The Wireless Future: Bluetooth and HomeRF in depthby Matthew Witheiler on August 29, 2000 1:07 AM EST
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It seems that companies have been promising powerful wireless computing technology for years now, vowing to not only get rid of all those cables behind our desktops but also vowing to allow for a new era of mobile computing. Most of the recently implemented technologies, as exciting as they may have seemed upon announcement, have all but proved useless. For example, let's take the infrared port, first introduced in laptops about quite some time ago.
Promising a new revolution in wireless computing, IR ports eventually found their way into vast majority of laptops sold today. Infrared technology pledged to finally make wireless printing, file transfers, and synchronization possible, all through a device that costs very little money to make. Although the technology looked like a solution to our wireless needs, IR never delivered what was promised.
The problem was two fold. First off, the transfer speeds of IR communication is rather slow by today's standards, making large data transfers nearly impossible. Secondly, and perhaps the largest problem, is the range of infrared communication. Able to travel only over a very limited range, IR communication needs to be done almost exclusively on a line-of-sight basis, meaning that the infrared ports on the communicating devices must not only be within a short range of one another, they also must be pointed at each other This proved to be a large stumbling block, as the communication between devices was easily interrupted by interfering objects. Although it is almost certain that any high-end laptop purchased today will include an infrared port, it is just as likely that the user will never take advantage of its limited features. Obviously a second technology, one not based on light, would need to be implemented in order to make wireless communication a reality.
With this fall's IDF over, we were able to get a glimpse of what Intel has up their sleeve in terms of bringing wireless communication to the home. Making the same promises as infrared made upon its release, Intel's upcoming HomeRF and Bluetooth technologies vow to revolutionize the way our devices communicate. This time, however, it looks like the technology can finally deliver, making wireless data transfer, internet access, printing, and more finally become reality.
In order to further determine the extensive possibilities of both Bluetooth as well as HomeRF, let's go over a bit about what we learned about the technologies at this fall's IDF as well as discuss some possible applications.