Boosting business productivity with Bluetooth

Bluetooth wireless connectivity has been creeping quietly into many of the devices that workers carry into the enterprise every day. ABI predicts that roughly half of the 1.2 billion cell phones sold this year will include Bluetooth. IMS Research estimates that Bluetooth was embedded in one out of three laptops last year, growing to 75% by 2012. How can on-the-go professionals put these Bluetooth devices to work? Let's take a look.

Hands-free communication
You'd have had to be living under a rock for the past several years to have missed seeing Bluetooth hands-free headsets -- 60 million of them shipped in 2007 alone. While headsets continue to get smaller and sexier -- for example, the Aliph New Jawbone resembles a chunky silver and gold earring -- there are many other useful hands-free Bluetooth devices that can improve your efficiency.

Another top-selling category is hands-free Bluetooth speakerphones. As many states and municipalities in the U.S. begin to pass laws that prohibit drivers from engaging in handheld calls, Bluetooth speakerphones are helping mobile professionals continue conducting business on the road without violating local laws. For example, the LG HFB-500 is a solar-powered Bluetooth car kit that won't tether your phone to a speaker or continually drain your Bluetooth headset's battery.

In fact, many new (higher-end) vehicles include audio systems that support the Bluetooth hands-free profile, letting you seamlessly couple

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your cell phone with your car's audio system. If your car lacks this feature, don't fret -- you can use a product like Motorola's T605 Bluetooth Automotive Music and Hands-free System to take calls.

Wireless audio and video
Today, many fun Bluetooth-enabled audio and video devices are available for your listening and viewing pleasure, from Bluetooth boom-boxes and bookshelf speakers to Bluetooth home entertainment centers, gaming consoles, and even televisions. These consumer electronic gadgets may keep you engaged and entertained at home, but let's get back to work, shall we?

Sales, field and delivery workers, who spend much of their time traveling to new destinations, can benefit from products that combine Bluetooth audio with Bluetooth GPS interfaces. For example, Motorola's T805 and T815 navigation systems can be combined with any Bluetooth-capable cell phone or smartphone to provide both spoken and visual turn-by-turn directions and maps. For those mobile workers on foot, the Garmin Nuvi 275T is a pocket-sized GPS and FM traffic receiver with Bluetooth connectivity.

Even workers who are stationary can benefit from Bluetooth audio and video. How about the OptiEyes Bluetooth webcam that streams video to your PC so that you can participate in video conference calls? Or the Sony-Ericsson MMV-100 Bluetooth Media Viewer that lets you use Bluetooth to send images to be viewed on a TV or slide projector.

Mobile computing
You are probably well aware of Bluetooth-enabled mice and keyboards for use with your desktop and laptop PCs. But did you know that Bluetooth computing peripherals are also available for mobile devices such as PDAs and smartphones?

Let's face it -- smartphone screens are pretty tiny if you plan to work for a long time or squint at a tiny rendition of your server's console. And while today's smartphones have mini-keyboards for typing, they may lack mouse controls required to interact with some business applications. One Bluetooth product that addresses these challenges is the REDFLY Mobile Companion. This paperback-sized clamshell display and keyboard connects via Bluetooth to your smartphone, providing an alternative human interface environment for interacting with applications running on a smartphone.

Another unique example is the Baracoda Pencil, a Bluetooth-capable "pen" that turns any off-the-shelf Windows Mobile, BlackBerry, Palm or Symbian device into a wireless barcode scanner. Or the ElekTex Smart Fabric, a full-size roll-up wireless keyboard for Bluetooth-enabled smartphones, PDAs and handheld computers.

How about using Bluetooth to save a few bucks on business calls while you're on the road? Consider the Kensington K33406us, a Bluetooth-enabled Voice over IP Internet phone, which can be used to make Skype, MSN, Yahoo and Google calls through your laptop over Bluetooth.

If you need to print on the road, why pay through the nose to do so at a business center when you can carry your own Bluetooth mobile printer? Small bits of data -- business cards, appointments, short messages -- can be printed using S'print, a fist-sized scrolling printer that communicates over Bluetooth to Palm OS and Windows CE handhelds. Or check out the AXIS 5810, a gadget smaller than a deck of cards that can transform an ordinary printer or copier into a wireless printing station that can print full-size documents from any Bluetooth-enabled phone.

Network access
Last, not least, Bluetooth can help mobile professionals get (and stay) connected to the Internet. For starters, many Bluetooth-enabled smartphones can actually be used as cellular data modems, providing non-3G-enabled laptops with Internet access in locations that lack Wi-Fi or Ethernet connectivity.

When colleagues using Bluetooth devices want to share Internet access, consider a solution like the BlueGiga WRAP Access Server that can route data received over Bluetooth onto Ethernet or cellular networks -- for example, letting you share your hotel's Internet connection with a co-worker.

When working in more remote locations that lack broadband wireless coverage, you may need a product like the COM One Bluetooth PSTN Access Point, a 56K dial-up modem that can deliver Internet access to nearby Bluetooth smartphones and laptops.

These are just a few of the many different Bluetooth-capable devices available for your business today. To learn more about Bluetooth applications and profiles and how Bluetooth connectivity can help mobile workers be more productive, check out the Bluetooth product directory at Bluetooth.com.

About the author: Lisa Phifer is president and co-owner of Core Competence, a consulting firm focused on business use of emerging network and security technologies. At Core Competence, Lisa draws upon her 27 years of network design, implementation and testing experience to provide a range of services, from vulnerability assessment and product evaluation to user education and white paper development. She has advised companies large and small regarding the use of network technologies and security best practices to manage risk and meet business needs. Lisa teaches and writes extensively about a wide range of technologies, from wireless/mobile security and intrusion prevention to virtual private networking and network access control. She is also a site expert to SearchMobileComputing.com and SearchNetworking.com.

This was first published in November 2008

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