How To Avoid People With Bluetooth

Further to some postings a few weeks back about bluetooth dating (here and here), seems we defined the field too narrowly. We should have been talking about ‘personal smart presence devices’ and perhaps we’re not seeing a fad here, but a different way of regarding social interaction. (All these services reside on Bluetooth devices — usually cellphones — which then use the wireless connection medium to search for and link up with other devices running the same software.)

Speck, for example, integrates with the user’s IM buddy lists and address books. (Speck’s a bit different in that it is an actual device, not just software that loads onto an existing gadget. But it can in interact with Bluetooth PDAs and cellphone running Speck software.) It will then alert the user when others are near and, if wanted, swap information with them. So what, exactly, could something like Speck be used for? Here’s a list of some scenarios, most of which revolve around meeting people with similar tastes or swapping information (contacts, directions, playlists, functions). But how about the negative? Speck could be used to locate a “crush” around campus, know when he/she is in the area, or avoiding someone you really don’t want to see.

CrowdSurfer does something pretty similar, but focuses on the hidden connections between people (the friends they have in common, for example) who are within Bluetooth range. The creators of this service envisage a world beyond Bluetooth dating or toothing to where business people hook up with potential partners, customers or employers at conferences.

As Jonas M Luster writes in his blog: ”Sure, bluetooth dating and “toothing” seem to be not much more than just another fad, but one would do well to remember the humble beginnings of consumer-level VCR, BBS, and Internet technologies. It always starts with some romantic entrepreneur trying to improve his or her personal “hit rate” with a partner profile of choice, develops into cool new, and not so raunchy, technologies, before finally reaching commodity status.”

Bluetooth, Women And Guerrilla Research

An interesting survey of Bluetooth, both in its results and methods, found by Gizmodo.

The survey (PDF) was conducted by, as far as I can work out, something called Guerrilla Research using technology provided by Zero Sum (I can’t find out much more about these folk, and the PDF file doesn’t deliver up any clues). They seem to have set up a Bluetooth sniffer in London’s business district this month, and recorded the device name and type of anything giving off a Bluetooth signal. The survey is aimed at gauging the commercial potential of Bluetooth, and is based on the premise that, unlike SMS and WAP, Bluetooth is a marketing opportunity not to be missed. Out of approximately 1,500 folk buzzed, there were 177 devices found.

The results of the survey are revealing. First off, PDAs and laptops are negligible in Bluetooth terms. Secondly, more than 60% of devices found still had their default names — their models, such as Nokia 6310i, or whatever. Those that did assign names mostly assigned male ones, which the report offered possible explanations for: men are more into Bluetooth than women; women may not feel the overwhelming urge to ‘personalise’ their device; women may alter the default settings to make their device invisible (for a more ‘natural’ approach to these possible explanations, see Gizmodo’s posting).  

My conclusion: Until we know more background information about these folk the survey will remain highly suspect. But it is revealing, firstly, that so many people keep their Bluetooth devices on their default setting, that is ‘discoverable’, and don’t bother to change the default name. That would suggest that a lot of folk simply don’t know their device has Bluetooth, or don’t know about the dangers of Bluesnarfing or Bluejacking.

Secondly, either women give male names to their devices or there’s an interesting gender difference in using cellphones. Although I’d guess that women and men use their cellphones to an almost equal extent, clearly Bluetooth remains something of a nerdy feature. I’d guess that women are just as likely to alter the customisable features on their cellphone — ringtone, background image — that does not include Bluetooth. That has interesting implications for the raft of new Bluetooth social networking tools we’re seeing. It must also mean there are some seriously frustrated ‘toothing’ guys out there.

Another Way To Meet Via Bluetooth

Further to a post last week, here’s another piece of software that uses Bluetooth to as a social thing, allowing folk to find and communicate with one another.

It’s called BuZZone, it’s made by Exion Systems Company, based in Novosibirsk, Russia and although it’s been around for a few months, it now comes in a free version. Since the whole idea of the thing is to look for other people using the same program, I guess that makes sense, unless you fancy some very lonely walks around public places.

BuZZone, for now, works only with PocketPC PDAs and Windows laptops. Exion says it’s working on developing versions that work on other systems.

I’m a bit skeptical, to be honest. I know that toothing is supposedly taking off in a big way in the UK. But you’re going to need a lot of people to download this kind of thing before it really starts to be worth it. But hey, I’ve been wrong tons of times before!

Blind Dating By Bluetooth Goes Live

Further to my column on bluesnarfing, a Marseilles company called Kangourouge has launched a service which, as far as I can work out, uses the same sort of Bluetooth vulnerability catalogued by AL Digital and others, namely Bluejacking.

It’s called ProxiDating (interestingly, Google doesn’t like the word and suggests ‘peroxidation’ instead, which is presumably the excuse one offers if the first date doesn’t work out, as in ‘Sorry I can’t go out with you tonight I’m in a Domestic Hair Peroxidation Situation’.) Anyway, the blurb says:

Using bluetooth technology, ProxiDating allows you to meet people with common interests in pubs, restaurants, shops, clubs, discos, sports arenas, in fact, almost anywhere !

ProxiDating is a totally new way for single people to meet up instantly. All you need to do is install ProxiDating on your mobile phone, create your profile, enable bluetooth and wait for your dream date to appear. Whenever you come within about 15m of a person with a matching profile your phone will alert you !

Only people with matching profiles will be linked via their phones. ProxiDating automatically sends the text and image that you have defined to your potential date. In the same way, you will receive text and image from the matched partners phone… then its up to you…

Imagine, you are crossing the street when the girl/boy of your dreams passes before you, your phone buzzes and their face appears on your phone’s screen…

The website doesn’t offer much, so far, and most of the few pages there are, are empty.

Now I know people have been talking about this kind of service for a while, but I believe this might be the first to go live. Something called Serendipity was mentioned a few weeks back as a MIT Media Lab project but I haven’t seen anything hit the streets yet. (I’m ready to stand corrected on this, although I gave the MIT website a look.)

As pointed out elsewhere, this kind of system is not going to be popular with the service providers, not because it’s insecure, but because it’s not likely to make them any money. The software is network independent, since the interaction requires only the users to input their data and ‘find’ each other using Bluetooth. No network, no pinging back to the network to update or match profiles, no large amounts of money.

Which explains why the software costs $5. It’s a commercial version of the Brits’ own toothing fad, I guess.

Bluetooth And The Art Of Sex

Is Bluetooth helping Brits meet each other and have sex?

Apparently, according to WIRED, which reports on a new craze called ‘toothing’ (couldn’t they have come up with something sexier?). Toothing involves using the Bluetooth feature in a cellphone — used to transfer data between one Bluetooth device and another, without wires — to send messages to another cellphone within range (across a room, say.)

What the toothers do, apparently, is to spot someone else messing with their cellphone on a train, a mall or, somewhat unromantically, in a carpark, and then send them a message using this feature (via a trick called Bluejacking, or its more criminal cousin, Bluesnarfing). They then converse via SMS, or text, hook up and have sex. It sounds a bit like the letters pages in Penthouse.

There’s even a website dedicated to toothing (intriguingly, the Google context-aware ads that appear at the top of the site seem as confused as I: They are all about teeth whitening).

Now I have to express a bit of scepticism about this, it being so close to April 1 and all that. The story says that “when a Bluetooth phone locates another, it can see the name that the device’s owner has given it. And most, though not all, toothers use names that in one way or another betray their gender.” Is that true? In my experiments with Bluejacking, if you try to ‘discover’ other devices, the only results you will get are likely to be the name of the device (Nokio 7650, or whatever). But maybe that’s not the case everywhere.

Still, there’s no denying that Bluetooth has brought a bit of romance into people’s lives. A service called Serendipity will sniff out other phones and, if their owners are using the service, look to see whether the two people are compatible based on its database, according to the Daily Telegraph.