Garfield Heights-based Audiopack Technologies has taken that standard and applied it in ways the original creators probably never envisioned. Audiopack, which designs and manufactures wireless communication products for firefighters, military personnel, security forces and others who work in hostile or harsh environments, is using the Bluetooth standard to give its products an edge over the competition, while making the people who use them safer.
"We are piggybacking on the Bluetooth chipsets that are being sold," says Jon Adams, president of Audiopack. "We are modifying and tailoring the chipset and software stack to meet the markets we service. We are using it as a building block in our products."
Because of the standardization of the chipsets, the price is relatively low. Audiopack is able to take these inexpensive chips and modify them so that they meet the demanding requirements for their markets. For example, the devices have to be certified that they won't spark and cause an explosion in the hazardous environments in which they will be used.
"We are definitely thinking about the consumer," says Adams. "We're leveraging the relatively low cost of Bluetooth radios. They are low cost because of the high quantities being made. They are then ruggedized for use in our markets."
As communication technology continues to evolve, new solutions have to be created to solve safety and reliability issues. For example, technology can allow a firefighter commander to get voice, data and images relayed from the firefighters in a burning building back to a command station.
"Until now, they had to use cables to connect the microphone on their masks to the radio on their waist," says Adams. "The cables created a safety and reliability issue."
This is where Audiopack applied innovation to the Bluetooth standard to come up with a unique product.
"One of the design parameters of Bluetooth was it would not require an FCC license and would be a relatively short-range technology," says Adams. "The idea was just to have the devices communicate in the same room, not over any distance. Most Bluetooth devices have a range of 10 meters or about 30 feet. That distance limitation is inappropriate for firefighters who might be at one end of the building or another, with the commander outside."
What Audiopack created to solve that problem is a wireless headset that uses Bluetooth to transmit information to the more powerful FCC-licensed radio on the firefighter's waist, which then relays the data to the commander.
"It's similar to a headset for a cell phone," says Adams. "We are making a very specialized headset that happens to interface with the firefighter's gas mask, head and hearing protection."
While the original creators of Bluetooth were envisioning people doing things like grabbing files from their home PC with their PDA without having to connect any wires, the technology standard has allowed Audiopack to bring expanding capabilities to its markets.
"The data rate is fairly high at 1 megabyte per second data rate," says Adams. "That means you can simultaneously transmit voice, data and video over the same link, which is another big advantage for certain markets. Fire services can use our technology to transmit images with voice and data about what the temperature is inside and how much air they have in their tank.
"There are a lot of other innovations on the drawing board, and I see lots of potential, both in Bluetooth and with other standards."
How to reach: Audiopack Technologies, www.audiopack.com or (216) 332-7040