With the confusing array of wireless technologies vying for your attention, you might be a bit confused by Bluetooth, which fills a unique niche that the more common 802.11-based technologies don't offer. Unlike 802.11b and other wireless standards, Bluetooth isn't designed to supply wireless Ethernet networking capabilities. Instead, Bluetooth is a standard designed to simplify interconnecting wireless devices of many types, within a limited area. Here's what you need to know about Bluetooth.
It's About Devices Bluetooth is about connecting devices to your computer, not connecting computers to one another. For example, a Bluetooth-compatible printer sitting near your PC can connect to the PC without requiring a cable, an ability that gives you more options when deciding where to place devices on and around your desk. Bluetooth-capable PDAs automatically synchronize with the host PC when they detect that PC, so all you need to do is bring the PDA into the room with the PC and—voila!—both devices will be up-to-date. Other uses for Bluetooth include PC-savvy cell phones and wireless keyboards, mouse devices, and even speakers. None of these devices require the heavy-duty networking prowess of Ethernet networks or even an 802.11b wireless connection. Instead, each device can work efficiently with Bluetooth's relatively pokey 58Kbps to 720Kbps of available bandwidth.
Personal Area Networks
The area around a Bluetooth hub, which typically connects to a PC, is known as a personal area network (PAN). This PAN has a range of about 30', although walls and other obstructions can affect this range. As a result, the technology is fairly localized, similar to the way today's wireless keyboards and mouse devices work. However, you can use signal boosters to extend a PAN's range to about 300', which can make Bluetooth technology viable for many office scenarios.
Bluetooth will soon become standard equipment on PCs, laptops, cell phones, printers, and other devices, and it will finally standardize the way these devices interconnect. So if you're considering simple interoperability between, say, cell phones and PCs or you have physical requirements that restrict wiring, consider Bluetooth technology.