What is Bluetooth Technology?

Bluetooth Technology Basics

Welcome to Bluetooth 101. Here are the top things you need to know about Bluetooth technology.

My Bluetooth doesn’t work. What do I do?
The Bluetooth SIG does not make, manufacture or build any Bluetooth products. We simply support our membership and help them to help make the best products on the market. The best way to solve your problem is to contact the manufacturer directly or start by researching solutions on the Internet.

What is Bluetooth?
Bluetooth is a global wireless communication standard that connects devices together over a certain distance. Think headset and phone, speaker and PC, basketball to smartphone and more. It is built into billions of products on the market today and connects the Internet of Things (IoT). If you haven’t heard of the IoT, go here.

How does Bluetooth work?
A Bluetooth device uses radio waves instead of wires or cables to connect to a phone or computer. A Bluetooth product, like a headset or watch, contains a tiny computer chip with a Bluetooth radio and software that makes it easy to connect. When two Bluetooth devices want to talk to each other, they need to pair. Communication between Bluetooth devices happens over short-range, ad hoc networks known as piconets. A piconet is a network of devices connected using Bluetooth technology. The network ranges from two to eight connected devices. When a network is established, one device takes the role of the master while all the other devices act as slaves. Piconets are established dynamically and automatically as Bluetooth devices enter and leave radio proximity. If you want a more technical explanation, you can read the core specification or visit the Wikipedia page for a deeper technical dive.

Are there different kinds of Bluetooth?
There are actually several “kinds”—different versions of the core specification—of Bluetooth. The most common today are Bluetooth BR/EDR (basic rate/enhanced data rate) and Bluetooth Low Energy (low energy). You will generally find BR/EDR in things like speakers and headsets while you will see Bluetooth Smart in the newest products on the market like fitness bands, beacons—small transmitters that send data over Bluletooth—and smart home devices.

What can Bluetooth do?
Bluetooth can wirelessly connect devices together. It can connect your headset to your phone, car or computer. It can connect your phone or computer to your speakers. Best of all? It can connect your lights, door locks, TV, shoes, basketballs, water bottles, toys—almost anything you can think of—to an app on your phone. Bluetooth takes it even further with connecting beacons to shoppers or travelers in airports or even attendees at sporting events. The future of Bluetooth is limited only to a developer’s imagination.

What makes Bluetooth better than other technologies?
The short answer is because Bluetooth is everywhere, it operates on low power, it is easy to use and it doesn’t cost a lot to use. Let’s explore these a bit more.

  • Bluetooth is everywhere—you will find Bluetooth built into nearly every phone, laptop, desktop and tablet. This makes it so convenient to connect a keyboard, mouse, speakers or fitness band to your phone or computer. 
  • Bluetooth is low power—with the advent of Bluetooth Smart (BLE or Bluetooth low energy), developers were able to create smaller sensors that run off tiny coin-cell batteries for months, and in some cases, years. This is setting the stage for Bluetooth as a key component in the Internet of Things.
  • Bluetooth is easy to use—for consumers, it really can’t get any easier. You go to settings, turn on your Bluetooth, hit the pairing button and wait for it start communicating. That’s it. From a development standpoint, creating a Bluetooth product starts with the core specification and then you layer profiles and services onto it. There are several tools that the SIG has to help developers.
  • Bluetooth is low cost—you can add Bluetooth for a minimal cost. You will need to buy a module/system on chip (SoC)/etc. and pay an administrative fee to use the brand and license the technology. The administrative fee varies on the size of the company and there are programs to help startups. 

What are some of the new Bluetooth products on the market?
We don’t track the billions of products on the market, however, we do run across a few cool things our member are working on and highlight them on the blog. Click here to read more.

Is the Bluetooth Special Interest Group (SIG) the same as Bluetooth?
The Bluetooth SIG are the curators of the Bluetooth specification. Any company who creates, brands or sells a Bluetooth product should join the SIG. One of the many member benefits is the ability to join our working groups and participate in shaping the future of the technology.