Bluetooth's Beat Box

HANGOVER, Germany – CeBIT 2003 – Among the many gizmos on display at CeBIT, IBM Corp. (NYSE: IBM) has one that could truly be life-enhancing, a phrase too often abused by the wireless industry.

Executives from Big Blue's engineering and technology services division are demonstrating a heart rate monitor device (about the size of a pack of chewing gum) that could help save someone's life; and Bluetooth, the 2.4GHz wireless technology that provides data transfer at speeds of around 1 Mbit/s over a range of 30 feet, is involved.

The device (usually strapped to the chest) measures the heart rate of the person wearing it. If it goes above a certain set limit, this triggers a message that is sent to the person's mobile phone via Bluetooth. That message triggers the phone to send a text message to a pre-determined mobile number (of a relative, doctor, insurance agent...), warning that this person's heart rate is at a dangerous level. [Agèd Editor's note: No chance this might bollox up the old pacemaker? Just wondering...]

All well and good. Except that there is maybe too much reliance on technology here. First, the person in trouble would need to make sure their mobile phone is: switched on; Bluetooth-enabled; and always within range (10 meters) of the Bluetooth device. If all these conditions are met, then the following has to happen: the receiving person's phone needs to be switched on; and the message needs to be delivered without delay. Unstrung has waited hours, sometimes days, before the sports results we paid for finally arrived at our handset, so this instant delivery is not guaranteed.

Of course, it does at least give the device wearer a greater chance of getting help, so it's a worthy development. When will it be available commercially? "That's up to the companies that might license the technology and develop it into a product," says IBM spokesperson Cary Ziter. "It could be a medical company, or a cell phone provider, or a sports company. We are showing this technology to a number of European clients."

Of course it's not only physical exercise, such as jogging, that makes people's hearts beat too fast. So if this product takes off, Unstrung can't help imagining what level of Bluetooth traffic might be generated the next time a group of telecom execs at CeBIT makes the short hop from Hannover to indulge in some, er, adult entertainment in Hamburg's lustbetont Reeperbahn district...

— Ray Le Maistre, European Editor, Unstrung

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