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Hopping on Technology - Bluetooth
by Daniel Hopping

The last two months, I discussed The Semantic Web and the Next Generation Internet as two of the three things that will make a great deal of change in our lives. This month I want to discuss the third - Bluetooth. I believe these three technologies together will change how we live, how we work and how we shop in the next five years. I am focusing on the change to consumers' lives because they are half the equation of Retail. I don’t believe that any one of these will make a significant impact on our lives without the other two.

A great Western philosopher (my big brother Dave in California) once told me that things often don’t happen as fast as you expect, but that the impact is more dramatic than you expect.

The Semantic Web will enable the Web to know what you want. The browser will understand the content of the page it is displaying. Browsers and applications can interact without intervention.

The Next Generation Internet will make the Web blazingly fast.

Bluetooth will be the last 10 meters in the way that the Cell phone is the last mile of communications. Bluetooth creates what is called a piconet or Personal Area Network (PAN). A Bluetooth device can be a part of several PANs at the same time. Transmission is one to three Million bits per second and can handle date and or voice. Visit www.bluetooth.com for complete details. If your company is one of the more than 3,400 members of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, you can visit www.bluetooth.org for complete technical information.

In case you are not familiar with Bluetooth. Here is the official definition. Bluetooth wireless technology is the low-power, short-range radio technology that allows electronic devices such as mobile phones, headsets, PDA’s, notebook PC’s and even automobiles to speak to each other without wires.

The key words here are: low power – short range – without wires. I would add low cost. The low power helps the battery life and cost. There are over 1700 Bluetooth enabled devices on the market, they are selling at a rate of 3 Million devices each week and the number is growing.

The Gartner Group once published a brilliant perspective called the HypeCycle. You have probably seen it. It’s axes are the Visibility and Maturity of a technology. It plots the life cycle of a new technology from the technology trigger that introduced it, to the over hyped peak of inflated expectation, down into the trough of disillusionment, up the slope of enlightenment, and out onto the plateau of productivity where the technology becomes just a piece of the infrastructure that we don’t notice. I think that Bluetooth is now coming up the slope of enlightenment. Recent articles such as the “Bluetooth Cavities” are kind of an example from the trough of disillusionment. At least the article ends with the enlightenment that all you have to do is engage the security features of Bluetooth to be safe.

Bluetooth has layers of security that work as long as you do your part. If you walk around with your device “discoverable” and you say yes when someone pings you, you might have a problem. If you use the proper security features, your Bluetooth device will be quite secure.

If you look at how the DoCoMo phone is handling its electronic wallet in Japan, I believe you will begin to see the possibilities for the future of the marriage of the three technologies that I have referred to. The phone or device will be the touch point for the consumer.

The time frame is probably three to five years before there is a critical mass of consumers walking into a store with an enabled device that the retailer can talk to. The retailer will have to talk to that device to remain relevant. I don’t think we can now imagine what the ‘killer applications’ will turn out to be. We were not able to imagine how the Internet turned out when it was down in the trough of disillusionment and the most used term was ‘road kill on the information highway’.

This means that retailers will have to have Ontologies on their applications within that time period. This means that the retailers will have to have an order of magnitude more complexity in their applications to be providing real-time information while the customer is in the store deciding what to buy where. This means that the merchants and buyers are going to have to be much more sophisticated to keep up.

I believe that these three technologies are going to change the relationship between the consumer and the retailer.

Daniel Hopping is a global technology futurist, author, consultant and speaker. With four decades of hands-on experience, Dan’s area of expertise is forecasting the impact that technology will have on the retail industry and tomorrow’s consumer.

Copyright © Daniel Hopping. All rights reserved.

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