Bob's Adventures in Wireless and Video Headline Animator

Saturday, April 30, 2011

Bluetooth 3.0 - Might be something here

Bluetooth has been a low power short range solution for lower bandwidth connectivity between keyboards, mice, microphones and speakers. While operating on 2.4GHz it does not use the same protocol as 802.11 WiFi. Recent advancements in WiFi chipsets support Bluetooth coexistence so that interference between the two protocols is minimized. Bluetooth was made for short range, lower bandwidth applications.

What makes Bluetooth of interest for video is it's ease of use, low power consumption, and master-slave architecture.With the release of Bluetooth 2.0 bandwidth went up to 3Mbps. This was enough for limited video, but now with Bluetooth 3.0 the bandwidth goes up to 24Mbps.

Right now there are two very interesting products on the market which demonstrate where Bluetooth may go in the near future. One is the BT-1 camera. This camera costs $150, runs a respectable 4 hours on a charge, delivers 640x480 H.264 stream at 15fps and the reviews say that it has great image quality. The down side is that the range of the camera is only 30 feet and the only drivers that are available are for Macintosh. But for the price it seems to be a great deal. It even works with IPhone.

The other Bluetooth product that caught my attention is AirCable which claims to extend Bluetooth range up to 10km at very low power consumption. This solution is a low cost, low power, long range system of components that enables the creation of various wireless devices.

Their long range hub controller costs about $129 and they have a camera for $99. I did not like their camera specs very much as they had short run time, low resolution, and slow frame rate.

Assuming that the BT-1 camera generates about 256kbps of video stream, pre-compressed in H.264, then you could expect to be able to get 8 or more cameras per Bluetooth Aircable hub.

Now combine the two technologies into one and you get a good quality camera with VGA resolution, the ability to run 4 hours on a charge, a range of a thousand feet, point to multi point operation with support for up to 8 cameras per hub, a fast frame rate, small size, and really low cost. An entire system could be had for less than $300. Plug that into a netbook NVR or a smart phone and you have a very low cost long range wireless system.

All of the above is based on Bluetooth 2.0. Now just think about where this can go with Bluetooth 3.0 and the ability to have 24Mbps in bandwidth available.

Of course I am relying on the accuracy of the information on the vendors web sites. So there certainly could be something here that derails the usefulness of these products for surveillance, but they are very close to what the market is looking for.

I might buy these, kludge them together and see how they work.


  1. It actually sounds like a really intriguing new potential entrant technology. Not ready for prime time yet but that new spec of 24mbps bandwidth capacity is highly intriguing, even in short range. That's sufficient bandwidth to carry even high megapixel. Could lead to some interesting new innovation.

  2. I heard Bluetooth 4.0 will be introduced by the end of 2011. One thing I learned is that 4.0 is focus on power management. Do you know any thing else about it?

  3. Yes, Bluetooth 4 includes what is known as LE or Low Energy technology. It also has an implementation that runs over 802.11 and is compatible. There is a convergence happening between BT and 802.11. It is very interesting to see.

    I think that an extended range BT with 23Mbps and point to multipoint support is where video needs to go.

    Marvell has a new part the Avastar 88W8797 which combines 802.11 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 4 LE and an FM radio receiver. Interesting idea to add low power FM transmission on a base station to send control to the chip. It also has an ARM 5 processor built in. 20mW and cheap.

    Definitely worth investigating.