You are here: Digital Convergence > Subtopic 3 > Content

Subtopic 3: Wi-Fi and Bluetooth

Wi-Fi is a short-range wireless networking technology.  It is based on the IEEE 802.11b standard and is designed to provide the same functionality as a typical wired network.  The typical range of a Wi-Fi network is 150-300 feet from each wireless access point.  These networks are highly configurable with varying degrees of security available.  Wi-Fi devices may not automatically recognize and communicate with each other, rather, they must often be configured to share data and resources.  As such, managing a Wi-Fi network can be as challenging as managing a wired network.

Bluetooth is a very short-range wireless technology that is based on the IEEE 802.15.1 standard.  The typical range of a Bluetooth connection is only 10 meters.  Because of this short range, Bluetooth devices consume less power than Wi-Fi devices.  This enables battery-powered devices to operate much longer.  The components also cost much less.  Another difference between Bluetooth and Wi-Fi is that Bluetooth devices communicate more slowly. Bluetooth devices are designed to automatically recognize other devices in close proximity and communicate without having to be configured.  Up to eight Bluetooth devices can share communications automatically.  This small “network” is called a wireless personal area network (WPAN).  In Bluetooth lingo, this is also known as a piconet.  The growing list of devices with built-in Bluetooth technology includes computers, personal digital assistants (PDAs), printers, digital cameras, cell phones, home entertainment products, gaming devices, medical equipment, keyboards, and mice.

Taken together, these two communications technologies are at the forefront of any time, any place communications. Many organizations have implemented one or both of these technologies throughout their geographic areas. In fact, some cities have created huge wireless hot zones that allow wireless-enabled users to communicate and access the Internet over vast areas.


Further reading and research can be found at the following links: