Bluetooth has withstood the test of time. It is one of the first wireless technologies, and it still remains popular today. It is so simple to use that most people do not even wonder how it works. The truth is, this seemingly simple wireless technology is quite complex. This article breaks down what Bluetooth technology is and how it works in the simplest terms.
What is Bluetooth Technology?
Bluetooth is a wireless radio-wave technology designed for communicating over short distances. It is used to facilitate communication between a wide range of gadgets. For instance, you can stream your music wirelessly from your phone to Bluetooth speakers or Bluetooth headphones. You can also make and pick calls indirectly through your phone using a Bluetooth device.
Interesting historical fact about Bluetooth technology: Bluetooth technology is named after a famous Danish king named Herald Bluetooth. His most notable accomplishments were uniting warring tribes of Denmark and part of Norway, and introducing Christianity into the kingdom. Bluetooth helps bring people together – albeit not in the fashion that King Bluetooth did – hence the name.
While King Bluetooth is considered the inspiration for Bluetooth technology, its inventory came to the picture centuries later. Jaap Haartsen developed Bluetooth technology in the 1990s when working for Ericsson, a leading telecommunications company back then. However, several people have contributed to the technology’s development since then.
How Does It Work?
Bluetooth is a short-range connectivity technology. It works with a band of 79 radio frequencies. These frequencies are centered on the 2.45 GHz network to prevent interference with other networks. The frequencies are set apart from frequencies that serve radios, cellphones, and televisions. When two or more Bluetooth-enabled devices connect, they establish connection with any of the available frequencies.
Up to eight devices can be connected over one Bluetooth network, so there are plenty of frequencies left to work with. Additionally, a pair of devices changes the frequency in use thousands of times per second to prevent interference.
When a group of two or more devices are connected over one network, they mimic a mini-computer network known as a piconet. The device that initiated the connection functions as the main controller referred to as the master, while the other devices are referred to as slaves. If two or more piconets form another network where they share data, the new network is referred to as a scatternet.
The biggest advantage of Bluetooth technology is that it is wireless. It eliminates the need for connecting devices using cables – this benefit was more profound back when Bluetooth was one of the few available wireless connection channels. Another advantage is that Bluetooth is short-range – this means that it is inexpensive and doesn’t use as much power as long-range wireless connections. And, unlike infrared connections, Bluetooth can connect multiple devices and doesn’t need a clear line of sight to work.
Bluetooth and Data Security
With wireless connections, there is always concern about security. It is easy to eavesdrop on wireless connections as data is transferred through radio waves in the air. Bluetooth is evidently simpler than stronger wireless connections such as Wi-Fi. So, is it secure?
All data transferred via Bluetooth technology is encrypted, so anyone who may be eavesdropping will get gibberish instead of actual data. Users can also establish restrictions to protect their connections. For instance, you can choose to use Bluetooth only with dedicated devices, so no unauthorized device can hijack your connections. You can also restrict what connected devices can do with the network to prevent theft of data and installation of malware, among other risks.
Bluetooth security is not fool-proof, as hackers are getting smarter and more sophisticated with every passing day.
Some of the most common Bluetooth hacking tactics include:
Hackers use this tactic to access devices remotely without the device owner’s permission. Once in, the hackers can use the hacked device to do things such as making calls and sending text messages. All this happens in the background, so the hacked device’s user doesn’t realize that it is happening.
Bluejacking is a common tactic exploited by marketers and pranksters. The hacker accesses your device to send you unwanted messages, which are mostly usually marketing-oriented. A more sophisticated version of this tactic is Bluesnarfing, which allows the hacker to force your phone to send back sensitive information such as private contacts and messages.
As such, always keep your Bluetooth switched off when not in use, and take the necessary precautionary measures to stay safe. Monitor the connection every now and then to check whether there are any unrecognized devices.
The Future of Bluetooth Technology
Bluetooth has been evolving since it was first rolled out. The first version of Bluetooth technology was weaker and less flexible than the current version. Advances gained in technology, coupled with the apparent need to evolve to keep up with developments, have seen the development of better versions. The goal is to make Bluetooth connections stronger, faster, more flexible, and more secure.
The first update to Bluetooth technology was version 2.1, dubbed Bluetooth BR/EDR (Bluetooth Basic Rate/Enhanced Data Rate). Next came Bluetooth Version 3.0, which was faster than the previous versions. This new version transferred data faster and consumed less battery power than previous versions. The latest version is Bluetooth Version 4.0+, which has been dubbed Bluetooth Smart or Bluetooth Low Energy. This version connects to a wider range of devices and is easier to integrate into smartphone apps. Low-energy Bluetooth consumes less power than previous versions.
Bluetooth technology is here to stay. It started off weak, but it has evolved to keep up with developments in technology. To establish a Bluetooth network, simply turn on the Bluetooth feature on your phone and look for compatible devices, be it smart devices, wireless earbuds, or others. However, now that you know all the inner-workings of Bluetooth technology, you can appreciate how far it has come. In the future, Bluetooth will be an integral aspect of the coming age of Internet of Things, whereby it will be possible to connect anything to the grid.