TransferJet Challenges Bluetooth

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The last time I used Bluetooth to transfer files, I had to turn both of my devices on, enable Bluetooth on both, make one device visible, scan for it from the other device, select it, enter a four digit PIN code, then re-enter it on the other device to pair them. With this kind of connective hassle, it’s little wonder that some companies are working to replace Bluetooth with something a little less inconvenient, but equally secure.

With backing from corporate giants like Sony, Canon, Kodak, Hitachi, Panasonic, Samsung and Toshiba, TransferJet would seem to be the most likely successor. It promises to replace the laborious pairing process with a quicker alternative: just hold the two devices next to each other and tell them what you want to send. Because it uses near-field communications, requiring two devices to be nearly touching, it comes with a sort of built-in security: Anyone who could steal files from you is literally standing right next to you.

I had a chance to see TransferJet in action at a tech demo at Toshiba’s booth, and the benefits and limitations of the technology were both quite apparent. Although it was operated by a technician, he clearly wasn’t pulling any wizardry to make it work. After snapping a photo of me on a demo device, he held it near a box connected to the TV, waited a few seconds, and I popped up on the big screen. No passcodes, no pairing, no pain. It’s also quite fast: one Toshiba rep told me it would realistically (not theoretically) reach transfer speeds of 380 megabits per second. Compare that to 3 megabits per second for Bluetooth 2.0 device, and you see the advantages.

Of course, the very limited range on the technology won’t allow it to replace Bluetooth headsets, remotes, or other such devices that really use the 30-foot range of the technology, but for throwing content to a notebook without wires, I can easily see TransferJet getting a solid foothold when it hits the market, hopefully some time in 2009.