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A Look at Bluetooth Technology and Advancements

February 22, 2016 No Comments

Featured blog by Jessica Oaks, Independent Technology Author

Even if you don’t own a Bluetooth device yourself, you’ve likely heard the term before. After all, the phrase is everywhere. With each passing day, it seems that some new gadget, device, or product is being sold with “Bluetooth” in its name. Bluetooth thermostat? You got it. Bluetooth speaker? Check! Bluetooth record player? Old and new come together. Bluetooth in your car? Now a standard feature in many models. Suffice to say, you can’t escape Bluetooth.

And yet, if you’re not familiar with this technology, it can be hard to make heads and tails of it. For the uninitiated, this begs the question…

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a standard for wireless communication. You can’t purchase products manufactured by Bluetooth, as there are none. The Bluetooth special interest group (or SIG) – established by Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Toshiba and Nokia – merely helps foster the standard’s adoption and promote its use. In this way, Bluetooth is similar to VHS, DVD, and Blu-Ray. Manufacturers develop products that accord with these standards for the purpose of universal accessibility. Just as a vinyl record or digital video disc might be manufactured by dozens, if not hundreds, of separate companies, Bluetooth devices are also produced by multiple manufacturers.

How Does it Work?

Bluetooth communication works using radio waves. This allows Bluetooth devices to connect to computers, phones, and other devices without the use of wires or cords. Each Bluetooth-enabled device contains a small computer chip, along with related software, that allows it to communicate with other devices – this is what enables it to connect.

For Bluetooth devices to work, there must be a WiFi or wireless network present. The Bluetooth devices can then communicate with one another over short range, using ad hoc connections or networks known as piconets. These networks help facilitate all types of communication – from fitness trackers and smartphones sharing data between each other, to MP3 players and wireless speakers syncing several rooms apart.

What is the Next Generation?

Perhaps most obvious, you can expect Bluetooth networks to become faster. In fact, the goal is for Bluetooth to increase its speed by 100 percent in 2016, in anticipation of the much larger burden that will soon be placed on the Internet of Things (basically, everything that requires an Internet connection that isn’t your computer). As more and more people stream music to wireless speakers, talk to their cars and homes via smartphone, and connect any two devices together wirelessly, the need for extra speed is going to become paramount.

You can also expect the distance at which Bluetooth devices are able to connect to increase. One development currently underway is a type of mesh network. With mesh networking, Bluetooth devices can connect in such a way that they cover an entire home or building. The commercial and personal applications of such a feature are nearly limitless. With a mesh network in place, an entire hospital, for example, could have a Bluetooth connection. Any related devices could then be used throughout the facility.

The Internet of Things is Here

Bluetooth allows anything and everything to be connected. Think of the potential applications: Nike could install fitness trackers in every pair of its shoes, making bands like Nike Fuel and FitBit redundant and unnecessary; speaker manufacturers could stop producing wired speakers altogether, and make setting up a home theater easier than ever; and talking to your car with your phone could be as easy as talking to your printer from your laptop. Put simply, it’s not hyperbole to state that Bluetooth advancements are set to shape the way we interact with technology in the future.

With providers like T-Mobile offering unlimited data, and Bluetooth devices using almost no energy, there’s no reason that the entire world can’t be connected. Because Bluetooth works across short-range networks, it is energy efficient and affordable. And it is already a universally recognized and widely adopted standard. If the PC and laptop defined technology in the 1990s, and the smartphone came to define the 2000s, it might be accurate to say that Bluetooth – originally conceived of in 1989 – will come to define the 2010s and beyond.

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