It’s the symbol for devices enabled with Bluetooth technology.
What is Bluetooth?
The quick answer is, Bluetooth is short distance wi-fi.
What does Bluetooth® really do?
In the words of Suke Jawanda, Chief Marketing Officer of Bluetooth SIG, “Bluetooth is a wireless communication technology that allows people to conveniently connect their devices with other devices” and “the role of the technology is evolving to not only allow devices to talk with one another, but actually allow the seamless communication between devices, local applications and the cloud.”
At its most basic, Bluetooth could be used for transferring files or contact details between two phones for example, or for an ongoing transfer of data, such as in a hands free kit, where the earpiece would use Bluetooth to wirelessly send and receive sound to and from a phone.
Bluetooth can also be used to wirelessly control devices. For example by using Bluetooth to pair a smartphone to some speakers not only can you send music from the phone to be played out of the speakers, but you can also then use the phone to adjust the volume, pause the music or skip tracks.
Similarly the wireless controllers used by the PlayStation 4 and some other consoles use Bluetooth to pair with the console and wireless keyboards and mice generally rely on Bluetooth.
Its ability to pair devices has made Bluetooth a key part of the growing Internet of Things (IoT) – smart, connected devices covering everything from phones and watches to cars, washing machines and lights, which can all communicate with one another, or at least with any other devices that it could conceivably be useful to communicate with.
The Internet of Things is likely to be a big part of Bluetooth’s future too, as according to Jawanda “We have an exciting road map. Being the largest wireless technology in the world, we’re clear on our responsibility and role as the stewards of the technology ¬to be the trusted and low power link of the internet of things. We’re just truly at the beginning of fulfilling against this mandate.”
Bluetooth’s capabilities have also been put to some more inventive uses, such as preventing the theft or loss of an item by pairing it to a mobile phone and then having an alert go off on the phone when the handset and its paired item become separated and the connection is lost. The same concept has also been applied to man overboard alarms on boats.
Since its creation 20 years ago Bluetooth has seen a number of improvements. Over the years the speed of connection and discovery of Bluetooth devices has been increased, the data transfer rate has got faster and support for low energy use (known as Bluetooth Smart or BLE) has been added.
The latest version of Bluetooth currently available is 4.1, which according to Jawanda “enhanced usability and increased developer flexibility.” One of those enhancements took the form of removing the need for a host when transferring information or data.
With earlier versions of Bluetooth everything would need to communicate directly with a host device, but now devices can communicate independently and then feed that data back to the host all at once.
For example if you pair both a pedometer and a heart rate monitor to a phone then with Bluetooth 4.0 and below they both have to separately send their data to the handset, but with Bluetooth 4.1 they’d be able to combine their data and send it together, which is a far more efficient way of doing things and makes other devices less dependent on phones.
When was Bluetooth® technology invented?
In 1994 a group of engineers at Ericsson, a Swedish company, invented a wireless communication technology, later called Bluetooth. In 1998, the original group of Promoter companies—Ericsson, Intel, Nokia, Toshiba and IBM—came together to form the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG). Since no single company owns the technology, the SIG member companies work together to preserve, educate, and further Bluetooth technology as a means to bring devices into the connected world.
Where does the name Bluetooth® come from?
The name “Bluetooth” comes from the 10th century Danish King Harald Blåtand or Harold Bluetooth in English. King Blåtand helped unite warring factions in parts of what are now Norway, Sweden and Denmark. Similarly, Bluetooth technology was created as an open standard to allow connectivity and collaboration between disparate products and industries.
Legend has it that he liked eating blueberries – so much that his teeth became stained with the colour of the fruit, giving rise to his name!
How does Bluetooth® technology differ from other radio technologies?
Mobile phones, FM radio and television all use radio waves to send information wirelessly. And while Bluetooth technology also uses radio waves, it transmits them over a shorter distance.
Radios and TV broadcasts over many miles or kilometers. Bluetooth technology sends information within your Personal Area Network or “PAN” (aka your own personal space) at distances up to 100 meters (328 feet)—depending upon device implementation.
Bluetooth has developed even more over the last few years to a system called Bluetooth Smart and Bluetooth Smart Ready.
Bluetooth Smart devices are designed to gather a specific piece of information—are all the windows on my house locked, what is my blood glucose level, how much do I weigh today?—and send it to a Bluetooth Smart compatible device (your PC, smartphone and tablet).
Examples include heart-rate monitors, blood-glucose meters, smart watches, window and door security sensors, key fobs for your car, and blood-pressure cuffs—the opportunities are endless.
If you have a Bluetooth Smart device you want to connect to a phone, tablet, PC or TV, be sure to look for one with the Bluetooth Smart Ready logo. That way you know it is “Ready for Bluetooth Smart.”
Bluetooth Smart compatible devices are the most effective way to connect to billions of Bluetooth devices in market today. Examples include phones, tablets, PCs, TVs, even set-top boxes and game consoles that sit at the center of your connected world.
These devices can efficiently receive data from Bluetooth Smart devices and let you do something with it, like record and chart your morning run or control the temperature of your home from any of your smart devices.