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A guide to Bluetooth

What is Bluetooth and how does it work?

Bluetooth is a type of technology used to transfer data between mobile phones, PDAs, GPS devices and laptops. It is now also being used in video game consoles and digital cameras and it is a specification that is becoming standard in many mobile devices.

The advantages are much quicker transfer speed than infra-red, low power consumption and compatibility with almost all other Bluetooth enabled devices. There have been upgrades to the Bluetooth specification recently and it is a good idea to check which specification your potential purchase has:

  • Bluetooth 1.2 - Transmissions speeds up to 721kb per second. Not many devices will use this any more.
  • Bluetooth 2.0 - Transmissions speeds up to 2.1Mbit per second
  • Bluetooth 2.1 - The same speed as 2.0, with improved pairing capability and reduced power consumption in certain modes
  • Bluetooth 3.0 - Now implemented in most devices, this has speeds above 400Mbit / s, using ultra-wideband radio signalling
  • Bluetooth 4.0 - The newest standard. Rather than improve speed and bandwidth, 4.0 focussed and massively reducing power consumption

The technology is in fact a radio standard and as such has a good range between devices which, reaching up to 100 metres in some cases, with an average expected range of 10 metres.

The uses for Bluetooth are considerable and the most common is a Bluetooth headset connected to a mobile phone but there are countless ways in which owning a Bluetooth enabled device could be advantageous:

  • Beaming data from phone to phone
  • Connecting a traditional PDA to a Bluetooth mobile phone for internet and email access
  • Synchronising your PDA wirelessly with a desktop PC
  • Connecting your PDA or mobile phone with a GPS receiver for satellite navigation
  • Printing documents via a Bluetooth printer
  • Wireless keyboards and mice can be connected to mobile devices

The possibilities are endless and new Bluetooth enabled products are being manufactured all of the time making this one of the ‘standards’ in modern mobile units.

The key difference between Bluetooth and older standards is that it does not work by line of sight and thus offers greater flexibility when connecting two devices- as long as they are within range they will talk to each other.

Setting up

When you purchase a Bluetooth device make sure you read the instruction manual to ‘pair’ your device with another. As an example a Bluetooth headset will only need to be paired once with a mobile phone and this is done by inputting the same PIN code into both devices. This creates a secure connection which should require no manual input thereafter when the devices are in range of each other. This set up creates a ‘trusted partnership’ offering the best of both worlds- security with no manual intervention. Pairing is a short process and all Bluetooth devices should come with a manual explaining the process and the required PIN code.

Security

Bluejacking is a term used to describe the unsolicited sending of text messages, images and sounds to a Bluetooth enabled device. If you leave your device with Bluetooth on and ‘discoverable’ to other Bluetooth equipment you can be liable to these unsolicited files.

At this time there is little danger but at some stage mobile viruses may be created that can potentially damage your equipment. The risks are minimal but it is worth only enabling Bluetooth when you need to use it.

It’s not Wi-Fi

Bluetooth should not be confused with Wi-Fi which is designed for larger networks to run on. Wi-Fi has a greater range, higher power requirement and is technically more secure. Bluetooth is best suited to small mobile devices due to its lower power requirement that still encompasses a secure and fast transmission specification.

If you are wondering why this technology is called Bluetooth here is the answer - it was named after Harald Bluetooth who was the king of Denmark in the 900’s. He united Denmark and a part of Norway during his reign and thus the link is made. The reason his name was chosen is because of the influence companies in the Nordic region have on this type of technology.


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