Pico's Bluetooth Developments

I was fascinated to read a recent Pico Communications press release that announced "the largest Bluetooth wireless network in the United States." Pico is providing Bluetooth access points (APs) throughout all four buildings (covering 160,000 square feet) of Palm Computing's headquarters in Cupertino, California.

I've been skeptical of Bluetooth since I saw it demonstrated at a fall COMDEX show 2 years ago. At that time, the network-browsing mechanisms were crude, and frequent updates to both the Bluetooth hardware and software made Bluetooth seem unstable. Since then, the price of 802.11b wireless Ethernet has dropped to a point at which 802.11b competes directly with Bluetooth, while providing better range.

However, those of us who've had experience with 802.11b know that it's not always the simplest protocol to work with. I switched my home wireless network to 802.11b from HomeRF earlier this year, and although I'm pleased with the performance, 802.11b was a pain to set up and I've had trouble getting some mobile devices to communicate with my desktop computers. Neither 802.11b nor the newly introduced and faster versions of the protocol are designed for true mobile operation. These standards basically extend the IP protocol for wireless use. You can't carry an 802.11 device from one network to another and expect it to work automatically. Bluetooth, in contrast, was designed from the outset to be fully mobile, making Bluetooth a potentially better system for users who move around in a campus network.

I'm anxious to see how Pico's Bluetooth network works out at the Palm site. I live in central California, so I'll make a point of asking for an on-site demonstration after the system is installed. Stay tuned! Meanwhile, for more information, go to the following URL.


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