Bluetooth technology uses a wireless method to transfer data between electronic devices. When two or more compatible Bluetooth devices are in range, they connect automatically. Several different Bluetooth devices feature wireless connectivity that is easy to use and very convenient.
Most often, you may have used Bluetooth for headsets or earpieces to speak hands-free while using a mobile phone. While this is very useful and convenient, you can use Bluetooth technology in several other ways with different Bluetooth devices.
These include desktop and laptop computers, MP3 devices, wireless headphones, USB storage devices, printers, and many others.
What Is Bluetooth Technology?
A wireless technology, Bluetooth uses radiofrequency for data sharing within a short range without using wires. The high-speed wireless technology pairs mobile phones or different Bluetooth devices together.
You can connect devices using Bluetooth typically within 30 feet, listen to music through another Bluetooth-enabled device, or share documents.
While using the Bluetooth option, you can simultaneously connect up to 8 devices.
The following are some of the applications of Bluetooth technology:
Cordless Desktop Application
Most of the peripheral devices used on your desk can connect to your personal computer or laptop through a wireless connection. This means that you do not need any connecting wires for your keyboard, mouse, speakers, or printers.
You may be using multiple devices such as your mobile phone, laptop, stereo, and tab for various tasks. By using your ultimate headset, you can connect all these to one listening device simultaneously.
This application uses the hidden computing paradigm. By using this feature, you can carry out automatic synchronization for devices and applications. The process will run in the background without being aware and keeping your data updated on your selected devices.
You can use Bluetooth technology to exchange multimedia between your devices or with friends. This includes songs, pictures, and videos.
The History of Bluetooth
Bluetooth wireless technology gets its name from a very unusual source, the Danish King and Viking, Harald Blatand. This is because, in English, his last name Blatand means Bluetooth. Because Harald Blatand united Norway and Denmark, Bluetooth was named after him as it connects two different devices.
This technology emerged in 1994 when Ericsson Mobile Communications sought to find an alternative to using cables to connect mobile phones to other devices. The companies Nokia, Ericsson, Toshiba, and IBM, formed an alliance known as the Bluetooth Special Interest Group in 1998.
In 1999, they published the first version. This version offered a 1.2 standard with 1 Mbps as the data rate speed. The second version provided a 2.0+EDR that had a 3 Mbps data rate speed. The third version had a 24 Mbps speed, while 4.0 is the latest version.
Devices connected by using Bluetooth technology are generally quite safe from hackers. This is because these devices work with varying frequencies. These devices jump between the frequencies hundreds of times in a second, also called the frequency hopping spread spectrum.
Because Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are often complementary, they work simultaneously, providing the same connectivity. Most smartphones, computers, and tablets allow connection with one Bluetooth-enabled device at a time.
How does Bluetooth Technology Work?
A Bluetooth network comprises a piconet or personal area network with at least two or at the most eight Bluetooth paired devices. These usually include one master and a maximum of seven slave devices.
The master device is the one that initiates the communication with all other devices. All traffic and communication links between the master and slave devices are controlled by the master device.
Slave devices can’t talk to each other directly, they have to go through the master. This means that the master is talking to all the slave devices at once.
When the master device sends the radio signal, it expects a response from a specific slave device in the range. The slave device responds and synchronizes its clock and hop frequency with the master device.
How does Bluetooth Architecture Work?
Bluetooth architecture works by using two networks, Scatternet, and Piconet.
This is a wireless network with one main node or the master node and seven secondary or slave nodes. There are thus a total of eight active nodes arranged within a ten-meter distance. Messages are sent between them on a one-to-one basis or one-to-many.
The communication follows some rules according to which the communication is possible between the master and slave only. There can be no slave-to-slave communication, while there are also 255 parked nodes called secondary nodes. No communication can occur between them until they are in an active condition.
Scatternet networks are formed through different piconets. A slave on one piconet acts as the master while it is called a primary in other piconets.
This node receives a message from a master in one piconet and then transmits it to its slave in a different piconet. This type of node is known as a bridge node.
What are Different Bluetooth Devices?
Due to the convenience of using devices without cables and wires, different Bluetooth devices are gaining popularity.
The most popular Bluetooth devices are headsets. A headset enables the user to receive and make phone calls using a mobile phone. You do not have to use your hands or a wired device.
Bluetooth headsets use voice recognition allowing you to dial numbers and talk without having to use the phone’s operations manually.
A stereo headset works quite like a regular headset, except that you do not use wires with it. You can connect the stereo headset to any Bluetooth-enabled device, such as a music player, and listen to music as long as it is within the range of the music playing device. Stereo headsets are also compatible for use with mobile phones.
Bluetooth In-Car System
By using an in-car Bluetooth system, you can connect your mobile phone to your car’s sound system. This will enable you to use the speaker system to make and receive phone calls without using your mobile phone.
A Bluetooth-enabled printer lets you print text documents or pictures from any connected device. The device, such as a laptop or PDA, must be Bluetooth enabled and paired to the printer. You do not have to use wires to connect your device to the printer with wires.
Another very useful option, Bluetooth technology-enabled webcams, works just like regular webcams, but without any wires. This enables the webcam to be mobile, which makes it more flexible than traditional ones that have to remain connected to the computer.
Using a Bluetooth-enabled GPS device is very convenient in comparison to a usual GPS. The Bluetooth GPS device lets you communicate with it using your voice.
When you give it instructions, it will find the address and share directions using voice command and display.
Wireless Bluetooth-enabled keyboards work just like usual ones. The exception is that the keyboard connects to your laptop or desktop computer without any wires. You can also connect your smartphone to a Bluetooth-enabled keyboard.
What are the Security Concerns about Bluetooth technology?
Based on its configuration, Bluetooth technology is fairly secure. For further security, you can use the encryption and key authentication features.
Unfortunately, several Bluetooth devices use short numeric PINs or personal identification numbers that are less secure. Using the more secure passphrases or passwords provides greater security.
If other people using Bluetooth-enabled devices can discover your device, your privacy may be at risk. This is because they may be able to share unsolicited messages with you. They may also be able to misuse your Bluetooth service, and that could result in extra charges for you.
An even greater risk is that the attacker may access your data or even corrupt it. An example of this is bluesnarfing, whereby an attacker uses a Bluetooth connection to steal information or data from your Bluetooth device.
Viruses or malicious codes can also use Bluetooth technology for infecting other devices. If your device becomes infected, the hacker may steal, corrupt, or compromise your data.
Additionally, beware of any attempts asking you to send information or data to people you do not know or trust using a Bluetooth connection.
How Can You Protect Yourself while Using Bluetooth Technology?
You can take several simple measures to protect yourself and your device while using Bluetooth technology. Here are five very simple tips:
1. Disable Bluetooth when Not in Use
Turn on your Bluetooth option only when you are using it actively to transfer information between two devices. Right after you stop using your Bluetooth, disable the Bluetooth option. This will help you to prevent unauthorized people from connecting with your phone or accessing your information.
2. Use the ‘Hidden’ Bluetooth Mode
When you turn on your Bluetooth option, make sure that you keep it hidden and not discoverable. By using the hidden mode, you can prevent any other Bluetooth devices nearby from identifying your device. Your devices will still be able to connect and work together.
If your devices are paired, they can discover and connect despite the hidden mode. However, for your devices such as a mobile phone and headset to pair, they have to be in a discoverable mode to locate each other initially.
When you have paired them, they will recognize and pair with each other without having to rediscover their connection.
3. Be Cautious while Using Bluetooth
It is essential to be cautious of your environment while you pair your devices. The same is true if you are using the discoverable mode.
An example is when you use a public wireless hotspot. There is a great deal of risk because other people may intercept your connection.
However, if you are in your car or at home, you can use your Bluetooth with greater safety.
4. Assess Your Security Settings
Most Bluetooth devices have several features you can use and adapt according to your requirements and needs. However, if you enable some of these features, you may be at a greater risk of an attack.
To decrease your vulnerability, disable the unnecessary Bluetooth connections or features.
By examining the settings on your Bluetooth feature, especially the security settings, you can reduce your risk factor. Select the options that fulfill your needs while still keeping your risk level at a minimum.
You can also ensure that your Bluetooth connections have the required configuration to work only with a secure connection.
5. Take Full Advantage of Available Security Options
Explore your phone’s Bluetooth settings to learn about the security options that your device offers. Some of these features include encryption and authentication. By making the required changes in the settings, you can improve the security level of your mobile phone.
How Secure is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is a very secure wireless technology as long as we use appropriate safety measures. These devices often change frequencies while using a Bluetooth connection to avoid attacks.
In addition, there are safety measure options available in your mobile phone to control or limit the number of Bluetooth connections. You can select a device’s security level to a secure device so that only one device establishes a connection.
Another setting is service-level. Using this option, limit the activities that your device performs while using a Bluetooth connection.
However, keep in mind that there is some element of risk in using any wireless technology. This is because hackers continue to try different kinds of malicious attacks using Bluetooth networking. One example of this is bluesnarfing, whereby a hacker tries to gain access to your data through Bluetooth.
The Convenience Of Bluetooth Technology
Bluetooth technology has added several conveniences to our lives, and it is hard to imagine a time when we did not have different Bluetooth devices, such as headphones or keyboards. You can simply plug your dongle into your personal computer and check email, transfer files, or download updates.
In addition to these most popular uses of Bluetooth wireless technology, there are several other more complex uses of this technology that we have reviewed.
Bluetooth technology has been here for a while and is undoubtedly here to stay.
Espen is the Director of ProPairing and has written extensively about Bluetooth devices for years. He is a consumer product expert and has personally tested Bluetooth devices for the last decade.