PARK RIDGE, Ill. In an effort to broaden the acceptance of Bluetooth, Rappore Technologies Inc. this week unveiled a Windows-based application interface that could simplify implementation of the short-range radio protocol in everyday products.
Known as My Wirefree Network, the software lets users browse Bluetooth-enabled products such as TVs or VCRs from a familiar Windows interface in a PC or personal digital assistant (PDA). By placing a rich Bluetooth interface in the PC or PDA, Rappore hopes to popularize Bluetooth by reducing its cost burden for end-product manufacturers.
"This kind of technology brings Bluetooth to the masses of the Windows PC and PDA market," said Ken Ebert, founder and director of engineering for Rappore (San Jose, Calif.). The company's engineers said they foresee that Bluetooth technology will eventually be employed in a variety of everyday products, including radios, copier s, refrigerators, washing machines and automotive entertainment systems.
"Having a familiar user interface is a good thing for the Bluetooth community," said Joyce Putscher, director of convergence multimedia for Cahners In-Stat (Scottsdale, Ariz.). "This has the potential to improve the user's experience right out of the box."
Rappore engineers believe the new product deals with Bluetooth's primary stumbling block cost. PCs and PDAs, they said, already have the operating system and infrastructure in place to support a user interface, whereas TVs, appliances and the like do not. By leveraging the power of a ready-made user interface designed for use on a laptop or PDA, product manufacturers might be more likely to adopt the protocol, they believe.
"You could inordinately cost-burden a device like a washing machine by requiring the manufacturer to add a human interface," said Kip Meacham, director of business development for Rappore. "The people who know how to make washing machines can't b e expected to add a special interface, and can't be expected to understand all the networking infrastructure that's needed."
The My Wirefree Network interface eliminates much of the implementation work for OEMs by means of a patent-pending layer manager that isolates all the inner-layer communication in the network stack. Software layers can thus be "unaware" of what's happening above or below them. "When changes come along, the product can adapt to those changes without a lot of rework," Ebert said. "So users can easily add new features or functionality, or accommodate intermittent changes in the Bluetooth spec."
'We can follow'
The system's operating system interface layer enables it to deal with new processors or changes in a device's OS. "The OEM can switch processors and we can still follow them," Ebert said. "And if they decide to do a separate implementation of their embedded device with a different OS, we can follow them there, too."
The interface is designed for use with W indows 98 and 2000, as well as embedded Linux operating systems. It also supports Microsoft's embedded Windows CE platform.