- Bluetooth Overview
- Full Article
Over the last several years, our electronic devices have become increasingly adept at communicating with one another. And in the world of consumer electronics, few recent innovations have had as great an impact--on our daily lives, and on the technology of communication--as Bluetooth.
Bluetooth provides an efficient and practical means of linking devices without the need for wires or an active internet connection. By sending out signals through a process called Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS), Bluetooth seamlessly establishes connections between up to 8 devices in one network. While Bluetooth was deliberately designed to work within a relatively small 32-foot radius, the signal nonetheless carries through walls and other dividers with ease, making it ideal for connecting all of the devices in your home.
Bluetooth technology is now found in a wide range of consumer electronics, including personal computers, televisions, and cell phones, all of which can easily integrate with dedicated Bluetooth devices like headsets, speakers, and car adapters. This integration translates to easier and more efficient sharing of information, as well as enhanced mobility for those always on the go. Better yet, Bluetooth requires very little energy and functions automatically, so communication between devices is seamless, fast, and doesn't drain battery life. If you aren't using Bluetooth already, try it today, and open up a whole new conversation between the technologies in your life.
Over the last several years, our electronic devices have become increasingly adept at communicating with one another. And in the world of consumer electronics, few recent innovations have had as great an impact--on our daily lives, and on the technology of communication--as Bluetooth. Most are familiar with Bluetooth technology in some sense--even if you don't use it yourself, you've probably seen it in action in the form of a hands-free headset, or maybe heard it through a car stereo. But odds are you've also been around the technology in other applications without ever having been aware of it.
The name Bluetooth can actually tell us a great deal about the concept behind the technology, and about what the designers originally set out to accomplish. Harold Bluetooth, one of history's great uniters, was a 10th century Norwegian king known for bringing together a number of dissonant tribes under a single, cooperative kingdom. Similarly, Bluetooth technology was designed to unite the channels of communication between devices, to enhance compatibility and simplify connections between the many tasks that have come to make up modern life.
There are, of course, a number of other ways that devices can communicate with one another: various cables, WiFi, and Infrared signals provide the means of connection for many consumer electronics, each with its own preferred applications and advantages. But Bluetooth provided a unique solution to many of their limitations, and has proven ideally suited for use with cell phones and related technologies.
How does Bluetooth work?
Bluetooth functions through a process called Frequency Hopping Spread Spectrum (FHSS). FHSS allows devices to send out a series of low-power radio waves over a rapidly changing set of frequencies. Because the frequency changes so quickly (roughly 1,600 times a second), and because signals are kept relatively short (at around a 32-ft radius), the chance of interference is extremely small.
These safeguards allow Bluetooth devices to communicate near-constantly and automatically--meaning that without any work on your part, a Bluetooth can quickly and efficiently begin a 'conversation' with any other enabled devices in its signal range, and quickly discern whether or not those devices have something to share.
Bluetooth technology has a wide range of applications, but the most common consumer uses are:
- Wireless connections between cell phones and hands-free headsets
- Exchanges of files, contacts, and time-sensitive reminders between devices
- Wireless connections between cell phones and compatible car stereo systems
- Wireless communications between personal computers and related hardware (mouses, keyboards, printers etc.)
- Transfers between personal computers in a confined spaces
It's important to note that these applications aren't necessarily separate. Bluetooth allows simultaneous connection between up to 8 devices, in what's generally referred to as a "piconet" (a small, functional network formed between devices). But what does this mean in a practical sense?
In the well-equipped, modern home, one might find half a dozen Bluetooth-equipped devices within a single room. A laptop, a television, a Blu-Ray player, a cordless phone, a receiver--all are likely to use Bluetooth, and all are capable of conversing. Once an initial network is created--between the cordless phone and its handset, let's say--a series of conversations will begin between all of the devices within range. Almost immediately, you have the capability to link virtually every device in your home, synchronizing files, reminders, preferences--all the things that make your devices your own.
Bluetooth vs. WiFi:
The most important distinctions between Bluetooth and WiFi have to do with power. Unlike WiFi, Bluetooth is designed to work on an extremely small amount of energy, making it much better suited for cell phones and other small devices, where extended battery life is paramount. Of course, WiFi's greater power requirements translate to faster and larger transfers of information, but Bluetooth nonetheless operates smoothly and quickly in all of its conventional applications.
The absence of wires is only the beginning. For those of us permanently attached to our cell phones, Bluetooth headsets, speakerphones, and car adapters provide an easy and simple way of increasing the comfort and ease of our daily interactions. With even greater integration--between personal computers, phones, televisions, and the like--the need to repeat our interactions with devices is eliminated, and a variety of complicated tasks become infinitely simpler. The advantages extend into the realm of entertainment, where Bluetooth provides an easy way to manage our favorite audio and video content, keep track of programming, and share what we love.