Sunday, December 24, 2006

Can the Nokia factor bring Wibree to the mass?

Nokia launched low rate, low power, small size, low cost cable replacement radio technology.

In October 06, Nokia announced the existence of yet another wireless technology named Wibree developed by Nokia's researchers.

Wibree's properties can be summarized as follows:
- It works on the ISM band, already shared by Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, ZigBee and other proprietary technologies.
- It has a 30-foot (10-meter) range, similar with Class 3 Bluetooth.
- It can achieve speeds of up to 1 Mbps.

By looking at its properties, Wibree is somewhat the earlier Bluetooth version but Nokia argued that Wibree is different because Wibree achieves its performance with one tenth the power consumption of Bluetooth and smaller footprint. Wibree addresses a niche that hasn't been addressed by other wireless technologies.

Technology-wise, nothing new and special about Wibree, since several proprietary short-range radio technologies also work with very low power such as the potential Kleer but Nokia aims to push Wibree to becoming an open standard by taking advantage of Nokia's leading position in mobile phone business. Nokia encourages other companies to license Wibree, creating a Wibree ecosystem emulating the success of Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and developing standalone Wibree chip and dual-mode Wibree-Bluetooth chip.

In a standalone scenario, Wibree is going to be embedded in devices which require very long battery life therefore need to be recharged infrequently, such as watches, health monitors, sport sensors, keyboards, mice, and toys. However as a number one mobile phone maker, Nokia doesn't hide its ambition to integrate Wibree into its mobile phones by creating a dual-mode scenario that's Wibree on Bluetooth chip. The dual-mode Wibree-Bluetooth chip is targeted for mobile/portable devices such as mobile phone, PDA, notebook.

The typical applications Nokia uses as examples automatically direct my mind to ZigBee (low rate WPAN IEEE 802.15.4). ZigBee is promoted by several industry leaders in sensor, monitoring and automation business. Its specification had already been completed and certification has been started. Whilst Bluetooth has throughput advantage over Wibree, ZigBee has range advantage over Wibree. Moreover, ZigBee has networking capability. Wibree is caught in the middle.

But the fact that ZigBee is still far from replacing the X10 protocol and the likes for one of its target markets, i.e. home automation might have led Nokia to develop yet another radio technology and put Wibree on a distance from ZigBee. In my opinion, ZigBee players lack the drive to push ZigBee to the mainstream and ZigBee doesn't have a news-machine. No one did like what Intel had done for WiMedia-UWB (WUSB) and WiMAX.

Below is a comparison table examining the feasibility of Wibree for today's common applications and the foreseeable future with a mobile phone as the base device. Please note though that a Wibree Specification hasn't been released so this is only a general assessment.

Business card or other PIM data exchangeYes. The size is small, only text file.Yes. Its primordial use.No. Not designed for this.
Transferring small item like image, song (ringtone), short clip one at a timeYesYes. Already in use.No
Wireless headset or handsfree kitNo. Audio is not in its profiles, although theoretically it can be done.Yes. Has upgraded it to support stereo audio.No
Synch'ing mobile phone with PCNo. Too slow especially for synch'ing many items.Yes. One of its popular applications.No
Using mobile phone as a dial-up modemNo. Not within its targeted application.Yes. Has been used by travelers.No
Image, photo, or video/audio clip folder transfer/sharingNo. Will be very slow.Yes. Still needs speed increase as multimedia files become largerNo
Human Interface Device (HID): keyboard and mouseYes. One of its main targets. Need to switch current Bluetooth based products to Wibree.Yes. Already in use and available from many vendors.Yes. But implementation is almost unheard.
Wireless printingYes. One of its main targets. But over time its speed would keep users away from it.Yes. Already in use. The next generation Bluetooth (WUSB-alike) has greater potential.No
Remote controlling TV, lamp, window, door, AC, etcYes. One of its main targets although its reach has to be optimized. Interesting if a cell phone becomes a universal remote control.No. It theoretically can do it but implementation on this field is rare, many proprietary protocols have accomplished the job.Yes. ZigBee was designed from the beginning for home automation. It has longer reach than Wibree (30 meters or more).
Communicating with wearable things (watch, sport sensor, jewelry)Yes. One of its main targets.No. Consumes too much power and has larger size.Yes. Has advantage in its ultra low power consumption.

Latest update: Wibree finally merged with Bluetooth.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Wouldn't you mind if your PC doesn't have a USB connector?
There comes Wireless USB !

Perhaps, nothing more confusing in the realm of burgeoning wireless standards than Wireless USB (or WUSB for short). The name itself could create misperception. Below are my notes on the Certified Wireless USB (its complete name).

1. Wireless USB does NOT mean USB port plus a wireless dongle such as that for Wi-Fi, IrDA, or Bluetooth. But a type of a Wireless USB implementation and this is the most likely case in the first phase is just wireless business as usual, that's you'll connect a Wireless USB dongle (referred to as HWA or Host Wire Adapter in the spec) to a USB connector on your PC to enable Wireless USB on it, like what you have done with Bluetooth, IrDA and Wi-Fi right now. Meanwhile, legacy USB products such as your printer, scanner, keyboard and mouse can be connected wirelessly to the WUSB-enabled computer via a DWA (Device Wire Adapter).

2. Because every one of us has an intense relation with USB port and cord every day, in our mind USB is always identical with that rectangular connector. It's hard to imagine a USB without cable. When the Wireless USB comes into existence, maybe we should start calling the current USB a "Wired" USB to remove confusion. Wireless USB has similar properties with USB 2.0 minus the cable.

3. To initiate a connection, two wireless USB devices have to associate each other to ensure both are the parties that want to talk to each other. The process which is called pairing in Bluetooth. There are two association models, i.e. numeric association model using number input/display and cable association model by connecting two devices via a short cable before going wireless. Not entirely getting rid of cable.

4. The physical layer as has been discussed in the previous post uses UWB radio (a very wide spectrum in the 3.1 - 10.6 GHz band) based on the WiMedia Multiband OFDM platform. This results in very high throughput (by current standard), that's 480 Mbps at up to 3 meters and 110 Mbps at up to 10 meters.

5. Because of its range limitation, it is categorized as a Wireless Personal Area Network (WPAN) technology, the same category as Bluetooth but added with this citation "high-rate" WPAN. When Bluetooth starts using UWB radio as its PHY and becomes high-rate as well, I wonder how it will be named and positioned on the new wireless map.

6. Similar with Bluetooth, the topology is point-to-point in a hub-and-spoke configuration. In a Wireless USB cluster, there must be a host and up to 127 devices, compared to a master and up to 7 active slaves in a Bluetooth piconet. In an OTG (On-The-Go) capable Wireless USB gadget, it can sometimes act as a host or a device depending on each connection purpose.

7. The targeted usage scenario is home entertainment connectivity, which encompasses TV, PC-related hardware, CE (Consumer Electronics), and mobile/portable communication/multimedia devices. Most are the same devices that have already carried Wi-Fi or Bluetooth.

Why did they (Intel n co) create another wireless, while we're overwhelmed with the existing techno? There is a formal logic behind the standard creation that's the success of USB as a number one interface on PC and other PC-related hardware. We must admit though that some portion of that success comes from that wireless dongle that plugs nicely into a USB rectangular connector.

Whether Wireless USB will be as successful as its counterpart "Wired" USB? Its promoters said yes, because it is easy to use and plug-and-play. But surely, Wireless USB will find competition from older wireless standards.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

New Year's Wishes (1) : Beautify the stack and the spec

To Microsoft:

Please extend Bluetooth capability in Windows XP (SP2) even though you are now busy selling Vista. Do not leave XP users in the dark. Add more services to it with reference to the latest Bluetooth specification.
Did you know that many users find it difficult to work with various third party drivers and software? Yeah, Bluetooth protocol is more complicated than Wi-Fi, but it should be included in the generic Windows functions since it has become an established standard.

To the Bluetooth SIG:

Bluetooth has spread like wild fire and it's present in nearly every new gadget, but the popular use of it is still limited to certain basic services due to - at least in the perception of many users - the impractical process of device authentication and authorization and the confusing and lengthy profile-matching.
That's why please shorten and simplify (or automate) the connection process to make it easy for common users to enjoy all Bluetooth services. Make passing an introperability test a requirement for a compliant Bluetooth product.

Agree or not? I've got to channel many readers' frustrations anyway. Hope you guys stop by and respond. Thank you.

Saturday, September 30, 2006

Losing the Bluetooth icon?, tips and tricks.

Many readers sent questions regarding wireless taskbar icon and wireless wizard on Control Panel (for Bluetooth, infrared, and Wi-Fi) that often disappear without notice from their Windows XP screen. It's quite puzzling and annoying especially when the problem becomes persistent.

Here, I'd like to share my tips when dealing with this situation:

- I have to take a note about when the last time the lovely icon was there.
- I have to remember what I had done before the icon disappeared, whether downloading & installing automatic Windows update, updating a device driver, installing new hardware or application, working with my wireless dongle or else.
- I have to check whether my PC memory and processor can still cope with new tasks.

I traced and solved the problem using these tools:

- System Configuration Utility via Services and Startup tabs. On Services tab, I can tick Bluetooth Support Service, Infrared Monitor, and Wireless Zero Configuration among other services. On Startup tab, I can find programs that I want to run automatically in the background once my PC starts up. Selecting a program file from the Startup tab will let the associated program icon to appear on the System Tray or the taskbar, hence it's called taskbar icon. If too many programs are running, one or several taskbar icons sometimes disappear. I open System Configuration Utility by clicking "start" and then "Run", on the input box type this: "msconfig".

- Device Manager. This is my favorite tool because it senses any hardware or driver update in real time. Even though I can't fix the problem directly from the Device Manager, this tool very often gives a hint as to what has caused the change of a hardware-related application behavior.

- System Restore. At many occasions, System Restore tool which can be accessed from Windows XP Help and Support Center (start>Help and Support>Pick a task>"Undo changes to your computer with System Restore") helped return my PC to a previous stable state. And it doesn't delete files or emails in the restoration process. The nice thing is I can pick a certain date from a calendar as my Restore Point and if mistaken I can reverse the process.

- Windows Task Manager. From the Task Manager, I can see running applications, processes, CPU and memory usage, networking load, and logged on users. If too many applications and processes are running, then it's time to close some. I open the Task Manager usually by pressing "Ctrl+Alt+Del", but it can also be invoked by right-clicking on the System Tray and click Task Manager.

In the case of Windows XP's Wireless Zero Configuration (WZC) service, some folks (me included) sometimes lose it because of the "Use Windows to configure my wireless network settings" is accidentally unchecked in the Wireless Network Connection properties window. A third party software may help. For example, my wireless adapter utility can enable and disable WZC.

If those tips and tricks above don't cure, I would manually open my PC's casing (if my wireless adapter is a PCI card) and detach the adapter from the PCI slot or unplug my wireless adapter (if it is a USB dongle or PC Card). I would then turn on my computer and after everything settles, turn it off and re-insert the hardware. After that, turn on the computer again and re-install the driver and application.

Ever lost your Bluetooth icon or other wireless icons or services? Share your experience. How did you finally fix it?

infrared taskbar icon only appears if an infrared (IrDA)-enabled device is present near the computer's IrDA window (beamer) in LOS (line-of-sight).

Windows XP Networking Guide : Bluetooth wizards

Thursday, June 08, 2006

World Cup Countdown
Be friend first before pairing

With only a few hours left from the first kick-off, it's party time in Germany. Since football (soccer) fans from around the world will be flocking the twelve wonderful stadia, this is certainly "a time to make friends". Whichever team you are supporting doesn't matter, in the end there must be only one team lifting the World Cup.

This time around, Bluetooth will play a part in this festival. It will be in the hands of millions football fans. In many gadgets particularly mobile phones, Buetooth transmission is limited in range of up to 10 meters. So it's safe to share cool pic's of magnificent goals, salto, free kicks, corners, penalties via Bluetooth. However the thousands people packing each stadium poses a possibility of things like virus and spam spreading from hand to hand. To prevent such things from infecting your Bluetooth device, these simple precautionary tips might help:

- Turn off Bluetooth when not in use (this is also useful to save battery)
- Assign a unique name to each Bluetooth device, to easily identify one another.
- When active, only make it discoverable when you agree with someone else to exchange some goodies.
- Pair with your friends' devices before entering the stadium, it will be safer and take shorter time.
- Don't accept a connection request from unknown devices. While it is nice to have new friends, this is not the right way to do it. It may be a virus spreading scheme. Know the person first, and then ask about his/her Bluetooth device name. After that, you can pair your device with his/her and start a connection.

Happy 2006 FIFA World Cup. Winning or losing is number two because this is "a time to make friends".

Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Anyone uses a 3-in-1 phone?
A review of forgotten Bluetooth profiles

A 3-in-1 (three-in-one) phone usage scenario appeared since the first version of Bluetooth specification.


It refers to a handset that can function as

1. mobile (cellular) phone when out and about within a cellular network coverage,
2. cordless phone when at home, near a fixed line (landline) telephone base station,
3. intercom (walkie-talkie) when two persons are establishing a direct speech connection in close distance.

To enable the latter two (points 2 and 3), the specification defined TCS (Telephony Control Signaling) Binary Profile which is the basis of Corldless Telephony Profile (CTP) and Intercom Profile (ICP).


It shows a fixed-mobile convergence (though only in handset since other convergence issues relate to core network, management, numbering, billing and handover mechanism) and it allows users to bypass cellular operators when communicating within Bluetooth range. These may result in lower monthly communication bill.

If your Bluetooth mobile phone supports CTP, you don't need another cordless phone at home to receive or make a landline call.

And if in addition it also supports ICP, when - for instance - attending a class or in an exhibition zone, you want to contact another attendee you don't need to dial his/her cellphone number. Just search for his/her phone's Bluetooth device name on your screen and contact him/her via Bluetooth. Since this voice call bypasses your cellular operator, you needn't pay a penny for it.

The call is routed over Bluetooth SCO (Synchronous Connection Oriented) link, a dedicated voice link which is occupied for the duration of the call, comparable to the circuit-switched landline phone circuit.

If Bluetooth standard also formalize bluejacking by creating for instance SMS over Bluetooth profile, I think a lot of users will love Bluetooth, especially texting-intensive youngsters.

Product availability

The 3-in-1 phone concept would be very attractive to users had it been followed by the mass production of such phone which hasn't been a reality until now. Browsing the Bluetooth SIG website for products that support a 3-in-1 phone usage model ends up only to the Bluetooth specification document.

Why mobile phone vendors did not race to produce such a phone?
It seems they didn't want to upset cellular operators since in developed markets handsets are channeled through cellular operators. At the time when traditional voice operators (telcos) are facing VoIP challenge, this is a sensitive issue.

I did googling on 3-in-1 Bluetooth phone and found only one such phone, i.e. Sony Ericsson W550i even though there are several Bluetooth chip and PSTN/ISDN access point vendors who stated CTP and ICP support in their products. For example, Broadcom (who acquired Widcomm) makes Bluetooth chip and stack for embedded devices that support CTP and ICP.

If things stay the same in the near future, wouldn't the Bluetooth 3-in-1 phone usage model be buried under the shadow of the increasingly popular VoIP-capable handset? (i.e. VoWLAN or voice over Wi-Fi)

Comparing a 3-in-1 Bluetooth phone with the BT (British Telecom) Fusion's 2-in-1 Bluephone

A Bluephone works as a mobile phone when outside user's home and within BT (MVNO to Vodafone) cellular network. When user walks into his/her house, within a home Bluetooth access point coverage, if he/she is in the middle of a call, the call is switched automatically to BT Broadband landline network via the home access point. The handoff is seamless, without user intervention. This solution is applicable only to BT Broadband subscribers.

Using Bluetooth standard CTP, the switch from/to mobile and cordless is to be decided by the user if he/she is aware of the presence of cheaper landline network. This scenario can work with any mix of fixed and mobile operators.

On the walkie-talkie mode, the direct speech connection (ICP) between two persons within Bluetooth range is completely free peer-to-peer (ad hoc) link without a service provider involvement or a typical office DECT cordless base station and PBX.

Introduction to Bluetooth Profiles

Friday, April 28, 2006

Why Media is NOT an IEEE standard?

It's hard to find time to catch up with all techno news in this era of information overload. I have an RSS aggregator with more than a dozen feeds but very often after updating the feeds, my concentration was distracted by other activities on my workstation.

I made a mistake in the previous post because I missed some news. The WiMedia UWB platform hasn't been an IEEE standard yet and is not going to become one because the IEEE 802.15.3a project was disbanded by vote. Why? according to a news source after 3 years of UWB standardization effort, even though the task group (TG3a) has consolidated 23 UWB PHY candidates into 2 proposals, i.e. MB-OFDM and DS-UWB, it failed to reach a consensus on one candidate UWB physical layer (PHY) specification.

Fyi, MB-OFDM is backed by the WiMedia Alliance while DS-UWB is supported by the UWB Forum. The companies involved in developing an IEEE standard always push core parts of their technologies to be incorporated into an upcoming standard in an effort to have time advantage. So it's difficult to unite them.

What's the impact? As with other emerging technologies, having a standard means products from different manufacturers or vendors will be interoperable, therefore consumers won't be locked to one vendor. In the end, it will lead to wider market acceptance and cheaper products for end users. In the absence of a standard, what to expect? Perhaps, the stronger contender becomes the winner and takes all.

This might be a clue. Wireless USB has become a specification in May 2005. WUSB 1.0 resembles USB 2.0 except it is wireless and it runs over WiMedia UWB radio platform. New PCs carrying WUSB radio interface will be out to market in 2006 holiday season according to another news source. Like wired USB, WUSB can do file transfer, DUN, synch, video streaming, peripheral interconnection. It supports 480 Mbps transfer rate at up to 3 meters, 110 Mbps at 10 meters. It also allows devices with dual-role capability (both as host and peripheral) to interconnect, that's USB OTG (On-The-Go). Existing PCs and devices can be WUSB-enabled using an adapter (Wire Adapter).

Whether Bluetooth will embrace both UWB PHYs or choose only the WiMedia's? It's still unclear to me. I have to check it out. But since there are overlaps, what killer apps should the next Bluetooth offer as WUSB is already on the horizon, at the entrance gate?

Friday, April 07, 2006

Bluetooth goes Broadband

What if I can stream music or movie or transfer large files in bulk over Bluetooth? This might have been a question for you too and every Bluetooth enthusiast out there.

Luckily, the Bluetooth SIG seems knowing what we want. A news released in end of March indicated that this organization is committed to the development of a kind of high-speed Bluetooth. It's a version that can enable the transfer of high quality video using today and upcoming Bluetooth application profiles.

To be precise, the Bluetooth SIG is now working together with the WiMedia Alliance to develop the specifications for the delivery of Bluetooth services over WiMedia UWB radio platform (MB-OFDM). Well, finally UWB comes out of its hype stage. Besides Bluetooth that will be UWB-ed, two other technologies (FireWire and USB) have passed assessment process and come into development phase to incorporate the WiMedia UWB into their wireless versions, i.e. Wireless FireWire (W1394) and Wireless USB (WUSB).

What is the benefit for end users? We can enjoy the variety of in-home connectivity at blazing speed and they are wireless. Name the 802.11n (touted as next generation Wi-Fi) that promises 300 - 600 Mbps throughput, Wireless USB up to 480 Mbps, and Wireless FireWire up to 400 Mbps. But Bluetooth - if it succeeds in this endeavor and not late to enter the market - will have a unique place among other options. Bluetooth has rich profiles which is its competitive advantage.

Now if the high speed Bluetooth has a prospect to becoming the choice of the mainstream, how ready are equipment and software makers? I picked another news clipping and it's about the real demonstration of HD video streaming using BLUEtusk (a Bluetooth stack from Open Interface) with Video Distribution Profile (VDP) and Object Push Profile (OPP) over UWB radio from Alereon. With BLUEtusk, actually Bluetooth application can run not only on UWB radio, but also on any TCP/IP-supporting-radio, e.g. Wi-Fi and WiMAX. Open Interface calls it as being radio-agnostic.

However, it remains to be seen how fast Bluetooth over UWB will become a specification. Hopefully, not many years from now. And, that glossary, this dictionary has to change Bluetooth definition one day. But for now, Bluetooth is still a LOW to MEDIUM rate cable replacement and wireless personal area networking technology.

What is your opinion? Do you have a wish to use Bluetooth for video streaming or other broadband applications? What is your current solution?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

Headset or audio gateway service in Windows XP SP2

Many ask about how to configure a Bluetooth headset on XP (SP2) and a few also want to make their PCs' as audio gateway.

Because the Microsoft Bluetooth stack in Windows XP (SP2) doesn't support such services, you can't install the services without the help from a third party software. My suggestion is override the Microsoft stack with the software that comes with your Bluetooth adapter. Usually, the third party software supports more services, incl. headset or audio gateway profile.

The built-in Bluetooth stack in SP2 is able to discover a Bluetooth headset but it shows no services on the Bluetooth Devices window.

I'll have to compile some screenshots to clear the matter. Hopefully within the next few days, the material is ready for presentation if my priority doesn't change.

In the meantime, please cast your experience with WIDCOMM, TOSHIBA, BlueSoleil, Bluez, or Microsoft Bluetooth stack. Which one you like most and what is your favorite Bluetooth service?

Step-by-step Guide: How to configure a Bluetooth headset in Windows XP (SP2)?

Wednesday, February 01, 2006



Looking from the web statistics, I must be confident that my website has already got regular visitors, so I felt hard because I didn't update it for more than three days. Last week, my website was idle no update no new articles. I went to computer store and bought two Bluetooth adapters, i.e. new Bluetooth 2.0+EDR from Billionton with TOSHIBA Bluetooth stack.

I am currently testing the newly purchased adapters, especially for creating a personal area network. I chose to prioritize PAN over LAN, because now information on wireless LAN can be found virtually anywhere on the Net. While people (including me) need more digging into search engine results to get basic info on personal area networking. I expect, this week I would publish new materials on my website. I hope that would satisfy those who frequent my website to find more info on Bluetooth networking.

I also prepare more materials for other types of direct connections (both wired and wireless) since many have been very interested in alternative connections by creating an ad hoc network. Ad hoc network fits the majority of casual networkers because they need to create a network only for a temporary time to perform a simple task such as file/printer sharing and Internet connection sharing.

Please, do not hesitate to comment, ask a question, or make a correction. Unlike many political blogs which have very active and critical readers, technology blogs are very quiet. Or maybe this is because my blog hasn't been developed. If you happen to read this post, would you please give me suggestion as to how to make this blog and my website more interactive and attractive. (I'm still considering whether to open a discussion forum.)

Thank you.

Step-by-step guide to create a PAN in Windows XP (SP2)