Since its inception in 1994, Bluetooth has become a household name. You just have to admire the power of a technology that can have such a crazy name that is simply accepted as part of our lexicon. For instance, most of our wireless technologies are based on acronyms and abbreviations, and, even if we’ve come to identify them by those strings of letters and numbers, we rest comfortably knowing that they actually stand for something.
Many probably know the origin of Bluetooth came from a 10th century Viking named Harald Bluetooth. But how did the technology’s inventors settle on that name? Actually, the original designers at Ericsson wanted to call the technology PAN, as in personal area networking. But this moniker did not pass the resulting trademark searches. “There was no such problem with Bluetooth, as you can imagine, “ jokes Suke Jawanda, chief marketing officer, Bluetooth SIG. Early in the process, they also considered calling the technology “radiowire” but that was discarded. Anders Edlund, product manager, Bluetooth SIG, recalls that it was Jim Kardach from Intel that originally surfaced the Bluetooth name, after Sven Mattisen (from Ericsson) had introduced him to Longboats, by Frans G Bengtsson, a Swedish book about Vikings.
I was always under the impression that Bluetooth was the development code name, but apparently the term that Intel/Ericsson originally used was BizRF. According to Mike Foley, the former executive director of the Bluetooth SIG, there had been some talk about the technology being used for HomeRF, but it wasn’t selected. (HomeRF was later abandoned.) After that, the Bluetooth SIG was formed to advance the technology on its own. That’s when Nokia and IBM were invited to join Ericsson and Intel. Foley recalls, “The agreements were formally signed in a meeting at the IBM facilities. It was really an exciting meeting because IBM didn’t decide to sign until the last day of the meeting. They felt it was unheard of to ‘give away IP’ and the IBM lawyers gave an absolute no to signing. Luckily, they had an insightful VP that did it anyway!”
The major design kudos for Bluetooth need to go to Jaap Hartsen, who was the key person behind the baseband design and Sven Mattisen, who was the radio architect that designed the "CMOS radio concept." Edlund also gives much credit to James Collier and CSR, who were able to build working CMOS radios and deliver them in volume early in the process. Foley adds, “I don’t believe there would be a Bluetooth industry without the advancements made by James Collier. Many people dreamed of reliable CMOS radios, but James did it!”
“In the beginning, many people, including some promoter companies, laughed at the $5 chip cost goal,” notes Andy Glass, former Bluetooth SIG CTO. (Today Bluetooth chips sell for $1 or less.) Another surprising thing about this technology is that it is RANDZ (reasonable and non-discriminatory zero royalty). Most technologies, including Wi-Fi, USB, 1394, are RAND, meaning the IP holders can charge a ‘reasonable’ fee to license use of the IP. Unfortunately, that can be a path to rabid patent lawsuits over ‘excessive’ charges for IP. “That the founders of the Bluetooth SIG had the foresight to avoid this issue could be of interest to the industry as a shining example of the ‘right’ way to do this,” observes Glass. (The RAND versus RANDZ issue was the concern of the IBM lawyers.) He continues, “In my opinion, this rather revolutionary idea is one of the reasons Bluetooth technology has been so successful.”
Successful might be an understatement, here are some of the current statistics on Bluetooth:
7 billion Bluetooth devices in the world (including mobile phones, Nike+ running shoes and FuelBand watch, and Beam Technologies’ connected toothbrush)
Bluetooth SIG Membership: 16,500 and counting (approximately 150 new members/month)
Total Bluetooth device shipments: expected to reach 2 billion in 2012 (200 million more than in 2010) with a projection of 4 billion in 2016 (according to ABI Research)
Bluetooth is a $10B+ annual industry
If you have something to add to the story of Bluetooth, or an observation to make, please comment below!
Bluetooth is not almost dead. My sister works in sales, and her job depends on having a Bluetooth receiver in her ear at all times so she can multitask talking to clients with getting data from a computer (or, unfortunately, driving). I'm guessing that's true for most in sales, marketing, or any job that relies on constant contact with people.
'Almost dead' implies it is going away. I think you'd have a riot from these people if they even had an inkling that such a thing was going to happen.
She also uses Bluetooth to wirelessly (and seamlessly) connect an iPad to a powered stereo speaker. Later revs of Bluetooth, which new phones are starting to implement, allow faster data connections.
Bluetooth is almost dead technology, look at the new smartphones, they lack of many Bluetooth features like IP over bluetooth, file transfer or simple serial port. 5 years ago, almost all smartphones and palptops had support for plenty of bluetooth protocols, now only headphone is supported. Do you remember IRDA protocol/interface? Bluetooth sooner or later will divide its fate, at least in consumer market.
How do you forcast the future of Bluetooth Low Energy ? This technology is very nice for low power portable devices connected to mobile phones but Apple is rather slow to enable all the APIs and Samsung/Android Galaxy S III suffers from some bugs. It seems that they have not tested the system before to launch it on the market.
True. The WWW succeded in making (initially) PCs desirable for the common joe, and PC sales took off after 1994, as a result.
My point is that for innovations to continue to happen, the RANZ model has to generate some kind of reward. Zero royalties is great, but the scheme still has to be self sustaining.
That's how the IETF and to a lesser extent the IEEE work as well. The companies involved invest their talent in the efforts of these organizations, but they will only do so with some payoff in sight. Just getting a lot of devices to use a new standard won't matter a hill of beans, if there isn't any upside to those who invested in creating it.
You don't get something for nothing.
By that definition the World Wide Web has not been a success, since Tim Berners-Lee received no direct remuneration from it! There's much more to success than just money...
The success of Bluetooth is that it's become a universal standard, despite (or maybe because of) the fact that no-one owns it.
That's a great story about how the name was chosen!
It is a wonder that anyone can come up with a clever new name for a standard, a company or a brand anymore. Lawyers need to do trademark searches, and a proposed name needs to be translated into dozens of different languages to catch unintended meanings or connotations.
But for certain purposes, an uninspired name-choosing methodology can also work. Intel's project code names are geographic locations -- presumably because those won't be trademarked. And in the IT world, computer host names are now usually just semi-meaningless alphanumeric sequences, while in the good old days our Unix computers were named after the Greek gods, great beers of the world, rock bands, and a plethora of other interesting themes.
A bit of a strange way of gauging "success," I guess, since the developers get no direct compensation for their design efforts. The RANDZ model bets on revenues achieved from the increased sale of products that make use of Bluetooth, such as cell phones and automobile audio systems.
So I would think that "success" of Bluetooth should be measured on the basis of increased volume and/or increased revenues from those other industries, which have adopted Bluetooth.
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