Does Bluetooth have a future? – Essential Guide

Bluetooth, the wireless radio technology for short distance mobile communications, has become pervasive in mobile computing, used in laptops and headsets as well as popular smart phones such as the BlackBerry, and even in Radio Frequency identification (RFID) readers.

Bluetooth, the wireless radio technology for short distance mobile communications, has become pervasive in mobile computing, used in laptops and headsets as well as popular smart phones such as the BlackBerry, and even in Radio Frequency identification (RFID) readers.

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a wireless radio technology, based on an industry open standards set of specifications. The Bluetooth wireless protocol was designed to exchange data over short distances from fixed and mobile devices, to create personal area networks (PANs) – also called piconets. Up to seven Bluetooth devices can be used to create a piconet.

Bluetooth was originally conceived as a wireless alternative to RS232 data cables, and can be used to connect several devices together, overcoming problems of synchronisation.

What are Bluetooth's key features?

The key features of Bluetooth technology are robustness, low power, and low cost, and the fact that it has become a universal standard for exchanging data amongst a range of fixed and mobile devices.

In addition, Bluetooth wireless technology has the ability to simultaneously handle both data and voice transmissions.

This means that users can use a variety of applications such as a hands-free headset for voice calls, printing and fax capabilities, and synchronizing PDAs, laptop, and mobile phone applications.

What devices is Bluetooth used in?

Bluetooth technology offers a way to connect and exchange information between wide varieties of devices.

These include mobile phones, telephones, laptops, PCs, printers, Global Positioning System (GPS) receivers, digital cameras, and video game consoles.

Who created Bluetooth?

The Bluetooth specifications were developed and licensed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), and continue to be developed by the industry partners who make up the SIG.

The Bluetooth SIG consists of companies in the areas of telecommunication, computing, networking, and consumer electronics.

Why the name Bluetooth?

The word Bluetooth is an anglicized version of Old Norse ‘Blátönn’ or Danish ‘Blåtand’, according to Wikipedia.

This was the name of the tenth-century king Harald I of Denmark who united dissonant Danish tribes into a single kingdom. The implication is that Bluetooth does the same with communications protocols, uniting them into one universal standard.

How does Bluetooth work?

Bluetooth uses a radio technology which is called frequency-hopping spread spectrum. It works by chopping up the data that is being sent, and transmitting sections of it on up to 79 frequencies.

Spread-spectrum is good for several reasons. Firstly, the signals are very resistant to narrowband interference, which means the transmissions are more likely to reach their destination quickly and intact.

Spread-spectrum transmissions can share a frequency band with many types of conventional transmissions with minimal interference.

Also, spread-spectrum signals are also very difficult to intercept, making the technology relatively secure – except for some early security issues.

What is the data rate and range of Bluetooth?

The data transfer rate of Bluetooth technology varies depending on the version. Version 1.2 offers up to 1Mbps. Version 2.0 + Enhanced Data Rate (EDR) offers up to 3Mbps, and data can be transferred at up to 24Mbps for Version 3.0 + High Speed (HS) enabled devices.

Version 3.0 + HS was adopted in April 2009. Version 2.1 + EDR was adopted in July 2007.

As for the operating range, this also varies depending on the class of the Bluetooth device.

Class 3 radios have a range of up to 1 metre or 3 feet; class 2 radios, which are most commonly found in mobile devices, have a range of 10 metres or 33 feet.

Class 1 radios, used primarily in industrial use cases, have a range of 100 metres or 300 feet.

What is the future of Bluetooth?

The future of Bluetooth looks strong, with initiatives underway for higher throughput, more ubiquitous usage and links with Wifi and Ultra Wideband (UWB) broadcast technology.

Operating systems such as the Mac OS and Windows continue to have native support for Bluetooth.

The Bluetooth SIG partners are working on enabling Bluetooth information points, to enable advertising models based around users pulling information from ‘information points’, rather than having to ‘push’ information out.

Other emerging features include Bluetooth in cars; automatic configuration of piconets; and quality of service (QoS) improvements, for example enabling audio and video data to be transmitted at a higher quality.

 

This was last published in August 2009

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