The Bluetooth SIG says a 2009 standard will integrate Bluetooth and 802.11 in a tighter, more complementary relationship: The group that controls the Bluetooth standard continues the evolution towards agnosticism about underlying radio stuff. The latest move takes advantage of the side-by-side deployment of the "winning" wireless specifications: Bluetooth for PAN (Personal Area Networks) and Wi-Fi for WLAN (Wireless Local Area Networks). Bigger files will automatically be sent over Wi-Fi. Sounds simple, no?
"Bluetooth is great right now for sending some of these less bulky data files," said senior marketing manager Kevin Keating, but with the "bulk transfer of entertainment data, whether it's piles of MP3s or a bunch of vacation photos you want to move off your cameras or on your PC, it's not really built for that."
The SIG made this announcement this afternoon at the Mobile World Conference in Barcelona; Bluetooth is built into hundreds of millions of cell phones worldwide in its current form, and is near two billion devices shipped in all form factors. That number went from 1 to 2 billion in about two years.
The new standard, called Bluetooth High Speed, will allow a Bluetooth adapter and drivers to identify bulk transfers and move them from the lower-powered and slower Bluetooth radio technology to more battery intensive, but faster 802.11.
They're really talking about 802.11 and Wi-Fi nearly interchangably, but this standard doesn't yet have any formal involvement from the SIG's counterpart, the Wi-Fi Alliance, which controls the certification process for Wi-Fi and the trademark. Keating said, "Wi-Fi is its own brand, and we've talked."
It's important to remember that Bluetooth is both a set of profiles that define behavior--applications and schemas for data in those applications--and a radio standard. Bluetooth was originally developed with its own communications spec (the MAC and PHY, in technical terms) that worked at 1 Mbps; the 2.0+EDR and 2.1+EDR (Enhanced Data Rate) bumped that to 3 Mbps. (Version 2.1 also dramatically simplifies pairing between devices; it's rolling out widely now.)
These profiles include things like HID (Human Interface Device) for keyboards and input devices, DNP for dial-up networking, GOEP (Generic Object Exchange Profile) for file transfer, and so forth. The profiles are at a layer of abstraction above the interface and radio part, which makes it relatively simple to repurpose them across many radio standards.
In that vein, the Bluetooth SIG has already disclosed plans for its support for ultrawideband (UWB), whenever PCs with UWB or adapters start appearing in great provision, and their own ultra low power version of Bluetooth for things like heart-rate monitor, bike cyclometers sensors, and other low-data-rate devices.
The Bluetooth SIG says prototypes using the high-speed standard will be tested this year, with a published spec due in mid-2009, and devices presumably long before the end of 2009.