March 23, 2006
 

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Posted: 05.01.05

Bluetooth Does Not Compute

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By Alex French




News, recently, of a disgruntled palmOne user experiencing difficulties connecting his Treo 650 to his Bluetooth-enabled car kit has caused a rash of similar Bluetooth incompatibility complaints. A cruise around the information superhighway revealed that such problems are quite commonplace. In fact, the Web is gridlocked with blogs and message boards for troubled Treo 650 users: “I have been able to pair my Lexus and my Treo 650, but I had to disable call waiting, because every time another call would come in it would disconnect both calls. I am also unable to use the phonebook.” “I am able to pair the 650 with my Jabra headset. However, when I try to use it in my car, it detects the car’s Bluetooth, and though the Treo says it is successful, the car just sits there waiting for the pairing.”

At this stage of Bluetooth adoption, each implementation differs based on the interpretation of the profile by the manufacturer. This means that when manufacturers build Bluetooth into devices they make choices about how the technology will be implemented; they can choose to activate (or deactivate) various features, like file exchange or dial-up networking.

According to Michael Foley PhD., executive director of the Bluetooth SIG, “These profiles say ‘this device can print’ or ‘this device can exchange objects.’ But even if a manufacturer incorporates all of the Bluetooth profiles into their device, they can still choose to not publicize the presence of these profiles to other devices.” In some cases, the manufacturer has included all of the necessary profiles but, for some reason, has decided not to publicize their existence. Now, that’s not such a problem—a patch can be made available so that the device will start publicizing all of the services it offers, but if the manufacturer hasn’t included the necessary profiles, then it’s likely that a new version of the device needs to be created in order for the Bluetooth option to work correctly.

Which all means that a technology built to be a universally interoperable, wireless connectivity solution isn’t actually universally interoperable, making it not much of a connectivity solution, since devices can’t actually talk to one another.

“We are meeting with manufacturers and carriers regularly to discuss these issues and recommend the best-case scenario for mobile phone implementations,” says Foley. And to formalize that recommendation, the SIG is drafting best-of-breed documents that will explain the optimal implementations of each of the Bluetooth use cases, starting with the mobile phone industry. These documents will be made available on the SIG Web site.

As for the Treo’s specific troubles, an official at palmOne says that the company has tested select car kits to identify any interoperability issues and has provided software updates to users of these kits.
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