What Is Bluetooth Technology Used For?

Bluetooth is a short-range radio transmission system that is useful for sending data between electronic devices. Developed in the mid-1990s, Bluetooth has become an almost ubiquitous feature of many different types of electronic devices. Today it is at the center of efforts toward wireless communication between devices. Despite its popularity, lingering concerns about the security of transmissions sent using Bluetooth surround the technology.
What Is Bluetooth Technology Used For?

Initial PurposesBluetooth was developed in 1994 by Swedish engineers Jaap Haartsen and Sven Mattisson. Four years after developing the protocol, the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) was founded, allowing companies with a stake in producing Bluetooth-capable devices to synchronize their efforts and use a common standard. At the time Bluetooth was designed, Haartsen and Mattisson were employed by Ericsson Mobile Platforms. The initial vision for Bluetooth was that it would provide a wireless alternative to RS232 data cables, which were then common for connecting computers to monitors and printers.

Computer printer

Use on Cell PhonesAs Bluetooth technology was refined and new versions of the operating protocol were offered, its potential as a telecommunications medium became apparent. Cell phone manufacturers joined Bluetooth SIG and began using the technology to allow cell phones to function with wireless hands-free devices, such as headsets. In these cases, Bluetooth’s short range and low power requirements were ideal. Cell phone users could keep their phone in their pocket or nearby, and a headset could receive and send a wireless signal. Since there was little need for the signal to travel more than a few feet, even the lowest-powered Bluetooth class (known as Class 3, with an effective range of 1 meter) could be used, thus requiring only minimal power from the cell phone’s battery. For other applications, the Class 2 (10 meter) and Class 1 (100 meter) options are more practical, though the devices involved require more power to send and receive a signal.

Bluetooth technology

Bluetooth Computer AccessoriesWhile cell phones were one of the first consumer devices to make heavy use of Bluetooth technology, computer accessories were not far behind. Mice, keyboards, printers, and in some cases PDAs and speakers were all built with internal Bluetooth adapters, allowing them to communicate wirelessly with a nearby computer that was similarly equipped. While most major computer manufacturers began including Bluetooth adapters on their new models, USB Bluetooth dongles went on the market as an easy way to add Bluetooth capability to any computer with a USB port. Besides being used for the communication between a computer and its accessories, Bluetooth is also useful for communication between computers, as long as the amount of data being sent between computers remains small.

Bluetooth mouse

Other UsesBluetooth technology continues to be applied in new situations. Bluetooth can be used as a low-speed connection to the Internet, enabling access that might otherwise have been impossible. Additionally, video game manufacturers have begun using Bluetooth. Wireless controllers for the Nintendo Wii and the Sony PlayStation 3 both use Bluetooth. Here the video game manufacturers have taken advantage of the fact that Bluetooth uses radio transmission, meaning that there is no need for a clear line of sight between the two devices (as was the case with earlier infrared-based wireless controllers). This allows users to experience a full range of motion while controlling their avatar, even if their controller is not pointed at the game console.

Bluetooth video game controller

Securing BluetoothAs with any wireless communication, the security of the data being transmitted via Bluetooth is a point of concern. Most devices must be “paired” before they will operate. This involves entering a code into both devices, and prevents similar devices to enter the network even if they are brought within range. To address some of the security concerns, in 2008, a “Guide to Bluetooth Security” was released by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The document was intended to guide manufacturers of Bluetooth devices as well as influence further developments of future Bluetooth protocols. Several terms have arisen to refer to breaches of Bluetooth networks. “Bluejacking” is defined as the transmission of unwanted data on a Bluetooth device. More dangerous is “Bluesnarfing,” which involves accessing and removing data from a Bluetooth device.


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