Bluetooth technology can enable cell phones to communicate with laptops.Texas Instruments’ Short Distance Wireless Israel is introducing a new Israel-developed chip that the company says will be inexpensive and efficient enough to enable Bluetooth technology to finally get a major foothold in the U.S. and European markets for computers and cellular phones.

Devices with Bluetooth chips can broadcast data over radio waves, creating wireless communication between laptops, cellular phones, and portable handheld devices. Bluetooth eliminates the need for many short-range cables, such as wires between personal computers and keyboards, mice, and speakers, that are inconvenient and create clutter.

Many experts foresee using Bluetooth chips for a multitude of other wireless applications. For example, a Bluetooth chip mounted in a car tire could send tire pressure readings to the driver of the car via a digital readout on the dashboard.

Until recently, however, Bluetooth technology was too expensive and complicated to be competitive in the market. But, according to Ari Rauch, general manager for the division, the new TI chip will change all that.

Rauch said the new chip is ideal for cell phones because it is small and can use as little as half the power of competitors, extending battery life for wireless device users. In addition, the new TI chip will also cost less than four dollars, a price that will make it cheap enough to be placed in practically every cellular device.

“Most of the existing Bluetooth chips are based on analog circuits,” Rauch said. “The digital application we have developed lowers power consumption. The system works on just 1.8 volts of electricity, and not on three volts like the
rest of the systems on the market.”

The Bluetooth chip was developed at TI’s Kfar Sava Laboratories that were built by Butterfly – an Israeli company acquired by TI in 1999 for $50 million. Immediately after the acquisition, Butterfly took over Bluetooth development for TI. The division has doubled in size in the past few years and now has 100 employees.

“According to our estimates, which are based on meetings with clients,
there will be close to 40 million products based on Bluetooth on the market
this year, compared with 8 million last year.” Rauch said. “Of these, about 20 million will be cellular phones with Bluetooth chips.”

An assessment by the In-Stat market research company recently predicted that
there would be 300 million cellular phones equipped with Bluetooth
chips by 2005.

In the past few months, there has been a marked increase in the rate of the
introduction of Bluetooth systems to the market. IBM launched a new line of portable computers designed for the small business and education
markets in June that all have communication systems based on the Bluetooth protocol.

In addition, Microsoft announced that in 2003 it will update the Windows XP operating system to support Bluetooth systems so PC manufacturers can integrate the protocol into the production of personal computers.

TI is one of the largest chip manufacturers in the world. Over the last four
quarters, its sales totaled $7.5 billion. In the first quarter of 2002, Dallas-based TI’s sales were $1.8 million, a decline of 28 percent compared with the same
quarter in 2001, which the company blames on the continuing crisis
in the chip market.