Bitten by Bluetooth
23. February, 2004
Bluetooth is a wireless technology that was designed to free us from cables between mobile devices, computers and their peripherals. You can connect, for example, a mobile phone and a headset, a computer and a PDA, or a camera phone and a color printer wirelessly with Bluetooth. Bluetooth can make your mobile life easier if you already know in what way you intend to use it. Otherwise, this new technology may be tricky and time consuming when it comes to troubleshooting.
The Bluetooth logo or another symbol indicates that a device is ready to receive and send data over Bluetooth.
The Bluetooth organization was established by mobile industry leaders to specify a technology to replace infrared connections and data cables between mobile devices, computers and their peripherals. Another important factor was to achieve low cost for the required hardware components in order to make Bluetooth a standard feature in electronic devices. The data transfer speed and the distance over which the signal carries over high-frequency radio waves were specified with those two factors in mind and the result was 1 Mbps for data speed and 10 meters (30 feet) for distance.
Bluetooth doesn’t replace network cables or WLAN (Wireless Lan) cards in computers or PDAs. It is also not intended to be a networking technology, but a close range device-to-device wireless data transfer mechanism. Since no service providers are involved, using Bluetooth is absolutely free.
The first commercial Bluetooth products for sale were wireless mobile phone headsets that allowed phones to be left in a bag or on a table while talking. Today, Bluetooth can be found in many products, such as:
- Printers: HP Deskjet 450 and Deskjet 995c.
- Digital TV set-top boxes, such as the Nokia Mediamaster 230, may show the way for television remote controls of the future. The Nokia Mediamaster can communicate over Bluetooth with camera phones and display photos transmitted from phones on the TV screen.
- Digital cameras. There are already some models with built-in Bluetooth, but the data transfer speed is not quite fast enough for transferring high quality photos.
Compatibility sometimes causes problems when trying to connect Bluetooth devices from different vendors. We recommend testing your preferred combination of Bluetooth devices before buying. Once you find something that works for you, it is a great experience to be rid of cables and forget about positioning of infrared lights between devices.
Sharing information with friends. Images, music or other documents can easily be shared with friends who have Bluetooth phones, PDAs or computers. Some objects, such as ring tones or software products, may be copy-protected and can’t be shared at all. Glitches between different manufacturers’ devices still occur. When we tried to send images between Sony Ericsson P900 and Nokia 6600 smartphones via Bluetooth, they failed to communicate altogether.
Wireless mobile phone headset. There are differences in the sound quality of headsets, so test the product before you buy it. Also, walking around and looking like there was a Babel fish (as described in the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy) sticking out of your ear may give some people second thoughts.
Connecting a mobile device to a computer. Synchronization of information between your mobile device and computer is truly convenient with Bluetooth. Once installed, you can walk over to your computer with the mobile device still in your bag and the synchronization will start automatically. Only the latest computer models come with built-in Bluetooth hardware as an option. All other computers need a Bluetooth card or an USB dongle and our experience with these add-on Bluetooth adapters is somewhat painful. A 40 Euro dongle may work better than a 130 Euro PCMCIA card and it’s possible that none of them work on a Windows 98 computer. Once again, test the combination of devices you want to use over Bluetooth.
A low-cost USB dongle that enables Bluetooth communication for this laptop computer.
Printing from a handheld. No more do you need to transfer a photo stored in your camera phone to a computer for printing. A small piece of software must be installed in your handheld, but from there on, it is easy to wirelessly print directly to Bluetooth capable printers.
Originally, Bluetooth was just a code name for the industry initiative, but the name stuck with the technology. The name dates back to 10th century, when a Danish king, Harald Bluetooth, ruled the whole of Northern Europe. Although the name doesn’t have anything to do with the technology, it is definitely easier to remember than an industry acronym, such as UMTS, or GPRS.
Bluetooth will make our mobile lives easier as a general-purpose wireless connectivity technology by being available in wide selection of electronic devices. Compatibility of devices is quickly improving and if you have an opportunity of acquiring a device with Bluetooth, get it. Today, Bluetooth can already be used for specific connectivity applications, but test your setup with actual products before purchasing the equipment.