Kodak Forms Company To Rival Bluetooth Wireless Protocol - InformationWeek

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Kodak Forms Company To Rival Bluetooth Wireless Protocol

Appairent Technologies Inc. will develop small radio transceivers to be embedded into electronic products that will transmit data at rapid speeds over a wireless personal area network.

Eastman Kodak Co. is forming a company to develop small radio transceivers to be embedded into cell phones, PDAs, and other electronic products that will transmit data at rapid speeds over a wireless personal area network, or WPAN.

The new company, Appairent Technologies Inc., will employ technology and patents from Kodak to develop the transceivers that use the more muscular 802.15 WPAN protocol instead of the competing Bluetooth. Bluetooth, a wireless protocol that is used to transmit wireless data across short ranges, can handle the power-hungry demands of today's mobile electrical devices, but is limited to transmitting data at speeds of 1 Mbps, says Dennis DeLeo, general partner at Trillium Group LLC, parent company of the Monroe Fund that has provided venture capital for Appairent. "Our products will be like Bluetooth on steroids, with speeds up to 50 times faster," he says. Transmission speed becomes important when customers want to send large graphic files, such as digital photos or video.

Neither Kodak nor Monroe would divulge the amount of their investment in Appairent, but Monroe generally provides capital in the range of $250,000 to $1 million for startup, early-stage, and turnaround companies. DeLeo says he expects to see a product available for sale within one year and a return on its investment within four years, which he says is average for early-stage investments. Appairent is operating with a staff of six, half from Kodak. Ted Wurzburg, Trillium's entrepreneur-in-residence, will be Appairent's CEO. Wurzburg has held executive posts at startup and established companies, including Nortel Networks, VoiceWeb, and Wang Laboratories. Robert Heile, who has specialized in WPANs at BBN Technologies, GTE, and Verizon, joins Appairent as chief technology officer.

Wireless investments by venture capital companies have been a little more resilient than for basic telecoms, in terms of receiving investment capital, says Kirk Walden, national director of venture capital research at PricewaterhouseCoopers. For the first nine months of last year, he says, wireless investments totaled about $687 million, about 10% of the entire communications and networking category. Says Walden, "We expect to see that trend continue as wireless seems to hold more opportunities than traditional communications.

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