What is Bluetooth?

I’m sure you’ve used Bluetooth technology; in your car or connecting your cell phone, tablet, or laptop to speakers, air pods, or wireless devices.

Quick Answer
Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard for exchanging data over short distances (using short-wavelength UHF radio waves in the ISM band at 2.4 GHz) from fixed and mobile devices. It creating personal area networks (PANs) with a high level of security.

How Does Bluetooth Work?

This wireless technology allows two devices to connect to each other and exchange data over a short distance, typically a maximum of 30 feet, but less the more objects are between the two devices.

bluetooth wireless technology

It constantly switches frequencies to keep the connection secure. This is a low-power, low-cost way to connect electronic devices.

To get into specifics, these networks (also called piconets) use a master and slave model to decide when and where data is sent.

A master device (like a cell phone) can be connected to multiple slave devices, while a slave device can only be connected to one master device. Master devices send and request data, while slave devices can only transmit and receive data.

How Does it Affect Battery Life?

Although your Bluetooth signal is always trying to pair to your devices, it doesn’t actually drain as much power as you would think. It consumes about 1.8% more battery than if you had disconnected Bluetooth.

It uses a similar amount of batter as having WIFI on when you’re not connected to a network. This adds up to about 10-15 minutes in a day.

Even if you’re connected and using Bluetooth for hours, say to stream music, it still doesn’t drain your phone’s battery significantly, thanks to Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE).  When Bluetooth first came out in the 90’s, it did have a bigger impact on batteries (which have also changed a lot since then), but the common misconception still exists today.

It’s still a good idea, in my opinion, to disconnect from Bluetooth when you’re not using it. That way your devices aren’t searching for other electronics to connect to but it really doesn’t affect your battery life.

How Secure is the Connection?

Devices connected through Bluetooth are considered very secure from hackers. They use “frequency hopping spread spectrum,”  meaning the signal hops to different frequencies, hundreds of times per second, keeping the connection secure from intruders.

Despite this, your phone, tablet, laptop and other wireless connected electronics are still vulnerable to identity theft, hackers, and tracking. Monitor your data usage, use encryption, regularly check for apps that you haven’t installed, and use a RF blocking pouch to completely block any unwanted access to your devices.

What Is The Range?

The range of a device is determined by its power class. There are three power classes that give different max ranges, the maximum range in this wireless technology is 100 meters. Most of the devices we use on a daily basis have a maximum range of 30 feet. Bluetooth has always been intended to be short range communication.

Class 1 – Max output Power 20 dBm – Max Range 100m

Class 2 – Max output Power 4 dBm – Max Range 10 m

Class 3 – Max output Power 0 dBm – Max Range 10 cm

What is The Frequency?

This short range wireless technology operates on a frequency of 2.402 GHz to 2.48 GHz. This is the same wavelength WIFI operates at, as well as your router, microwave, smart technology, garage door opener, and fluorescent light bulbs.

This is within the regulated ISM band (industrial scientific and medical band) of the radio band, specifically reserved for radio frequency (RF). Being on this frequency means we don’t have to licence all our devices.

What Are The Benefits?

The convenience and benefits of Bluetooth technology are apparent in the vast number of people who use it daily. Allowing for easy hands-free operation of your devices and easy movement without being attached to wires.

Connecting wireless to your car, watch, earbuds, mouse, keyboard, gamepad, smart glasses, printer, smart technology around your home or office, and more.

You can use it to conveniently transfer files wireless, set up your own Personal Area Network (PAN) and tether or connect to the internet.

People use Bluetooth technology for livestock, pet or kid trackers, with a collar or device on their animals or kids connected to their cell phone to track their location. It’s also used to track keys, your wallet, personal items, or luggage.

It’s affordable, universal, has limited interference, easy to set up and automatically connects. It’s the wireless standard, meaning it’s compatible with nearly all wireless devices.

What Are the Drawbacks?

The biggest drawback of Bluetooth technology is the exposure to radio frequency electromagnetic radiation and the risks associated with that, especially given the amount of devices around you constantly trying to connect, and the close proximity to your body (ie. your air pods and phone).

Other drawbacks include; the limited range, low bandwidth, the possible risk of identity theft and hacking, and that it uses a proprietary protocol, which means that it is not an open standard like WiFi.

I’m sure we’ve all had devices that will just not pair, so there’s inconvenience and frustration in difficulty connecting at times.

With so many devices on the 2.4GHz frequency band (WIFI, microwaves, smart home devices, and fluorescent bulbs all operate here), you’re bound to get interference, interruptions, and possible disconnections.

Who Developed this Technology?

Jaap C. Haartsen, a native of the Netherlands, developed the foundations for the system now known as Bluetooth Wireless Technology in 1994 while working at Ericcson, in the mobile phone division.

He also help found the Special Interest Group (SIG) with corporations Ericcson, Nokia, and Intel in 1998, and was chairman until 2000, helping to create the standardization for the Bluetooth interface, and developing worldwide regulatory approval.

Origins of the Name

The name came from King Harald “Bluetooth” Gormsson, who united Denmark and Norway in the year 958 (like the technology unites your devices) and who also had a dead tooth that was dark blue in colour, giving him his nickname.

This name was only meant to be a nickname or code name until their marketing teams could come up with something catchy.

The options presented were RadioWire or PAN (Personal Area Networking), and a full trademark searched couldn’t be conducted in time for launch of the new technology so Bluetooth won by default.

A name now synonymous with short range wireless technology. The logo is a combination of symbols from runes for Gormmson’s initials ᚼ and ᛒ.

What Were the First Accessories?

The first Bluetooth device was a wireless headset in 1999 by Ericcson, connected to an Ericcson mobile phone. It won “Best of show Technology Award” at COMDEX and was sought after as many countries were starting to ban talking and driving.

The first wireless headphones for music were developed around 2004, while the first Bluetooth mouse, keyboard, and printer came out in the early 2000s and the first Bluetooth-enabled MP3 player came out in 2003.

Who Owns the Technology?

Bluetooth technology is owned by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). SIG is a not-for-profit trade association that was formed in 1998 by Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia and Toshiba.

SIG is responsible for promoting Bluetooth technology and overseeing its development. The Bluetooth SIG includes over 30,000 member companies, and the Bluetooth trademark is registered in more than 170 countries.

Bluetooth and EMF

Bluetooth falls into the same category as WIFI when it comes to electromagnetic radiation. It produces RF (radio frequency) waves at 2.4 GHz, which is a non ionizing form of radiation.

It switches frequencies hundreds of times per second and is constantly trying to pair with other Bluetooth devices, meaning the signal is constant as long as it’s turned on and coming from any number of devices around your home or in public.

Bluetooth is semi-permeable which means that the while the strength of the signal may be diminished when passing through obstacles, it is still possible for the signal to be picked up on the other side.

Some research states that it doesn’t have enough energy to harm our DNA while other research shows they can measure the effects on living organisms and has been linked to negative health effects.

Devices connected to this wireless technology are now being used constantly, think of the office manager or teenager with wireless Bluetooth earbuds in their ear all day long, with a wireless signal literally inside their head.

If you are currently using air pods or wireless headphones, please check out my air tube headsets page to switch to a safer option.

Is Bluetooth Harmful?

The answer to this questions depends on where you look and who you ask. The research is mixed and when it comes to the human health there is no definitive proof it causes harm. But at the same time there isn’t any definitive proof that there aren’t any potential risk to human health either.

References

https://www.lifewire.com/what-is-bluetooth-2377412

https://www.samsung.com/uk/support/mobile-devices/what-is-bluetooth/

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