Bluetooth is a low power, short wave, short range wireless technology that is used to transfer data between two devices over the wireless medium. In this article, we will have a look at a short overview of bluetooth technology and its applications in enterprise companies.
Overview of bluetooth technology:
Like Wi-Fi, bluetooth is a wireless technology that enables data transfer between two devices, or multiple devices (commonly up to 7). Bluetooth is a low power, short wave, short range technology with (relatively) low cost transceivers. There are class 1, class 2 & class 3 bluetooth devices that have a connectivity range of 100m, 10m (more popular) & 1m respectively.
Bluetooth technology supports data rates of 1-3 Mbps, with recent versions supporting much more than that. Line of Sight (LOS) is not mandatory for the bluetooth standard, which is an open but proprietary standard. But LOS increases the range of distance that can be covered by bluetooth networks.
Bluetooth devices operate in the unlicensed ISM (Industrial Scientific & Medical) band in the 2.4 Ghz spectrum like Wi-Fi devices, but have lesser transmit power than Wi-Fi devices. Its possible for bluetooth and Wi-Fi devices operating in the same channel (sub-frequency) to interfere with each other. But bluetooth overcomes this problem by changing channels (Out of 79 available channels of 1 Mhz wide each) frequently – around 1600 times per second.
Generally, bluetooth adapters are built-into mobile devices, laptops, PDA’s etc. But bluetooth capability can also be added using external USB dongles. Bluetooth connection between two devices are generally encrypted.
Bluetooth technology allows for multiple devices to connect at the same time (normally up to seven) using a master-slave piconet architecture. But at any given point of time, data can be transferred only between one master and one slave. The master switches between multiple slaves quickly in a round robin fashion to give near simultaneous connectivity.
There are certain specialized bluetooth based enterprise grade access points (like Wi-Fi access points) to connect multiple bluetooth based devices together, to the network and to the Internet. Some of these access points support multiple technologies along with the bluetooth radios. So, these access points might have bluetooth radios, Wi-Fi radios, 3G modems, 10/100 Mbps LAN connectivity, etc in the same device.
As bluetooth devices advertise themselves to the surroundings, they are susceptible to certain vulnerabilities. There are some bluetooth specific attacks carried on by hackers who can take control of bluetooth based devices (To make long distance calls from others cell phone, for example). So, it is suggested to keep bluetooth off, and turn it on only when required. Mandating a PIN based authentication while connecting to other devices might give additional security.
Some enterprise applications of Bluetooth technology:
- The most popular application, which is also applicable to enterprise companies is the use of bluetooth based headsets to attend to mobile phone/ land-line phone calls (hands-free operation).
- A computer can connect to bluetooth based keyboard, mouse over the wireless media.
- Using bluetooth, its possible to connect to and transfer data between a computer to computer, computer to laptop, computer to mobile phone, etc.
- Many bar-code scanners/ point of sale devices connect to the local systems/ network using bluetooth technology.
- There are some printers that can connect to the computers/ laptops using bluetooth technology.
- There are certain heart rate monitoring devices with embedded bluetooth radios that can transfer the real time heart beat information to hand held PDA’s (for example), during sports training sessions.
- Blood glucose meters can communicate with cell phones using bluetooth technology to connect to the Internet and automatically update an on-line patient health database that can be accessed by the doctors.
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