One of the areas where Bluetooth is predicted to be of great impact is the automotive. Initiatives like Daimler Chrysler's U-Connect will bring this technology closer to the consumer.
Just released in the market, by Parrot, a French company specialised in voice recognition and in-car technology, is the DriveBlue, an easy to setup and use Bluetooth car kit. This car kit enables handsfree operation of mobile phones, without the need of a cradle or cables.
The device uses voice recognition technology, bringing true handsfree, voice activated operation for this kit. And because it uses Bluetooth to link to a mobile phone, no wires are required.
The product is new in the market, but Parrot has distributors around the world, including USA, Australia, Europe and some countries in the Middle East and Asia. The DriveBlue product is available in Europe now.
The unit is made to be powered by the the cigarette lighter power point in your car. Once you insert it you'll understand why it looks like a golf club. You can move it around so the speaker points to your direction. There are only two buttons, a volume switch and a blue LED.
The operation is 100% handsfree, providing you have the right mobile phone, and configure it correctly.
The first thing you'll notice is that DriveBlue talks to you. It'll says "Please pair devices". In my case I tested it with an Ericsson T39m. I initiated the pair operation from the mobile. Because this mobile can only support one headset at a time, the DriveBlue replaced my current headset (an Ericsson HBH-20) from the top of the list.
After pairing the unit will synchronise the phone book. It'll not use the mobile's phone book, but use OBEX to sync both units. As soon as you power the unit on, or come to range, the sync operation starts. Very easy.
Next thing you'll do is spend some time completing the configuration. Mind you, just after installation it is ready to use, but you are limited in operations. The two buttons in the unit are Answer and Hang up. You can answer an incoming call by pressing the corresponding button, but this is not why a handsfree kit exists.
After pairing the devices, a new menu shows on the Ericsson T39m, under Extras. It'll add functions to control the DriveBlue. You can train words like "cellular", "home", "work", "telephone", "hang up". These words will be recorded twice, so the unit can recognise your voice later.
I actually recorded "mobile" instead of "cellular", because this is more common in New Zealand and Australia, like Europe. I also recorded "Call" instead of "telephone", and "disconnect" insted of "hang up". It's really up to the user to use one word or other.
You then turn on a feature called "word spotting", which works pretty much like the "magic word" used with some Ericsson mobile phones (T39m and T68i). And for each phonebook entry you can record a name.
Now the magic begins. Driving around you just have to say the "telephone" word (in my case "Call"), and you'll hear the unit beep. You then say a name, and the unit will respond with your voice previously recorded, to confirm it understood the name. If the phonebook contains only one phone number, a Bluetooth connection is initiated to your mobile, and the call is connected.
If the phonebook contains more than one phone number per name, then you can say "home", "work" or "cellular" to identify which number to call.
The whole thing is easy. While driving you'll just say "Call", wait for the beep, say a name, and complement with location, if needed. To finish the call, just say the "hang up" word and the call is terminated. Very cool!
The memory can hold up to 200 recorded names. It's also possible to enable auto-answer, so incoming calls will be automatically connected, without you having to touch any button. And with your phone inside your pocket or briefcase!
The sound is absolutely clear, and there's noise reduction and echo cancellation implemented in the DSP. The whole experience is brilliant.
You have to note that some features will not work with all phones. The phonebook synchronisation requires SYNC profile, and some mobile phones will not support this. I personally think the Sony Ericsson mobile phones have the best Bluetooth implementation.
The unit implement the following Bluetooth profiles:
GAP (Generic Access Profile)
SPP (Serial Port Profile)
HSP (Headset Profile)
SYNC (Synchronization Profile)
HFP (Hands Free Profile)
Compatible mobile phones:
Nokia 6310, 6310i, 8910, 8910i, 3650
Sony Ericsson T68i, P800
Ericsson R520, T39, T68
Philips Fisio 820, Fisio 825
Siemens S55, S56
Motorola A835, V600
With DBA10 adapter: Ericsson R320s, T28s, T20s, T29, A2618, A2628
Some information about the device: it uses 12V direct current, operating voltage range from 9V to 16V, standby power consumption is 300 micro Amps. Typical power consumption: 120mA and transmitting 300mA (8 Ohm speaker)
Works as soon as plugged into the cigar-lighter jack.
Connects to any Bluetooth phones from all major manufacturers.
Speaker, microphone and control buttons all integrated in a compact housing.
Embedded Digital Signal Processor for quality audio.
Noise-robust voice recognition.
Hands-free conversation with echo cancellation.
Dynamic background noise reduction.
Automatic synchronisation with the mobile's phone book (available with Ericsson and Siemens Bluetooth phones).
Users can change phone or car, keeping the Drive Blue as their hands-free.
The Bluetooth group is looking for products to give the user a "five minutes experience", products that are easy to use and setup. This product should be on top of the list, with its hassle free setup .