• Bluetooth to devices is what voice is to humans. The revolutionary technology that has changed the way devices communicate, has become a part of our everyday lives. Bluetooth enables us to go wirefree while maintaining high levels of security & speed. With the arrival of Bluetooth 3.0 the world will never be the same. We caught up with the engineer who drives Bluetooth to newer levels and responsible for making Bluetooth household name. We are very proud and excited to have Dr. Mike Foley - Executive Director of Bluetooth Special Interest Group on CrazyEngineers. Dr. Foley holds a PhD in Electrical Engineering & has played a pivotal role in creation and development of wireless desktop vision and 802.11.

    Presenting our exclusive Small Talk with Dr. Mike Foley -

    CE: Sir, you are the executive director of Bluetooth Special Interest Group. Could you tell us more about your job?

    Dr. Foley: My job is a mix between inwardly facing and outwardly facing responsibilities. The Bluetooth SIG is a membership organization with over 12,000 members. Understanding how the Bluetooth SIG can best support those members in successfully implementing the technology is paramount to what I do. Ensuring the SIG staff continues to create and execute programs that fulfill member wishes and needs keeps us going. Thus a great portion of my job is serving as a bridge between the SIG members and staff.

    CE: We would like to know about Bluetooth Special Interest Group and its activities.

    Dr. Foley: I think of the SIG as having three primary roles: publishing the Bluetooth specifications, administrating the qualification program for Bluetooth technology, and educating the industry and consumers through marketing of the technology. For the industry, the goal is to encourage the building of Bluetooth products - and for consumers, to encourage the purchase and usage of Bluetooth products. It's an exciting place to be - we get to see the entire lifecycle of technology.

    CE: What are your views on "ZigBee vs. Bluetooth"? Do you see them as rivals?

    Dr. Foley: More so now than I used to. A few years ago, the lines between Bluetooth and ZigBee were pretty clear. However, products implementing the scenarios I thought ZigBee would fill haven't materialized in the market. The next version of the Bluetooth core specification focuses upon an extremely low energy enhancement. With this, Bluetooth is better equipped to enable those scenarios I would have targeted for ZigBee a few years ago. With an installed base of over two billion Bluetooth products and the strong tie to the mobile phone, Bluetooth low energy technology is going to own this segment of the market in 2-3 years.

    While there are other wireless technologies filling niche applications in the industry, I see Bluetooth technology as the one personal area network (pan) wireless technology that meets the needs of the widest breadth of users. ZigBee provides sensor technology applicable for limited use cases in fixed environments. Bluetooth technology products span consumer electronics, cars, healthcare, home entertainment - the possibilities are endless.

    CE: Sir, I have been working on Bluetooth technology and have come across security loopholes. The encryption strategy uses the routine SAFER+ K-64 algorithm, which was proved to be the toughest algorithm that could not be broken once upon a time. However, the PHY layer embedded in safer algorithm is now made reversible. Has this been fixed? How does Bluetooth 3.0 handle security?

    Dr. Foley: The Bluetooth core specifications are written with several required and optional security features and include an encryption algorithm that has never been broken. Most publicized security issues have been the result of implementation issues not related to the specification itself, but the specific product design. Bluetooth technology is extremely secure.

    In the new v3.0 +HS specification, one enhancement, the generic alternate MAC/PHY (the AMP), enables the discovery of other devices and turns on the high speed radio only when needed. This also enables secure switching of the l2cap user data traffic to another device. Both of these functions give the benefit of not only power optimization making v3.0 more efficient, but also aide in the security of the radios.

    CE: Can we use Bluetooth to stream voice? I would like to use Bluetooth to make a phone call to my friend on the next floor.

    Dr. Foley: Absolutely. Bluetooth technology was made for both voice and data applications - one of its key differentiators. The voice applications, like mobile phone to headset or mobile phone to car, have been extremely successful, really driving the popularity of the technology.

    There are also voice applications from headset to headset which is to what I believe your question refers. The most common of these applications are motorcycle helmets that allow riders to converse with each other.

    CE: What are the various parameters on which the data transfer speed of Bluetooth depends? Why was 802.11 a natural choice while standardizing Bluetooth v3.0?

    Dr. Foley: In classic Bluetooth technology, the symbol speed is 1 mbps. There are different packet types that are utilized depending on channel characteristics that determine the data rate seen to the application. For example, if the channel is noisy, short packets with more error correction are used and this reduces data throughput, but enhances reliability. On a good channel, longer packets with less correction can be used to provide more throughput.

    In the Bluetooth v2.0 specification, enhanced data rate (EDR) was introduced. This added a few new packet types that actually changes the modulation scheme to allow two or three bits to be sent per symbol. This in effect doubles or triples the data throughput seen to the application.

    The availability of Bluetooth technology in a device that contains an 802.11 radio can provide efficiencies for both the manufacturer and the consumer. The inclusion of the 802.11 pal in this release will provide tremendously increased throughput and also power-saving benefits. Depending on the device-to-device range, file transfer rates for solutions supporting 802.11 are expected to range up to 24 mbps.

    The structure of this specification enhancement will provide long term benefits for both manufacturers and consumers. Our architecture is generic meaning it is designed to take advantage of the presence of a high speed radio in the device, but isn't tied to a specific technology. The goal of this strategy is to provide the best solution available to sig members today based on today's realities-while always keeping an eye on future possibilities.

    CE: What is the significance of Bluetooth low energy technology?

    Dr. Foley: There are over two billion Bluetooth devices already in the market and 20 million of those are today utilizing Bluetooth technology in the health and fitness arena. While these devices use the current Bluetooth standard with which consumers are accustomed, the future Bluetooth low energy standard, expected to be ratified by the end of this year, will build on the inherent strengths of classic Bluetooth technology, taking these health and fitness devices, as well as all button cell and sensor devices, to the next level. Bluetooth wireless technology is the natural delivery channel of low energy connectivity, enhancing existing deployments and extending Bluetooth implementations far beyond current uses of wireless technology.

    One of the areas that Bluetooth low energy technology will help to address is the world's growing healthcare needs. Only Bluetooth technology has the scale required to enable progression from today's deployments of personal medical devices to a few thousand users to what is anticipated to be a global deployment of hundreds of millions of devices. By providing the platform required to support the innovation needed in healthcare, Bluetooth technology will help pave the way to universal, connected healthcare.
    And, while healthcare is of the utmost importance, it is not the only application to be improved upon with Bluetooth low energy. Consumers familiar with Bluetooth devices in the home for health monitoring and personal device connectivity will also find that Bluetooth low energy will enhance their remote controls and watches. Feature rich remote controls enabled by Bluetooth technology will allow for ultimate home entertainment control - from PC to TV to stereo and back again. Watches will become a pivotal piece of the personal area network, simplifying the use of mobile phones, music players and other devices.

    CE: Bluetooth got its name from a 10th century Danish king. Was there any special reason behind name?

    Dr. Foley: The word Bluetooth is an anglicized version of the Danish Blatand, the name of the tenth-century King Harald I of Denmark and Norway. King Harald united rivaling Scandinavian tribes into a single kingdom, much like Bluetooth does with communications protocols, uniting them into one universal standard.

    That said, the funny thing was that the name Bluetooth was only planned on being the code name used while the initial specification was developed. There were numerous proposals for the "real" name, which was to be unveiled at the launch of the first specification. However, as the launch date drew near there were issues getting the real name ready and the decision was made to launch with the code name Bluetooth. As it turns out, I believe this was a great boost for the technology. Since nobody knew what "Bluetooth" meant, there weren't any preconceived notions regarding the technology. Instead it was a clean slate onto which we were able to define what "Bluetooth" would become.

    CE: The future of ambient intelligence, or AmI, would come sooner rather than later due to the exponential progress of technology. How much of a role would Bluetooth play when it comes to AmI PAN Applications? In addition, does the Bluetooth SIG plan to collaborate with AmI research groups such as MIT and Philips?

    Dr. Foley: In the early days of Bluetooth development, there were many discussions and visions of scenarios that map into what could be considered AmI. Bluetooth could provide a great transport for the AmI services. Modules worn or carried by an individual could relay information to the environment where the individual is located and interact with the system. As such, Bluetooth could play a role in such a system and I'd be very interested in working with those involved at places such as MIT and Philips. However, I'm not aware of any formal workings at this time.

    CE: With a myriad of staff and volunteers within Bluetooth SIG, what is a typical day like for you at the headquarters?

    Dr. Foley: I'm not sure that there is a typical day. A significant portion of my job involves travel to meet with members and promote the technology. All those days are different. The question specifically mentions a day at headquarters at our Bellevue office, so I'll focus on that. During the winter I take my kids to school and arrive at the office around 8:30 AM. That's earlier than most people at the office so I have about 30 minutes to catch up on email, read some industry news and look at the NY Times. I probably spend 30 - 50% of my time on the phone. Since my office is on the west coast, most of the calls are in the morning where it is late afternoon in Europe or early afternoon on the east coast. I rarely leave the office for lunch; instead I typically bring something that take a few minutes to eat. Most of the afternoon is spent meeting with SIG staff either reviewing projects or planning for the future. I typically end the day working on individual SIG projects or writing. I try to head home by 7:30 or 8:00 PM. Once home, I spend a few hours with the family, perhaps watch a little TV and then do email until Letterman ends at 1:00 and I call it a day. If anything strikes me as interesting I'll post it to Twitter during the day. You can watch for those at @WirelessMike.

    CE: Bluetooth 3.0 is out. What is next? How do you see Bluetooth being used in everyday life by 2015?

    Dr. Foley: In the short term, the adoption of the Bluetooth low energy specification is what is next on the horizon. Overall though, the sky is the limit. In 2015, I imagine Bluetooth will be ubiquitous in our daily lives - we won't even remember a time when we plugged our phone into our PC to sync or held the mobile phone to our actual ear to take a call. People will be using the technology in ways we haven't even dreamed up yet.

    CE: What does it take to be a member of SIG?

    Dr. Foley: It's easy. Go to our member website at and check out the various levels of membership and benefits. We're over 12,000 strong now and are always happy to welcome more.

    CE: We thank you for sparing your time for us. What is your message to CEans (aka Crazy Engineers)?

    Dr. Foley: Keep up the good work and continue to innovate and create - for without us, we'd be living in a pretty boring world. ;-)

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