The group in charge of the Bluetooth protocol unveiled the specifications of the next-generation of the technology, originally dubbed Bluetooth High Speed Technology and also labeled Bluetooth 3.0 HS. It’s completely back-compatible with the Bluetooth in your current phone or computer, but it’s much, much faster.
Bluetooth 2.0, for example, had data transfer speeds of just 2-to-3 megabits per second. The new specification adopts an additional Radio Protocol Adaption Layer, using 802.11 technology. That enables it to push data over the airwaves at up to 24 megabits per second–around 10 times faster than before. That should be sufficient to enable wireless fast-syncing of devices like iPods or smartphones, that were previously limited in this capability by the large size of music and video files and the relatively slow speed of transfer over Bluetooth 2.0. The Bluetooth Special Interest Group also suggests it’s powerful enough to “send video files from camera or phone to computer or television” and that implies you may be able to stream video to your portable media player from a host PC in real time.
Better yet, the new tech will deliver all this extra speed at little or no energy cost–devices that incorporate a Bluetooth 3.0 chip will be able to make use of its “advanced power control” which means it only sips at the battery’s energy supply when it absolutely has to. Plus there’s a system called “Unicast Connectionless Data” which suggests Bluetooth 3.0 devices will be capable of data “broadcasting,” a different method for connection than the existing paired master-slave set up. That could enable all sorts of clever device applications, like your cellphone detecting you’re at home, and auto-uploading to your PC any photos you’ve taken that day or music tracks you’ve downloaded on the fly.
A number of companies are already at work on Bluetooth 3.0 hardware, so it’ll probably take around a year for it to appear in gadgets on the shelves. Sadly, however, there’s just one thing that the whizzy new Bluetooth 3 can’t do: Stop you from looking like a tool when you’re wearing a headset.