Bluetooth Technology Overview

The Basics of Bluetooth

Bluetooth technology is a low-power wireless protocol that connects electronic devices while they are close to each another.

Instead of creating a local-area network (LAN) or a wide-area network (WAN), Bluetooth creates a personal-area network (PAN) just for you. Cell phones, for example, can be paired with wireless Bluetooth headsets.

Consumer Uses

You can connect your Bluetooth-enabled cell phone to a wide range of devices equipped with Bluetooth technology.

One of the most common uses is communication: After successfully connecting your phone with your in-ear Bluetooth headset—in a process known as pairing—you can perform many of your cell phone’s functions while your phone remains stashed in your pocket. Answering and calling on your phone are as simple as hitting a button on your headset. In fact, you can perform many of the other tasks for which you use your phone simply by giving voice commands.

Bluetooth technology is also compatible with many devices such as personal computers, laptops, printers, GPS receivers, digital cameras, telephones, video game consoles. and more for various practical functions.

Bluetooth in the Home

Home automation is increasingly common, and Bluetooth is one-way manufacturers are linking home systems to phones, tablets, computers and other devices. Such setups allow you to control lights, temperature, appliances, window and door locks, security systems, and much more from your phone, tablet, or computer.

Bluetooth in the Car

All 12 major auto manufacturers now offer Bluetooth technology in their products; many offer it as a standard feature, reflecting safety concerns about driver distraction. Bluetooth allows you to make and receive calls without your hands ever leaving the wheel. With voice-recognition capabilities, you typically can send and receive texts, as well.

In addition, Bluetooth can control the car's audio, allowing your car stereo to pick up whatever music you're playing on your phone and routing phone calls through your car's speakers for both listening and speaking. Bluetooth makes talking on your phone in the car seem as if the person on the other end of the call is sitting right in the passenger seat.

Bluetooth for Health

Bluetooth connects FitBits and other health-tracking devices to your phone, tablet or computer. Likewise, doctors use Bluetooth-enabled blood glucose monitors, pulse oximeters, heart rate monitors, asthma inhalers and other products to record readings on patients' devices for transmission via the Internet to their offices.

Origins of Bluetooth

In a 1996 meeting, Ericsson, Nokia, and Intel representatives discussed the then-new Bluetooth technology. When talk turned to naming it, Intel's Jim Kardash suggested "Bluetooth," referring to the 10th-century Danish king Harald Bluetooth Gormson (Harald Blåtand in Danish) who unified Denmark with Norway. The monarch had a dark blue dead tooth. "King Harald Bluetooth...was famous for uniting Scandinavia, just as we intend to unite the PC and cellular industries with a short-range wireless link," said Kardash.

The term was meant to be temporary until marketing teams created something else, but "Bluetooth" stuck. It's now a registered trademark as is the familiar blue and white symbol.