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All too often, the realities of life tarnish the utopian rhetoric about our interconnected information society. Try checking your e-mail or surfing the Web on your portable PC in a hotel room, and you’ll experience the annoying gap in the fabric of the wired world.

Help is on the way. A consortium that includes most of the leading computer and telecommunications companies is devising a standard that will enable all manner of gadgetry to communicate across short distances through radio waves. The initial specification for the “Bluetooth” standard is expected to come out in July, and Bluetooth-enabled products should be on the market in the first half of 2000.

Driving the effort are Bluetooth’s founding members Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba. About 650 other companies are now participating in the Bluetooth Special Interest Group, developing the hardware and standards that will make the idea a reality. Members of this consortium work under an arrangement that gives them royalty-free usage of any Bluetooth intellectual property developed by another group member. “To make this a de facto standard, there needs to be no licensing fees to companies that use it,” explains Simon Ellis, marketing manager for Intel’s mobile and handheld products.

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