Bluetooth: What it is and what it can do

by Joost Nusselder | Updated on:  May 3, 2022

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The blue light is on, you’re connected with the magic of bluetooth! But how does it work?

Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard that enables devices to communicate within short range (UHF radio waves in the ISM band from 2.4 to 2.485 GHz) building personal area network (PAN). It’s widely used for mobile devices like headsets and speakers, giving ability to communicate and realize wide range applications.

Let’s look at the history and technology behind this amazing wireless standard.

What is bluetooth

Understanding Bluetooth Technology

What is Bluetooth?

Bluetooth is a wireless technology standard that enables devices to communicate with each other over a short-range, building a personal area network (PAN). It is widely used for exchanging data between fixed and mobile devices, giving them the ability to communicate and realize a wide range of applications. Bluetooth technology uses radio waves in the frequency band of 2.4 GHz, which is a limited frequency range reserved for industrial, scientific, and medical (ISM) applications.

How does Bluetooth work?

Bluetooth technology involves sending and receiving data wirelessly between devices using radio waves. The technology uses a steady stream of data, which is transmitted invisibly through the air. The typical range for Bluetooth devices is around 30 feet, but it can vary depending on the device and the environment.

When two Bluetooth-enabled devices come within range of each other, they recognize and select each other automatically, a process called pairing. Once paired, the devices can communicate with each other completely wirelessly.

What are the benefits of Bluetooth?

Bluetooth technology offers several benefits, including:

  • Simplicity: Bluetooth technology is easy to use and enables devices to communicate with each other without involving wires or cables.
  • Portability: Bluetooth technology is designed for communicating wirelessly between portable devices, making it ideal for use when traveling.
  • Safety: Bluetooth technology enables drivers to talk on their cellphones hands-free, making it safer to drive.
  • Convenience: Bluetooth technology enables users to download photos from their digital cameras or hook up a mouse to their tablet without any wires or cables.
  • Simultaneous connections: Bluetooth technology enables multiple devices to connect to each other simultaneously, making it possible to listen to music on a headset while also using a keyboard and mouse.


The Anglicised Version of a Scandinavian Old Norse Epithet

The word “Bluetooth” is an anglicised version of the Scandinavian Old Norse epithet “Blátǫnn,” which means “blue-toothed.” The name was chosen by Jim Kardach, a former Intel engineer who worked on the development of Bluetooth technology. Kardach chose the name to imply that Bluetooth technology similarly unites disparate devices, just as King Harald united Danish tribes into a single kingdom in the 10th century.

From Insane Homespun Idea to a Common Use

The name “Bluetooth” was not the result of a natural evolution, but rather a series of happenstances that led to the build of a brand. According to Kardach, in an interview, he was watching a History Channel documentary about Harald Bluetooth when he came up with the idea to name the technology after him. The name was launched at a time when URLs were short, and cofounder Robert admitted that “Bluetooth” was simply sorta nice.

From Googol to Bluetooth: The Lack of a Perfect Name

The founders of Bluetooth initially suggested the name “PAN” (Personal Area Networking), but it lacked a certain ring. They also considered the mathematical term “googol,” which is the number one followed by 100 zeros, but it was deemed too vast and unimaginable. The current CEO of Bluetooth SIG, Mark Powell, decided that “Bluetooth” was the perfect name because it reflected the immense indexing and personal networking capabilities of the technology.

The Accidental Misspelling That Stuck

The name “Bluetooth” was almost spelled “Bluetoo” due to a lack of available URLs, but the spelling was changed to “Bluetooth” to provide a more common spelling. The spelling was also a nod to the Danish king’s name, Harald Blåtand, whose last name means “blue tooth.” The misspelling was a result of a linguistic wizardry that massacred the original name and resulted in a new name that was catchy and easy to remember. As a result, the accidental misspelling became the official name of the technology.

The History of Bluetooth

The Quest for a Wireless Connection

The history of Bluetooth dates back millennia, but the quest for a wireless connection began in the late 1990s. In 1994, Ericsson, a Swedish telecommunications company, initiated a project tasked with the purpose of specifying a wireless module for a Personal Base Station (PBA). According to Johan Ullman, the CTO of Ericsson Mobile in Sweden at the time, the project was called “Bluetooth” after Harald Gormsson, a dead king of Denmark and Norway who was known for his ability to unite people.

The Birth of Bluetooth

In 1996, a Dutchman named Jaap Haartsen, who was working for Ericsson at the time, was assigned to lead a team of engineers to study the feasibility of a wireless connection. The team concluded that it was possible to achieve a high enough data rate with adequate power consumption for a cellphone. The logical step was to accomplish the same for notebooks and phones in their respective markets.

In 1998, the industry opened up to permit maximum collaboration and integration of inventions, and Ericsson, IBM, Intel, Nokia, and Toshiba became signatories to the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG), with a total of 5 patents revealed.

Bluetooth Today

Today, Bluetooth technology has propelled the wireless industry forward, with the power to connect devices seamlessly and wirelessly. The maximum power consumption is low, making it viable for use in a wide range of devices. The incorporation of Bluetooth technology into notebooks and phones has opened up new markets, and the industry continues to permit maximum collaboration and integration of inventions.

As of 2021, there are over 30,000 patents related to Bluetooth technology, and the Bluetooth SIG continues to revise and update the technology to meet the needs of the consumer electronics market.

Bluetooth connections: Secure or not?

Bluetooth security: The good and the bad

Bluetooth technology has revolutionized the way we connect our devices. It enables us to exchange data wirelessly, without the need for cables or direct connections. This invention has made our everyday activities extremely convenient, but it also comes with a terrifying aspect – the danger of bad actors intercepting our Bluetooth signals.

What Can You Do With Bluetooth?

Connecting Devices Wirelessly

Bluetooth technology allows you to connect different devices wirelessly, eliminating the need for cables and cords. This means you can experience a more seamless and convenient way of connecting devices. Some devices that can be connected via Bluetooth include:

  • Smartphones
  • Computers
  • Printers
  • Mice
  • Keyboards
  • Headphones
  • Speakers
  • Cameras

Transferring Data

Bluetooth technology also allows you to transfer data wirelessly between devices. This means you can quickly and easily share documents, photos, and other files without the need for cables or an internet connection. Some ways you can use Bluetooth for data transfer include:

  • Pairing your phone with your computer to transfer files
  • Linking your camera to your phone to immediately share photos
  • Connecting your smartwatch to your phone to receive notifications and control your device

Improving Your Lifestyle

Bluetooth technology has made it easier to improve your lifestyle in a number of ways. For example:

  • Health and fitness apps can use Bluetooth to track your exercise and health data, offering you a better understanding of your overall health and well-being.
  • Smart home devices can be controlled via Bluetooth, allowing you to control your lights, thermostat, and other devices from your phone.
  • Bluetooth-enabled hearing aids can stream audio directly from your phone, improving the quality of your listening experience.

Maintaining Control

Bluetooth technology also allows you to maintain control over your devices in a number of ways. For example:

  • You can use Bluetooth to remotely control your camera’s shutter, allowing you to take photos from a distance.
  • You can use Bluetooth to control your TV, allowing you to adjust the volume and change channels without having to get up from the couch.
  • You can use Bluetooth to control your car stereo, allowing you to stream music from your phone without having to touch your device.

Overall, Bluetooth technology is a versatile and useful tool that can be used in a variety of ways to improve our lives. Whether you want to connect devices, transfer data, or maintain control over your devices, Bluetooth offers a good solution.


Frequency and Spectrum

Bluetooth operates in the unlicensed 2.4 GHz frequency band, which is also shared by other wireless technologies including Zigbee and Wi-Fi. This frequency band is divided into 79 designated channels, each with a bandwidth of 1 MHz. Bluetooth uses a spread-spectrum frequency-hopping technique that divides the available frequencies into 1 MHz channels and performs adaptive frequency hopping (AFH) to avoid interference from other devices operating in the same frequency band. Bluetooth also uses Gaussian frequency-shift keying (GFSK) as its modulation scheme, which is a combination of quadrature phase-shift keying (QPSK) and frequency-shift keying (FSK) and is said to provide instantaneous frequency shifts.

Pairing and Connection

To establish a Bluetooth connection between two devices, they must first be paired. Pairing involves exchanging a unique identifier called a link key between the devices. This link key is used to encrypt data transmitted between the devices. Pairing can be initiated by either device, but one device must act as the initiator and the other as the responder. Once paired, the devices can establish a connection and form a piconet, which can include up to seven active devices at a time. The initiator can subsequently initiate connections with other devices, forming a scatternet.

Data Transfer and Modes

Bluetooth can transfer data in three modes: voice, data, and broadcast. Voice mode is used for transmitting audio between devices, such as when using a Bluetooth headset to make a phone call. Data mode is used for transferring files or other data between devices. Broadcast mode is used for sending data to all devices within range. Bluetooth switches rapidly between these modes depending on the type of data being transferred. Bluetooth also provides forward error correction (FEC) to improve data reliability.

Behavior and Vagueness

Bluetooth devices are supposed to listen and receive data only when necessary to lighten the burden on the network. However, the behavior of Bluetooth devices can be somewhat vague and may vary depending on the device and its implementation. Reading a tutorial on Bluetooth implementation may help clarify some of the vagueness. Bluetooth is an ad hoc technology, meaning that it does not require a centralized entity to operate. Bluetooth devices can reach each other directly without the need for a switch or router.

Specifications and Features of Bluetooth

Interoperability and Compatibility

  • Bluetooth adheres to a set of technical specifications developed by the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) to ensure interoperability between different devices.
  • Bluetooth is backward compatible, meaning that newer versions of Bluetooth can work with older versions of Bluetooth.
  • Bluetooth has undergone several updates and enhancements over time, with the current version being Bluetooth 5.2.
  • Bluetooth provides a common profile that allows devices to share data and functionality, including the ability to hear audio, monitor health, and run applications.

Mesh Networking and Dual Mode

  • Bluetooth has a separate mesh networking profile that allows devices to coexist and provide a reliable connection over a larger area.
  • Bluetooth Dual Mode provides a way for devices to run both classic Bluetooth and Bluetooth Low Energy (BLE) simultaneously, providing better connectivity and reliability.
  • BLE is a refined version of Bluetooth that provides basic data transfer functionality and is easier for consumers to connect to.

Security and Advertising

  • Bluetooth has a guide developed by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to ensure the security of Bluetooth connections.
  • Bluetooth uses a technique called advertising to allow devices to discover and connect to each other.
  • Bluetooth has deprecated some older features that could have an impact on the withdrawal of support for these features in the future.

Overall, Bluetooth is a widely used wireless technology that has undergone many updates and enhancements over time to provide better functionality and reliability. With its range of features and specifications, Bluetooth continues to be a popular choice for many practitioners and consumers.

Technical Details of Bluetooth Technology

Bluetooth Architecture

The Bluetooth architecture consists of a core defined by the Bluetooth SIG (Special Interest Group) and a replacement for telephony adopted by the ITU (International Telecommunication Union). The core architecture consists of a stack that manages the universally supported services, while the telephony replacement manages the establishment, negotiation, and status of the command.

Bluetooth Hardware

The Bluetooth hardware is fabricated using RF CMOS (Complementary Metal-Oxide-Semiconductor) integrated circuits. The main interfaces of the Bluetooth hardware are the RF interface and the baseband interface.

Bluetooth Services

Bluetooth services are included in the Bluetooth stack and are basically a set of PDUs (Protocol Data Units) sent between devices. The following services are supported:

  • Service Discovery
  • Connection Establishment
  • Connection Negotiation
  • Data Transfer
  • Command Status

Bluetooth Compatibility

Bluetooth technology is widely used for personal area networks, allowing devices to communicate wirelessly over limited distances. Bluetooth devices adhere to a set of specifications and features to ensure compatibility, including the use of a unique MAC (Media Access Control) address and the ability to run the Bluetooth stack. Bluetooth also supports asynchronous data transfer and handles error correction using ARQ and FEC.

Connecting with Bluetooth

Pairing Devices

Connecting devices with Bluetooth is a unique and easy way to link your devices wirelessly. Pairing devices involves registering and linking two Bluetooth-enabled devices, such as a smartphone and a laptop, to exchange data without any wires. Here’s how to pair devices:

  • Turn on Bluetooth on both devices.
  • On one device, select the other device from the list of available devices that appears.
  • Tap the “Pair” or “Connect” button.
  • A bit of code is exchanged between the devices to ensure that they are the correct ones.
  • The code helps ensure that the devices are the correct ones and not someone else’s device.
  • The process of pairing devices may vary depending on the device you are using. For example, pairing an iPad with a Bluetooth speaker may involve a different process than pairing a smartphone with a laptop.

Security Considerations

Bluetooth technology is reasonably secure and prevents casual eavesdropping. The shift to radio frequencies prevents easy access to the data being transmitted. However, Bluetooth technology does offer some security risks, and it’s important to keep safety in mind when using it. Here are some security considerations:

  • Limit Bluetooth activities to specific kinds of devices and restricts the kinds of activities permitted.
  • Engage in activities that are permitted and avoid those that are not.
  • Be aware of hackers who may try to gain unauthorized access to your device.
  • Disable Bluetooth when not in use.
  • Always use the newest version of Bluetooth, which offers improved bandwidth and security features.
  • Be aware of the risks of tethering, which allows you to share your device’s internet connection with other devices.
  • Pairing devices in a public area may present a risk if an unknown device appears in the list of available devices.
  • Bluetooth technology can be used to power smart devices such as the Amazon Echo or Google Home, which are portable and designed to be used on the go, such as at the beach.


Bluetooth Vs Rf

Alright folks, gather around and let’s talk about the difference between Bluetooth and RF. Now, I know what you’re thinking, “What the heck are those?” Well, let me tell you, they’re both ways to connect your electronic devices wirelessly, but they have some pretty big differences.

First off, let’s talk about bandwidth. RF, or radio frequency, has a wider bandwidth than Bluetooth. Think of it like a highway, RF is like a 10-lane highway while Bluetooth is like a one-lane road. This means RF can handle more data at once, which is great for things like streaming video or music.

But here’s the catch, RF requires more power to operate than Bluetooth. It’s like the difference between a Hummer and a Prius. RF is the gas-guzzling Hummer, while Bluetooth is the eco-friendly Prius. Bluetooth requires less power to operate, which means it can be integrated into smaller devices like earbuds or smartwatches.

Now let’s talk about how they connect. RF uses electromagnetic fields to transmit data, while Bluetooth uses radio waves. It’s like the difference between a magic spell and a radio broadcast. RF requires a dedicated transmitter to work, while Bluetooth can connect directly to your device.

But don’t count RF out just yet, it has a trick up its sleeve. RF can use infrared (IR) technology to connect devices, which means it doesn’t need a dedicated transmitter. It’s like a secret handshake between devices.

Lastly, let’s talk about size. Bluetooth has a smaller chip size than RF, which means it can be integrated into smaller devices. It’s like the difference between a giant SUV and a compact car. Bluetooth can be used in tiny earbuds, while RF is better suited for larger devices like speakers.

So there you have it folks, the difference between Bluetooth and RF. Just remember, RF is like a Hummer, while Bluetooth is like a Prius. Choose wisely.


So, Bluetooth’s a wireless technology standard that enables devices to communicate with each other within a short range. 

It’s great for personal area networking, and you can use it to make your life easier. So don’t be afraid to explore all the possibilities it offers.

I'm Joost Nusselder, the founder of Neaera and a content marketer, dad, and love trying out new equipment with guitar at the heart of my passion, and together with my team, I've been creating in-depth blog articles since 2020 to help loyal readers with recording and guitar tips.

Check me out on Youtube where I try out all of this gear:

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