Bluetooth Technology in your Home Office

The following is an article from / The Advisor
Reprinted from The San Francisco Chronicle
July 9th 2008

It seems that every new electronic device on the market claims to be Bluetooth enabled. But what exactly is Bluetooth Technology? How can it make your business more efficient? And why is it called Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a wireless technology that uses short-range radio waves to connect devices. It has a relatively limited range, about 30 feet, which limits its use to cable replacement and similar applications. It’s perfect for connecting keyboards to computers, for transferring digital photos from Bluetooth-equipped cameras, and syncing PDAs and other devices to your workstation. You can even wirelessly network printers and other peripheral devices.

But because of the limited range, it’s not a good option for running a computer network.

For now, Wi-Fi is still your best bet for unwired networking. However, Bluetooth is great at what it does; it’s reasonably fast, and uses next to no battery power. These factors add up to a wireless standard tailor-made for many of today’s consumer electronic devices.

Even with the limited distance, manufacturers seem to have no trouble finding innovative applications for Bluetooth. Cell phones, PDAs and even cars offer Bluetooth connections. Courier and delivery services are equipping their delivery drivers with Bluetooth tablets that automatically sync with computers when they return to their delivery trucks, immediately transferring package and signature data.

Bluetooth is even being used to monitor critical infrastructure elements, such as water-pumping stations. Bluetooth’s utility is limited only by manufacturers’ imaginations – and its range.

Bluetooth devices are equipped with tiny chips that transmit and receive data and voice information. These chips communicate with one another over a low radio frequency – 2.4 GHz – on a portion of the radio spectrum known as the industrial, scientific and medical bands. Radio traffic on these bands can be heavy, as they are unlicensed, but Bluetooth uses a technique called frequency-hopping to avoid interference.

Frequency-hopping means the devices are almost always changing the frequencies on which they’re transmitting and receiving. These hops are synchronized between transmitter and receiver, so communication is maintained. Frequency-hopping not only protects the data stream against interference, but also protects it from being intercepted. Because the devices are always switching channels, any eavesdropping devices on a specific channel would intercept only a small fraction of data.

Developers are already working on Bluetooth’s successor. Ultrawideband technology promises to offer personal-area networking (that’s industry-speak for short-distance networking) capability similar to Bluetooth, but much faster and much easier to use. It may even sport improved range – possibly up to 80 feet or so.|

But such is the lifecycle of new technologies; yesterday’s killer app is tomorrow’s quaint museum exhibit. Because of its extremely wide adoption by manufacturers, Bluetooth will certainly be around for a while before it’s superseded by ultrawideband or whatever the next technology is. And for now, Bluetooth is a good way to get rid of those pesky wires.

Networking no-nos

Common mistakes:
Not reaching the entire work space. Wireless signal strength will vary. Expect locations with spotty reception, and have a backup plan for reaching them.

Not changing the default password. Too many system administrators leave the default password in place, an invitation to hackers.

Not knowing how to troubleshoot. Make sure you test the system thoroughly before the installer leaves, and be sure you know what to do if something goes wrong.

Neglecting network security. Don’t even turn on your network until it has been secured.

Why Bluetooth

Harald Blåtand was a 10th-century Danish king credited with uniting the kingdoms in Denmark and Norway. Blåtand, which means “dark hair” or “dark complexion,” also translates loosely to “blue teeth.” The original Bluetooth developers, many of whom were Scandinavian, likened their quest of uniting disparate devices to Blåtand’s unification of disparate countries.