The Paris Motor Show highlighted one of the coming trends in automotive design - the significant implementation of communications technologies such as Bluetooth allowing portable devices to communicate over 10 meters without physical connections.
Although Bluetooth(TM) is now beginning to be widely used in offices to connect computers with peripherals, there are very few original equipment in-car applications currently on the market. Mercedes Benz hands-free car kit serves as Bluetooth's Australian introduction, while some Saab and BMW models will also offer Bluetooth hands-free car kits as options in the near future.
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But the overwhelming message in Paris is that Bluetooth is coming in many guises.
Nearly 20% of all new vehicles worldwide will contain embedded Bluetooth hardware by 2007, according to the findings of a new Allied Business Intelligence Inc (ABI) study. Future Bluetooth-based automotive applications are poised to deliver new opportunities to all facets of the industry from silicon vendors and hardware manufacturers, to automakers and gasoline retailers.
Bluetooth technology is extremely attractive to automakers as the "silicon costs" currently run to just over $10 a vehicle for implementation, with predictions those costs will continue to fall. With Bluetooth's continuing proliferation into mobile handsets, and a large proportion of handset use inside a vehicle, automotive manufacturers are looking to link the handset with onboard systems.
While the first wave of Bluetooth devices in the vehicle will centre around telephony, newer applications will soon follow. These include remote vehicle diagnostics, lower-cost telematics services, advanced automotive safety systems, vehicle-to-vehicle communications, and remote audio and video downloads into the vehicle, among others.
"Bluetooth opens opportunities for a vast range of convenience features in the car," according to Dr. Robert Schumacher, Delphi's general director of mobile multimedia. "We are already working with Saab to implement future personal productivity features that will allow the system to read (by text-to-speech) emails or other files from a laptop computer in a briefcase. I can see Bluetooth(TM) becoming a 'must have' for business drivers just as hands-free is today."