It's Like Bluetooth, But Without All The Pain

from the all-hail-progress dept

The Bluetooth wireless communications technology has become commonplace these days -- almost in spite of itself. While Bluetooth can be exceptionally useful for short-range communications, it can also be an enormous pain to use, in particular because of the pairing process users must go through to connect devices for the first time. Enter the new TransferJet standard, which is being backed by a number of digital camera makers who want to simplify the transfer of images and video. TransferJet can operate at speeds up to 357Mbps, 100 times faster than Bluetooth, and it doesn't require any pairing, it simply kicks in automatically and begins transfers when a compatible device is placed within 2 millimeters of the "transfer area" of a receiving device, like a PC. The cumbersome pairing process from Bluetooth has been replaced simply by proximity -- the thinking is that if a device like a camera can be placed within 2mm of a receiving device, the owner is okay with the transfer. While obviously this sort of security doesn't work in every scenario, it's good to see engineers learning from the usability foibles of previous technologies.


Reader Comments (rss)

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    NotBob, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 6:57pm

    Yikes.

    I don't even work in security but I can still see this is a security breach waiting to happen. 2mm sounds like a really close range but hacks are bound to happen that will open that distance up to something easily achieved. They will have to put some sort of approval method into the spec or the devices. Or maybe I'm just being overly alarmist.

     

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    William Hayes, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 7:04pm

    New Transfer Technology

    So, If I'm sitting next to a passenger at a prominate airport and her carry-on has a camera in it, me with my PC, I can download the photos her camera has in it, say, the pictures the husband took of his wife hanging out in the shower... ...that would make computer wallpaper have zest.
    I prefer the pairing, where both units say, OK using a mutual password. although, I like the over 10mb transfer... 375mb is better but not a 1Gb, yet.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 9:08pm

      Re: New Transfer Technology

      Do you know how far 2mm is? You'd have to like, press your PC up against her bag and HOPE that the camera is directly on the other side flat against the wall of the bag.

       

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        mobiGeek, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 11:01pm

        Re: Re: New Transfer Technology

        ...And the camera is turned on, and it is set in "sharing mode".

        Nothing says that this new protocol is "always on". Just that when it's on that the pairing process is simply a proximity check.

         

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 7:14pm

    I want to just use wires.

     

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    zm, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 7:24pm

    easy fix....

    just require a button press on the device for the transfer to start.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 7:38pm

    Really useful?

    Would this really be useful? If you have to get the two devices to within 2 mm of each other, couldn't you just go the extra 2 mm and actually connect them? It seems silly to me. Carlo may see this as good engineering thinking but I would disagree.

     

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      Urza, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 7:45pm

      Re: Really useful?

      I think the idea is that it has to get within 2mm to _connect_. After that you can move it away. So it'd be more like a barcode scanner - swipe your camera past the pad and all your data gets downloaded. Sounds pretty simple, secure enough for most uses, and quite convenient. I do like zm's idea of adding some way to require the device's approval. I mean, I see no point in requiring your approval to download things - I mean, sure, you could be downloading viruses, but I'm sure that could be dealt with. Just make the files not executable or sandbox them or install a friggin' antivirus program. The real problem is your device giving random people data. So make your device say 'are you sure?'. You computer doesn't really need to too.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 4:03pm

        Re: Re: Really useful?

        I think the idea is that it has to get within 2mm to _connect_. After that you can move it away.
        Yeah, according to their web site it has "a short 3cm transmission distance". That's like what, a little over an inch? Big whoop.
        I mean, I see no point in requiring your approval to download things - I mean, sure, you could be downloading viruses, but I'm sure that could be dealt with.
        they also say "Users can specify and restrict which other devices can be connected by TransferJet." So it sounds like you don't have to "pair" devices, you have to "authorize" them instead. big difference?

         

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 9:10pm

      Re: Really useful?

      because you can just put your camera on a little dish instead of having wires hanging around. You can just take your camera out of your pocket and put it down and bam, transfer files instead of trying to fiddle with the little connectors or reaching behind your computer if you don't have an open USB port or don't always keep your wire connected due to infrequent use.

       

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        Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 3:19pm

        Re: Re: Really useful?

        because you can just put your camera on a little dish instead of having wires hanging around.
        I don't guess you've seen the multitude of devices that have flip-out USB connectors on them. No wires.
        You can just take your camera out of your pocket and put it down and bam, transfer files
        No exactly. You don't just "put it down and bam"; you have to precisely position it within a 2 mm area. That sounds like quite a fiddly proposition and much more difficult than mating a couple of USB connectors.
        instead of trying to fiddle with the little connectors or reaching behind your computer if you don't have an open USB port or don't always keep your wire connected due to infrequent use.
        Most computers now have front panel USB connectors. For those few that don't or that have inconvenient front panel connectors they make USB hubs that can sit on the desktop. Much easier than keeping some device positioned within a 2 mm area.

         

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    rjh, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 8:30pm

    Not just pairing; but also profiles

    While pairing could be a problem, the big issue with BT is the large number of profiles that might be unavailable for each device.

    There is no guarantee that any two Bluetooth enabled devices will talk to each other in the way that you want them to, simply because each manufacturer is free to license only the parts of the stack that they think will be used.

    Even determining what profiles are available and what they are used for can be daunting for the less technically inclined.

    Great idea, appalling implementation - mainly due to how it is licensed.

     

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    Lawrence D'Oliveiro, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 8:56pm

    Is It IPv6 Based?

    One of the major complications with Bluetooth was that it was a whole, reinvented-from-scratch protocol stack, which had to define new “profiles” for every single thing you might want to do. Why not use TCP/IP, which has been developed and refined over 20-30 years? Just make sure you’re using IPv6 addressing, to make sure you won’t run out of addresses any time soon.

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 9:16pm

    it does seem like a security risk. I suppose there could be a password to access the data on the device after it is connected to make it a little more secure.

     

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    TomK, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 9:57pm

    How do you determine 2mm?

    How does a device know when it is 2mm or less away from another TransferJet device? It has to be based on signal strength, no? If so, then anyone can develop a high powered version of this to grab content from people much farther than 2mm away

     

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    Nick, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 10:13pm

    Backwards?

     

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      Nick, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 10:22pm

      Re: Backwards?

      Sorry...
      how is this better? 'Push button on device A then push button on device B' Seems pretty easy, and more secure. How long till someone builds/mods a receiver with a 8 meter range.just walking through an air port with something like that would give you disgusting amounts of data. "then make it password protected" Great, so legit users now to put them with in 2mm and enter a password. i'd rather push two buttons or use a cable.

       

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    Anonyman, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 10:47pm

    I don't mean to sound abrasive, but...these security risks assume that the device is on. When do you keep your camera on? Do you keep it on in your bag or purse? I don't think there's a way to remotely power on somebody's device at the moment, though I could very easily be wrong.

    For there to be a security risk, the device containing the information to be swiped would have to be on. Simple solution: just turn off your camera/device whenever you're not using it.

    Now, with cellphones, that's different....

     

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      William Hayes, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 5:45am

      Re:

      Did your Camcorder come with a remote control ?
      Did your Camera ?
      My watch can turn on my Camcorder up to 300 ft away and I don't need to know what type of Camcorder it is. Casio builds really nifty watches.

       

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    Chunky Vomit, Jan 13th, 2009 @ 11:04pm

    Shit.... Now I have to clear all the junk from around my computer just so that I can bump my camera up against it to transfer files.

     

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    CM, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 12:46am

    I don't believe the 2mm is determined by signal strength. It's probably determined by timing. Put all the power you want behind it--you can't make the radio waves move faster.

    I would like it better if the initial authentication required a cable.

     

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    Liam, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 1:05am

    A Few simple options..

    A mode to set the device into public mode, where it would automatically deny all requests.


    Or a simple warning;

    [DEVICE NAME] has requested a sharing session.

    Allow - Deny

    Even have private folders on the device which are not accessible over TransferJet.


    There are many options to secure this.

     

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    BJC (profile), Jan 14th, 2009 @ 6:29am

    I suspect the technology uses magnetic proximity switches to both sense when a compatible device is close enough and to turn on the radio circuits.

    If it doesn't, it should.

     

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    StrifeJester, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 8:30am

    Easy Share

    Is anyone not realizing there would be buttons. I can't believe they would make it instant since odds are while this transferring it can't be used. Kodak has the Easy Share button. So get the device close hit the button then the easy share software kicks in and says OK anything not here transfer and anything tagged to print do so. There would still be some initial software setup after all this is just a transfer device like a usb cable. anytime wireless like this comes out people think its all magical and built in. Even after pairing BT you need to send the information or have software that initiates the transfer. If they add a spec such as Pict Bridge over this it could be very nice to walk into a photo center set you camera on the table hit the button then just go through the pictures you want and print them, they will have hardware and software to control the pictures being separated per job. The clerk for example would take your name and phone number, tell u OK start sending then all he has to do wait for your job to come out a specific output tray on the printer. I could think of a ton of other ideas for how to make practical yet secure uses of this. If any vendors read this feel free to contact me.

     

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      Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 3:55pm

      Re: Easy Share

      Is anyone not realizing there would be buttons. I can't believe they would make it instant since odds are while this transferring it can't be used. Kodak has the Easy Share button.
      From the TransferJet website: "Just touching two devices together automatically initiates transfer of files." No mention of buttons. Clear enough?

       

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    Mike, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 8:36am

    It needs some kind of security. Every manufacturer claims their system can't be read past x distance, then someone puts a very high gain antenna on and gets huge ranges. The Bluetooth rifle had a 1 mile range with an off the shelf antenna.

     

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    Dennis Savage, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 11:14am

    Too bad it's Sony. (Surprised you didn't catch that, or find it relevant.) Expect another mis-coordinated debacle a la Mini-Disc, or i.Link.

     

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    Xiera, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 11:38am

    Heh

    With most of the security options people are suggesting... why even have a 2mm range? I mean, if we're going build our security around people somehow modifying the equipment to operate over a longer distance, why not just allow people to operate over a longer distance? The security would conceivably work the same way...

     

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    Anonymous Coward, Jan 14th, 2009 @ 4:07pm

    Product Marketing

    Carlo's been reading to many product marketing press releases. Stop drinking the Kool-Aid, Carlo, before it's too late.

     

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