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Bluetooth and Wifi Comparisons

By: Alain Attias

Bluetooth can be defined as a wireless form of communication that enables devices to send and receive communication. It is a global initiative set up by manufacturers such as IBM, Intel, Ericsson, Toshiba and Nokia to create a standard for linking up devices such as mobile phones, mobile PCs, handheld computers and other peripherals. Bluetooth relies on short-range radio technology to allow the wireless connectivity. The key features of Bluetooth are robustness, low power and low cost. Both data and voice transmissions can be handled simultaneously. Examples of innovative solutions which users can perform include printing or faxing capabilities, synchronising PDA, laptop or computer and making or receiving calls from a mobile phone, with many more applications available.

Wifi is short for 'wireless fidelity' and is a limited-range wireless networking code which is used in many airports, hotels or other services, who offer public access to Wifi networks, to allow people to log on to the Internet and receive emails whilst on the move. As Wifi is a reasonably fast method of transmitting information in wave form, it is often used in computers and also notebooks. In future, it will become possible to access the Internet from just about anywhere, without the use of any wires. The advantages of using Wifi are that the networks are fairly cheap and straight-forward to set up. Wifi is also quite inconspicuous and can hardly be noticed unless it is being looked for specifically, whilst in a Wifi 'hotspot.' For a wireless network to be created, communication is transferred like a two way radio, using radio waves.

Both Bluetooth and Wifi have both been in the news more especially in recent years. Both technologies are relatively new on the market and, with time, a trend may be seen favouring one or the other. As more and more Bluetooth devices become available, most people will own devices for Bluetooth and Wifi. There are several advantages for opting for Bluetooth networking over Wifi and vice-versa. WiFi and Bluetooth are actually very different technologies with very different reasons to exist. The question should not be Bluetooth versus Wifi but more how Bluetooth can work with Wifi.

Advantages of Bluetooth

Bluetooth can connect devices from point-to-point and probably better on security than Wifi, as it can cover shorter distances. In addition, Bluetooth offers an optional two levels of password protection. Up to seven devices can be connected at any one time which makes it easier to find and connect the device being searched for, as Bluetooth highlights itself to the other devices. Bluetooth technology is also more ideal for consumer electronics devices as it has a smaller power requirement. Microsoft have also recently announced that Bluetooth support will be built into a future version of windows XP. Another advantage is concerning voice communication. For an office or home environment, Bluetooth can be used in a cordless phone within a 10m range, without the need to be passed around. It is not likely that Wifi technologies will have a required voice-over-IP to support voice communication, within the near future. Bluetooth was also introduced much earlier in the market and is installed in much more user devices and products, in comparison to Wifi products.

Advantages of Wifi

The most prominent advantage which Wifi has over Bluetooth is that Wifi operates at a much faster rate - of about 11mbps, whereas Bluetooth only operates at a much slower rate of around 720kbps. This makes Bluetooth too slow for video transfers or for moving large amounts of large photo images from a digital camera. Wifi is also designed to link up entire networks, rather than computer to computer. Wifi can achieve this too but it is not its real purpose. Originally intended to be used for mobile computing devices, such as laptops, it is now often being used for increasingly more applications, such as Internet access, gaming and basic connectivity for home electronic appliances such as televisions or DVD players. Wi-Fi may be used by cars in highways, as standards rise in development, in support of an Intelligent Transportation System to increase safety, gather statistics, and enable mobile commerce.

Having taking in the advantages of both forms of communication, it can not be said that one is better than the other. The two wireless protocols can be used to perform separate things and it is not essential to opt for one, rather than the other. Bluetooth should be the first choice for when connecting single devices, only when speed is not an issue. It has a short range of approximately 30 to 60 feet and common applications can include sharing printers, syncing PDAs or using a mobile phone as a modem. As time goes by it will be very interesting to see how both Bluetooth and Wifi develop and what new uses they will have and for what devices.

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