Bluetooth chips will get a much-needed upgrade, aimed at making the wireless technology more popular and more secure, later this year.

Bluetooth is embedded in over 1 billion devices, from mobile phones to keyboards and mice, but may be used by as little as 30 percent of those that have such a device, said Kevin Keating, senior marketing manager for the Bluetooth Special Interest Group.

The forthcoming Bluetooth Version 2.1 + Enhanced Data Rate is focused on ease of use, improved performance, and power savings. Keating said the Bluetooth SIG, made up of more than 7,000 vendors in telecommunications, computing, and consumer electronics, hopes that the ease of use will spur more adoption by end users.

Improved pairing will allow Bluetooth users to connect to another Bluetooth-enabled device in two to three steps rather than the previous version, which could actually take as many as 20 steps to connect two devices, said Keating. The pairing now automates securing the link and authenticating the devices.

Pairing also offers protection against so-called "man-in-the-middle" attacks.

In a demonstration, Keating snapped a picture with a Bluetooth mobile phone and paired it to a portable printer. It took only one click on the phone to accept the pairing before the printer printed out the picture.

Power consumption was also reduced by about five times using improved algorithms that put the chip to sleep when not in use. This will improve uptime for Bluetooth keyboards and mice, two of the most used Bluetooth devices.

Devices with Version 2.1 will be backward-compatible with older Bluetooth devices.

The future roadmap includes the use of ultra-wideband technology that will create a "Bluetooth channel" interoperable with ultra-wideband technology, according to the Bluetooth SIG.

Version 2.1 is expected to ship to device manufacturers in two months.