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Bluetooth: Look ma, no cables

Perhaps when you hear the word “Bluetooth,” the first image to spring to mind is that of a Bluetooth headset? You know, one of those little devices you see hanging off people’s ears (and it seems like they’re talking to themselves)?  Bluetooth isn’t the name brand of the device, but rather the name of the technology that allows the headset to communicate with the person’s cell phone, which is usually located in the person’s pocket or bag.

Simply put, Bluetooth is a technology that replaces the wire between headset and phone.  Bluetooth is made possible by a very inexpensive radio chip (around $5 USD) that also consumes little power and a receiver.   Bluetooth is common way for devices to connect wirelessly to each other.  Not just cellphones, but just about any kind of gadget.  You can sync your PDA with your computer, offload camera pics or even connect to a printer.

Will this replace library wifi for internet access?  Not any time soon.  Bluetooth has a much more limited range than most wifi setups (it maxes out at around only 32 feet).  Bluetooth is intended mainly to connect differing devices in a standardized way.

(Note: Bluetooth is named after King Harald Bluetooth of Denmark, who in the 930s consolidated warring factions of Denmark, Norway and Sweden. )

What does this mean to me, Laura?

  • Bluetooth is intended primarily to connect one gadget to another, not to replace your wireless network.
  • Because it is relatively inexpensive for manufacturers to implement, we’ll likely be seeing it in more and more items.  Not long from now you’ll be seeing household appliances that are Bluetooth enabled.  For instance, a fridge that can signal your phone when you’re out of milk.  (Frankly, I’d prefer a fridge that knew I had nothing planned for dinner and could call for delivery.)