Bluetooth is turning out to be the little technology that could. With an estimated install base of at least 1 billion devices by the end of 2006, it's a veritable tidal wave of blue. For entrepreneurs, feeling blue can be a good thing. Bluetooth is showing up in cell phones, PDAs, cars, digital cameras and billboards. Billboards? Yep. Push advertising that sends product messages to passersby is a new market with a lot of potential.

Look into wirelessly pushing information (like new menu items, coupons or train times), and you have a new market for creative uses of the technology--and new entrepreneurial opportunities related to Bluetooth services and device creation. "We see a large number of smaller companies [entering the market]," says Mike Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group in Bellevue, Washington. "There is lots of space for either smarter devices or devices that take advantage of services people want to employ." Services might include push advertising, information transmittal, remote control capabilities or mobile commerce.

Here's one reason now is a good time for entrepreneurs to consider Bluetooth as a business: "We're working to create a high-speed channel within Bluetooth," says Foley. "[One of] the next progressions is high-quality video." That will make room for large-bandwidth applications, like moving hefty multimedia files from TVs and DVRs to mobile devices. The next couple of years will be prime development time for this new version of Bluetooth. You won't have to hold your breath to get blue in the face!

Getting Started
Thinking of launching your own Bluetooth device business? Follow these tips:

  • Get connected. There's a powerful source of Bluetooth information waiting to be tapped. It's the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, a members-based standards organization, and it should be the first place you look to get networked and get informed on the latest Bluetooth standards, news and developments. Joining up will get you access to a lot of valuable resources.
  • Think bigger bandwidth. There will be a lot more Bluetooth bandwidth to work with down the line. So don't neglect to think big when it comes to brainstorming ideas for Bluetooth devices, add-ons, hardware and services. Nimble entrepreneurial companies could be in a good position to take advantage of Bluetooth's new capabilities when the standard is finalized.
  • Go vertical. Vertical markets are ripe for innovative solutions that use Bluetooth. Mike Foley, executive director of the Bluetooth Special Interest Group in Bellevue, Washington, points to health care and factory floor automation as two areas to keep an eye on. The medical field in particular could make use of secure, short-range wireless devices that can monitor patients and quickly transmit information or alerts to staff members.
  • Get creative. Look beyond the obvious applications like Bluetooth headsets and Bluetooth computer peripherals. Find ways to take advantage of all those Bluetooth-equipped phones or come up with creative new uses for the technology. Home entertainment is an area with a lot of potential, whether it's helping MP3 players connect to other electronics or simply converging all of a house's remote control needs into a single Bluetooth-enabled device.
  • Mobilize for mobility. Bluetooth has already found success in mobile devices like phones and PDAs. It's a good idea to capitalize on that. "One of the big uses people will use the high speed channel for is to move a lot of content to their mobile device," says Foley. That translates into hardware and service opportunities for startups in both the business and consumer markets.