Connectivity issues ?


Was watching the 2nd Day live Google IO – 2010 keynote, and as it is always the case with demos, they go wrong at exactly the final movement.

So Google also had their share of the problems, first it was with what was getting telecast live on TV and secondly on what was termed as connectivity problems in getting the TV to be controller via the keyboard.

The Google engineers tried to do a good job by keeping the conversation going and also had some backup options of a few extra devices and TV sets, which was all ok.

But, I was stuck by how quickly the engineers concluded that the issues were because of Bluetooth connectivity and was requesting everyone in the room switch off their mobile mobile phones (WiFi and Bluetooth).

Here are some of my reasons to think that the so called connectivity issues might not have to do with Bluetooth after all ..

Hopefully someone from Google would have gotten to the bottom of this and can post the analysis for the connectivity hiccups during the demo.

First : If it is a connectivity issue caused by interference (which seemed to be the implication and the reason why the attendees were asked to switch off their phones), how does switching to a new keyboard or swapping to a new TV resolve the problem. The fundamental issue (interference) dosent change because you turn on a new device – it actually should make it a bit more worse as you switch on more devices that compete for the same airwaves.

To me it sounded like there could be some other bugs contributing to the problem and its understandable with any new product at beta stage to have some software/hardware issues that is not resolved yet.

Secondly: I have seen Bluetooth work seamlessly where there are hundreds of devices in close proximity, the Bluetooth SIG regularly hosts the Bluetooth unplug fests where hundreds of devices are tested with each other for interoperability. In addition to Bluetooth devices there are hundreds on WiFi devices also in the same room, I haven’t seen connection problems due to interference  in any matured Bluetooth solutions.

Third : In-fact the Bluetooth is the only wireless technology with built in mechanism to avoid interference, Bluetooth has an adaptive frequency hopping feature (since Bluetooth version 1.2) that really works great to avoid interference caused by WiFi or other devices using the 2.4 GHz spectrum.

Forth : Range – Bluetooth typically works in the 10 m range, Bluetooth devices operating beyond this range will not have significant interference impact, I don’t think there were hundreds of devices near within the 10 m range of the demo area.

If in fact it was an interference issue, could it be hundreds of WiFi causing the interference ? And could something have been done to ensure that the airwaves were free ?

I certainly think so, Google could have configured their access points so as to allow only limited devices connect over WiFi in the 2.4 GHz channel (at least near the demo area). Most devices today are 802.11 a/b/g/n compatible and can work in the 5 GHz band as well, freeing up the 2.4 GHz for Bluetooth.

This is where I think Apple nails it, I haven’t seem many Apple demos going wrong, its rehearsed well and executed to perfection even in front of the live audience.  I think it comes from taking into account things that could go wrong and finding solutions to avoid those issues.  So as it is always the case good prior preparation and attention to every detail (like what channel should be on TV in public) goes a long way in making that perfect demo.

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