Pretty much everyone has heard of Bluetooth, we all know the stereotypical rude businessman shouting into his hands free headset and many have used it for something or another, but how about actually explaining what it does and how it works?
Bluetooth was launched to consumers in 1999, seen as a big leap forward in mobile tech Bluetooth won awards for innovation. What started as just a simple hands free mobile headset has now been integrated into virtually every modern smartphone and tablet.
In one sentence Bluetooth is a wireless technology used to send data over short distances, but we can go more in depth than that. Bluetooth isn’t just in phones and tablets, you’ll find it in all sorts of tech and gadgets such as laptops, mice, keyboards, headphones, speakers, smart watches and much more.
The range that Bluetooth works in is generally under 100 metres, this isn’t a limitation of the technology, in fact it has been purposely kept to that range in order to minimise battery drain. Being light on battery consumption is a huge part of why Bluetooth has been so successful and seen implementation in so many devices. People often confuse Bluetooth with Wi-Fi and whilst they are quite similar Wi-Fi has a much stronger and faster connection but it burns through your battery a lot quicker than Bluetooth will.
So in order to actually use Bluetooth you have to first pair it with another Bluetooth capable device, the actual process for doing this will vary from device to device but just look for the Bluetooth button as seen below. If you tap the icon on your phone it should go into pairing mode and search for any nearby Bluetooth devices. (Fun fact, the name Bluetooth comes from the viking king Harald Bluetooth and the logo is a merging of two Nordic runes).
Bluetooth makes it easy to transfer data even when you don’t have an internet connection and since it comes built into the device you don’t need to bother going and downloading unnecessary software just to send a picture or video to someone nearby, in addition to that, it’s not going to kill your battery.
Of course the process for using Bluetooth may vary slightly depending on what device you’re using but for example if you want to send a picture from a phone to another Bluetooth capable device then the first thing you need to do is find the file or photo you want to send and look for the share button as seen below. Once you press this select Bluetooth as your sharing option and your phone should search for nearby Bluetooth devices. If it can’t find any make sure Bluetooth is enabled on the other device. When you select where you want to send it the other device will receive a pop up confirming that they want to accept the file, so there’s no need to worry about people sending you anything you don’t want.
Bluetooth has many other uses such as playing video games with another person in close proximity, wireless headphones are becoming more and more popular and they rely on Bluetooth in order to work. You can also use it to ‘tether’ two devices together. Tethering is when you use the mobile data of your smartphone in order to access the internet on another device such as a computer or laptop if they are unable to access the internet for whatever reason.
What about security? Can having Bluetooth enabled leave you open to having your data stolen? Well the short answer is no, you’re generally safe when using Bluetooth. The thing is, wireless communication is always going to be slightly less secure than wired communication however Bluetooth communications are encrypted so all your data should be kept safe. There are also other security features you can take advantage of if you really want to, such as restricting devices so that they can only talk to other trusted devices. Although Bluetooth is considered to be very safe, generally when you’re not using Bluetooth you should keep it turned off just so you can have full peace of mind.
Bluetooth isn’t just a static technology that has stayed the same either. It is continually upgraded and improved, the latest and greatest smartphones and such have access to Bluetooth 5.0 which among other things is faster and has a greater range than the versions before it. The future of Bluetooth is gearing up to be a big part of ‘The Internet of Things’ and smart homes. The internet of things is a little outside of the scope of this article but we’ll likely talk about it in the future.
For now hopefully this answers any questions you may have had regarding Bluetooth and given you a bit of insight into the workings of the technology. Thanks for reading!