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How Bluetooth Works

man with headphones
Although Bluetooth technology has become synonymous with headphones, it's used for all kinds of wireless devices. Bloom Productions/Getty Images

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As our world has grown increasingly connected, we've adopted a number of technologies to help us stay in contact with our friends and family. Although many have come and gone, Bluetooth, a wireless connectivity standard using radio signals, has become one of the most commonly used protocols. The wireless technology connects mice and keyboards to our computers. Bluetooth also connects our phones to our cars to catch up on the latest podcasts during our morning commutes.

When any two devices need to communicate with each other, they have to agree on a number of points before the conversation can begin. The first point of agreement is physical: Will they talk over wires, or wireless signals? If they use wires, how many are required — one, two, eight or 25? Once the physical attributes are decided, several more questions arise:

  • How much data will be sent at a time? For instance, serial ports send data 1 bit at a time, while parallel ports send several bits at once.
  • How will they speak to each other? All of the parties in an electronic discussion need to know what the bits mean and whether the message they receive is the same message that was sent. This means developing a set of commands and responses known as a protocol.

Bluetooth offers a solution to these questions. You'll learn more about Bluetooth in the rest of this article. First, we'll explore how Bluetooth makes a wireless connection.

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