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Bluetooth backers explore 60 GHz future

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group is expected to create a study group to help pick a transport for a future gigabit-class version of the short-range wireless technology. Among the leading candidates are the rival flavors of 60 GHz technology promoted by the WirelessHD Consortium and the Wireless Gigabit Alliance.

The Bluetooth SIG had hoped to make a decision about its high-speed future at a regular meeting in Seattle this week. However, due to the volcano in Iceland most of the group's European members were not able to make the trip.

"Our next big meeting is in September, but we can't just let the issue slide until then," said Mike Foley, chairman of the SIG. "The current proposal is to assign a small group to drive the investigation and report back and I would not be surprised if that is accepted this week," Foley said.

The SIG had selected ultrawideband technology as its future high-speed transport, but pulled back on the plan last fall when backers of the WiMedia version of the technology refused to provide royalty-free access to UWB. A year ago it created an interim plan to make Bluetooth protocols available over Wi-Fi.

Since October, the SIG has been doing due diligence on the two 60 GHz initiatives to determine which it should choose. At that time, Foley criticized for the WiGig Alliance for fragmenting the market in a move that looked like a replay of problems in the UWB.

The high-speed initiative comes as the Bluetooth SIG finishes up the last components of its 4.0 spec for low power communications aimed at a wide range of new applications including personal health devices and sensor networks.

The radio portions of the spec were released in December, enabling hardware vendors to complete chips and modules. On Tuesday, the SIG announced it has completed the higher-layer versions of the protocol to pave the way for middleware and applications developers.

Systems based on Bluetooth low energy are expected to hit the market by the end of the year.

The group spent time this week planning a new set of test tools specific to the 4.0 version. The tools would be geared to automate the process of certifying Bluetooth interoperability for companies that lack previous experience with the specification.

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