sales/inventory
programs,” said Tole Hart, senior industry analyst for Gartner Dataquest’s
worldwide Telecommunications and Networking group.
So, how big is Certicom’s demonstration of Bluetooth security on PDAs in
France? For now, the industry may have to ask themselves the timeless
classic: if the tree falls and no one hears it, et cetera, et cetera.
Certicom and partner companies may be finding ways to secure Bluetooth, but
it may not matter if Bluetooth does not become fairly ubiquitous.