Wednesday, December 12, 2007

What is Bluetooth?

What does your cell phone have to do with a 10th century Danish king?

Well, if it happens to be enabled with “Bluetooth” technology, it bears his name. Harald Bluetooth Gormson ruled Denmark and Norway in the late 900’s, and is credited with uniting much of the land that is current-day Scandinavia under one monarch.

Which is why, thousands of years later, his name has become a household word across the world.

Bluetooth technology is a way for modern electronic devices to communicate with each other without the use of wires. It basically allows one gadget to talk to and share data with another, sometimes from as much as 10 meters or more away. It’s intended for short range bursts of small amounts of information. Originally developed in southern Sweden, it was given the name of the old king because it unites different technologies of different brands and manufacturers, and allows them to work together.

So, how does that impact your cell phone?

Well, do you see those hands-free talking devices that people wear in their ears? Those are driven by Bluetooth technology. The earpiece is “paired” with a certain cellphone. That means that the two devices recognize each other and connect to each other. When you’re using one of those, the call comes in to your phone, and immediately you hear a signal in your earpiece. That alert was sent by Bluetooth. You reach up and click a button on your earpiece, and it signals back to the phone that you’re activating it and answering it. The phone connects the call, and you hear it in your earpiece. More Bluetooth. You talk, and the earpiece microphone picks up your voice, converts it to digital audio and sends it to the phone, again via Bluetooth. The phone sends it to your conversational partner, and you hear their response back in your earpiece using the same Bluetooth process, in reverse.

Meanwhile you can walk, type, use your hands, whatever you need to do.

This isn’t the only application for Bluetooth, either. Let’s look at some more:

  1. Wireless mice, keyboards and printers.

This is probably the most common use of Bluetooth outside of the cell phone technologies. Wireless mice (commonly used with laptops) and keyboards, all hooked to the computer via a Bluetooth “dongle”. These are small USB tabs that look a lot like the USB flash drive key ring thingies that people carry around to store and transport files. But instead of carrying memory, they are actually broadcasters and receivers of Bluetooth data, driving mice, keyboards, printers and other devices.

  1. Wireless headphones

When you listen to your music, do you like the cord dangling around your neck and getting tangled into everything you’re working on? No, I don’t either. A growing application for Bluetooth technology is in wireless headphones. Plug a dongle into your computer, put on your headphones and listen. Some cell phones can handle audio in Bluetooth, too, and that allows you to listen without the wires.

Need to get up and get a drink? No need to unplug your headphones. Also, many headphones that pair with cell phones also have built-in microphones so that when a phone call comes in, you don’t have to take the headphones off to talk to your friend.

  1. PDA sync

Got a Palm Pilot or a Pocket PC? Sync all your information to your computer via your Bluetooth dongle. The connection is slower than a wire, but I’ve found it to be more reliable, actually.

  1. Wireless networking between PCs

If you’ve got a few PC’s that need to be hooked up, and they’re close together, and won’t be transferring large amounts of data, a Bluetooth wireless network can work.

  1. Car Keys

Some newer cars now have Bluetooth keys. The car itself is Bluetooth enabled, and so it detects the key dongle on your key ring. It compares the codes inside, and if it recognizes it, allows access to the car.

  1. Car stereos

Again, if your cell phone, PDA, or mp3 player does Bluetooth, and your car stereo does, too, you can pair them up and play your pocket tunes in your car, just like you can with the headphones.

  1. Kiosks in Airports, etc…

Waiting for a plane? Want a magazine, book, or video on your PDA or other device? You can buy one from vending kiosks, and load it into your device using Bluetooth. Watch out, some locations are developing kiosks to send ads to your device, too.

  1. Gaming console controllers

The newest in gaming consoles use Bluetooth for their wireless controllers.

...And the list just goes on and on. As the technology develops, we’ll discover more and more uses for it, some that I’m sure we’d never imagined when it was first introduced.

Mark is the co-director of, the search marketing consulting arm of Clickincome ( Mark also has other sites and blogs, including and his MoBoy blog.

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