Mobile phone market leader Nokia has unveiled a new short-range wireless connection that is smaller and more energy-efficient than current Bluetooth technology and can be used in devices such as watches.

The new radio technology, dubbed "Wibree", can work alongside Bluetooth short-range wireless connections but use just a fraction of the power.

"It's up to ten times more energy efficient than Bluetooth," claimed Bob Iannucci, head of Nokia Research Centre.

Nokia said it had worked for five years to develop the technology and would put it through a standardisation process along with a number of other wireless technology firms.

When Wibree has become a standard, the technology would be available to anyone at the same reasonable terms.

"Our aim is to establish an industry standard faster than ever before by offering an inter-operable solution that can be commercialised and incorporated into products as quickly as possible," Mr Iannucci said.

Like Bluetooth - used to link cell phones with headsets, computers and printers to transfer calls, calendar items, documents, songs and pictures - Wibree provides a radio link of up to ten metres (30 feet) between devices.

Because of their low energy consumption, Wibree radio chips will make it possible and efficient to connect phones and other electronics devices to low-power watches, sports sensors, wireless mice or health monitors, which often have not been able to use Bluetooth technology due to its power demands.

"Bluetooth is widely used in phones. Smaller devices around the phone is where the big problems are, and we want to create the link there," said Jani Tierala, business development manager at Nokia Research Centre.

"We believe that the use-cases are relevant enough to enough firms to see the value in this," he said.

Nokia said it expected the first commercial version of the standard to be available during the second quarter of next year, while products using Wibree should follow soon after that. Nordic Semiconductor said it will be ready to ship Wibree chips by the second half of 2007.

Nokia expects devices currently connected by Bluetooth will get a dual Bluetooth-Wibree chip, while devices that are not connected now will use a Wibree-only chip.

Bluetooth technology was invented by Ericsson in the 1990s and subsequently given away to the market as an open standard.

"Bluetooth is clearly not suited to some of the cooler applications like intelligent jewellery, watches - a less power hungry, smaller, cheaper solution will open some interesting new opportunities," said Ben Wood, director at UK-based Collins Consulting.

While Bluetooth is looking for ultra high frequencies above six gigahertz for faster connections, Wibree will operate in the 2.4 gigahertz band, sharing it with many technologies.

Wibree technology would eventually add a few cents on top of current prices for Bluetooth chips, Mr Iannucci said.

Finnish-based Nokia said companies working with it on defining the standard are Broadcom, CSR, Epson, Nordic Semiconductor, Taiyo Yuden and Amer Sports unit Suunto.

"I guess the challenge is getting industry-wide support for yet another wireless standard, given the overwhelming number of standards in play at the moment its hard to see how companies can justify the R&D commitment to all of them," said Mr Wood.