Bluetooth to Your Rescue

By Peter Coffee  |  Posted 2001-07-23

Skeptics have accused bluetooth of being a solution in search of a problem, but this years IEEE Computer Society International Design Competition shows that Bluetooths strengths can address real needs—beyond eliminating wires in our personal area networks. My favorite is the third-place winner, The Poket Doctor from Brigham Young University. Imagine a paramedic team arriving at an accident scene: As they pull up, a screen on the dashboard displays several faces, along with each persons medical history. Before theyve even gotten out of their vehicle, the medical team identifies the people on the scene who need special attention.

Its all done with Bluetooth-enabled smart cards, estimated to cost about $30 each, discoverable by a portable medical console and able to provide emergency data—or, with a password supplied by a conscious patient, download full medical history information.

Poket Doctor prototype development was limited more by software than hardware; in particular, the team found Microsofts Visual C++ unwieldy in displaying patients photographs. Encryption/decryption times were also an issue.

But Bluetooths limitations, such as data packet size, were readily addressed. Using Ericsson development kits and Towitoko Electronics smart cards, the team achieved communication distances on the order of 10 meters with transmission times of under 20 seconds (including Bluetooth device discovery and selection).

Other winning presentations appear at, including the first-place report from Polands Poznan University of Technology—whose BlueEyes Conscious Brain Involvement Monitor detects inattention by operators of industrial installations. Consider the implications: Someday, I may be able to tell if youre thinking about these columns.

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