How Does Bluetooth Work? Complete Beginner’s Guide

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There are a lot of wireless options on the market these days. Our mobile phones are wireless, we have wireless Internet that we connect to; and one of the other major options that we make use of with our electronics is Bluetooth.

Bluetooth works with entertainment devices, mobile phones, tablets and in our vehicles. Bluetooth may even be a way for you to connect devices at work. Bluetooth is a simple way for PCs, digital cameras, printers and other digital devices to communicate with each other.

But how does this technology work exactly? That’s what we’re going to be exploring in this article with an in-depth explanation of Bluetooth.

How Does Bluetooth Work

What exactly is Bluetooth?

You might be wondering just what kind of wireless communication Bluetooth is if you have never researched it before. Wireless communication has been around for a lot longer than the modern devices that we think of as wireless. After all, people have been tuning in to TV stations and listening to music on the radio for well over a century.

When radio and television came along, it was definitely a whole new world of entertainment, but it wasn’t until our modern wireless technology that we discovered just how it good things could get in the future.

One of the technologies that the future is based upon is similar to radio wave technology but designed for communicating over short distances instead. That technology is Bluetooth.

The History of Bluetooth

Many people have different opinions on who actually created Bluetooth. The technology was named after a Viking king called Harald Blatand, which translates to Harold Bluetooth, so the Scandinavian countries like to claim credit for the invention of this technology.

However, other people think American scientists discovered Bluetooth in their pursuit of radio waves and the electromagnetic spectrum. What is most clear about the technology is that many different people worked on projects that would become the basis for Bluetooth.

Some of them were well known and others almost lost to history. Nikola Tesla and Hedy Lamarr may have been responsible for some part of the invention of Bluetooth, and Scandinavian scientists also played a fairly large part in the development of the technology, especially when it came to incorporating it on mobile phones.

That’s exactly where it was first implemented on a useful scale, attached to a mobile telephone invented by someone else. That was also the first instance of the Bluetooth symbol which is a combination of the Nordic ruins ‘H’ and ‘B.’

How Bluetooth Actually Works

Understanding how Bluetooth actually work starts with understanding that the Bluetooth transceiver operates at an unlicensed radio band that runs at around 2.4 GHz. This is the same frequency that is used by the microwaves that pass through your microwave oven and by your Wi-Fi router and modem.

Of course, Bluetooth does not stay on that exact frequency all the time. Instead, the transceiver is set up to use different frequencies if necessary because there is often interference in fading that come with being on the same basic frequency as Wi-Fi signals and microwaves.

Bluetooth devices are managed through the computer ‘master and slave’ topology. This topology contains one active master and up to seven active slaves along with seven other slaves that may be connected as long as they are inactive. Sometimes one device will have multiple slave connections. The slave connections are called piconets. The reason for this is so that all devices can follow the frequency pattern that is determined in order to prevent any sort of interference. The master device makes the changes and the slave devices follow suit.

With Bluetooth, you can have lots of different devices that are using the Bluetooth connection. Perhaps your mobile phone is your main Bluetooth connection or master connection, while your car stereo, MP3 player, GPS or other devices could be slave devices.

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That connection will probably become disabled when you take your mobile phone into your house, but then you can connect via Bluetooth to the devices in your house and have seven of them be active and slaved to your mobile phone once you arrive.

Bluetooth employs a basic hopping pattern along the 79 frequencies in the ISM band. The frequency hopping is determined by the master device. The slave devices follow along the master device in the same hopping pattern until a clear signal is reached.

Often, areas of the spectrum where interference is known to be will be skipped by the master device. The interference can be with any device in the entire group. If your Wi-Fi is close to your slave device and is interfering with the Bluetooth connection, then the master device will lead everyone else along the path until a clear signal has been achieved again.

If you are sending data or receiving data over your Bluetooth devices, then this frequency hopping is put on hold. Bluetooth only searches for the most viable frequencies when no data is being exchanged. One of the things that can become complicated with wireless technology like Bluetooth is connecting wireless devices.

Connecting a wired device is simple. You plug one end into your connected device and the other into your connecting device. For example, if you want to connect the USB mouse to your computer, you simply plug it in and wait for it to activate.

But with Bluetooth, things can sometimes go wrong. When you have multiple devices that are connected to a master device, sometimes connecting another device can cause problems. Bluetooth technology uses the principles of device inquiry and inquiry scan can in order to make the technology work. Scanning devices listen in on frequencies for those devices that are actively inquiring.

When such an inquiry is received, the information is sent and translated so that the device that it is intended for will be able to perform the task. For example, if you want to print something out like an email from your mobile phone, once you select print, your phone will begin searching for devices that can perform that task and send that signal over to that device to get translated and begin.

The printer would be actively scanning for this type of signal. However, the printer would have to appear on your phone as an available printing device in order for this to work. Sometimes signals get crossed and the device does not appear at all or it appears as something else.

Of course, most of the time all this happens without the user having been aware of anything at all and with fewer and fewer problems as the technology improves. Most of the time, devices connect perfectly and everything works as it should.

Bluetooth in the Future

Bluetooth is one of the most innovative technologies we have when it comes to wireless today. It is unclear exactly how Bluetooth is going to shape the future, but one of the areas where experts see Bluetooth happening is in the secure augmented reality marketplace.

Secure augmented reality is still a ways away, but Futurists see a time when the world will be using augmented reality almost every minute of every day that they are awake, and businesses will be including trade secrets and personal and secure company information within that augmented reality.

Since Bluetooth is meant to be used for short distances only, it might be more secure to offer this augmented reality to approved devices only over the Bluetooth connection. This would prevent anyone outside the building from ever having that kind of access. It would also ensure that the augmented reality would appear where it was supposed to since whenever your augmented reality interface device moved to a new Bluetooth master device the location would change.

But for now, Bluetooth is a viable technology for connecting wireless headphones to computers, MP3 players and car stereos. It is an excellent tool for printing from your mobile phone, your laptop or any other device in your house and as cars become smarter and include more wireless technology it is likely the Bluetooth will be the medium that people rely on to connect their mobile phone or tablet to the devices in their car and control those devices.

Bluetooth is even being incorporated in self-driving cars and other types of transportation that is automated.

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The bottom line is that there is plenty to be excited about the world the Bluetooth. Wireless devices have made our lives so much easier, and that technology has only been around for a short period of time when you look at the big picture.

Just like with mobile Internet technology, Bluetooth technology is going to improve greatly over the coming years and decades. It is impossible to predict exactly where things will go, but it is likely the Bluetooth is going to have a place within our devices for a long time.

Now you have a much better idea of how the technology works; and this may help you imagine other uses for Bluetooth yourself in the coming years or decades.

Editor-in-Chief of Parameter and founder of Kooc Media, A UK-Based Online Media Company. Believer in Open-Source Software, Blockchain Technology & a Free and Fair Internet for all.

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