Up until mid 2003, a Bluetooth sceptic could have characterised the industry as one with a few players selling large volumes at little profit; equipment suppliers not selling enough to cover accreditation or marketing costs; and consumers who have tried Bluetooth but struggled with a poor user interface. Arguably this was never true, and in 2004 it certainly isn't.
It was evident at the Bluetooth Americas show in San Jose in December 2003 that the increasing volume has begun to make the package deals profitable. Marketleading Bluetooth chipmaker CSR is even sufficiently confident of the market to go for an IPO.
However, there is a previously unexpected market where Bluetooth is rapidly gaining acceptancethe ISM (Industrial, Scientific and Medical) sectors, the group for which the 2.4 GHz frequency band used for Bluetooth was initially set aside. These groups of users are accustomed to dealing with technical products and can happily navigate their way through Bluetooth software. Their need to solve system monitoring, control and data collection problems in innovative ways often requires them to consider radio solutions. Now that Bluetooth has established its basic reliability and security, ISM applications that are cable impossible, cable averse or cable inconvenient are beginning to be successfully implemented using wireless technology.
A cable impossible application could be thought of as one where the use of a cable would be inconceivable, such as access to a device that may be floating in water or in mid-air. Cable inconvenient could be an application where a cable would need to be carried and attached to a mobile phone or laptop such as LUCY Switchgears control units on telegraph poles that Brainboxes recently fitted with Bluetooth adapters to allow safer access for power engineers. Cable averse could be in medical equipment, heart rate monitors for example. The first of these ISM applications is in direct cable replacement. The convenience and functionality of simple instant cable replacement products is beginning to set the market alight and give long-stay Bluetooth firms growing income and increasing hope. The key is in the fact that no Bluetooth software needs to be loaded on the equipment; instead, it is all hidden inside the cable replacement adapter. A general-purpose adapter that converts RS232 to Bluetooth and back without having to know anything about Bluetooth is just what the market needs to give it a boost.
These Bluetooth software-free adapters add more than just a cable replacementthe functionality of the whole product and application can be increased greatly by Bluetooththis is where the market is happening.