Ericsson sees its new "blips" everywhere

BLIP (Bluetooth Local Infotainment Point) is Ericsson's new concept for disseminating information wirelessly. Ericsson predicts BLIPs will spread quickly as more people get Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as cellular telephones and personal digital assistants (PDAs).

A BLIP will function as a hub for devices in the area to connect to. An advertiser could turn an advertising panel into a BLIP, Ericsson said in a news release. Passers could "blip" into local pages, download discount coupons, and even watch video presentations. Public transportation is another area Ericsson foresees will be "blipped."

The developers' kit for the BLIP platform will be offered free of charge, a move Ericsson hopes will result in developers jumping aboard and creating applications. BLIP is based on the Linux operating system and is equipped with a WAP (Wireless Application Protocol) stack and Ericsson's Bluetooth host, which allows transfers up to the maximum speed supported by the Bluetooth wireless system, 720Kbps. Devices will be able to connect to the service using a WAP or Web interface.

"A BLIP is a standalone device that can also be hooked up to a LAN. It is about the size of a palm and has a processor and 2MB of RAM and 2MB of flash memory built in," said Peter Lundin, manager of Ericsson's BLIP venture in an interview.

Functionality of the first BLIP on the market will be limited. Its radius is 10 metres and it can only handle one connection at a time. "This is the first in a series," explained Lundin. "Later versions will offer point to multi-point and we will also implement Bluetooth's next power level, offering a range of 100 metres." Lundin declined to give a timeframe.

Additionally not many people will be able to log on to BLIPs, as Bluetooth-enabled devices are still scarce. "You will find a lot of Bluetooth terminals at CeBIT this year and it is very easy to upgrade existing devices," said Lundin, describing the initial launch of BLIP as a "small start" for what he believes will be huge.

Ericsson said it would launch BLIP globally this year, with the help of unspecified partners. The company will sell hardware, priced at "under" 5000 Swedish krona ($900), and develop services for the system. BLIP will be free to the end user, as opposed to other mobile data services like GPRS (General Packet Radio Service).

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