Gadgets that talk among themselves

DQW Bureau
New Update

Bluetooth may be the biggest technology you've ever heard of. In the next couple of years, if Bluetooth boosters are right, you may be transformed from a mere human into a walking `personal area network,' capable of communicating remotely and automatically with all the devices in your life.


An important new technology with a strange name could soon create wireless connections among all kinds of electronic gear. But, the most promising uses of this technology are still a little beyond the horizon. Consider some of the uses that Bluetooth's backers envision: Your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone transforms into a portable phone as soon as you walk into your home, or functions as a walkie-talkie when communicating with another Bluetooth cell phone. 

You surf the Internet anywhere from your hand-held organizer or laptop computer, printing out full-size Web pages on a remote printer via a cell phone in your pocket. A Bluetooth wireless headset leaves your hands free to talk on the phone while washing dishes or driving.

A research group predicts 250 million Bluetooth-enabled units will be in use by 2002. One barrier to acceptance will be the cost of the chip, which has tiny short wave radio on it and sells for an average of $ 14.40 each. When business people accessorize, notebook computers, cell phones, and personal digital assistants are as much a part of the business attire as matching shoes, belt, and purse. But, until the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) was formed, integration of these business accessories required a techno geek, $ 150 of special-purpose cables, and the patience of a kindergarten teacher on a field trip.


Bluetooth SIG is backed by more than 1,400 companies, including: Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Lucent, Microsoft, Motorola, 3Com, Toshiba, and Nokia. The group aims to develop a de facto standard, as well as a specification, for small-form factor, low cost, short range radio links that form a personal area network (approximately 30 ft). Such a network would allow dissimilar devices to exchange information at about one megabit per second. Although Bluetooth's network protocols are simple and limited to eight simultaneous devices, the use of frequency hopping means several Bluetooth networks could operate in the same vicinity.

How well Bluetooth is accepted depends on how well Bluetooth incorporates network security. Some of the necessary security will be applied as encryption at the application level, but this technology lends itself to easy eavesdropping, so users need to ensure they understand their security needs and use them appropriately. Everyone wants to ensure that the person across the aisle at the airport is not eavesdropping on his or her e-mail or cell phone conversations. 

Ericsson has already demonstrated a Bluetooth compliant cell phone with wireless headset. No, Bluetooth is not a hunting dog, but it has the potential of making users howl with appreciation. 


Jonathen Wendel, 19, is so good at video games that companies have offered to sponsor him. He's on the verge of realizing many teenagers' wildest dream--making a living playing computer games. Kid stuff? Hardly. Game experts say that they would not be surprised to see this teen make more than $ 100,000 this year as tournaments grow bigger and richer. Wendel is one of the best computer game players in the world. And, when he plays his game of choice--a first-person action game called Quake 3 Arena--he is unbeatable. Well, virtually.

The industry of providing financial advice is undergoing rapid change. It's e-volution of financial planning. For generations, it was a service reserved for the wealthy. Almost overnight, however, competitors as varied as Merrill Lynch, Charles Schwab, H&R Block, countless dot coms and financial planners themselves have begun aggressively courting the middle class-- leading to falling prices, rising confusion as well as opportunities. The traditional barriers to entry--access to (stock) exchanges, financial tools and the research--no longer exist. Advisers are rethinking how to charge, they're broadening the menu of advice they offer and they're trying to exploit the Internet. 

Ganesh Markale