Bluetooth headsets, hands-free units and other gadgets have been on the scene for nearly as long as mobile phones, but the coming five years will see unprecedented growth in the use of the short-range wireless technology in headsets and additional types of consumer electronics, such as digital media players, game consoles, computer peripherals and automobiles, according to research released in June.
More specifically, some 2.4 billion pieces of Bluetooth-enabled hardware are expected to ship globally in 2013, says market research firm ABI Research. That’s a 300 percent increase over the 800 million Bluetooth-enabled units that IMS Research, another technology market analysis firm, expected to ship in 2007. And of those 2.4 billion units, more than half will be cellular handsets and another 20 percent or so will be Bluetooth headsets, ABI says.
The strong growth will be due in part to the decreasing cost of Bluetooth integrated circuits (IC), or microchips, as well as the fact that the technology is quickly evolving and gaining increased speed and functionality, according to ABI. But another leading driver of the predicted Bluetooth growth will likely be new legislation addressing cell phone use while driving, similar to the laws enacted by California and Washington state in early July. These new laws call for small fines or citations to be handed out to citizens caught talking on their phones while driving without the use of a headset or hands-free.
New York, New Jersey, Connecticut and Washington, D.C., have already banned the use of wireless handhelds while driving, according to BusinessWeek.com, but all six of the locales with such laws still permit drivers to speak on their mobiles while employing headsets or hands-free units. Additional states can be expected to follow the lead, as well, as they try to curb car accidents associated with driving and mobile phone use.
With some 23 million licensed drivers in California alone, according to PCMag.com, the laws are sure to give Bluetooth a significant boost….it just might take a while.
“Some people are really proactive about going out and buying,” Carl Derry, as spokesperson with GN Netcom, which makes the popular Jabra line of Bluetooth headsets, told BusinessWeek. The couple of weeks before and after new laws go into effect are typically the times when demand for remedies or ways to skirt the legislation is highest, Derry said.
Though the idea behind the California and Washington state laws is a noble one—make the states’ road safer to drive on—and a boon to the Bluetooth market, I still can’t help but wonder when such regulations will address the dialing of phone numbers while on the road. I use a Bluetooth headset frequently, a hands-free unit occasionally, and my BlackBerry supports voice dialing. But I still dial most numbers manually because voice-dialing doesn’t always work and can be frustrating—and my patience for such confusion is minimal.
So even if I follow the California or Washington laws to a T, there are still a few seconds here and there when I’m looking away from the road
to dial a phone number. I’m not exactly sure how to get around this fact, unless of course voice recognition tech makes some serious gains in the coming years, but perhaps it means banning the use of wireless handhelds in cars altogether—though I must admit, I don’t see that happening anytime soon.
What’s your take on the new driving while on the phone laws? Do you think they do enough to protect motorists in those states? Should other states enact similar legislation? Why or why not?
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Al Sacco was a journalist, blogger and editor who covers the fast-paced mobile beat for CIO.com and IDG Enterprise, with a focus on wearable tech, smartphones and tablet PCs. Al managed CIO.com writers and contributors, covered news, and shared insightful expert analysis of key industry happenings. He also wrote a wide variety of tutorials and how-tos to help readers get the most out of their gadgets, and regularly offered up recommendations on software for a number of mobile platforms. Al resides in Boston and is a passionate reader, traveler, beer lover, film buff and Red Sox fan.