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Bluetooth “hot spot” appliance contains tiny Linux server

May 13, 2000 — by LinuxDevices Staff — from the LinuxDevices Archive — 4 views

Axis Communications has created a network/Internet appliance that generates local “cells” which extend the range of Bluetooth signals for access by client devices like PDAs, laptops, Webpads, and specialized embedded devices. The company demonstrated the product, dubbed the Bluetooth Access Point, at Networld-Interop in Las Vegas last week.

The device (see photo), which contains a tiny embedded Linux computer, creates localized Bluetooth “hot spots” — areas where instant wireless broadband access to the Internet or a network is available to Bluetooth-enabled portable devices. The company claims that its Bluetooth Access Point is the first such device to support both data and voice services.

Kjell-Eivind Kolstad, business development manager for mobile Internet products, expects his company's new product to be an enabler of a wide range of innovative new services for use in office, hotel, home, and public environments such as airports, shopping centers, and convention centers. According to Kolstad, the product is the first member of a family of Axis products targeting mobile Internet applications for voice and data services. Production shipments of the Bluetooth Access Point will begin during Q4 2000.

Kolstad says the Bluetooth Access Point functions as a gateway between Ethernet networks (LAN, Internet) and various devices that implement the LAN access profile or the Bluetooth Cordless Telephony Profile. Typical Bluetooth clients are likely to include mobile phones, PDAs, webpads, and Bluetooth-enabled laptops (via PC-card, USB dongle, or built-in interfaces), and specialized embedded devices. The initial model of the Bluetooth Access Point will support TCP/IP based network systems and clients that implement the Bluetooth Cordless Telephony Profile and Bluetooth LAN Access Profile. Future models will encompass additional wireless technologies.

Axis sources say International Data Corporation (IDC) recently forecasted that by the end of 2002, there will be more wireless subscribers capable of Internet access than wired Internet users. This is expected to drive a fundamental shift in the thinking within the Web community and IT industry with respect to the kinds of services to offer.

Extending Bluetooth's range

“First generation Bluetooth chipsets are limited in range to approximately 10 meters under typical line-of-sight conditions,” says Kolstad. “Future implementations will provide roughly ten times that range (100 meters).”

Based on the 10 meter limit of current Bluetooth technology, its usefulness will tend to be limited to regions the size of large living rooms or small office areas. This is more than adequate for device-to-device data transfers — such as web browsing, printing, or synchronizing calendars and email. But like the range limitations of cordless phones, it frustrates users who want to freely roam throughout office, hotel, or public places without losing their wireless connections.

By establishing a network of local Bluetooth “hot spots”, the new Axis devices can create macro-environments consisting of entire buildings or large public areas, throughout which mobile device users can maintain continuous connectivity, in a manner reminiscent of cellular phone networks.

What's Bluetooth?

Bluetooth wireless technology is a de facto standard, as well as a specification for small-form factor, low-cost, short range radio links between mobile PCs, mobile phones, and other portable devices. The technology offers a low-cost means for communication and networking between small form-factor mobile/portable devices.

The Bluetooth Special Interest Group ( estimates that by the end of 2001, Bluetooth wireless technology will be a standard feature of more than 100 million mobile phones, along with millions of PCs, laptop computers, and other handheld devices. Bluetooth will enable automatic, transparent wireless connection among a wide range of computing and telecommunications devices, eliminating the need for users to buy, carry, or connect cables.

Inside the Bluetooth Access Point

Despite the fact that the Bluetooth Access Point is packaged within a compact enclosure (5.6 x 7.1 x 2.0 in.), it contains a fully functional Linux network computer. How did Axis cram a complete Linux computer into such a small space?

The key to that accomplishment lies within a tiny system-on-chip (SOC) device, created by Axis specifically for embedding Linux in network and Internet appliances. ETRAX, as the device is called, contains a high performance 32-bit RISC processor plus controllers for 10/100 Mb Ethernet, IDE, SCSI, two parallel ports, and four high speed serial ports — all on a single piece of silicon.

In addition to the ETRAX processor, the electronics within the Bluetooth Access Point contains Flash memory, DRAM, a Bluetooth module, and several other components. Axis also developed a special port of uClinux for ETRAX, and also a Bluetooth Linux stack. Both are released under a GPL open source license and are available for public download on the company's developer website (located here).

About Axis Communications

Axis Communications is a leader in network connectivity and emerging wireless Internet-based services. The company develops and markets solutions that enhance communications between people and how they interact with information, empowering individuals and improving the overall effectiveness of organizations. Founded in 1984, Axis Communications employs more than 350 people worldwide and is based in Lund, Sweden with 19 offices throughout North America, Europe and Asia

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Axis ETRAX single chip Linux thin server
The Bluetooth on Linux homepage
Axis releases Bluetooth for mobile & embedded Linux
New Network Camera has Linux Inside

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