Consumers Gain Interest in Bluetooth for Wireless Communications

Consumer familiarity with and interest in the benefits of the Bluetooth [definition] wireless communication standard are on the rise according to the report “2001 Bluetooth Survey: Consumers vs. Enterprise” by Cahners In-Stat Group.

An In-Stat survey of more than 1,000 consumers found that almost double the amount of consumer respondents were extremely to somewhat familiar with Bluetooth than were the previous year. In a first-time survey of approximately 400 small office/hhome office, small, middle and enterprise companies, interest in the emerging technology was also strong.

“Last year, there was still much evangelizing that needed to be done in order to educate consumers about Bluetooth technology,” said Joyce Putscher, a director at In-Stat. “The survey results show definite headway is being made. To a consumer, the product must offer compelling benefits like making a process quicker, easier, and/or more flexible. Once informed of Bluetooth benefits, consumers are very interested as proved by our survey responses.”

Thanks to the increase in consumer familiarity, In-Stat forecasts that shipments of Bluetooth-enabled equipment will soar to 955 million units by 2005, a 360 percent five-year compound annual growth rate. In-Stat also found that finance/banking, insurance, real estate, health, education, business services, entertainment, high-tech and manufacturing firms may be early adopters of Bluetooth technology, with plans to deploy within the next six to 24 months. The majority of consumers are willing to pay up to $25 to add Bluetooth benefits to products, such as wireless Internet access and location-based information.

Bluetooth has not been without its problems, however. A number of technical and market related issues have slowed down the progress of the technology, which, along with the economic slowdown, have led Frost & Sullivan to downgrade previous short-term forecasts. Issues such as device interoperability, interference from other radio technologies and fears over the security have caused delays for developers. Bluetooth is also expected to suffere from market confusion because of its wide range of applications.

“Despite these teething problems the technology remains fundamentally an excellent concept, with more and more digital and mobile communications devices entering the everyday lives of the world population,” said Frost & Sullivan’s wireless research analyst Michael Wall.

Frost & Sullivan forecasts that 4.2 million Bluetooth-enabled devices will be shipped in 2001, with total revenues from these devices exceeding $1.8 billion. It also expects this number to increase to an estimated 1.01 billion Bluetooth-enabled devices ($330 billion in revenues) per year by 2006.

“A new realism has begun to emerge within the Bluetooth industry, acknowledging that the technology is in its infancy, and that major technological breakthroughs do not occur overnight,” Wall said. “Bluetooth as an industry standard only emerged in 1998, providing most developers with less than four years to perfect it. In comparison to many other current communications technologies that took a decade or more to develop, the progress of Bluetooth has been spectacular.”

One major breakthrough in Bluetooth technology came this year with the development of the first true single chip Bluetooth solution. The development of working devices is now paving the way for Bluetooth application software development. This software will provide the extended functionality to Bluetooth, driving it beyond simple cable replacement.

“If given time to mature properly there is no reason why Bluetooth will not become the most commonly used wireless communications standard in the world,” Wall said. “The potential of Bluetooth is undoubted; all that is necessary now is for the technology to be perfected.”

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