Mon, 30 Jun 2003

Getting Online On The Road With Bluetooth

Vishnu K. Mahmud Contributor Jakarta

Life as a road warrior in Jakarta is getting easier. As more and more people go online, businesses are beginning to see the benefits of information technology and the Internet. Proposals, orders or invoices that were once submitted via post or telefax can now be electronically submitted online via the World Wide Web. But what happens if you are out on the road and can't get back to your office?

Short of going to a warnet, or an Internet Kiosk as they are known here, the proper road warrior should always come prepared to send and receive documents whenever and wherever they find themselves.

Although wireless fidelity (WiFi) is the latest communications technology breakthrough in the region, Jakarta does not have as many "hotspots" compared to Kuala Lumpur or Singapore for connecting to the Internet wirelessly. What's more, older notebook users without the new Centrino chips from Intel or a built-in wireless feature would have to purchase a rather expensive WiFi card to plug into their PC-card slot.

But what if you're stuck in traffic, far away from the warnets or hotspots in malls, and that tender has to be submitted in five minutes? Have you considered connecting with your cellular phone? Via Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is perhaps the forgotten technology during the current hype of WiFi and Third Generation (3G) cellular services. It allows devices, usually computers to peripherals, to securely communicate with each other, bypassing the need for the traditional wires or cables. Although it has a much smaller bandwidth compared to WiFi, Bluetooth does have its advantages.

For example, you can securely store your phone in a bag or purse and talk with a Bluetooth hands-free headset. You can transfer data to digital cameras, personal digital assistants, and others across the room. Wireless keyboards and mouses can be connected via Bluetooth instead of infrared or lengthy cables.

There were even plans to use Bluetooth as a biometrics security device. Clip the chip onto your necktie, watch or wallet, and the computer will automatically log you on and remember the last program you used even before you sit down at your desk.

Major handset and laptop manufacturers are now releasing hardware with built-in Bluetooth connectivity. Nowadays the latest Sony Ericsson ( and Nokia ( cell phone models come equipped with it.

The latest computer models from IBM and Apple are just a few hardware manufacturers that also offer built-in Bluetooth. If your laptop lacks this facility, you can always go out and purchase an inexpensive USB Bluetooth dongle, which retails for about Rp 400,000, by D-Link ( or Billionton ( just to name a few.

IM3 ( and Telkomsel ( are two providers that offer General Packet Radio System (GPRS) connectivity. With this 2.5G (generation) medium, users can access the Internet using their mobile phone browser to check for e-mails or breaking news. And with Bluetooth, certain cell phone models can even be connected to a computer to surf the Web.

To connect two devices to Bluetooth, they must first be "paired". This is to prevent the unauthorized access of a device by external parties. Both devices must agree to be paired or connected to each other by entering the same password; for example, "1234" on both the computer and the cell phone when prompted. Once paired, the two devices will communicate with each other whenever they are in close proximity or turned on.

With the helpful instructions from the IM3 website, I was able to connect my Apple iBook to the Web using my trusty Ericsson T39. With the help of Apple's iSync software, I could even synchronize my address book to the handset, thus allowing me to enter and edit phone numbers from the computer, completely bypassing the cell phone's small keypad.

This setup allows people to make use of existing technology to connect to the Internet. Although the 3G and wider hotspots are just around the corner, for those who need to get online wherever and whenever they need to can do so with this existing technology.

However, road warriors be warned, the cost for using GPRS with a laptop is charged by the kilobyte, ranging from Rp 20 to Rp 30 per kilobyte, depending on your service provider. Downloading a multi-megabyte file -- 1 megabyte=1,000 kilobytes -- can be a rather expensive proposition, so use your bandwidth wisely, such as checking and sending important e-mail.

For more information about Bluetooth, check out