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Nokia Creates Alternative to Bluetooth

Wed Oct 4, 2006 - 12:18 PM EDT - By Dieter Bohn


Nokia has come up with a new short-range wireless standard they're pushing as an complement (they say not a replacement) to bluetooth. They're calling it wibree. The new standard seems to pretty much duplicate Bluetooth's already-present functionality, namely:

  • Designed to allow mobile devices to wirelessly communicate with each other
  • Range of about 30 feet
  • Data rate of 1Mbps (which is actually slower that Bluetooth 2.0
  • Meant to become a wireless standard throughout the industry, not just on Nokia devices

Why do we need wibree at all? The main difference, it seems, that wibree uses significantly less power than bluetooth. That would allow for smaller devices, better battery life, and even adding bluetooth-like functionality to devices that don't have it yet. As Nokia states:

Wibree technology complements close range communication with Bluetooth like performance within 0-10 m range and data rate of 1 Mbps. Wibree is optimized for applications requiring extremely low power consumption, small size and low cost. Wibree is implemented either as stand-alone chip or as Bluetooth-Wibree dual-mode chip. The small devices like watches and sports sensors will be based on stand-alone chip whereas Bluetooth devices will take benefit of the dual-mode solution, extending Bluetooth device connectivity to new range of smallest devices.

Rant On

Frankly, this just ticks me off. Bluetooth, after years of being ignored, is finally getting some really mainstream exposure and acceptance. As early as a couple of years ago mentioning the word "bluetooth" to most folks engendered a long and nerdy conversation about what it was and why it was cool. That's much less likely to happen now.

But here comes Nokia, muddying the waters. I know that's the way of things with technology - there's always something newer and better coming along. Wibree, on the other hand, seems like it's not all that much better than bluetooth. I say let's keep our momentum going with bluetooth and not bother with some new standard. Isn't it enough that we geeks are going to spend the next year watching Blu-Ray and HD-DVD duke it out?

I know Nokia is claiming it's just supposed to be a complement to bluetooth, not a replacement. The fact that they're planning dual-use chips supports that claim. Still, it's yet another spec bullet point we'll have to track now, and i don't like it. Grumble. I must be getting old.

Rant off

On a completely unrelated note, a thought has occurred to me lately that I can't get out of my head. I've found myself scouring my apartment for my bluetooth headset when I answer a call - the Treo transfers the call to the headset whenever it's in range. What I realized is that when I answer the call by hitting the button on the phone, I want to talk on the darn phone!

Here's what I propose: Instead of coming up with an entirely new short-range wireless standard, let's keep improving the one we already have. Make it so that the phone only transfers the call to the headset when you hit the answer button on the headset. When you hit the answer button on the phone, the call stays on the phone.

But back to wibree. Why not just work with the bluetooth folks to rebrand this wibree standard as bluetooth 3.0?

Talk about wibree in our forums. I'd be especially interested to have somebody explain why we need wibree.

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